This is the tour you can’t miss in 2023: the Belgian SUP Tour! In one of the most active territories for SUP racing in Europe, the Belgian SUP Tour will take you around Belgium, with two stops in France and in the Netherlands, allowing you to take part in a variety of fun competition formats: Ultra Long Distance, Long Distance, Technical Racing and Sprints, whether you’re an elite, pro-am or leisure paddler! Moreover, Belgium offers a wide range of conditions to satisfy everyone: you will paddle on flat water, on canals, on inland waters but also in the open sea. With the national Belgian Championships as part of the circuit, the Belgian SUP Tour also has its own ranking which will reward at the end of the tour all athletes by gender and age categories as well as Under-14 (U14) kids. Vincent Claeskens, the rider who initiated this circuit, presents in details everything that makes the Belgian SUP Tour so unique!
One of the events of the Belgian SUP Tour as seen from the sky!
Hello Vincent Claeskens, first of all can you introduce yourself to the TotalSUP community and tell us about your SUP career up until today ?
Hello Mathieu and TotalSUP readers. Thank you for your interest in our little country and its Belgian SUP Tour. It is from my activities as a SUP instructor and SUP Racer that I took the initiative to create an organization federating the various Stand Up Paddle initiatives in Belgium. Originally, I used to be a windsurfer before I switched later on to kitesurfing. In 2015, I discovered Stand up Paddling for the first time. It was on a borrowed inflatable board, which I used to participate as an amateur in the Belgian Championships… since then, the SUP virus has never left me.
I have always liked endurance sports but a car accident prevented me from practicing sports such as running. Paddleboarding offered me an unexpected alternative! I quickly started to compete in Long Distance and then Ultra Long Distance races. With a small group of friends that we formed around our passion, we train every week for ULD races, such as the SUP 11 City Tour in the Netherlands or the Dordogne Intégrale, the 10 heures de Vassivière and L’Enfer de l’Ouest in France.
Vincent Claeskens at the SUP 11 City Tour
What is the history of the Belgian SUP Tour. Tell us what pushed you to create an entire SUP Race circuit.
In Belgium, the sport is governed by two regional institutions, the Flemish region and the Walloon region. SUP falls under the “Surf” division and as there are no waves in Wallonia, it is the Flemish region that has taken the lead on this discipline. The Belgian SUP Tour was born from the Flemish federation (WWSV) but it was only a project, without a real vision and without a project manager.
As a returning competitor, I thought I could take the lead. I invited the Flemish and Walloon federations to join forces to offer a global national approach. As a result, I am able to offer a nationwide calendar and as a result a national surfing and SUP federation will be created in 2023.
The results of the Belgian SUP Tour will be used to select the athletes who will represent Belgium at the ESF European and ISA World Championships.
The Euro Tour leg of the Belgian SUP Tour in Namur
Are you in charge of the organisation of each event? How was each event selected?
I am physically present at every event. I have given up on the idea to take part as a competitor so that I can give my full support to the organizing clubs. I feel it is important to offer uniformity from one event to the next and to have a single contact person to follow up on all organizing issues.
Personally, I will limit myself in 2023 to the few ULD races (non-Belgian SUP Tour races) mentioned above in which I will participate as a team with my friends under the name of the 3 Bay Dream Team (3 Bay Paddle being our favorite board brand)
Each event that is organized under the BST label will score points towards a final ranking which will be celebrated at the end of the year. I basically provide a set of specifications to the clubs that organize every event independently.
I selected the locations taking into account the geographical distribution, the water conditions and the quality of the volunteering clubs.
As we are welcoming more and more French and Dutch riders, I have planned one race in France and one in the Netherlands.
The 3 Bay Dream Team
Can you tell us about the current state of SUP racing in Belgium? Which federations are dominant and what role does the BST play?
As explained above, we have a regional management of sport activities and therefore two regional federations (WWSV for the Flemish region, and FFYB for the French speaking part). Our new national federation will facilitate the collaboration with other national and international federations.
Kjell De Bruyn
We have some international athletes… especially in the men’s category. Two athletes are among the world’s top atheletes: Kjell De Bruyn and Kaelan Lockhart but other top riders are also in the top group. Unfortunately, their performances go a little unnoticed due to lack of national team management. We really need a Belgian structure, able to support these high level athletes and to support the young people who are the future of our sport!
Belgian-Australian Kaelan Lockart vs Donato Freens
Can you present the 2023 Belgian SUP Tour calendar and tell us a little about each event?
Yes, of course, here’s a copy/paste of the calendar that you can find on the website www.belgiansuptour.be:
4) June 11,2023 – Lille Paddle Race (France): Long Distance (optional: Kids et Sprint)
5) June 17, 18, 2023 – The longest Day (Lac de l’Eau d’Heure): Ultra longue distance (24, 24 rounds of 6,7km. Each hour a new start. Also open to teams!).
6) July 8/9 – 2023 – Namur SUP Race / Euro Tour (Namur): Long Distance et Technical Race
7) July 16, 2023 – Baeken (The Netherlands) : Ultra Long Distance
8) August 6, 2023 – Belgian Championships (Nieuwpoort) – Long Distance
9) August 27, 2023 – Westcoast Classic Downwind Festival (Koksyde): Downwinder (optional Technical Race)
10) September 2, 2023 – Belgian Championships Sprint (Hazewinkel, Willebroek)
September 3, 2023 – Belgian Championships Technical Race (Hazewinkel, Willebroek)
11) September 24, 2023 – Bruges Classic (Bruges): Long Distance (optional Kids, Sprint et/ou Technical Race)
12) December 17, 2023 – SUP4Life (Ghent): Long Distance
All these competitions are open to foreign riders of course, including the Belgian Championships! With the exception of our race in the Netherlands, all dates are already set.
I’m also looking into the possibility of offering different race formats at each round: I’m offering races for kids that are adapted to their level, Technical Races and Sprints and why not, new formulas.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Long Distance and Ultra Long Distance races but from a show point of view, it’s not great to see a start followed by a finish two hours later. The Sprint and Technical Races offer a much better show. They are more “mediagenic” disciplines.
I offer a mix of competitions on flat water, canals, lakes and open water (at sea).
2022 Belgian Championships
What else do you think the Belgian SUP Tour has that could attract some of the French, Dutch, German and even British neighbours?
Our french fries, our chocolate and our beer… and if not, the fact that you are part of an organization that is well-oiled however new it is. The BST offers attractive races, there is something for everyone and both experienced riders and amateurs will find something to enjoy… and you will be able to tell your great grandchildren that you were there, that you were one of the pioneers of the BST!
I don’t have prize money to offer this year yet. Before I can approach potential sponsors, I need to prove that the concept is successful and get some interesting media coverage. So for the time being, I’m the one bearing the costs and the organization. Fortunately, I can count on a few volunteers to provide support and expertise!
I try to take into account the classifications according to age groups, and I propose for each race a course for the Elites and a course for the Amateurs (in inflatable boards of 12.6′ max).
In 2022, we counted 150 participants from 7 different nationalities. The SUP community is a very close community. I have to say that it is a real pleasure to be able to organize these races. I get a lot of positive feedback. I insist on the fact that the BST competitions are accessible to amateurs, even if the level in front is really excellent!
Beachstart on the Belgian SUP Tour
What is striking is the variety of formats and stakes: short, ultra-long, euro tour, popular, charity, national championships. What can you tell us about this?
I try to offer a varied and multidisciplinary calendar. Our young sport is in full evolution! I really believe in the “mediagenic aspect of disciplines such as the Technical Races and sprints. They are more spectacular and easy to follow everything from the side. I also believe in team formulas. The ULDs are well suited to this, but other relay races will be created
In short, it’s the mix of the offer, the fun aspect combined with the seriousness of the competition and the geographical distribution that should make the BST a success… Belgium is a very small country, but the selected waters are splendid. These are never very far away. Whether from the Netherlands, northern France or Germany, the distance to these races in Belgium is often shorter than those within these countries. You should definitely discover “ce plat pays qui est le mien”!
Thank you Vincent for taking the time to reply to our questions and Long live the BST!
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