What were you thinking?!
Some time ago, you put your name down for the world’s biggest SUP race down the Seine River, Paris in the middle of December. Then in October, you get the email back – you got a place!
I was lucky enough to get a spot quite late on in 2018 so with only a couple of weeks to go, frantically started some early morning training to replicate the conditions of hitting the water in the dark around 7am. Let’s face it, Scotland is going to be colder at that time of the morning than Paris so good training, I thought.
Two very lucky members of SUP Central Scotland, Jayne Valentine and myself, had both been selected to take part. Jayne was on the Leisure course and I was on the Pro course. The Leisure course involves a 10km SUP downriver with another 650 or so paddlers. The Pro course takes in an extra loop round the Isle de la Cité so you do a section upriver finishing at 13km of distance.
So, what do you need to know? Jayne and I compiled some notes at our last meet up (which had relocated to the pub as the weather was so awful) and came up with the following Paris SUP Nautic Top Tips.
What to wear?
Most people are 'fair weather' paddlers, but this is December, early morning and on flowing water. Given how many paddlers will be on the Seine, the water will be choppy so there is an increased risk of falling in. To be safe, I would wear a good wetsuit, with something windproof over the top. My personal choice was the O'Neill Ladies Psychofreak wetsuit, teamed with the Rooster Aquafleece. Don't forget of course one of our fabulous Wonky Woollies Bobble hats to keep your noggin toasty warm.
- Travel – we flew out with Air France as there was a sneaky discount code on the SUP Nautic page. Assuming you have an inflatable board, just make sure your paddle is well wrapped, you have your fin in your hand luggage to keep it safe. Sorted!
- Hotel – Stay as close to the Salon Nautic as you can. This is a big venue like the SECC, or Earl’s Court and they are hosting a Boat Show which the SUP race is part of. On the day of the race, you need to get yourself to the Salon Nautique for about 5:30am so either stay within walking distance, or set yourself up an Uber account. We would strongly recommend staying the night after the race so you can get a post-race shower… (no, it hadn’t occurred to us!)
- Registration – on the Saturday, get yourself registered ASAP. You will need 60 Euros cash for the tracker. You will get this back at the end when you hand the tracker back in.
- Enjoy the Boat Show – in 2018 there were indoor pools where the pros were doing short races back and forth. Very entertaining! You will also see various shops on their stands with the latest boards, go and have a nosey.
- Food prep – grab a couple of bananas or cereal bars for your breakfast/after the race tomorrow.
- Briefing – from memory this is a compulsory attendance on the Saturday evening. You will be shown the map of the course, the timings explained and it’s an opportunity to ask questions if you have any. Get some nosh down you then get an early night.
On the day
- Transport – get on the first bus you can with your paddle and your fin. Take your snacks with you as there is quite a wait on the quayside while everyone arrives.
- Backpack – this goes into one of the lorries while you race. I would recommend using your board bag rolled up as a rucksack so you can pack up at the finish line instead of having to do it later on. Towel, dry clothes, snacks, water.
- Find your board – your board has your race number on it so should be in a pile with a load of similar numbers. Take your board to the water’s edge and get organised (I sat my board with the tail over the edge so the fin didn’t get damaged).
- Kill some time – keep warm, do some stretches. Enjoy the atmosphere, take some photos! There will be fancy dress of all kinds and we would recommend a brightly colour hat so you can find yourself in any official videos or photos.
- When the time comes – JUMP. It’s quite a way down to the water so jump before you are pushed by the 7-800 other paddlers trying to get on the water behind you. Head upstream so you don’t get swept down over the start line. There is quite a current.
- Keep your eyes open – the start last year was delayed as the weather was so windy. Keep an eye on the pros, when they start lining up it will be nearly time to go.
- GO – the water will be choppy with so many folk on it at the same time. Bend your knees – look up, enjoy the scenery. You’ve got this! There will be paddlers of all abilities and boards of all shapes and sizes so watch out as they zig zag all over the place.
After the Race
- Hand your tracker back (get your 60 Euro back). There is usually a queue for this, so get it done!
- Pack up - Grab your ‘rucksack’ or board bag and sort yourself out. If you didn’t take a board bag, then put your board back on one of the lorries and get yourself a coffee – you have earned it.
- Survivors’ photo!
They Paris officials shut the river down to boat traffic in order for you to do this race and they re-open the river at 9.30 so you HAVE to get past the cut off bridge in time. If they start late as they did last year you will have your work cut out! Keep an eye on the time at the start and then you will know what you have to do to get past the bridge.
I’m delighted to report Jayne completed the race after only falling in 3 times. At the time she had only been paddleboarding for 6 months – epic achievement. Since then, she has paddled in Spain, Hawaii, across Scotland and possibly a few other destinations I don't know about!
As for me, I was scooped up by the Loser/Party boat (depended on your perspective) having just completed the upriver section round Notre Dame! This has only motivated me to do better and since then I completed the Norfolk Broads Endurance Ultra in May 2019 and I am signed up to do the Great Glen Paddle in 2020.
The Paris SUP Nautic is a great experience and it will, hopefully, give you an opportunity to meet other paddlers from around the world (keep their phone numbers, you never know when they could come in handy!). We have a number of the SUP Central Scotland members going this year and I would like to wish you all the very best of luck, especially if this is your first race. Please come back and tell us how it went.