Joanne Hamilton-Vale Queen of Ultra Endurance Paddling

Joanne Hamilton-Vale (JHV) 24-hour female record holder and founder of UK Paddle Endurance Series talks to TotalSUP about her ultra endurance paddling, recent relocation to Australia and her epic 404km paddle down the River Murray, where she became the 1st solo paddler to complete it.

A Brief Introduction – How is Oz? How is the SUP Scene?

Australia is awesome, hot, really hot for a Scottish girl.  I live inland in Albury, NSW.  The paddle scene is big and super friendly but 99% are sit down paddlers, Stand Up Paddling is a new thing here. However, ALL the paddlers have been so friendly and helpful, inviting my husband, Pete and I to paddle with them and including us in the races scheduled for 2018.

How did you get into Endurance Paddling?

I started with short distances, winning 4 Annual UK National Series Titles, along with Naish One Design National and Inland Championships.  Despite having a great few years, I felt something was missing, the racing was not satisfying to my adventurous side, I was getting bored of training for races up to 16km and racing the same people, it wasn’t pushing me anymore.  Then I met Bart De Zwart (Established long distance paddler) who inspired me to do SUP endurance, I had been following for him for a few years, and found him incredibly inspiring and humble. We are now great friends, who travel and compete together. My first Ultra Endurance Race event was in 2015, The 11 City Tour non-stop (220km) in Holland.  I both loved and hated it at the same time, but once I completed it, I knew for sure this was the discipline I would choose. 

What are the differences between Endurance Paddling and Distance Paddling?

I find Endurance racing challenging and a real test of so many factors, for example; how to train, how to eat and hydrate, how to strengthen my legs, how to handle intense pain, fighting the need to sleep and blanking out the demons in your head telling you stop. In endurance paddle you need to change the paddle stroke, the heart rate and the cadence.  Endurance racing is a science and is different for every individual.  As they say, “To finish first, first you have to finish“.  In ultra endurance racing just finishing is the hard part.  I also find Endurance racing friendlier, we are all going through pain but we are all in it together.  Personally, I want everyone to finish and no matter whether they are first or last, everyone is a winner in my eyes.I have paddled a lot with Wilma Zwikker-Kilgallon, she will always say she is at the back of the pack at every race, but to me she is a fighter, she never gives up, she finishes Endurance races.  That’s what makes an Endurance paddler.

Your most recent race and your 1st in Oz was the Massive Murray Marathon, can you describe it?

I decided to make the Massive Murray Marathon my last race of the 2017 season.  It is a 404km 5 day race down the Murray River, from Yarrawonga to Swan Hill.  Extremely bendy river, fast and slow flowing water, many obstacles in the water, extreme heat, and SNAKES.  In our event guide we were advised to know how to deal with snake bites, bush fires and severe heat stroke.  A recipe for a great adventure race.   I paddled between 7 and 9 hours each day, shortest day was 62km and the longest days were 2 days of 93km (Day one and two).  Really good sun screen, sun hat and an empty container (to use to drench yourself in water every half hour) is extremely necessary.  To finish this race the most important thing to manage is the heat

If I was to do the Murray Massive Challenge, what advice would you give me?

My first advice would be DO IT.  It is an awesome race, super friendly and challenging.  Before the race make sure you know what you can eat whilst paddling, ensure your legs are strong enough to stand for over 40 hours, learn how to paddle a river with lots of current, get used to extreme heat, know the best way to carry all the equipment you will need.  Finally, train in head wind because you will get a lot of it and you will spend hours paddling against it.

What is Next for Team JHV?

I actually have no plans for 2018, I am trying to work on it now and always open to suggestions. 2017 was a big year,  full of 1sts. I hold two 24 hour World Records, including the female 24hr SUP record, I set a new female course record in the Yukon River Quest (715km), I was a sighted guide for a blind paddler, Dean Dunbar  in the 220km 11 City Tour non stop,  I was the 1st SUP paddler from the UK to complete the prestigious Molokai to Oahu race.  It will take a lot to top a year like that but I will put a plan in place, and if anyone wants to visit and paddle, come and join us.


About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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