ECA European SUP Championships 2024 – test yourself on the world-famous paddling race setting on Maty-ér, in Hungary

Welcome to the picturesque city of Szeged, Hungary, where the tranquil waters of the Maty-ér of Tisza River will come alive with one of Europe’s most prestigious SUP events of the year, the ECA European SUP Championships. From June 12-16, orchestrated by Noémi Horváth, the ICF SUP Committee chairman and watersports athlete herself, this championship is set to be a landmark event for both seasoned and aspiring paddleboarders across the continent. Featuring top-tier talent, the event is a perfect blend of fierce competition and Hungarian hospitality.

Szia Noémi! You’re the technical organizer of this massive international event. Could you share a bit about yourself and your journey in both sports and as an ICF official? My first memory of you is watching the live stream of the 2019 ICF SUP World Championship in Qingdao, China, where you dominated in the inflatable race!

My first international SUP competition was indeed the 2019 ICF SUP World Championships. Before that, I competed in canoe sprint and canoe marathon for over 15 years, securing a silver medal at the junior world championships and a European championship title. Since 2021 with the ICF and 2023 with the ECA, I have been overseeing the SUP discipline, which includes sport development, organizing international competitions, updating rankings, modifying rules, and managing all other aspects related to international SUP activities. I work for the Hungarian Canoe Federation, where I manage international relations and also act as the technical organizer for international events hosted in Hungary. My roles in both the ICF and ECA are voluntary, and I dedicate as much time as possible to these responsibilities alongside my professional duties.

This year marks the debut of the SUP European Championships in Szeged. As the technical organizer, what does hosting this inaugural event mean to you personally and to the community?

After hosting the 2021 ICF SUP World Championships in Balatonfüred, we organized the ICF SUP World Cup in 2022 and aimed to bring as many international SUP events to Hungary as possible. We were thrilled when the European Canoe Federation expressed its commitment to seriously developing SUP. It fills me with pride that we are hosting the first ECA European Championships for SUP in Hungary; this is a significant recognition of the capabilities of our Hungarian organizing team. It’s unprecedented that two separate disciplines (excluding sprint and para canoeing) are holding continental championships simultaneously and in the same location. Since 2021, it’s widely recognized how passionately Hungarians embrace SUP, and I hope we will serve as an exemplary model for future event organizers.

What races, age groups, and distances are planned for the championships?

At the European Championships, participants can compete in four types of races: sprint (200m in a straight line, starting from a machine with photo finish timing), technical (approximately 1000m on a circuit with 5 turning buoys), long distance (approximately 9km over four laps), all for hard boards, and a separate race (approximately 4.5km over two laps) exclusively for inflatable board participants. The long distance races will feature separate youth and masters categories, while all other races will be open, allowing competitors of all ages to race together.

How many SUP racers are you expecting? Are any top athletes coming?

We are excited to welcome SUP enthusiasts from all over Europe in large numbers. We have already received entries from 10 countries, and we anticipate this number will increase significantly by the start of the event. Countries like Spain, Greece, and Portugal have indicated plans to send larger teams. We are also hopeful that many of the successful athletes from last year’s ICF World Championships in Pattaya will join us in Szeged, where professional conditions await everyone. Among the Hungarian competitors, I’d like to highlight Csillag Kocsis, who is a great hope for us and returned from last year’s world championships with several medals, and Attila Vajda, who won an Olympic gold medal in the 1000m canoe single in Beijing in 2008 and will bring the same level of determination to the SUP competitions.

Organizing such a big event like the ECA Championships must come with unique challenges. What are some major hurdles you’ve faced and how have you tackled them?

One of the biggest challenges was creating the schedule. We crafted over 10 versions before settling on the final one. As this event is the last major international competition for canoeists before the Paris Olympics, we aimed not to disrupt their accustomed structure. However, it was essential to fully integrate the SUP races into the Olympic events, ensuring they were not merely seen as “cooling down” races after the canoe-kayak events in the evening. A significant highlight is that the sprint and technical finals will be broadcast live on TV, which is nearly unprecedented worldwide. The live TV broadcast also presented a considerable challenge, requiring strategic camera placement and ensuring the broadcast showcased the discipline as exciting and spectacular to a global audience, similar to the canoe-kayak races.

Are there any new tech features or systems at this year’s championships that participants and fans might find exciting?

I can say without exaggeration, that the Maty-ér regatta course in Szeged is highly favoured among canoeists because it offers everything they could possibly need. Most of the facilities are permanent which significantly enhancing comfort. Board racks, a large dining tent, changing tents, and shower will all be easily available. Additionally, we will set up a lounge specifically for SUP participants, providing a space for them to socialize and relax between races.

Sustainability is a big focus for global sports events nowadays. What steps are you taking to make the championships environmentally friendly?

Environmental consciousness has always been a priority for us, but this year, we’re enhancing our efforts. We aim to minimize paper usage; results and start lists will be available online, eliminating the need for printed copies. We’ll equip international technical officials with 15 tablets to access start lists digitally. Additionally, we’ll implement separate waste collection for improved recycling and encourage participants to bring their own water bottles. Biodegradable cutlery will be provided in the food tent and leftovers will be distributed to those in need to minimise food waste.


How is the local community in Szeged getting involved? Are there community events or volunteer opportunities tied to the championships?

Over 100 volunteers will assist with organizing the event, most of whom are from Szeged or the surrounding areas. The majority are young people connected to the sport, making this event a fantastic opportunity for young canoeists, kayakers, and SUP enthusiasts to gain lifelong motivation and deepen their love for the sport. Our key partner, the Szeged Watersports Club, ensures we have enough helpers for every role each day. Additionally, the local municipality supports the event, and we are hopeful that the stands will be filled with enthusiastic spectators on the final days.

Szeged 20220903 U23 és IFI VB döntők szurkolók

Post-2024, what are the long-term impacts you hope to see from hosting the championships in Szeged? Any plans to boost local or national interest in SUP?

As previously mentioned, our primary goal is to host more international SUP competitions in Hungary. We’ve already held events at Lake Balaton, Lake Lupa, and now at Maty-ér. Our aim is to highlight the diversity of Hungary’s waters. bodies. Even though we lack a coastline, we are confident that exciting races can be organized on ourflatwaters. The Hungarian Canoe Federation started to focus on the development of the SUP discipline a few years ago, and we hope that Hungarian athletes will soon succeed in the open categories. We are committed to organizing high-quality international events that showcase the beauty and excitement of SUP to the world.

Hungary is a prime tourist spot. What are your favorite things to do or see in Szeged for those sticking around after the competition?

Szeged is a lively and vibrant city, with bustling pedestrian streets, excellent cafes, and restaurants, with the Tisza River beautifully dividing the city. Taking a stroll along Kárász Street, enjoying lunch near the Cathedral, or relaxing at the Aquapolis are perfect ways to unwind before and after the competition. In addition, Budapest, one of Central Europe’s most impressive capitals, is less than a two-hour drive away, offering numerous opportunities for relaxation in one of Central Europe’s most stunning capitals, particularly during the summer. We hope many attendees will bring their families, as there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

With the Olympics just around the corner, there’s a lot of buzz around canoeing and kayaking. How do you plan to capitalize on this to draw more attention to SUP?

With all the excitement building up for the Olympics, we want to channel some of that energy towards SUP and show that it’s much more than just casual paddling at sunset. It’s a dynamic sport that deserves the spotlight.

For more information:
TotalSUP page
Event website

Photos by the courtesy of: MKKSZ

About the Author

Dóra Hegedűs

Dora is a female grandmaster SUP racer who joined the world of paddling in 2019 and quickly developed an irrepressible passion for the sport. Originally from Hungary, Dora now resides in Aarhus, Denmark, and despite her affinity for flat waters, she loves to participate in international races and is dedicated to making SUP racing an inclusive sport for women over 50 - a vibrant age where, as Dora believes, life truly begins to sparkle with fun and excitement. Fluent in Hungarian, English, Italian, French, and (soon) Danish, she is a polyglot. In her professional life, Dora is a business coach and therapist.