Saturday, November 14, 2015

Just entered the Yukon River Quest June 2016 ! 715km

715 KM thru the wild country of Canada.
The Yukon River race is the longest annual paddle race in the world. Before, only Canoe and Kayak were allowed but now also open for Stand up paddling.
I will be checking in thru this blog about the preparation for this incredible but als gnarly race.

Signing up is the first and the easiest step. Although the organization only accepts 10 stand up paddlers based on experience.
Before signing up, check what you get into. You have to make it within 74 hrs, temperatures are between 0-20 degrees celsius,  water is only 5. Hypothermia is the most common reason why people give up in this race. But my Supskin drysuit will prevent me from that. Staying to dry is the most important part.

A race like this needs preparation.
The most important is my Starboard All Star 14'x25". My can-do-all board. I use it in downwinders here on Maui, I raced it 2 weeks ago when I got 2nd in the 31 mile Chattajack and I used it the 220km Muskoka X river race. I wil have to ship it ahead of time to White horse, Canada.

The rest of my preparations:
  1.  Read up, know what to expect. Here is were the mental preparation starts. The more you know the better you feel prepared and self assured. 
  2. Training. although you should only do this race when you have experience in similar races, like the Muskoka X or 11-city Tour. You should train all year around. I back off in November and December to get reloaded for the next season. But it does make big difference when you keep on paddling thru the winter. I paddle train for example only 2 times a week during the off season apart from other sports I might do like MTB, surf or Windsurf. Even 2 times a week will give you a good base to work on after your winter stop. 
  3. Gear. There is a lot of gear you need for a race like this. So you need to organize and look ahead. Get everything way before the race and try it out. From bivy bags to drysuits you have to try it before you use it in a race like this. Make a list, buy everything you need early and use it.
I will work thru these preparation step by step  in this blog. But for now I am stoked already for this new challenge. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Muskoka River X Expedition Race

After last year's Muskoka river X 130 Expedition race, they made this year the 'Muskoka X Coureur de Bois'. 220 km in 2 days with a self supported stop on the night after day 1.

This race is very different from anything else not only because of the distance but also because other than with the help of some maps and a compass you have to find the way your self. You have to bring food, clothing, safety gear, camping gear on your board and race with it for the whole 2 days. No support what so ever, other than some encouragements and smiles at the check points.  Different also, because there are 37 portages, places where you have to get your board out of the water and carry it through the wilderness around waterfalls, beaver dams and rapids. The race goes through a national park, over lakes, up river and down river. This big mixture makes it a very special but also very grueling race where mostly half the field doesn’t make it till the finish. There were about 82 paddling teams (sup, canoe and kayak) 17 teams for the 220 km and 65 teams  for the one day 130km which is the last part of the 220km race, on same route.

I was using a brand new Starboard 2016 All Star 14’ x 25”, a board from shaper Mathieu Rauzier which I also worked on during the many R&D trips to Thailand. A very new versatile board with a very fast bottom shape and more volume in the nose, which makes it good in Flat water, choppy water and down winders. And yes it was even good for a race like this, with the extra volume in the nose I could easily carry the extra 30-40lbs of gear on the board. You had to bring at least 2 liters if water, for the rest you have to take water out of rivers or lakes with a water purifying tablet. Canada is still pure enough you can do thing like that.

Race day1
We started early morning at 6:30 sharp. The 2-man canoes were off to a quick start, followed by the Stand up racers and other solo paddlers. Since I didn’t know the area at all, I was looking at my maps all the time and checking the heading to make sure I wasn’t going to the wrong side of the lakes. Everything looks the same, green and a lot of little bays and false rivers.  I had a good pace and distanced myself directly from the other stand up paddlers with some Canoes and a kayak in front of me. At the first portage you can see the difference between the experience racers and the racers for who this kind of expedition racing for the first time. I had a waterproof Starboard backpack which I had strapped on the board with 2 bungees and an extra paddle in case I would break one in the shallow rocky rivers. I could pull my pack from the board in seconds and swing it on my back. Pull the board out of the water and on to my shoulder and walk/run to water entry on the other side of the portage. Sometimes a portage was only a hundred meters but sometimes up to a 1000 meters up hill and down hill though the forrest.
The weather was better than last year with some clouds and temperatures between 8C (45F)and 18C (60F). After a couple of hours on several lakes we got to the marsh lands. Up a small river with many misleading side rivers and small entries. A difficult place to navigate. Although,I was paddling hard, I did notice the shear beauty of the place. But up river means the current against you and on top we had a demotivating head wind all day. I encountered a few beavers who dove under as soon as they saw my  blue and red race monster. I had to climb over at least 10 beaver dams, another natural obstacle in this race. At some point the river was only 6ft wide and I was not very sure I was still in the right direction, lucky the detailed maps helped to recognize the bends , mountains and other rivers and I did had it right. I thought day one  was going to be the easy day with the hard 130km the 2nd day but it turned out to be a long tough day, paddling by myself almost all day. I was hoping to get to the resting point before dark so I had a good recovery time for the next day. I was padding a constant tempo all day and ate every hr and drank all day my liquid food. (hammer perpethuem). This works best for me, giving me a consistent energy flow without crashing.  Along day, with the twist and turns on the river going on forever, only slowly moving over my maps. Around 8pm,  I turned on my navigation light and paddled the last hour in the dark. After just over 14hrs I got to the camping spot, tired and cold. I changed quickly into some down-gear I brought, along with a SupSkin drysuit I brought in case it would raining like last year, Wolfgang from Supksin made me a 2-piece drysuit, for easy putting on/off on the board. The organization had a fire going where everyone made his food with the compulsory stove or heating bag. For me it was Chili Mac with beans, nuts and some protein recovery drinks. At 10:30 I rolled out my bivy bag. With only the Patagonia Down pants and jacket in a emergency sleeping, on the hard ground in the bivy bag, it wasn’t all comfort but I was dry and being  tired, I had a good sleep. Until 5 am when I started to eat and prepare my sport drinks for day 2.

Race Day 2
We we transfered to Whitney, Lake of Bays the start of another grueling day. First we started with about 35 km of lakes, easy to navigate with only a few compulsory way points along the way. We stand up paddlers got lucky with the wind. In my favor on the lakes, 10 knots from the corning back, made it easier than the head winds yesterday. I arrived still fresh and upbeat at the first checkpoint of the day at the start of the Muskoka River. This was fun because finally the river was running with me and I was flying along in the rapids. The many rapids, dams and waterfalls made us carry the board through the portages, sometimes even for 10 minutes. I kept pacing myself hoping to get as far as possible before it would get dark again. And then maybe the fog would make it  a lot harder to find my way. Because of the warmer water and cold outside temperature 90% of the time a thick fog shows up around 11pm which makes things even more interesting. Your headlamps becomes useless and the compass even ore important. 
After almost 10 hrs of paddling I arrived at the 2nd check point in Bracebridge. Here you turn on another river but now against the current and things slow down a lot. I started to feel the mileage and the hours of the last 2 days. And although I didn’t feel like eating I kept eating and drinking, knowing that as soon as I would stop I would bonk and slow down a lot. With a race like this it is key not to stop other than to mix a drink or prepare water. Even if you slow down a little, it is better than take a break and having to get in a rhythm again. Many more dams and waterfalls but I kept going. Some of the stronger one day 2-man Canoe paddlers passed me but the stand up paddlers were all far behind. Some parts had very strong current, where your speed is just enough to go forward. I was hugging the sides as much as possible and avoiding the boulders and trees in the water, steadily getting closer to the finish. I made it just before dark to a series of very shallow rapids where you have to walk and push the board though the water to get passed it. When it got dark the wind who helped me in the morning was still there but now starting to turn against me. I got to the last checkpoint just at 9:30 at night. After this it was just a 25km more but 8km were across a lake straight against the strong winds in the dark. The closer I got there I more I was dreading the lake. Being tired and statring to feel cold I changed cloths and ate before I entered the last leg onto the lakes. At first it was a as bad as I thought it would be, hammering into the wind and waves making only little progress. Different  than the canoes who were crossing, I set my course straight across the lake with only my navigation light on. My headlamp was almost always off, I could only see the contours of the other side of the lake and a small island in-between. I set my first goal to reach the island and than go from there. When I finally got there, I realized that the wind slowed down a little the closer I got to the otters side. This raised my spirits and on I went. At some point I fell in the water after I had kneeled down to check the maps. Now being wet, I was even more motivated to paddled hard and get warm.  When I got to the other side and found the little entrance to the last river I felt good having made it. I also realized that it had cost me a lot of effort after almost 14 hrs of today paddling and the 14 hrs yesterday. Later  the race director told me even being that close, some paddlers turned around on the lake and gave up right there. On the river I still thought I was paddling fast  but I most likely I wasn’t, at this point it was all about just getting to the finish. 
I came in first, when I finally got to the finish, just after 1 am, I was tired, spent and necked, like I have  seldom felt before. I went straight to the hot room and put on warm and dry cloths. It took me almost an hour to let my back muscles relax a little. It was like I was still paddling,  so much tension there. Mike Casey came in second, 3 hrs later, he was  the only one who also completed the 2-day 220km Coureur de Bois and didn't have to give up. Of the 1 day race half the Sup racers finished. It took me 31 hrs. By the way the 2-man canoe did it in just over 24, they are very fast with there 2 manpower. More than any other race the few people and family who were cheering on sometimes in the middle of nowhere were a joy. It  was in the middle of day 2, I remember two  specific families. One was during the day I could only see them from far but they shouted everybody’s name and danced , cheered and made music. The other had the horns going, drums and many cheers, I don’t know who you are but you did make all the difference. A extraordinary race, which makes you go very deep and meet your inner self. Spectacular scenery and an amazing paddling crowd. Thanks to Mike and Rob for a very well organized race. Infos at

Big thank you to Starboard for making again  the fastest board and  Starboard USA for helping with shipping.

Major contribution also by SUPSKIN and Black Project Fins, 

Other sponsors: Maui Jim, Robijns bv, Camelbak / Suunto and Kanaha Kai Maui

SUP top 3 ranking

220km Muskoka X Coureur de Bois
1st Bart de Zwart
2nd Mike Casey
3rd David Holme

130km Muskoka X
1St Jonah Logan
2nd Michael O Brien

3rd Ivo Ziedins

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The training Diaries, getting ready for the 11-City and Muskoka X

In the next weeks, I will explain how I prepare of the 11-City tour, in Holland  and right after the Muskoka X in Canada. two long distance races both 220 km but very different from each other.

The first one is a 5 day stage race on flat water through the canals in Holland. The race in Canada is a 2 day adventure SUP race where you have to find your way with all your gear through lakes, down river, up river and portages around waterfalls with one short sleep, open air, half way. Exciting but also tough. The world seen through the eyes of SUP.

I will go through the training, equipment, weather, tactics and strategy.
It is now 2 months before the race in Holland. By now you should have a good bases in your training.
I paddle mostly 5 days a week.  Taking a few days rest in between to let the body recover.

Training for the 11-city
I make my own schedule. I have always trained with Connor Baxter in the past and when we are both on the island we still try to train together but because of the travel schedule we train a lot less together the before.  In the past we have raced each other around the buoys in the Maui Harbor which was like a interval training. Sprinting to the buoy then paddling slower to catch our breath. Over and over again. This worked out well for us and got us fit.
Now we try to do it a little more organized. With different training schedules every day to mix it up and to not get in a routine. Because a race is not a routine it is full of burst of sprints during the whole race and every race is different so should the training be.

Right now this is roughly my schedule I would love to do more but between a running a shop with my wife, building my house, my family there is only so much time

4 hrs training session 2 days ago, Maui NorthShore with Team Starboard, Tomo, Connor and Bart

Day 1 interval training
Day 2 2 hrs endurance sup training
Day 3 light interval training
Day 4 rest
Day 5 interval training
Day 6 3-4 hr train session
Day 7 rest

Apart from this it is good  to do some running swimming or biking to get fitter all round.

Even if you don't have much time to train. Make the training you do, count. Work hard, train with partner or with a GPS and race against the GPS or your partner. Connor and I have this natural ' I  am not gonna let you pass me' eager which pushes you harder then when you train by yourself. That's why I train with a GPS when I train by myself. You see directly when you are starting to slow down.
It is also good to train with a heart rate monitor so you can train in different zones more about  that in next post.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Istanbul, Turkey: minarets, ships and Turkish delight

When we arrive in Istanbul, Turkey, we also arrive in the  modern world again.  
Istanbul lays at the Bosporus strait, the connection between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, partly in Europe and partly in Asia. Istanbul is Eastern, Western, old and modern at the same time. 
Since we are here, only for 2 days, we check into our small family owned hotel and take our bag packs with the inflatables and try to  find a few spots where we can paddle in the city.  
There is a lot of water in Istanbul but also lots of traffic, many small ferries, fishermen, pilot boats and the container ships. So we have to pick our places carefully because they don't want you to paddle in the busy areas. 
We find  a small inlet opposite of the Suluymaniye Mosque.  The Turkish men sipping their tea look a little surprised when I pump up the board and put it in the water. Feels great to paddle in a city with a background like this. The small stalls, bars at the water front, the high minarets behind that pointing to the sky and the ferries making it very hard to stay dry. 
Later we take one of the ferries to the Asian side where things are slightly calmer. Since there is no beach here, everybody is sitting on the boulders and enjoying the sunset with city in silhouette as a backdrop. We paddle along the coast until the sun is about to set and we are getting hungry.
The following day we wander through the gran bazar and the spices bazar. 

The amount of little shops is amazing, thousands, the competition here must be killing. In this area you can find anything you need from hardware, ancient daggers, grand pianos  to Turkish delight. 
With 12 million people this is a big city, where traffic is a disaster. 

In the evening, before we eat in a local restaurant, I  paddle at dusk at the Ortak√∂y mosque which is beautiful from the water because it is lighted up from all sides. Again hard to stay dry with the chop from all of the ships. The kids, selling sweets at the mosque, watch me paddling.  They chant, hoping I would fall in. When I make it out dry, they watch me, a little disappointed but still with a big smile, how the the big board deflates and disappears in the bag within minutes. 
The next day we fly across the Atlantic to Sayulito, Mexico, host of the ISA World Championships.....  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ethiopia: vast landscapes, brown crocodile water and Kalashnikovs

Air Ethiopia brings us to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Although the country is known for the scorching temperatures that exist here, I am surprised by the cool temperatures, the high altitude (2500 m./ 7500ft) in this city, explains it.
Our destination will be Omo valley. Because of the long distance to this very remote valley and relatively short time on hand, we have decided to use a car with a local driver. The following day we found out how quickly we run out of time. 
Once you leave the big and relatively wealthy city, we see the vast and dry landscapes of Ethiopia. Along the road, houses are no longer made of bricks and mortar but wood and mud instead. Not just a few but basically all of them.

We paddle and explore along the coast line of the many lakes we encounter, some big, wide and deep, (up to 260 meters), some salty and slightly pink and covered in flamingos and some others the home of hippos and fisherman.

On lake Awasa we paddle into the village during the fish market.  Coming into the village, locals told us to stay away from the banks because of the hippos, we try to makes sounds to warn them but don't see any popping up.  At the beach many of the villagers surround us and stare at our boards.  We let two of them try them, which proves to be the best entertainment, specially when one almost falls in. After some fried fish for breakfast we continue to Omo valley, another long drive.

After an overnight stay with very good sleep in Turmi village in a very simple accommodation, we continue on to a village where the Dassanech tribe live. We get the boards ready and enter the river which has a lot of current towards Kenya, only 60 km down river. After only a few kilometers down river we already get to a small village with 3 kids watching us from the high banks. When we paddle towards them 2 of the 3 run away scared.

We make clear that we are friendly and gesture him to come and try our boards. Slowly and with some hesitation he comes down to the river bank and looks at the boards and the paddle. We show how it works and he goes and tries. Before you know it we have the whole village around us taking turns paddling. I take the smaller kids with me and the bigger ones try by themselves. The ones too scared to try, have a good laugh while they watch the others.  It turned out to be the highlight of our and their day. Later at night we visit another tribe a little more North where we put up our tent. The tribe lives in the most basic conditions possible: their only possessions are  their huts and cattle. Men and women only wear a goat skin around their waist.

A few in their tribe own a riffle (AK47) to protect their cattle from being stolen by other tribes. We offer them a goat which they then kill and roast above a fire. We were offered to drink the blood, known to them to be very healthy, but we kindly decline and let them 'enjoy'  Only 2 hrs later everything has been eaten by the whole tribe.

After we set down with them, the next morning, in one of the huts and drank coffee, we break up camp and drive back in the direction of Addis Ababa. 
Along the road we see how hard women work in this country. They are responsible for finding wood and water, two very tough jobs in an environment like this. Men take care of the cattle, compared, a very easy job. 
We fly the next day to Istanbul, Turkey and leave with mixed feelings about a very poor but very beautiful country. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Nepal: Himalaya, earthquakes and white water

We arrive in a buzzing world of honking cars and motor bikes, chaotically driving through the dusty and dirty streets of Kathmandu. What a contrast with Micronesia, the slow pace made place for a very different scene. 
In the night we walk through the narrow streets of Thamel full of tiny little restaurants, tiny outdoors gear shops and trekking agents. I feel right at home. This is expedition country. Land of trekking, white water paddling and climbing the highest peaks of the earth. 
We take the bus to Pokhara, the 130 miles through the mountains along narrow roads takes us 8 hrs. Pokhara is at the foot of the 8084 meter (25,500ft) high Annapurna. 

After spending a couple of days paddling and exploring the mountains around Pokhara disaster strikes. The ground suddenly started  to shake. People scream and when we look up, we see the buildings moving violently, just about the fall over. Only later, when we met a guide who told us about the many buildings that collapsed and the casualties in Kathmandu, we realize this was a serious earthquake. I contact Dagmar, my wife to tell her that we are alright. I get a very worried but also relieved Dagmar on skype. It is in times like this that you realize how much we mean to each other.  By then my mailbox is also full with concerned family and friends who are checking to see if we are alright. The following night there were many after shocks. Twice we wake up and run outside. By now we have read the reports from the rest of the country. Some villages near the epicenter are totally wiped out and Kathmandu is also seriously hit. Although in Pokhara there was no serious damage, everybody is afraid and doesn't want to stay and sleep in their homes. So everybody is camping outside in makeshift tents. 

A day later we take a bus to the Madhi River. Along the road I see many houses partly destroyed, people sitting on the street and again a strong after shock and everybody runs on the street. After a long day through difficult terrain we got to Borhletar. Here far away from the rest of the world you find the real Nepal. We put up our tents on the river bed. And meet many local kids. They are all talking about one thing, the earthquake. Even here nobody wants to go inside and everybody is camping or just sitting outside. At night we walk from family to family and get invited for tea or food and hear many stories about Nepal but mostly about the earthquake. 
The Nepalese are very shy, humble and very very friendly. They are as interested in us as we are in them. 
Here is were the real adventure starts. We push off  and go down the river. Our river, labeled a class 2, is a mild one, but exiting enough with all the gear on the boards.

We pass through beautiful landscapes and small little farms, kids playing in the water, fully excited when we pass by and some fishing for their evening meal.  We are on the river for 2 days before it is time to go back to Kathmandu where we see the devastation the earthquake did, collapsed buildings, a big mess everywhere and many homeless camping in the streets. 

We get to our hostel from 4 days ago where we meet the owner who tells us 3 people died in front of his hostel by the collapsed wall and the other hostel down the street totally came down. Here it is serious but it is even worse inside the country where whole village are flattened. 
I see the suffering and we decide that we should help too. A donation to The Red Cross seems the best option.  They have people on the ground and all donations go directly to Nepal. 
We would like to ask everybody to do the same at: 
We leave with a heavy heart. But also with the notion I have to come back soon and bring my family.  The rest of this story you can find in Sup and outdoor magazines around the world. 
Next stop Ethiopia...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sup World Trip Part 1 Yap, Micronesia

Grass skirts, Stone money, and western influences

After our first trip with inflatables in Europe with a rail pass. We wanted to take it one step further and explore far away places in the world. This time we bought a round the world ticket with stopovers at all the continents.

Our first destination was Yap. This tiny island belongs to one of the 186 islands of Micronesia. And is known for their traditional culture. One of the last islands in the Pacific that still resists to the western ways.

At the airport we are welcomed by 2 bare chested women in grass skirts who hang two leis around our necks. With only two planes a week arriving in Yap,  it is not a busy airport.

We get a ride from a police man to a small piece of land in the middle of town where we inflate our tent for the first night (yes we also have an inflatable tent, at least the poles are).

In the next days we travel to the North of the island, to a village,  Wanead, where we ask permission to put up our tent. On Yap the land is owned by the people. You always have to ask permission to use the land or visit certain villages. As soon as we had made camp, we inflate our boards and paddle for hours along the coast.

Yap has a lush green interior full with palm and betel nut trees. The coast is mostly covered with mangroves and around the whole island is a protecting reef where you can find manta rays up to 20 feet wide. One big oasis with only 10,000 inhabitants and no industries.
The pace is slow on the island. Partly because there is not much too do other than fish and find food, partly also because almost everyone is chewing betel nuts. A subtle narcotic which produces orange stained teeth and lips. The Yapese do this all day, every day.

When we paddle here, we see the man-houses at the beech and the Seaworthy outriggers with which they, until very recently, sailed to the outer island and Guam or Palau, often 7-10 days at sea, relying only on the stars for navigation.

One day we paddle to Rumung, the utmost northern island of Yap.  This time with special permission and with a local inhabitant of Rumung. Without him no one can enter the island.

There we see the biggest stone money of the island. A form of payment made out of a giant round carved stone with a hole in the middle. Once Stone money was the only form of payment, now it is still in use today for certain transactions or settling fights.  

There is a lot more to say about this little paradise in the Pacific which we will safe for later

Now  we are on our way to Kathmandu, Nepal where the story continues.