By David Partridge of the Chelmarsh SUP Club. Bib 342
It is a bucket list paddle: cross the centre of Paris, see the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and paddle under all the spectacular bridges. Add up to 1000 paddlers, spectators hooting air horns, and the APP world tour, and you have an event to keep you on a high in the dull December weather.
I took part this year for the first time and joined around 50 UK paddlers. Will Keetly represented the UK in the APP tour finishing 20th. Alison Rennie in the Pro category came in an impressive 13th woman; Mark Salter bowed out.
In the Leisure category, we paddled 11 km rather than the 14 of the Pro and APP tour. The only difference is that they took a loop around the two islands in the Seine. In every other respect, you share a massed start line APP and Pro paddlers out a little in front for the start. They rejoin you on the course, and in my case, Connor Baxter slid through the finish a few inches ahead of me, so you rub shoulders with the great and good of the paddling world!
There were some great UK results in the Leisure division, with Jaya Chandola crossing as 6th woman overall, Cassie Salter 9th and Angela Kerr 12th. Chris MacDonald was the 33rd man and headed to Alicante to fly the flag there! The full results are published here: (you can see the APP Pro and Leisure divisions and sort by country) https://my.raceresult.com/225275/results. Alison warns that if you do well in the Leisure division, you get bumped up in future years to the Pro!
Being my first time, I thought it worthwhile to share a few tips:
The event registration opens, and there is a lottery to gain a place (more than 2000 sign up for the allowed 1000 places). You need a medical certificate; otherwise, the event entry is straightforward.
Once allocated a place, there is some bureaucracy, the event centres on the Nautic Boat Show, so to even register, you need to enter the show.
Pre-event details are sent to get show tickets and parking permits to allow entry to drop off your board and to get to the registration and briefing. It all feels rather formal and complex, but these fears disappear when you meet familiar faces inside the vast exhibition halls.
You register on Saturday, get a bib tracker and stickers for your kit, then drop off your board (inflated) without fins or leash, and these get loaded into one of five huge lorries. (each labelled 1-400 etc., to match your entry number) Then the briefing is late afternoon; weather (it’s cold in Paris), race detail (you go down the Seine and get disqualified if you jump the start) and detail for the end (help load the boards back in the trucks there are toilets available)
So at 05.45 on Sunday morning, we are back in the exhibition hall; everyone gets changed and then loaded onto busses taking you and your kit bag to the start (don’t forget your paddle, fins and leash!).
The start is at the BNF at 08.00, the national library of France. You search for your board in the pile of 1000, attach fins and leash, leave your kit bag on the lorry and head onto the water, back paddling slowly not to cross the start.
Pro and APP paddlers line up at the front, and you slot in mentally preparing for the washing machine you know is coming as everyone starts together.
The paddle is magical, starting at first light with illuminated bridges and landmarks. There is some chop, and each bridge concentrates the wakes and eddies of paddlers in front of you, so a few fall in. Board choice is personal. Competent Pro and APP are mainly skinny hardboards, and leisure is predominantly inflatable. I chose my dependable Red Voyager as I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleased to see John McFadzean of SUP the World on the same.
So a tourist tour of Paris, seeing the city from the water and sharing it with many like-minded people. You paddle toward and then past the Eiffel Tower and, in no time, seem to be at the finish. Here a yellow arch and sadness that it’s over, always in the company and, in my case, finishing with some of the best (albeit they had paddled an extra 3 km!).
At the end, you retrieve your bag from the lorry, post your SUP back, and then head back to coaches for a slap-up breakfast, equipment retrieval, and prize giving.
Everyone I met was buzzing and infected by this Insane On Seine paddle. It was great to have that camaraderie and support UK paddlers seem to take with them to every event; it is one big happy family! Huge thanks to all the sponsors and the fantastic organisation. It seems incredible how seamless it all felt!