“I know that Janneke Smitsand Ella Oesterholtof Team Yukon SUPventure Ladies, were prepared to the teeth which involved putting their inflatable Yster iSUP 17’3”x 26” Linear boards to the test in different conditions. The boards were their ultimate lifelines between the race start at Whitehorse to the finish at Dalton Highway Bridge so the boards just had to work – both in terms of strength and durability but also performance-wise”, commented Per Vallbo, Founder and CEO of Yster SUP, a premium Swedish SUP brand based in Malmo. “Janneke and Ella have definitely changed the game. They were not only the first all-girl team to complete the Yukon 1000, they were also the first ever team to complete the world’s longest and toughest paddle race on inflatable stand-up paddleboards. Respect! I am happy and extremely impressed by their epic achievement. I am sure that many will follow in their footsteps.”
TotalSUP caught up with the unstoppable Janneke and Ella who completed the Yukon 1000, the world’s toughest paddle challenge in 7 days and 8 hours coming second overall in the SUP division!
Hi Janneke and Ella – Massive congratulations on smashing the 2022 Yukon 1000! Let’s get back to the beginning… You arrived early and spent some time acclimatizing before the race…
We arrived two weeks prior to the race. We booked our flights earlier this year. We already had in mind that we maybe had to deal with some COVID-19 restrictions. We also didn’t want to stress about luggage problems like lost bags, broken paddles etc.
There was also a lot of snow earlier this year. This could increase the water level, which also happened. Last year the Yukon River Quest was cancelled because of the water level. We didn’t know what to expect from all of this. One thing we knew for sure…all these external factors could easily cause “problems” for us prior to the race. So we took some extra time and arrived two weeks prior to the race in Canada and explored Vancouver Island in the first week and the Golden Circle (Yukon and Alaska) in the second week.
This also gave us some time to “land” from our busy season back home. We had a fantastic “holiday”. Our holiday also gave us time to talk and think about our Yukon 1000 race over and over again. The last day before the race we looked at each other and we concluded that we missed or lost the nerves…
From left, Ella Oesterholt and Janneke Smits
What was the pre-race atmosphere like at the camp?
When we arrived a few days prior to the race in Whitehorse we only had to arrange the last (small) things which took us one whole day (!) 😉 We also met some other paddlers in Whitehorse. Because there were some COVID infections we were extra alert and decided not to visit pubs or restaurants… just to try to avoid crowded places. It was great to see how focused everyone was. We had a Whatsapp group set up with some of the other paddlers, this made it easier to have contact with them before and also after the race.
What was the toughest, most challenging moment?
Then finally the race started! The end of day one was our toughest moment I think. Until 10 pm we saw a lot of great camp spots along the river. But we wanted to stop somewhere between 10 and 12 pm. Around 10 pm there was a river coming from the right side and this increased the water level. All possible campsites were not accessible anymore.
There were mangroves everywhere and on the other side we had steep walls. Finally after midnight we found a mudslide where we camped that night. The mosquitos attacked us and our tent was standing on a hill, so we slid down in our tent when we tried to sleep. That was a horrible night. After that first night the camp spots were getting better and better!
At what point did you know that you were going to smash it?
We started with one goal…to finish the Yukon 1000 at the Dalton HighWay bridge. When we passed Dawson we thought now we’d gonna make it to the finish! But knowing what possibly could go wrong on the river…you only know for sure if you are going to finish it when you pass the finish line.
You used the Yster SUP 17’3″ x 26″Unlimited iSUPs – How did the boards perform?
Yes, for this race we used the Yster Unlimited 17’3″ inflatable boards. We were very happy with our board choice. The boards performed really good!
Photo by Tanja Ecker
The length gave us a good glide and also enough space to pack all our luggage and we still had space to move on the board or even lay down for a very short power nap. The 26″ width provided enough stability! We will be using this board also for our recreational trips in the Netherlands or when we will discover other rivers in Europe. Especially when it will be multiple day trips.
Photo by Tanja Ecker
What are your SUP hacks to surviving Yukon 1000?
We are sure that having FUN in the things you do is the key to success. During all our training hours-days-trips together we were having fun. The Yukon 1000 was our cherry on the cake (this is probably a Dutch saying..?) But we also made sure we were prepared for the worst… just in case.
But then again, when you’re doing this, you have to make sure fear is not controlling you. When fear is controlling you, you won’t be able to see the possibilities and the change that you will make a wrong decision will be even bigger.
“As the official board of the Last Paddler Standing, I am proud to have two of the world’s most accomplished endurance paddlers in the race. The Yster Team paddlers Göran Gustavsson and Craig Sawyer embody the spirit of resilience and determination with their impressive mental stamina—qualities crucial for success in the Last Paddler Standing race. […]
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