Baltic Sea can definitely “deliver” an extreme mix of conditions and test the limits of even the most seasoned paddlers which makes it a perfect SUP playground! Each year, one Baltic beach in Kołobrzeg, serves as an exciting stage for the longest running open sea SUP racing event – Planet Baltic SUP Race.
In the run up to Planet Baltic held on the 4-6 August, TotalSUP caught up with Marcin Koc, CEO, Founder and Race Director, to chat about the event’s highlights and its international ambitions.
Hi Marcin, welcome to TotalSUP! What’s Planet Baltic and what’s your vision behind this year’s event?
Hi! Planet Baltic SUP Race is an independent event that has been running since 2017. Over the years we’ve continued to develop it and improve areas that need to be focused on. Each year we’re getting better in organising with the key focus on participants that are paramount to us. My vision? To create the best stand-up paddleboarding event in Poland and in Europe (to start with;)
Marcin Koc during the ICF Worlds 2022 in Gdynia, Poland | Photo by Georgia Schofield
We’re bound by tradition and I believe this is the longest running SUP racing competition in the country. We’re also considering to collaborate with the Euro Tour in the near future.
Both location and the weather conditions make this event a challenging SUP race that can truly tests participants’ skills and limits. I hope that this is one of the factors that will attract world’s top paddlers to compete.
We’ve been developing Planet Baltic SUP Race as an event aimed at elite SUP athletes, but it’s open to all! We’re welcoming all riders willing to race on Kołobrzeg’s waves. We do however stress the importance of water safety and strictly following the guidelines.
Great location, beautiful beach… What can participants expect in terms of weather conditions and the race course? It’s a race known for its gnarly conditions 😉
We live here and we SUP here! Beautiful beach, beautiful sea – not always calm which was demonstrated in the 2022 edition of Planet Baltic. But the long distance race took place on flat water (or as close to flat as one could wish for given the location!)
I think that anyone that comes to participate in the Planet Baltic SUP Race, is set to battle himself and the waves first, rather than other paddlers. Kołobrzeg is located on the open, south coast of the Baltic Sea (so different that Gdynia where ICF Worlds 2022 took place), therefore the waves are higher and longer – this is what guarantees all the SUP racing action! Believe me, when I’m running this competition, I am with every paddler, just as I was in Gdynia at the start and finish line, which does not make it an easy task.
Could you tell us more about the organisational side of the event of this format and your partners and sponsors? Year on year you have amazing prizes including the money pot!
We live by the rule of closing the event with a phrase “See you next year”. This means a two-month break from the massive amount of work that goes into the organisation but we continue to work with our partners on the promotional activities (videos, event photos). The first preps for the next edition kick off on Autumn which gain momentum in Spring and then in July we’re 98% ready for the event. I personally design all the graphics and the most important – the medal, which is given to all finishers.
In terms of partners, we tend to collaborate with a relatively small number of sponsors. But we do want to work with people and organisations that understand our vision and they come in with conviction and as sport patrons not just sponsors. Abades, a leading developer in Kołobrzeg, is our returning Head Sponsor!
We are also introducing Partners sponsoring prizes in particular competitions:
Sprint Race – Lotto is supporting Planet Baltic SUP Race for the third time!
Long Distance – Team Group with the brand Ineos Grenadier – First time with us but this a great example of the way we’re doing things and making partnerships with companies that are not local (company based over 500 km from us). It’s fantastic to see the reach of the event ever expanding!
We have the MVP category (Men and Women), where the Polish heritage watch company G.Gerlach is sponsoring amazing prizes. They have been with us from the very beginning (Six years already!)
We are also supported by the Kołobrzeg City , which is officially the Co-Organizer of the event. Kołobrzeg, although destroyed during the war in 90%, is fast becoming one of the most beautiful seaside destination on the Baltic Sea.
In terms of prizes, we have the prize pot of circa 4500€ in the Open category. But there are many other fantastic prizes for those that won’t make the podium – Sometimes I think that there are better than the cash prize. But to be honest we’re making sure that everyone is leaving our event smiling (tired, but happy).
How has your local SUP scene grown and developed over the years? Have you noticed additional acceleration of the sport after the ICF Worlds in Gdynia?
Watching the Polish SUP scene, I can confidently say that the sport is becoming more popular each year. There are events popping up delivered by our riders and partners on their home turfs. Sometimes they’re focused on the competitive side, other time it’s all about fun and recreation. I think it’s important that these activities promote the sport of stand-up paddleboarding which will mutually benefit the users and event organisers. SUP clinics are also becoming increasingly popular. At the moment they are led by Polish SUP athletes but who knows, maybe in the future we’ll run some with the international riders.
Could you tell us more about the social aspect of the event? What participants can expect outside of the competitive side? (SUP clinics, workshops, yoga, live music?)
The main, competitive part of the Planet Baltic SUP race will run over two days. On Staurday we’ll have Sprints and Technical races and on Sunday, as per usual, the Long Distance and Mixed Relay races. I can’t be sure (correct me if I’m wrong) but most likely I’m the only organiser in the world that runs this competition format. This is a bullet-proof formula that generates a lot of excitement. Out of the sudden, after all that lone paddling on the sea, you start with a paddle partner and not everything is up to you! Citing our athletes, it’s an “incredible experience”.
Friday is dedicated to SUP workshops, clinics, showcases and gear demo. Obviously we have the distributors and manufacturers present throughout the event. Anyone can rent a paddleboard or paddles to test them and rentals are available all weekend. We are also organising beginner sessions in the run up to the event and we invite participants to paddle the Parsęta river – up the stream to train and down with the flow to sightsee. Our DJ is amping up the event atmosphere on the beach all weekend long!
Could you share a sneak peek of who has confirmed their participation from the international scene already?
We have athletes confirmed from Czech Republic, Great Britain, Ukraine and Poland. We continue to promote the event both in Poland and internationally and are focused on the future where we’re looking to host riders from across the world on the start line in Kołobrzeg.
If you could summarize Planet Baltic SUP…
We’ve been building up Planet Baltic SUP race for the past six years and we actually launched the event on the river (2017) and then moved to the beach and stayed on it. Over these years I have witnessed the sport of stand-up paddleboarding becoming professional – both in terms of gear and the competitive side. This is a great testimony how fast the discipline is growing in Poland and worldwide.
I’m stoked that year on year we have more participants which means that Planet Baltic is gaining popularity. Come and visit our website where you can find all information and the event history.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say “Hi” and of course invite to our event, all the awesome people that I met during the ICF Worlds in Gdynia – Greetings to Noic and Vaic Garioud, Kirsty McAllen, Andrey Kraytor, Damodara Machniuk, Christian Andersen, Connor Baxter, Claudio Nika and many more! Greetings to Teams from Canada, Israel, Peru, Spain and Italy – High five guys 😉 In case you don’t remember, it was me on the mic on the beach! This is also a big shout-out to the entire Polish SUP Team!
Thank you so much for your time Marcin and good luck with the event – we’ll be tuning in!
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