"I CROSSED FRANCE ON AN INFLATABLE STAND-UP PADDLE BOARD"

Claude, a 55-year-old from the north of France who has been a stand-up paddler for several years had a crazy dream: to be the first person to cross France from north to south on a stand-up paddle board! He met Itiwit at the Stand-Up Paddle French Cup in Joinville-le-Pont in mid-May. "The choice of Itiwit equipment came naturally from the range of inflatable boards, including a 12'6 x 32 Explorace: sturdy, stable, good glide, suitable for adventure thanks to the front and rear attachments for bags." After a test ride on the Marne, Claude was hooked... With all the gear provided by Itiwit (board, 50% carbon paddle, dry bags), he was able to make his crazy plans a reality... without knowing at the time if he would get permission to paddle his SUP on the French river network over more than 1,000 kilometres...
claude-avant-son-depart

 

avant-le-depart

#1 - Training

"My goal has always been to maintain a good level of physical fitness through regular training throughout the year. So I stepped up the number of trips I went on with friends, including some very enjoyable days out (Ghent, Douai, Tournai, the Scheldt, Bay of Authie, the Lys, etc.). But I also took part in many competitions, to challenge myself:
- Lille Paddle Race (10 km race on the Deûle) 
- Nautic SUP Paris (race on the Seine in Paris,10 km)
- Glagla Race (race in January on Lake Annecy, 13 km)
- 8 de Poissy (race on the Seine in October, 13 km)
- French Cup in Joinville-le-Pont, 12 km
- Raid des Canaux, 52 km distance over 2 days (start Aire-sur-la-Lys, finish Comines-Warneton, Belgium)
- Etretat Paddle Beach
- 3 heures du Tuamotu in Dunkirk (3-hour solo or team race)
- Route du Ch’ti, Armentières lake (4-hour solo or team race)

Thanks to all of this, I feel able to maintain a pace of 30-35 km per day for a month to reach Le Grau-du-Roi... In parallel, I did not do any specific training at the gym."

depart-du-periple

#2 - The aim of the trip and the itinerary

"France has an incredible network of inland waterways. I want to use these waterways and rise to the challenge of crossing France by arm power alone, standing on my board. My goals are above all the pleasure of paddling, gliding on the water, going where the water takes me, living from day to day, taking time to contemplate, being able to overcome loneliness, physical exertion, fear, but also to experience moments of pure happiness. And also to meet, as I'm sure I will, some wonderful people along the way."

Start: 22 July 2017 in Lille on the Canal de la Deûle and more precisely from the headquarters of "Le Grand Huit", a stand-up paddle club that has given rise to a real passion for this sport.

Finish: 25 August 2017 in Le Grau-du-Roi (Mediterranean) some 1,100 kilometres by arm power alone, standing on my board, with a whole bunch of locks to get through.

What about sleep? In a bivouac at the water's edge, I plan to find a suitable place to rest for the night after a day of paddling.

Food? I have packed freeze-dried rations, but I will cheat a few times in small restaurants or cafés that I will cross along the way.

Finding water? I will stock up on drinking water, probably at locks, if not at village stores along the canals or from local houses.

depart-de-lille

#3 - The first 6 days: the trouble begins...

22 July: an emotional first day. At the start point of Le Corfou restaurant, my family, friends, colleagues and friends from Le Grand Huit were there, even the TV channel France 3. Thank you to Hanta, Yves Damien, Lylou and Marie for accompanying me for the first few kilometres and to Marie who stayed with me all day. Going through the first lock, "écluse de Don". I stopped at the Arleux campsite with Nico, Cindy, Nath, Marie and JB, a great evening.

23 July: I left Arleux, solo, arrived in the evening in Hermies, quite a few locks to get through, headwinds and paddling against the current, rain. I slept under a bridge.

24 July: I slept in Voyennes at a campsite on the Canal de la Somme.

25 July: I am on the Canal de la Somme in Ham, I fell behind schedule this morning. A few natural obstacles in addition to the locks and thank you to Johan who helped me through a difficult lock. End of the fourth day, I got out of the water at 8pm, I went past Fargniers, I'll look for a little spot for tonight, it's not all that easy here. 

26 July: Held up since this morning at Ternier lock by  Navigable Waterways of France (VNF). I am in negotiations to get the necessary permits and it is taking some time. Waiting for a call and hoping that it will bring good news otherwise the adventure ends here.

28 July: I have just got the green light to continue my adventure. Only started paddling at 3pm and covered 14 km. I will need to do better than that tomorrow. I am now on the Oise Canal in the Aisne department. I stopped for the night near Abbecourt lock. Tonight I'll be sleeping under the stars on the board.

passage-tunnel-peniche

#4 - Next came a tale of tunnels...

29 July: after a lovely starry night, I put the board in the water and headed for Chavignon. I landed at the lock just after Chavignon because I have to board a boat tomorrow to pass through the tunnel (forbidden on an SUP). I hope I can get one fairly early otherwise I risk losing the best part of the day. I also met a great guy called Christian from the VNF (they're not all bad) who let me take a shower and find a nice place for the night on VNF property. He even gave me a little gift of a flag to put on my board.

30 July: I boarded on a barge at 10am this morning to pass through the tunnel.

31 July: I left Berry-au-Bac this morning, I should get to Reims by lunchtime. Unfortunately after Reims there is another tunnel to get through, I'm crossing my fingers for a boat. End of a good day of paddling 34 km, I have passed Reims and have settled at the lock for the night before the next tunnel to catch a boat.

01 August: after a night spent under thunderstorms and a damp wake-up, luckily I was able to board the "Feeling" this morning for the underpass in the company of Pierre and Chantal. Arrival at Châlons-en-Champagne.

02 August: very damp this morning when I woke up but it is the start of a new sunny day. Another lovely day meeting some lovely people! Thank you to Jean and Valérie for their hospitality. This evening I landed at 8pm in Orconte, a small marina with showers, toilets and a table to eat at... luxury!

journal-saint-dizier

#5 - Then I make the headlines when I pass through Saint Dizier and make a TV appearance on France 3 Bourgogne...

03 August: Arrival in Chamouilley, a village below Saint Dizier. Small and friendly marina. Gentle day of paddling: 25 km.

04 August: this morning I got a full page in the Haute Marne newspaper from when I passed through Saint Dizier. 

05 August: arrival at 8 in the evening at the moorings in Froncles, ate a kebab meal, delicious!

06 August: rest day at Dominique's in Chaumont.

07 August: I crossed the very symbolic drainage divide. Leaving the south of the Champagne region at Cusey and entering Burgundy, my childhood friend Marco ("the big foot!") joined me to keep me company!

08 August: I arrived in Auxonne, leaving the Burgundy Canal to enter the Saône, the size is impressive, it is good practice for the Rhône. Difficult conditions, rain and headwinds.

09 August: plain sailing on the Saône, 34 km on the clock, I arrived in Seurre this evening. Tomorrow I should reach Châlons-en-Champagne. I spent the night at a campsite on the banks of the Saône. 

10 August: I got to Châlons-en-Champagne, a nice visit from the France 3 Bourgogne team this morning

arrivee-a-lyon

#6 - First physical setbacks halfway through... but I make it to Lyon!

11 August: arrival this evening at Tournus campsite after another good day of paddling in occasionally challenging conditions when passing container ships.

12 August: today I was forced to rest following a sharp tendinitis-like pain in my right shoulder. Unable to use my right arm, I headed to the pharmacy, anti-inflammatories and rest. I hope to get back out there tomorrow.

13 August: back on the water again this morning, at a gentle pace, my shoulder is recovering slowly. I still managed to get to Mâcon. Met some great people when I landed: Mâcon jet ski club, warm welcome and a drink at the water's edge. Really very nice, life is good!

14 August: difficult conditions, headwinds with violent gusts, I'm not getting anywhere. Tough day, I got out of the water at 9.15pm and I passed Villefranche-sur-Saône. Having reached my target, I found a campsite for the night.

15 August: I set off this morning in similar conditions to yesterday: southerly winds blowing straight at me and strong gusts. Arrival in Lyon late afternoon.

16 August: rest day in Lyon. 

17 August: I left from Condrieu, drifting down the Rhône. Going through Sablon lock, I'm playing with the big boys now.

marche-forcee

#7 - Last week of hard work... with a lot of surprises!

18 August: I had to get onto dry land, it was impossible to paddle against the wind, I continue my journey on foot (2 hours walking in full sun pulling the trolley) until the wind dies down, hoping to reach Valence tonight. I get out of the water at 8pm, shattered from the day. 

19 August: exhausting day, a northerly wind to push me but with gusts and swell, sometimes difficult to stay standing. A bit of relaxation after a hard day on the Rhône with Josy in Châteauneuf-du-Rhône.

20 August: the wind was seriously blowing today, I had to use my paddle often to stop myself from grounding, I got out of the water several times, all in all a very tiring day but I kept going. I slept at the campsite on the hill above Bollène.

21 August: Avignon tonight, happy to be here, hopefully tomorrow night I will have left the Rhône for calmer waters.

22 August: this afternoon I met up again with Mark, the Norwegian I met along the way. He left Norway for Athens on 1 April in a solo kayak—what a guy! I finally left the Rhône to get back to calmer waters tomorrow and I had a great surprise: Jean Marc and Catherine my friends from Le Grand Huit came to meet me!

23 August: thank you to Didier who welcomed me last night at Mas Turquat, I am feeling well rested. Tonight I am at Saint Gilles lock (the last lock), I stopped here for the night, a big thank you to Gil the lock keeper who opened the lock for me.

arrivee

#8 - I finally make it to the finish point, I can't believe it, I did it, thank you for your support!

24 August: I left early this morning from Saint Gilles lock and here I am  in Aigues-Mortes. I savour the moment, I am 2 hours from the finish point in Grau-du-Roi, I want to make the adventure last a little longer by staying here and arriving tomorrow late morning.
It was an amazing adventure! I met incredible people, you encouraged me every day, I owe you a lot. I completed this completely crazy bet of crossing France by canal while paddling standing on my board.

It's INSANE!!!! 

To sum up:
1,150 kilometres travelled on arm power alone, standing on my board
- a pace of 30 to 35 kilometres per day
8 hours of paddling spread out over the day at an average speed of 4 km/h
210 locks passed

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