In June of this year, Luli Cox and Adriana “Dri” Boccia, two Brazilian adventurers who live respectively in Brazil and Portugal, took on the daunting project to be part of the first official Loire 725 edition in France on an iSUP tandem after reading about the unofficial test edition which took place last year. Although not newbies on the SUP Racing scene (they did the SUP11 City Tour together in 2014 among other events), the 725 kilometres of the Loire 725, France’s new and now longest Ultra Long Distance race, was ‘however next level’ for this female duo who don’t need to be on a SUP tandem to get noticed in their ever bright pink outfits! But nothing could stop “The Flower People Team” (what they call themselves) as they crossed the finish line after seven days of an epic paddle adventure. Luli Cox, tells the full story for TotalSUP.
It was love at first sight when we read about the article of Loire 725. It was the challenge Adriana and myself were looking for. We both have been competing together since 2009 when we decided to do Cape Epic together (a mountain bike stage race). Since then, we’ve chosen one big stage race a year. Different modalities, different countries. Like many endurance athletes we have an awkward taste for the hard ones.
We did SUP11 cities in 2014 and loved it. Until today we have finished every challenge we have competed in together, for almost 14 years now.
But Loire 725 is 7 ultras in 7 days and we had never paddled anything close to that!
After we decided it was going to be our 2022 challenge, we focused on the training, me, Luli in Portugal, and Adriana in Brasil. We never trained together except two weeks before the race.
We had had a tandem experience when we did SUP11 around Ibiza in 2018, and that was pretty much it.
We did a lot of research to understand what could be a good SUP tandem board for us. The SUP race tandem market barely exists as most inflatable Stand Up Paddle tandem boards are designed to have fun and not to compete. I happened to have a board I bought in the Czech Republic, a 12” but differently from the others as it is a board that takes a lot of pressure in and gets really rigid when blown up. It didn’t matter that it was not specifically a tandem because we both are short and light so we knew we were going to be ok…
At least until arriving at the athletes’ reception the day before the start of the race. There, everyone looked at us as though we were never going to survive a single day. Ok, we are used to that! Specially because we don’t take life seriously, and wearing pink and flowers might also help with losing credibility. But let’s start the race!
The first day was much better than we expected because we had a tailwind that helped us a little bit. We knew that we didn’t have the speed, but endurance is something we love, so after paddling almost 16 hours and 110k on the first day we started to get some trustin ourselves back again.
To succeed, we knew we had to focus on the time and be very efficient in everything we did; eating, going to the “bathroom”, cooling our bodies, changing clothes; we did everything on the board.
We had a great support teammate Moab, our friend. We studied together the whole course, bridges and tricky passages so we could pass them without losing extra time.
That was the only way we knew we could survive the cut-off times.
The second day was amazing; 102k overcoming lots of bridges and places that we had to carry the board, and as we did the transitions fast we gained even more confidence.
As the third day passed, people started to cheer for us because the impossible was starting to look possible. 😊
The 6th and 7th days were probably the hardest. As we got closer to the ocean the river started to change a lot with the tides. There we go; strategy again! We had to stop one day for two hours to wait for the tide to change, and when we got back on the board we paddled for our lives with the current and stopped only at ten at night.
We would have never accepted to reach the finish linein a car, even if we had to die on the beach! Thanks to the Universe, we succeeded!
We camped most of the days near where we stopped for the days, there were 2 nights we had spare a little more time to go to a hotel because we were not getting enough rest to recover.
Adriana has carpal syndrome and her hand was hurting a lot especially at night. On the 5th day, she even had to sleep five minutes on the board while I paddled. We managed to do this like that; if one had to stop for any reason, the other one would paddle.
Paddling on a tandem board is totally different from being alone; you have to double the balance and be very synchronized. Synchronization is key to paddling fast and smooth.
We fell a few times, of course. We broke our fin on the fourth day under a bridge. We had our knees bruised. Marks of the battle on the river.
It’s hard to describe what is to compete 16 hours per day during seven straight days. Only the ones who were there can tell.
We finished the race on Sunday morning with 116 hours on the board. According to our GPS watches, we paddled 750 kilometers!
Loire 725 was the craziest competition we did. When I first called Philippe Marchegay, the organizer, I was worried about the times and many details of the competition. He told me; “It’s going to be an adventure.”
Yes it was! Loire 725 was the greatest adventure of all.
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