When TotalSUP team was testing the Wanderer Inflatable SUP 13’2″ x 29.5”from Uone, a premium Polish stand-up paddleboarding and watersport brand specialising exclusively in inflatable boards, another squad was seriously putting Uone boards through its paces as they paddled (or rather powered through some tough weather conditions and river stretches) from Czestochowa to Szczecin, Poland.
TotalSUP caught up with Maciej Szyszka , Breath Coach, Physical Therapist, Entrepreneur and mastermind behind the 900km paddleboarding expedition. Maciej teamed up with Robert Nowaczyk and Michal Placiszewski and completed the distance in 24 days for a great cause!
Hi Maciej, welcome to TotalSUP and massive congratulations on completing the 900km SUP expedition and raising funds for charity! How did you come up with the idea of paddleboarding 900km from Czestochowa to Szczecin?
I’ve been supporting children in need for 5 years now and organising charity fundraisers in Winter period. I was looking at various charities to organise something in Summer and during one of our hiking trips my close friend Robert told me a story about a father and his son who paddled down the Yukon River. And that planted the idea to embark on something extreme and combine it with a charity event.
From left: Maciej Szyszka and Michal Placiszewski
We chose to support a brave, 5-year old Mateusz Andrzejczak and raise funds for his rehabilitation and new medical equipment through Fundacja Siepomaga. We raised 13k PLN (around £2500) through our SUP expedition which gave us a total of 130k PLN (£24k across six charity events we organised).
How long did it take you to get ready for the trip?
We started preparing 4 months before although Michal got his board 7 days before we launched and due to tough conditions made majority of the route sitting on the board. Paddleboarding in Poland between January and April is tricky due to low temperatures. We were lucky enough to still be able to train on a lake (when the river was frozen) and clock those 45km. This distance was a mock-up of our daily target. We’re all active and already had ultra- and middle-distance triathlon runs (Half Iron-man) under our belts.
Now logistics turned out to be a whole different bag… We were paddling unsupported, sleeping in tents and very often using the water from the river. In terms of food we had army ration packs and were trying to get supplies from some local shops. I ate 10kg of chocolate throughout the expedition! As for navigation, we were using GPS and weather forecast to read and plan for what’s ahead as well as we could.
Did the initial plan clash with reality?
The initial plan was to paddle 65km per day which gave us around 2 weeks to complete the route. This was a distance that we were paddling daily while training without any trouble. What seemed easy and straightforward got complicated when we launched. Knocked down trees (on many occasions by beaver activity), unpredictable April weather conditions and running short on supplies were the main challenges.
Paddling unsupported was not making it easier as we had to replenish food and regenerate our bodies too.
Portages were another thing! Sometimes we had to carry the boards over couple of times a day. It was nearly 1500kg a day to carry between us – counting 55kg of gear and food, 9 litres of water and a 16kg board each. All these factors extended the journey from 14 to 24 days!
We were using touring boards from Uone, a brand that has been supporting us from the start of our preparation for the expedition. Uone boards did a great job and we’d like to thank Uone boss Hubert Tobis for his support!
Why are SUP riders increasingly drawn to embark on such endurance challenges?
I can only speak for myself and talk about my motivations behind it. It comes from my competitive background in sports and the will to test myself both physically and mentally. I realise that it’s sometimes not enough and there’s always this thought to give back, to support others by raising funds or awareness – This is also what motivates me when things get tough. There’s something empowering about facing challenges and solving problems for both your mind and body. It makes you believe in your abilities. It’s good to finally find out what you’re made of.
You chose Uone Wanderer 13’2″ x 29.5” inflatable paddleboards for this expedition? Could you tell us more about this choice?
We decided to go with Uone boards and they were the only ones that ticked all the boxes in terms of our expectations. The right length of 4m gave us enough volume and adjustable bungee straps / double cargo system allowed us to strap all our gear. There were also 3 camera mounts that came handy. Flexi fins helped us a lot during collisions with rocks and hidden trees and branches but to me, the most important were multiple carry handles that allowed us to save a lot of time during portages. All boards went through a solid durability test as we were not handling them lightly. Despite all that bashing around those boards never let us down.
What was the toughest moment of the expedition…
Surely one of the toughest moment for me was falling in and being trapped between a tree and oncoming current… The Water was only 5 degrees and I could feel the current pulling me in. I got out but it was not the end my trouble. It was pretty late and as a rainy and cold night started to draw in, all my clothes, sleeping bag and tent were soaked. With the help of my squad, I was able to warm up by the fire and dry my sleeping bag. I tried to dry everything else the next day.
What were the most memorable moments of your SUP adventure?
Evenings were definitely some of the most memorable moments. When the wind was dropping and the world was going quiet with the only sound coming from singing birds. That combined with sunsets (the golden hour) was making up for the hardships of the day. We were also reminded that nature is unforgiving and yet beautiful and keeping it all in balance.
Was it tough to get back to reality?
The return to reality was not easy but I kind of expected it. Tech detox, less extrenal stimuli and focusing on experiences can change you and show what really matters. The problems of today’s society often turn out not to be the “real” ones. We’re more worried about parking spaces as oppose to some who worry what to eat or where to sleep. There’s no doubt we’re on a collision course but that’s another challenge.
There’s definitely an appetite to complete a 1200km distance on a paddleboard but I’ll just leave it here for now. And I hope that one day Yukon1000 will become a reality.
Thank you very much for your time and good luck with your next SUP adventure!
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