Mark Salter has just set a new bar and taken the UK by storm with a Guinness World Record for the fastest Stand Up Paddleboard descent of Loch Ness, Scotland UK, in a time of 4:01:49 over 36.24km. He took an undercover approach to this, springing the amazing news on us only days ago. In this interview we delve into Marks inspiration behind the World Record. He also speaks openly about the challenges that come with taking on a vast waterway like Loch Ness, from personal emotions to looking for the perfect weather window. Mark takes some time to talk us through his kit, where Starboard paddle and Allstar board proved right for the job. Although an incredibly accomplished paddler with races of all lengths and international stature under his belt, Mark is still one who admits there is more to learn and he is still addressing the occasional paddling fear. There is a lot of inspiration to be taken from these honest words. We invite you to read more into this super interesting insight into what made this World Record.
Mark welcome to TotalSUP, Congratulations on your new record, you must be on a high! Could you please introduce yourself to the readers?
Thank you. Yes, I’m really over the moon for completing this challenge! I’m a paddleboard racer, living in Nottingham UK. I’ve paddled for 7 years and raced for 4 of those. I started off with short distances and in my first race season won the GB Sup technical series and was 2nd in their distance series on a 12’6 board. Since then, I moved to 14ft boards and have been fortunate to travel and compete in races such as Chattajack, GlaGla, The Norfolk Broads Ultra, The Paddle Skedaddle and the 11-City SUP Tour. I did win Silver at the UK National Sprint Regattas, but I have a new fondness for endurance racing and I perform pretty well in those. At 48 years of age, I find endurance racing is kinder on the body than the technicals and I find them to be less pressure – I often make mistakes but longer races (often) give me the time to make up for those mistakes. I love exploring and I’m forever learning.
So how long has this been in the pipeline for you and what has been the drive behind this record attempt?
Growing up in the 80’s I loved watching Record Breakers TV programme. There was a guy who ate the same amount of metal that formed the Eiffel Tower. I’m a big eater so thought this was inspirational. I thought it would be amazing to have a record but honestly, I never had that many skills. I think that I finally found something. I corresponded with Guinness a couple of years ago, about potential long-distance SUP challenges. Loch Ness was probably the most difficult logistically to fit into the diary as it’s so far away and because the weather is so changeable up there.. so this was a couple of years in process.
There is something magical about Scotland, but why Loch Ness?
I wanted to overcome a fear. Scotland is beautiful but Loch Ness always scared me. The sheer size of the Loch means that the wind can build and build. You can start on a glassy day and within an hour you can be in a squall. I started off this challenge in a strong side wind that pushed me into the North bank. It made for a slow and very difficult start to my challenge. Our boat captain said that when he’s on the hillside, he can often see the wind moving around the Loch in all directions. I knew that being an inland canal paddler, I’d need a safety boat and I never could have done it without having the knowledge that I could safely leave the water at any time. So, this record wasn’t just about speed, it was about conquering a fear, about being well outside of my comfort zone and about building confidence on choppy water. If you’re going to do a record, then you may as well do one that really challenges you. That’s why I’m so happy now – the time of 4:01:49 for 36.24km was pretty good I think but that’s almost secondary to just getting across the expanse of this Loch.
Have you made any special preparations leading up to this paddle, what has your training looked like?
Living in the middle of the country, we couldn’t be further from the UK coastline. Finding choppy water is very difficult. I managed to get one weekend in the Lake District but when I went, apart from a few boats, it was pretty calm. It took me the first half of this Loch Ness crossing to find my ‘sea legs’ as it had been so long since I’d been on messy water.
I did prepare well in other ways though. I’ve been endurance training for a couple of years and my aerobic base is now really good. This helped massively during the crossing; although my skills weren’t perfect, my fitness carried me through. It meant that I could hop back on and keep battling without slowing down at all for the duration. In fact, the final section was the fastest as I had plenty in the tank for a strong finish. The past 6 months, I’ve also incorporated strength and conditioning training into my routine – focusing on the legs, hips and shoulders so I didn’t feel any fatigue in these areas.
Could you tell me about the kit you preferred for such a long paddle? What is your board of choice?
4 hours isn’t really a long paddle for me as this year I’m preparing for a 10 hour non-stop race in France and then the much longer 11 City Sup Tour non-stop event in the Netherlands. For these events I’ll be using a faster race board with a long glide.
For this Loch Ness challenge, I took a different approach. I knew that the conditions would be too big for me so I bought a 2nd hand 2018 year Starboard Allstar 23.5. It’s an incredibly stable board with a concave hull and a flat deck standing area. The volume at 340L+ is huge for me as I’m only 75kg in weight but I wanted to have an indestructible board that would keep me above water. It was the right choice. I also use the Starboard Lima paddle, size M. I love this paddle and for the past year have used it for all events. It’s really powerful for a relatively small blade.
The other kit that I had was a buoyancy aid (vital for this size of water), hydration bladder, food snacks, a bag of spare clothes around my waist as the water is so cold. Spare hats, buffs, gloves and thermal top. I wore neoprene leggings, Sealskin socks and dive boots. The sun came out so I had to strip off a layer. The kit adds weight but from bitter experience, I’ve learnt that carrying kit is far preferable to getting cold.
Do you have any other record attempts or races planned for the year?
Yes, I’ve actually got one planned for next month, which has also been a couple of years in progress. I had some injury disappointments in 2021-2022 so I decided that for me, it’s better to keep things secret in case they don’t happen. I think that nowadays I’d like to keep them personal and just mention them on the day or afterwards. I’ll give a clue that it’s a much longer one.
The million dollar question, did you see Nessie?
The peaty water of Loch Ness is so black that you can’t see what’s beneath you. The deepest trench is 227m – 3x the depth of the North Sea. I dread to think what lives down there. The water was messy so I did take 4 splashes during my crossing. Maybe it was Nessie that was playing with me. I hopped back on my board quickly each time; I wasn’t going to hang around swimming in there!
Thank you so much to Mark, you can find out more about his paddling endeavours on Instagram @hurricanesup.
Mark and his wife Cassie, who is also a fantastic paddler in her own right, and endurance athlete, run SUP Fitness: Wellbeing and Adventure, where you can learn from the grass roots up, or hone your endurance paddling through their coaching. Check them out!
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