I RACED IN THE NAUTIC SUP PARIS CROSSING 2017

Gregoire, a stand-up paddle designer for Itiwit, was lucky enough to be randomly selected to participate for the second time in this race, which in the space of a few years has become the biggest stand-up paddle race in the world, in terms of participant numbers. It is held every year during the Nautic Paris Boat Show. 700 enthusiasts of all levels came together on Sunday 3 December, to paddle 12 unforgettable kilometres along the Seine.Relive this event through Gregoire's experience...
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It's simple to travel with an inflatable paddle!

It's too easy to get on the plane with a large rucksack on your back (even containing a take-apart paddle). Some people I knew had to go by car, so that they could take their rigid SUP boards...

What's more, I can take the metro. It's really very convenient.

For this journey, I have chosen the 40-140 litre convertible bag, so that I can carry my inflatable stand-up paddle board, my paddle and my pump in the big compartment. In the small, watertight compartment, I put all my things for the weekend. This also gives me a comfortable rucksack for getting around Paris.

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Race briefing the day before at the Nautic

With the inflatable SUP board, there's no need to take your car to Paris, struggle to park, etc. I arrive directly at Hall 1 of the Boat Show, where I meet friends and Itiwit ambassadors from Decathlon stores. We finalise our registration, and I get my transponder (so I know my position on finishing), stickers, number, etc. Then it's time to inflate our boards. For this race, I have chosen the Itiwit Explorace 12’6x26”, which I use regularly and which I have already taken to the Dordogne Intégrale race (130 kilometres in 14 hours) and the Bilbao World Cup Challenge (9 km).
Once my board is inflated, I stick on the sticker with my number, and go to the gauge to check its size. I hand over my board to the organisers, who will transport it to where it needs to be for the next day, putting the boards in lorries according to the numbers.Looking at the boards piled on top of each other, I have peace of mind, because I know my inflatable Explorace won't get damaged, thanks to its strong construction.

The convertible bag allows me to turn my SUP bag into a 40 litre watertight rucksack, where I can put my pump and several accessories. Then it's easy to walk to the Boat Show.

The race briefing is at 6 PM. That's where you start to realise the scale of the event. The 700 participants are very attentive to the various timing and safety details for the next morning.

Particularly the last information on the weather forecast: this year, it's going to be cold! On top of that, it might rain a little...

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What should I wear for this race?

I get up at 5:45 AM, and it's time to get dressed! I've thought about this a lot over recent weeks. Last year, it was very cold (-2°) and I had chosen a 3/2mm full neoprene wetsuit, which I was already regretting 10 minutes into the race: I was too hot and it was exhausting, because the suit impeded my arm movements with every stroke of the paddle. This year, I did a conclusive test during morning training in cold conditions. My equipment therefore consists of:
- Tribord 3mm neoprene surf boots so my feet don't get cold (the water is at around 5°C). The sole is quite thin, so I can feel the board well, and maintain good stability.
- Itiwit 2mm neoprene trousers: since my legs won't be moving much, I choose to keep neoprene on the bottom half of my body so I don't get cold. I also tell myself that if I fall and grab onto my board, my legs will be the first part to get wet
- a brushed knit t-shirt as a first layer for maximum warmth
- a zip-up fleece jacket for even more warmth and so I can remove or add layers if I need to cool down or warm up during the race
- a hat to keep my head warm

Then I take the metro to the race departure point at the French National Library.

 

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The start of the race: dark and ice cold!

Once I get there, I find my friends and the Itiwit ambassadors. My board is arranged by number next to the lorries. We choose a place to get ready: attaching the fin and leash, choosing what to take…
There are loads of people. I love this atmosphere, where you can see the popularity of stand-up paddle: from champions in it to win, to people who have only paddled about ten times in their life and will go down the Seine in fancy dress to enjoy the landscape and the exercise.

A final race briefing. We put the bag back in the lorry. It's time for the launch. Because space is very tight, it takes a good ten minutes for everyone to get in place. We have to position ourselves between the line of support boats and the bridge upstream. The current is stronger than last year, so you have to paddle to stay in place and avoid going over the start line. The water is quite choppy, with everyone in there. The low visibility makes too hard to see and gives an impression of instability. Everyone moves forward towards the upstream bridge, while trying not to go too far from the start line. Then the boats stop their engines, the first people start to turn around, you can feel we're ready to go, the signal is given, I start my watch, and we're off!

Last year, I finished in around 40th place. This year I have to do better!

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Paddling at top speed and enjoying the view

The first minutes are the hardest: everyone is accelerating, the water is very chaotic, and there are waves everywhere.I choose to accelerate my rhythm, to get out of the group quite quickly, so that I can have the advantage of stability.

On arrival at Île Saint Louis, there are already big gaps between competitors.Naturally, I am in with participants of my level, and we're off for the second part of the race.I try to keep a good cruising pace in a small group where everyone is off again. You need to be careful during the race to go through the centre of bridges, and avoid counter currents generated by the pillars.

At this point, we are heading towards the most incredible point in the race, near Notre Dame, the river is very narrow, and we're paddling in a magnificent place.

Then, throughout the whole route, you discover views of Paris from the Seine, going past the Louvre, the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower… It's magnificent!

The race goes on. After half an hour, I realise I'm pretty well placed. The leaders are visible, followed by a group of 8 people, and I'm just behind them. It's around this point that my group comes apart a little, everyone trying to accelerate and gain places.

 

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At the finish, I wait for my friends and the results

After passing the finish arch, you have to be careful crossing the Seine: maritime traffic has resumed. Once I'm off the water, it starts drizzling a little, and I begin to feel the cold. I quickly pick up a large coat and a small coffee provided by the organisers, which helps me warm up.
I return to the finish and start to see the first of my friends coming in: Adrien, Céleste, Julie…Everyone seems delighted with the experience.

I'm really happy with my clothing for the race: I wasn't too cold or too hot, and I had no trouble moving.

It really is a race that is accessible to everyone! The leaders finish in 55 minutes and the stragglers in 2 hours. The current makes it easy, and everyone can go at their own pace.

We collect our bags, put our SUPs away, and go back to the Boat Show by bus, for a small brunch put on by the organisers. We debrief about the race, and share anecdotes about the challenge. Then the results come in: in the "amateur" race, I finished in 56 minutes (1 hour 3 minutes last year) and in 14th place, all on an inflatable stand-up paddle board, surrounded by full carbon boards. Adrien (paddle engineer) came in 66th. Julie (kayak engineer) who signed up for the "pro" race by accident did amazingly: she finished in 11th place!

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I have won the right to join the next part of the race

My position qualifies me for the second round. The top 14 amateurs and the top 6 women meet again in the afternoon for a relay race in 2 teams, in the Boat Show pool.

We do a 50 m sprint with a half turn at the buoy. My team loses the race, but it's a fantastic experience, because the atmosphere is amazing....and it's warm!
 

The Nautic SUP Paris Crossing really is a magical race, accessible to all levels. I hope there will be even more places next year, so that the whole Itiwit team and all stand-up paddlers can come and share this wonderful moment with me, united by our passion for stand-up paddle boarding.

 

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