With 220 kilometers around the Netherlands over five days, they call it the “Tour de France of SUP”. Organizing committee member Ritske Jan Merkus gives us backstage details about this amazing event, the 2014 edition of which is about to start!
TotalSUP: How many participants are taking part in the SUP11-City Tour this year?
Ritske Jan Merkus: The SUP11 City Tour includes various events within the event with different categories of participants.
First of all, we have the 5-day Race with about 50 to 60 participants. Then, we have the 5-day Tour with 10 participants. 12 paddlers do the Non-Stop competition on September 6/7. During the weekend, 30 participants are doing the Week-End Stage Tour or Competition and 30 others more are getting on their boards for the solo stage.
By the end of the 5 days run, in Leeuwwarden, the event will have gathered a total number of 135 paddlers from all around the country and the world !
On Tuesday September 2, the event opens with the Prologue. What is it exactly?
The Prologue, which takes place before the whole event and that is happening this very day for the 2014 session consists in a fun round through the canals of the beautiful city of Leeuwarden, Netherlands, followed by a dinner party. This year we are trying to gather as many people as possible on the water, participants and non-participants of the SUP11-City Tour.
Here is a video from last year which speaks for itself:
Participants paddle an average of 43K per day between 5 and 10 hours. Do you have resting stops ?
Yes, each leg has a resting stop where the participants are allowed to rest during a 15 minutes break with food.
Tell us about the SUP village ?
The SUP village is where the start and the finish lines are installed. It's basically a whole moving circus-like camp. It is the place where prizes are delivered at the daily prize ceremony and where food is served every night at dinner before everybody goes to sleep.
The accommodation for the teams and the organization with their members and volunteers are part of the SUP village.
Where do the paddlers sleep?
Although paddlers are in charge of finding and paying for their own accommodation, the board committee is putting at the disposal of the event three historical sleeping boats, the Friesevloot boats, which will follow the paddlers during the 5 day run. The idea is to make it easy for some lucky participants to have their beds close to the action.
What's new this year ?
For this 2014 edition, we decided to add a non-stop run, and to make the whole event available on a livestream application. If you download the livestream app, you can search for any details about the finish or the starting points of each day of the run, the resting stops, the rankings etc.
The usual SUP clinics will also happen this year. For a change, we will be able to display fresh coffee to everybody since a barista is traveling with us.
Finally, companies are more interested in the event than the previous years, since they have seen the popularity of the event and can see the benefits for their clients to associate their brands with the SUP11-City Tour.
Moreover, the event being more reknown every year in the Netherlands and Stand Up Paddling becoming a more popular sport – people have either seen it, heard about it, done it or want to try it – the cheering crowd is always bigger. It is becoming more common to attend a SUP event like the SUP11-City Tour. 5 years different ago when we started this was altogether a very different story.
How big is your organization ?
We are 3 people on the Board and have 5 heads of department, each of them being in charge of a specific aspect of the event (PR, Catering, Shore, Water and Race).
On top of this, and perhaps more importantly, we have 50 incredible and enthusiastic volunteers who are working daily in order to make things happen. A huge thank you to them all !
What are the main challenges that you are facing to make a successful SUP11-City Tour ?
The main challenges we are facing every year on such a big event are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Unfortunately some of them do not depend entirely on us:
– Money (as always). However, we have built up a good reputation over the year, so the local government supports us.
– The weather, even thought it seems that we have been lucky for the second year in a row, this is still the Netherlands in the North of Europe and the month is still September.
– Safety on the water: everyday the first to arrive and the last one to finish are 5 hours apart. In order to keep good track of people and everybody safe, we need a lot of boats on the water.
– Catering: the main issue here is to get good food for everyone. Considering the different nationalities that are taking part in the event, we need to cater for very different needs.
– Moving the SUP village around. Remember, we have to build 6 camps for the event, not one.
Thank you Ritske Jan Merkus for taking some of your very busy time to answer our questions and good luck to the whole SUP11-City Tour for a great 2014 edition.