UK SUP Endurance Series 2018: The Monster that was Loch Ness

The monster race that was the Great Glen Challenge (GGR) took place two weeks ago, and it was a race that delivered all conditions. From flat conditions on day 1 to 50 KM winds on Loch Ness on day 2.  The Great Glen Challenge is a distance of 95 KM from one end of Scotland to the other and is part of the UK SUP endurance series. This year the series had surf skis, prone paddleboards,  OC 1 as well as SUPs entered.  This years challenge  had conditions where everyone had a story to tell. TotalSUP got the low down of the race from Race director, endurance lover and Scottish paddler Joanne Hamilton-Vale.

Hi Jo, the Great Glen Race was an epic event, people were talking about it for days after, what is great about the race?

What race in the world would you get to race across a whole country? either non-stop in a day or split over two days. This race is a chance to cross one of the most prestigious waterways in the world (Loch Ness), at the same time being engulfed by stunning Scottish scenery. This is also the race where you start your day with a wee dram of whisky whilst starting by a lone piper at dawn welcoming you onto Loch Ness. The Great Glen Challenge is the race where you will paddle an awesome 35 KM downwind stretch, whilst trying to spot the Loch Ness Monster. This is the UK SUP Endurance Series Final Race THE GREAT GLEN CHALLENGE!

If you are going to enter Loch Ness for a downwind 35km race this is the way to start. The Great Glen Challenge #greatglenchallenge

Posted by UK Paddle Endurance Series on Monday, September 17, 2018

Last year the event had to be abandoned 20 KM into the race due to high wind and swell conditions that can easily happen in Scotland.  So this year a few extra safety precautions were included by UK SUP as we were determined the GGR would run. The 2nd day we were treated to perfect 50 KM/h downwind conditions on Loch Ness.

Photo Credit: Annagail Leaman

Seeing the huge smiles and hearing the stories from the paddlers who ventured onto Loch Ness, we knew that we made the correct decision to allow the 2nd day of the event to continue.  Statements like “the best race of my life”, “An experience I will never forget”, “Paddle across Scotland they said, it will be fun they said.  Loch Ness IS a monster” and “still getting goosebumps thinking of the amazing start to the race” confirmed that the event organisers got everything right.

Can you describe the race?

Loch Ness gave our paddlers all she had, waist high swell, 20-45 knots of wind and scenery to take your breath away.  The race weekend saw over 60 SUP, OC1, kayak, surfski and prone paddlers attempted this challenge and over 40 paddlers completed it.

The race started on the West Coast of Scotland in Fort William and finished on the East coast in Inverness, thereby crossing the whole country.  Day One brought relatively flat conditions with winds of 12-20 knots as the paddlers crossed three sections of a canal system, plus crossing Loch Lochy and Loch Oich.  Day Two was the big one – straight onto the 36 KM stretch of Loch Ness and finishing with a 10 KM canal section.  

The Great Glen Challenge has a choice for everyone. If you feel the two-day event is not tough enough for you, you can paddle the whole way non-stop, a distance of 92 KM.  This year the non-stop event started at 3 am on the West Coast at Fort William.  The paddlers headed off into complete darkness, crossing 17 KM of Loch Lochy in the dark, then they enjoyed a beautiful Scottish sunrise over a dramatic Scottish back drop.  This year the UK SUP Endurance Series had 13 paddlers on the start line for the super early non-stop and only 8 completed the full distance, a testament to the tough conditions that greeted the paddlers! 

What were the results?

The fastest time was recorded by Northern Irish kayaker Dan McGonigle in 9 hours 22 minutes. The top 3 SUPrs were Jersey paddler Andre Le Geyt with a time of 10 hours and 17 minutes, a new course record! Maurice Guy in 10 hours and 32 minutes and Fanatic paddler Phil Plume in 10 hours 32 minutes.  All top 3 SUP’s were under Bart de Zwart’s 2016 race record of 10 hours 50 minutes. No female paddlers completed the course non-stop this year, making myself the only SUP female to complete this course non-stop, with a record time of 11 hour 38 minutes.

Photo Credit: Annagail Leaman

In the Two Day event, Martin Tonge took line honours in a time of 9 hours 9 minutes on his surfski. Helen Trehoret was our only female surfski finishing in a time of 10:56. There were 3 prone paddlers who completed the whole course, Nick Ayers  in 12:06, Holly Henderson in 14:03 and 17-year-old Callum Sweetman in 14:48.  Callum was awarded the UK SUP paddler of the year being only 17, a prone paddler, paddling across Scotland, all three made it an epic achievement for Callum.

Photo Credit: Annagail Leaman

In the SUP category the top 3 male SUP’s were Paul Stubbings in a time of  10:23, Jay Haysey (isup) in 10:24 and Matthew Wall in 10:25.  Only two minutes split Jay and Matthew after 2 days of paddling. We decided to not allow drafting in the event, so this was a real test of endurance and individual paddle strength.  Only 2 SUP females completed the 2-day course Maria Sawyer (inflatable) 13:33, Helen Fincham – 14:47. Not forgetting Kamala Sen who raced in her kayak, Kamala finished in a time of 13:19.

Are you ready for next year?

Photo Credit: Annagail Leaman

The GGR is first and foremost a personal challenge, we run it to be inclusive to every paddle craft, so no matter what you paddle you will be made to feel like part of the paddling family.  There is a slight race element to it in that UK SUP have trophies and podium places, but mainly it is about personal achievement. Paddlers have to constantly battle thoughts and voices in their heads telling them to stop, telling them the weather is too rough, to dark, their hands are sore and blistered and their bodies are tired.  But paddlers will push them all to the side and achieve their goals.

Photo Credit: Annagail Leaman

UK SUP’s Great Glen Challenge paddlers will certainly finish this challenge with some stories to tell. This event will run again in 2019, all places sell out in 2 weeks so if you would like a place get in early! It will be capped at 60 paddlers and 2018 event sold out in two weeks!

For more information follow this link.



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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