On January 28, ultra long-distance SUP Racer Miquel Roigé from Barcelona, Spain took part in his very first Ze Race, an event in Guadeloupe known as the longest downwind race on French territory (the course can vary between 40 and 52 kilometers depending on the year) and became the first non-French athlete to ever win the event proving the growing popularity of the event on the international scene. Guadeloupe is a French island nested in the heart of the Caribbean Sea and is a very popular destination for French tourism. For the past 12 years, the local club Waterman Karukera has been organizing a downwind race initially started for stand-up paddlers but open to all paddle crafts, which has been attracting most top French SUP racing athletes but also SUP foilers, surfskiers, prone and outrigger canoe paddlers. The date is easy to remember, every year on the last Saturday of January (usually 1 week after the Gla Gla Race and on the same Hano Hano Challenge weekend) Ze Race awaits between 60 and 150 paddlers and most participants use the competition as an excuse to take a Caribbean holiday in a destination that has much to offer for watersport enthusiasts but also accompanying friends and family! Let’s see what Miquel Roigé made out of his win and his 12-day downwind holiday in Guadeloupe.
Congratulations Miquel. You have just won Ze Race on your first-ever participation. How do you feel?
Hola Mathieu and TotalSUP readers. Yes, first time for me at the Ze Race and I couldn’t be happier after finish the race in first position.
Please remind our readers who you are, where you are from, and your history with SUP racing?
I am from a little town called Banyoles in the region of Catalunya, Spain. I am 43 years old and have been stand up paddling for 11 years. I am a SUP teacher and a SUP coach, running my own business in Barcelona (Moloka’i SUP Center) since 2014 and I started racing around 2013. My first races were in regional competitions and slowly my experience grew with racing and I tried my hand at some national races and when I felt ready I took a step forward to participate in international events
What have been your top SUP Race achievements to date?
2017 and 2018 – 2nd Endurance Spanish Championship
2018 – 3rd SUP11City Tour Non Stop
2019 – 3rd Long Distance Spanish Championship
2019 – 4th Molokai 2 Oahu (14’ stock division)
2019 – 3rd Endurance Spanish Championship
2021 – 2nd Tarn Water Race
2021 – 3rd Long Distance ICF World Championship (master 40)
2021 and 2022 – 2nd Long Distance Spanish Championship (master 40)
2022 – 4th Sprint ICF World Championship (master 40)
2022 – 2nd Sprint Spanish Championship (master 40)
2023 – 1st Ze Race
Why did you decide to take part in Ze Race?
I heard about the Ze Race a long time ago from you here on TotalSUP and also through a friend of mine who took part in a previous edition on an OC1. As I like this type of endurance races, I kept it in my mind for a few years. Last year, a friend from my hometown also took part on surfski, and just last December we were talking about his great experience and he told me he would go again in 2023, so I thought: maybe it is my time to go too. I am used to traveling in winter looking for some sun and beach, sometimes in Morocco, sometimes in the Canary Islands, so Guadeloupe fitted perfectly with a warm holiday plan.
Did you enjoy your time in Guadeloupe? What are your favorite memories of your trip?
Oh yes! I enjoyed it a lot here in Guadeloupe, there are many things to do! It has been a great experience discovering the island and its beautiful places.
As a volcano island, it has many different landscapes, from stunning white sandy beaches to high jungles up to the La Soufrière volcano; waterfalls, hot springs, etc. You can do a lot of watersports, I did, of course, SUP, but also some surfing and Guadeloupe wingfoiling and some amazing trail running too. I enjoyed learning about the local culture and the people who have been very kind and welcoming with me. And what could I say about the weather! Sunny days, 25ºC average temperature, just perfect to escape from the cold European winter. It’s an ideal place to have a winter break!
What can you say about the paddling conditions in Guadeloupe, especially downwinding?
Wow, Gwada has a constant great wind which it makes a kind of a downwind paradise. During my 12 days there, we had wind every single day to join different downwind runs in both Grande Terre and in Basse Terre. The race day was actually the lightest wind day, but for me the conditions on that day were similar to the downwind conditions I am used to having at home, so not that bad.
Take us through the day of your winning race
Early wake-up, good breakfast, and plenty of water to face the heat. Calm and focus with the strategy I planned. At the start line, the wind conditions were quite disappointing, very soft and pretty flat ocean. Luckyly for us, soon after the race started, the wind picked up a bit and made it for a fun run. I tried to find the best line, felt the wind and current energies and followed them to have an easy run, smooth glides and just enjoy the moment! That was the first half of the race. After 20 kilometers, the plan was to push harder, take more risks and, most likely, struggle in the last 4 kilometers after Ilet Gosier, when the water goes flat all the way to the finish line. The objective was also to try and finish the race in less than 4 hours. The plan worked, the nutritional and hydration strategy went well too. 3h 51’ was my time on the 40k course, so I’m very happy about this achievement!
Was it easy to travel to Guadeloupe? What about gear logistics?
Yes, I traveled from Barcelona via Paris and there are a lot of flights from Paris to Pointe à Pitre, the island’s capital town. Logistics are a bit more difficult, so I decided to rent a board from local SUP club Sunset Paddling owner Melvyn Mouret and to travel light with only my paddles. I’m afraid it is not possible to fly with a 14’ board to Guadeloupe with Air France.
What could you say to help people make up their minds to take part in future editions of Ze Race?
I definitely recommend it! If you like downwind races and ever thought to take part in exotic races, this is a good and easy option for the Europeans. The experience is pretty similar actually to what I experienced on Maui a few years ago when I took part in the Molokai 2 Oahu race: beautiful island, nice weather, good conditions… and way cheaper than traveling to the other side of the world. And last but not the least, the local SUP community and organizers are very friendly, kind, and welcoming and they will help you to spend a great time there.
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