Two SUP-11-City Tours back-to-back in 1 week… on a Red Paddle Co iSUP!

For the second year in a row, Swedish Paddler and ASI SUP Instructor, Göran Gustavsson has completed the SUP 11 City Tour, the ultimate 220km challenge through Friesland, a northern province of Holland, not once but twice! Competing in both the non-stop race and the five-day event, coming in second place in a time of 29hrs and 43mins for the non-stop event and finishing in 26hrs 03mins for the five-day event. Here he tells TotalSUP why Red Paddle Co is his brand of choice, how he trains and gives us all the details on the event.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship with SUP?

I’m Goran Gustavsson, I live in the Southwest of Sweden, which is a two-hour drive from Copenhagen, I’m 53 years old and am a banker as my normal day job. My relationship with SUP started 12 years ago, I am a surfer and love travel so saw the advantages of inflatable boards. My first board was a Red Paddle, Surf 10ft which was great to travel with.

I like SUP as you can do everything on the board, I’m an explorer and like the freedom that it brings me. I like to train and compete. I have completed the SUP 11 City four times which is my favourite race, it is a great event, 150 paddlers from all over the world, the crew that run the event are excellent, it is well supported. All you need to do is paddle hard, eat, sleep and have fun!

You have completed the SUP 11 City challenge, not once but twice – that’s an enormous achievement! Can you tell us why you decided to do this and how you managed it?

I have always really enjoyed the event. The last time I had completed the SUP 11 City was in 2019 and found that the crew that run it are great people to spend time with and it brings in people from across the world to compete – that has always been my main motivator, the aspect of fun.

I completed SUP 11 City on a 14ft 27” Elite Red Paddle board. I have several Red Paddle Co boards, the Voyager for when I am camping and want to go exploring, I also have a compact board that I can take travelling with me. Red Paddle boards are great boards from an innovative company, always looking to improve to give the paddler the best experience. Some people think it’s funny that I complete SUP 11 City on an inflatable, this year I completed the non-stop it in 29hrs and 43mins, finishing second place so I am happy with that, and it proves that it was the right board for me!

The two races are very different. For example, you can’t draft on the non-stop – you are completely by yourself aside from your support crew you have to have both mental and physical strength and of course a support crew who know you well. I have three Dutch people in my crew, and they are fantastic.

The non-stop runs from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. The five-day event the begins again on the Wednesday, so you have a couple of days of rest to gather yourself and get ready to start again. I found this year that my legs became quite sore! Standing up for such a long period of time is quite tough! My upper body was fine, and I think if you have good technique, you will be ok. I find that during the rest days it is vital to keep active and I walk, this stops me from becoming tired and keeps my body active. It is also really easy to walk in Holland as there are lots of nice cities to walk to and to explore.

I really enjoy both racing formats – the non-stop and the five-day event. They are really two different races despite being the same distance and in the same week. In the five-day event you can draft – if I draft on people’s wash then on the final day, I never sprint to beat them in the end – it’s just about being a good sportsman. There is a great atmosphere in the five-day event, you cheer people on and help them as you go past them. I helped a couple of people this year as the temperature was really high, there was a lady who was struggling in the heat and I stopped and gave her a drink – that’s what this particular event is all about, the atmosphere and camaraderie.

How did you start your relationship with Red Paddle Co?

I first got involved in Red Paddle when I decided that I wanted to paddle across Sweden. There’s a canal called Gota canal, that goes right from the Baltic Sea to the harbour. I decided to paddle that, and I knew that Red Paddle were producing a board called Explorer at that time, it’s now called The Voyager. The Voyager is great for exploring, for an inflatable board this would be my go-to, it’s a really fantastic board for long paddles, in fact, I have seen people completing the SUP 11 City on this board and is great for taking kit with you if you are planning an adventure paddle with camping etc.

I got in contact with the Red Paddle Co brand through Kayactive. The owner, James, is from New Zealand originally and has a lot of knowledge. Since buying my board from him we have become great friends and I now help him out sometimes in the shop and at events. The thing I like about Red Paddle is the quality of the boards and the accessibility of them – I bring mine with me to work sometimes, particularly if I am travelling, if I know I am staying overnight somewhere I look for a place to paddle and explore.

Do you tend to vary your boards depending on conditions?

I don’t tend to change board in different conditions, if I am racing then I use the 14ft board or may use some of the other boards depending on what activity I am doing.

What is your training program like?

I tend to cross-train and complete a variety of activities, swimming in the pool, SUP, mountain biking and hiking. This helps me with the endurance events like SUP 11 City. I mix my training like this as it’s good to vary your training, there is also the risk of injury if you complete just one activity. SUP’ing for me is great training as it works the whole body, I never go to the gym. I exercise with bodyweight exercises at home to build strength.

What races have you completed this year?

This year I have completed the Red Bull Viking Challenge in Copenhagen, it’s a team endurance event over 24hours seeing how many laps you can do. My racing this year has been limited due to Covid as we couldn’t travel but this now seems to be easing. I’m looking forward next year to the Gla Gla race and to SUP 11 City, there are a couple of others that I am looking forward to as well.

You live in Sweden, where are the best places to paddle?

I am very lucky to have great places to paddle – the ocean in good conditions, lakes, rivers. In the north of the country, we have archipelagos which are beautiful. SUP gives you the freedom to be able to take your board anywhere and paddle and explore.

What advice would you give someone looking to take on an endurance event?

Enjoy it! Paddle and complete other training as well to cross-train on the run-up to the event. My goal is to complete one activity every day and I try to mix this up over the week. I don’t tend to paddle much more between 8-10km four times a week, five if the weather is good. When I am training for an event, I do longer distances, up to 30km. To do the SUP 11 City, you have to be prepared so look at how you will eat when paddling, hydration, being prepared for the weather and of course being prepared mentally if you are doing non-stop. You need a really good team behind you who can give you what you need as you paddle. But it is important that you enjoy the time to explore, it’s a six-hour paddle each day so being able to sustain that while having fun is key.

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About the Author

Jenny Williams

Jenny’s passion for water sports started over a decade ago paddling Outrigger Canoe. Since then she’s gone on to start her own business coaching SUP and OC on the mighty Thames in London as well as proudly being the UK distributor for Woo Outrigger.