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SUP 11-City Tour

by Kevin Kohn

Every September since 2009, hundreds of athletes from all over the world arrive in Leeuwarden (NL). They all meet in the capital of Friesland to participate in one of the most challenging races in the world: the SUP 11-City Tour.

The race takes place on a 200km loop, most of the time in the canals, and exists in two formats. The first and most popular version, the "5 days", takes place for five days with distances of more than 40 kilometres to be covered daily and a 27 km sprint to finish the last day. For the last nine years, this race has also been organized in a "non-stop" version, during which participants have a time limit of 34 hours for men and 36 hours for women to complete the course. In addition to the difficulty of the distance, competitors must also brave the weather, which can be very capricious with strong upwind/sidewind winds and rain. But despite this, this international event has continued to grow to become one of the major events in ultra-long-distance SUP.

This year, we met up with Peter Mülhauser and Mark Kruisheer, two well-known paddlers from the Swiss Tour, and asked them a few questions about their respective experiences.

Hello Mark. After several participations in the 5-day version, you entered the Non-Stop this year with some success (3rd in the men's race). What made you decide to participate in this event?

I have participated in the 5-day race four times and always experienced it as very pleasant. The first time I had quite a bit of respect because you do not know what comes to you, but each time you learn something new builds up more and more experience. After the last five-day race, the thought of the Non-Stop variant germinated as a logical increase, and when I saw that it was a full moon at the race and I felt good and had trained well, I decided to the Non-Stop race.

What was the best moment for you during this event?

The best moment for me was paddling through the beautiful Friesland during the night with glassy conditions and the full moon and still feeling good and doing well in the race.

And the worst?

The worst moment didn't really exist, probably also because I had mentally prepared myself for the worst, and that didn't apply. I never struggled with sleep or any other real crisis, except for a stomach/intestinal problem in Franeker, which improved after 3 hours. In the end, I had to deal with severe pain in my feet and extremely stiff legs, but I expected that and could handle it.

For this challenge, did you adapt your preparation to other, more classic races?

As preparation, I didn't do much different than other years, except last winter, I continued paddling and didn't do a winter stop. My longest training sessions were around 50 km; I did a training in the dark just to have done that and otherwise just mentally dealt with the race. I then thought the whole distance umpteen times paddled, and my thoughts made where it could become problematic, where and what food, what drinking, where it would begin pain etc. Thus, I never stood for surprises in the race and could fully enjoy it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start this race?

I can highly recommend the SUP 11-city race! It's a pretty cool race, well organized, you meet a bunch of super interesting like-minded people, and you paddle through a beautiful area. The weather can offer anything from warm and sunny to wind and rain, but it's always doable. It would be best if you had a good foundation endurance, and some paddling experience certainly helps too, but it is well achievable. Before one dares to the non-stop variant, I would undoubtedly paddle once the 5-day variant.

A warning is still necessary! It has a high addictive potential because suddenly, you want to go back to Friesland every year and can't get enough of it.

Hi Peter. After winning the race in 2020 in the Grand Masters category, you are back this year with another podium (3rd). What motivated you to come back for this event?

I love paddling, the Netherlands, and the 11CitySup crew. And actually, I wanted to win in my category 😉. Everyone told me back in 2020, after my Sup11City tour (which was also my first SUP race), that I would come again. In 2021, the ICF World Championship was in Hungary simultaneously, so I could only participate again this year.

How was this edition for you?

This year it was more of a challenge than a race for me. The first day went very well until shortly before the break when I got cramps in my legs and upper body. During the break, I received the tip for eating mustard, which surprisingly helped, but I still lost 6 minutes to the two in front, Pasqual and Günther. After the second day, it was already 25 minutes because the three lakes had challenged me very much with these waves, and I could not quite keep the pace. Also, cramps were again a topic on this day. The last two days ran again super, and I could also win both stages, but the lead was too big. We had almost all four seasons again in one day, and I liked that.

What were the highlights of this edition for you?

On the first day from Leeuwarden to Sloten, I wanted to give up after the first 22km because the pain was too big, but thanks to Mark Kruisheer, who motivated me again, I kept paddling. Mark (3rd of the Non-Stop Tour) supported me during the whole tour on land and water. Also, the shouts from all the Friesians on bridges during the tour. Being handed the 11CityTour cross by Marije at the end, right after the finish, was a highlight, for sure.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start this race?

Think about the daily routine during the challenge, from breakfast, weather, nutrition, equipment etc.. If it is a challenge for you, paddle 50km at least once beforehand so you know how long something like this takes, and you know I have paddled 50km before, so that I can do this again. It's also a good test for equipment and nutrition.

If you consider it a race, you should paddle at least 30-35km 2 times a month, maybe even two days in a row. Also essential to drink a lot before and during the race and watch your nutrition.

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