SUP 11 City: Redemption For Dean Dunbar

The countdown begins for the SUP 11 city , in just 4 days time those who dare will paddle 220 km non stop from Leeuwarden, and finish up to 36 hours later back in Leeuwarden taking in 11 cities on the way. Two days after that the 5 day event begins, before finishing on Sunday 9th September with a world record attempt. There are multiple ways to paddle this event solo, relay, non stop, over 5 days just to name a few. But whatever way you chose it is an epic feat if endurance!

One racer who is preparing himself for the non-stop race is Scottish paddler Dean Dunbar. Dean is no stranger to adventure and endurance challenges, he has completed a whole host of challenges regardless of the fact that he is registered blind. Last year Dean had to cut short his SUP 11 city- non stop race last year, due to deterioration of his eyes. So this year he will be back to avenge the race! by paddling 220 km non-stop on a Red Dragon board, with 3 other paddlers. TotalSUP talks to Dean as he prepares for the 11 city sup non stop.

Hi Dean, Are you ready for the race?

Yes and no, Yes in that this race is unfinished business for me. I couldn’t complete the race last year, so I am back to complete it. No, in that the last 6 months I have battled with a shoulder and wrist injuries, so I haven’t been training as much as I would have liked. I was in better shape this time last year. But I will just get on with it!

You are paddling the Red Dragon, who is in your team?

It takes four to paddle the Red Dragon. In front will be myself, I will be setting the pace, as I can’t see it is better that I am in the front and everyone paddle. Then in Alison Swinscoe is 2nd position, with Joanne Hamilton-Vale in 3rd and at the helm is Alistair Swinscoe. Alistair is tall enough to see over all of us so he can check for obstacles in the way, also he will be keeping an eye on the distance that we paddled. I have no concept of distance so it is important for Allistair to remind me how long we have been paddling for and how long we have until the next stop.

There are 4 of you paddling, will it be an easy race for you?

Paddling the dragon isn’t as easy at it seems! it is great when we are all in the same rhythm, when we are all in sync it goes like a dream. However, as soon as someone stops to take a drink or moves ever so slightly it can make everyone unbalanced. Paddling in the canals may be a bit challenging in that when we are going straight it willbe great, but turning is a bit tricky, we have to slow right down to manoeuver the board, and there are alot of bends in the race!

Allistair, Alison, my wife and I recently did some training in Loch Lomond, Scotland. We had a friend who wanted a paddle on the dragon, after a while he remarked that it is not as easy as it looks! The key to success is getting in sync! We have been training a few times together on Loch Tummell and Loch Lomond. We also did a race on Lake Windermere which was good. We haven’t had a chance to paddle with Joanne onboard, but it will be ok.

Do you have strategy to get through the 220 km?

Paddling in endurance events is alot about mental strength. The key is not to think about the whole distance in itself as you will freak yourself out. What I do is think about the distances in chunks, I just aim to get through the next 10 km, or to the next stop. Then gradually you will eat away at the distance. We have ear marked stops that will stop at for a few minutes to get food, but we will mostly be eating and drinking whilst paddling.

However, one thing that is different for myself as a registered blind paddler is that I have no visuals as goals, therefore I don’ t have a mental target to aim for, for example I can not aim for the next bridge or the next corner, because I can’t see past the end of the board. That in itself is a challenge, it can be frustrating and my own mental challenge. In my regular training I overcome this by wearing a talking watch which informs of me the distance paddled,I m not sure I will be able to use this on this race. I might have to rely on Allistair to give me a distance paddled. The same goes for water breaks, unless someone tells me how far I have actually paddled and that I can have a break I will not have an idea. So I will be relying a lot on my team mates in this race. Probably why the Red Dragon paddle is a great idea!. The Dragon red paddle will also help us, it is a solid board, the company have been really great to work with, and have really support me in this challenge. I feel that red paddle company offers a great service and product.

How will you be celebrating after?

I will be going to the party on the 16th September. But not before seeing my wife Rhona complete the last day of paddling on Sunday. Rhona will be paddling from Dokkum to Leeuwarden a distance of 30 km, so I will stay and support her in her race, and support everyone else, as we have a lot of friends who are paddling in the 11 city!

Follow our events page for more information on the race! The action starts this Saturday around midday!

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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