canal ourcq stand up paddle trip

A paddle sports adventure on your doorstep

A couple and occasional stand-up paddle boarders set off on an adventure on the Canal de l'Ourcq and came back on the Marne

“After getting talking over the past few months to several photographers, outdoor athletes and journalists, we came to the conclusion that deep down in all of us is this burning desire to go on “mini-adventures”. By this we mean going on an adventure on your doorstep, proving that you don’t have to go to the other end of the world to experience exciting, extraordinary things, and that we all have a fantastic playing field well within reach.

Marianne (developmental therapist) and I (sound engineer) are both Parisians, and we have been swimming in the Canal de l'Ourcq for the last seven years, in both summer and winter. The canal is a place particularly close to our hearts, hence the idea of doing it on a SUP!”

Alex Voyer

stand up paddle touring trip

#1 Basic preparation for two amateurs

The very least we need for a semblance of self-sufficiency for a few days is a tent, two sleeping bags, head torches, sunscreen, a few T-shirts, a bit of food in case we can’t find supplies en route (which seemed unlikely on the outskirts of Paris), all packed in four dry bags spread across the two Itiwit 12’6x29 and 12’6x32 inflatable stand-up paddle boards. These boards are perfectly suited to multi-day tours on the water. They can be loaded with bags front and back, they are quite stable (especially the 32” width) with good cruising speed. We had done a bit of paddling before, but we are not intermediate-level yet. So we had absolutely no idea how fast and how far we would be able to travel each day.

stand up paddle paris trip

#2 The first three days against the current

It took us three days to get to Meaux from Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. We paddled on average 6 hours a day, but the current was against us, and we were moving very slowly at about 3 km/h. We covered between 16 and 20 km a day. The first night, we were still relatively close to Paris, and did not want to camp in a built-up area. So we made our first (but not the most romantic) stop in a hotel in a retail park in Villeparisis.  Our mobile phones were a great help in finding a place to stay nearby as night fell.  

bivouac stand up paddle paris

#3 Returning to paris via the marne

We finally managed to spend the second night by the water in our fantastic two-man tent. We had left the city and surrounding towns and were now in the countryside. It felt so good to be completely self-sufficient and to be able to wild camp once we got out of Paris. Day three seemed endless. The fatigue from our 6 hours of exercise a day kicked in once we got to Meaux. The weather let rip and we decided to take shelter in a hotel to get some rest, which did us a world of good. Adventure is great and everything, but we are Parisians don’t forget... While the rain stopped play, we started to wonder about our route. Should we continue on the Canal de l’Ourcq (which was our original plan) or return to Paris via the Marne? We went for the second option, and didn’t look back. It took us 2 days to get back to Paris in entirely different surroundings. The Canal de l’Ourcq is narrow and shaded, whereas the Marne is very winding, much wider, with much more vegetation. It was like we were on a whole other trip. The current was pushing us along and we were moving at about 7 km/h, which was a game changer. The landscape was passing by faster, it was much easier for us to find a place to bivouac since we could cover a wider area. Without forgetting the great satisfaction of gliding faster on the water.

#4 120 Km in six days, not bad for a couple of amateurs!

The way back was longer, but it took us exactly the same amount of time to cover it. The locks and dams on the Marne are much bigger, so we needed to be prepared for them and carefully look at maps to know where and how to get out of the water. “Les SUPeurs Marne” were very helpful in this respect. They are a SUP group that regularly paddles the Marne and their advice was invaluable to us, so a big thanks to them!

In the end, we covered about 120 kilometres in six days, without having done any specific training beforehand. It was one of the best weeks of our lives, because everything was so unplanned and spontaneous. The hours of paddling each day have a relaxing effect, almost like meditation, which is incredibly pleasant. We didn’t talk much, in our little bubble of silence floating on the water just a few kilometres away from the Paris ring road. The sound of the lapping water and the scenery slowing going by were all that we needed.

Whether it’s paddle boarding, swimming, cycling, hiking... we highly recommend to everyone to find the adventure on your doorstep, because there is always one there. You don’t have to venture to the other side of the world to recharge your batteries and see beautiful landscapes.

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Video of the adventure

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