Après Ski SUP in the Italian Alps with SUP Kultura Kraków

The driving force behind Red Paddle Co is innovation and “Explore your world” motto. TotalSUP had a cool opportunity to catch up with Łukasz Chochorowski aka Santa and Sara Grandys of SUP Kultura Kraków, Polish SUP hub located in the iconic city of Kraków, about their recent trip to the Italian Alps where they combined their passion for SUP and Winter sports. This creative power duo are proving that with a little bit of planning and open minds we can turn our SUP adventures into something epic, after all, we are all born explorers!

Hi, could you tell us more about SUP Kultura Kraków?

Hi, we’re Sara and Santa, partners in life and crime, who prefer to walk on water rather than a sidewalk. Our SUP adventure started two years ago but the real beginnings reach much further. Sara experienced paddleboarding for the first time in Sardinia where she worked at a watersports centre four years ago. My adventure kicked off with a solid knee injury…I was going through surgeries, continuous physio…there was no way for me to actively do sports and then Sara showed up with SUP and everything just took off.

Stand-up paddleboarding is our passion and Kraków is our home. We’d like to grow this sport in our city, help people reclaim the river. The Vistula has been neglected for years, locals don’t use it nor pay attention to it and it’s the highest time to change it. We want to introduce this new, inclusive sport, available for everyone regardless of age, mental and physical skills. How are we doing it? We train, we hire gear, we organise demo days, SUP trips, events, celebrations and quite a few spontaneous SUP sessions.


We believe that the only way to promote the sport in Poland is to share knowledge, the hype and raising awareness. The brand name SUP Kultura – in English, SUP Culture – is not a coincidence – we combine sport and lifestyle. It’s about the physical culture, the way of living. Training together, working on paddling technique, shared moonlight escapades, events such as Halloween, exploring new places, searching for those perfect sunrises and sunsets and visiting some of the best SUP spots in the world are only a fraction of what we’re doing. We’re showing the possibilities, instilling passion for the sport which is then cultivated individually.

Why stand-up paddleboarding? It’s different to experience the world from the edge of the water… There are no crowds nor excessive stimulants, the time flows slowly but somehow more precisely. You can paddle in and outside of the city but no matter where you are, you’re always closer to nature. We learn something about the world that surrounds us, about ourselves, our capabilities… Essentially, we learn to look at the world from the right perspective.

Could you tell us more about your recent Alpine SUP trip?

Wherever we go, our boards travel with us and that includes our Winter schedule. We think SUP is the ultimate travelling tool. We always have boards in our trunk. SUP is a year-round sport and you can paddle right up to the first ice floe. We love water in all its forms, it’s been our passion since we were kids and has now become our work. We have spent a lot of time in the Alps, snowboarding and skiing. The nature there is simply majestic and the glacial lakes and mountain rivers are calling through its beauty. We just had to take our boards with us. This year we were aiming for the Aosta Valley – The place for Winter sports. We packed our boards just in case…

We knew that majority of the lakes would be frozen but we had our eyes set on a couple of spots in the lower parts of the Alps like Laghi Di Fusine or Lago del Predil and some cool places along the way like Gruner See in Austria. It’s a 1500km drive from Poland to the Aosta Valley, so there’s many interesting landmarks along the way.


Despite a rather Spring-ish aura in the Aosta Valley, we didn’t get to SUP – everything was frozen in the higher parts of the mountains and the rivers were too shallow to paddle. But we kept our cool and ended up with our boards in Cervinia. Because boards allow us to see the world from a different perspective, we wanted to live up to it and actually took our Red Paddle 10’6 board to the vantage point of Colle SUP-eriore (sic!) delle Cime Bianche at 2982m. We wanted to try some snow surfing but with an allround board and fixed fins the attempt was a no-go. It was however a priceless experience to snowboard with a SUP under our arm down the slope and watching people’s reactions. We’re definitely coming back next year to paddle-surf that fluff!

How do you plan for a trip combining both SUP and snowboard experience?

Location: On top of the snowboard and skiing spots, we research other options nearby. We check Google maps and pretty much everything that’s marked blue. We check out river connections, lakes and any accessible waterways. We go through online photos, travelling blogs to choose the most tasty bits and then make a decision where to go. Some places are easy to get to and some require a little bit more of figuring out – it all depends whether they’re the final destination or simply along the way.

Sometimes, the „hottest tip” can be quite disappointing or the weather simply doesn’t pan out to launch – we’re talking about paddleboarding in Winter and safety comes first. To build on that, we had a million-dollar weather lake Caumasee near the Laax resort in Switzerland.

Social media is definitely our ally in planning these perfect, aesthetic SUP „crimes” – searching through hashtags and locations is a total HIT too. You can always check the weather to be accurate more or less, but social media allows us to check the conditions in real-time – the lake seems only half-frozen – we’re packed and going.

We act spontaneously, talk to locals, people online, we take detours if the gut feeling tells us it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s the adventure that find us and the most beautiful memories and photographs are the result of this craziness. From the dots of our plans we get the shape of our adventure – not everyone understands this drawing, but trust us, we do have a lot of fun. We go beyond the traditional thinking of après ski. Who says that we can’t experience it on a SUP in a middle of the lake after a whole day of shredding the slopes?

What is your Red Paddle Co quiver and relationship with the brand?

Brand trust and general liking come first to mind. When we decided to launch SUP Kultura Kraków, Red Paddle Co were the first paddleboards we got for our quiver. We bet on them and they have never let us down.

We’re very interested in innovation and development of SUP technology and we tend to stay on top of it and test the next big thing such as the Red Paddle Compact boards (like we did with the hot-of-the-press Compact 9’6 that made its debut last year) which are perfect for our rapid, short trips. It’s all about mobility, quality and convenience.

You know, taking four people for a trip on a Dragon board, having BBQ on a Tandem board, these experiences inherently evoke a brand that’s vision serves a purpose of creating such memories. Many people don’t even know that you can do these things on a paddleboard.

When it comes to equipment, we’re quite sceptical but we associate the Red Paddle Co brand with a tested guarantee of quality. Exploring remote areas, like we did in the Lofoten Islands, with all your stuff and recording equipment on a paddleboard and to rest assured that all of it is safe – that’s priceless.

Not without my Red Paddle Co…What are the benefits of travelling with your iSUP?

Practicality and convenience! A board lives in a backpack which makes our life easier allowing to pack a couple into a car in one go! We think of the Red Paddle Co board as a travel animal! It’s light and can be easily transported in a compact backpack to even the most remote places. Trust us, sometimes, it’s really tricky to figure out how to get to the waterfront.

It’s like a big buritto, the board folds down to half the size of a conventional inflatable paddle board and it takes only 10 to 15 min to inflate to a full size.

Safety is paramount especially when you paddle in Winter so the stability of the Red Paddle board is equally important to us.

Durability! Red Paddle boards are SUPer strong and you never know what’s underneath your board, a rock, a seal, a branch – we’ve had many close encounters with various elements and our boards have always delivered.

Cargo! We usually use the touring boards so they’re like aircraft carriers where we can put all our stuff and brew some fresh coffee!

Could you share your top spots along your Alpine SUP trip?

Sirmione

This was a one quick session on Lake Garda – Italy’s biggest lake. On the road to Italian Alps, and located between Milan and Venice, lies a magical town – Sirmione.

Exit from the E70 route takes as a quick as a shot of espresso and you find yourself in an old town made of stone with incredible narrow street ambience and Rocca Scaligera, a XIII-century medieval castle overlooking the lake.

A perfect, total spot to SUP, just a couple of minutes away from the highway. The town is one thing and another is the appendix-like peninsula sticking out from the southern shore of the lake so clear that you can see the bottom of it – watch the underwater life and your own shadow.

We actually have goosebumps as we talk about it! The access is super easy with clearly marked parking spaces. You can tell that it’s a par excellence Summer resort. We’re not very fond of the crowds so we’re truly happy to have experienced it in Winter!

Laghi di Fusine

Now, the lakes of the Julian Alps – it’s like the ultimate meeting point of three countries: Italy, Austria and Slovenia. Laghi di Fusine: It’s for the gram!

Technically, it’s a system of two glacial lakes – the upper, Lago Superiore and lower, Lago Interiore located close to Tarvisio and 15-20min from the highway. During our SUP session half of it was frozen.

When it comes to the landscape, the turquoise waters, hypnotic underwater beauty, the mountains and the surrounding forest – it was an aesthetic knockout!

There’s also a car park near the lake, a cosy restaurant with lovely food and accommodation.

Lago Del Predil

Lago Del Predil, again located very close to the town of Tarvisio, this 1km2 wide lake surrounded by forest and mountains at 969m was half-frozen and you could clearly see the peaks wrestling with the Sun.

The deep green-blue colour of the water and stunning views are something out of a fairy tale.

If you’re into it, there are also remains of bunkers and fortifications. There’s an easy access to the lake with ample parking space and places to eat. In Summer there’s well-established tourist infrastructure in place.

Thank you for your time and sharing your Alpine story!

To find out more and shop the compact range, visit www.redpaddleco.com/compact

To find out more about SUP Kultura Kraków, visit www.supkultura.com or check out their Facebook page

 

About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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