My First SUP Race: Dordogne Paddle Race

SUPer weekend and so much fun!!

This event last year is why I took up the sport of SUP. I purchased my board last December and my early days on the water were mainly at Lac de Feyt just north of Argentat. The Dordogne River was running too fast over the winter (for me anyway as a newbee) as we were having lots and lots of rain. I met Max of Cap Nature and was invited to river SUP with his friends in April. We made the 9 km run from Vayrac to Gluges. It was a lot of fun and I decided then I would enter the paddle race this year and I would need to get fit and put in time on the river.

Saturday 15 October started a bit chilly and foggy as the previous 2 days had been with rain. Forecast was for sun and up to 20C. Everyone finally in the water and jostling around the start line when we finally set off about 1100. I had entered the 8Km race that would finish at the Camping du Saulou. The start was also for the people entered into the 24Km finishing in Beaulieu.

Out in front were some very big and strong guys on sleek racing boards, also moving quickly was the RedPaddle Dragon SUP with 4 paddlers (a SUP take on the Dragon boats of Hong Kong). I found myself alone somewhere in the forward middle half of the pack. In the group moving ahead from me were 2 people I kept a constant distance from and a group following behind was also staying a steady distance back. After the first rapid I was overtaken by a Dad and his daughter on a tandem SUP. After that no one else overtook me! I just paddled and paddled nonstop and managed all the rapids without falling in. The river was higher and flowing faster than the previous Sunday when I was paddling with Etienne gaining knowledge!!

At the first bridge it was encouraging to hear people on the bridge cheering you on! I did have a moment of knee wobble about 2 bends from the finish. I was pushing hard and knew there was one last swift moving bend with strong counter currents so just told my legs to relax and made it over the finish line. I was happy with my paddle. I never stopped and just tried to keep a steady stroke. I thoroughly enjoyed it especially as the river was flowing faster making it more exciting. 

Next was the Technical Race in Beaulieu in the afternoon. By now it was warmer as the sun was out but there was a bit of a gusty wind. I quickly realised that my universal board was not the tool for this race! Everyone had a racing board which had a pointy nose and the boards were narrow and some were rigid and other inflatable. The course was 4.6Km 3 laps round the buoys with an exit from the water carrying your board a short distance and re entering the water for the next lap. So, the start was given and off we went. I was in the wake wash of these fast boards and found myself in last place at the first buoy. I had not yet mastered the art of spin turning the board to make fast turns so I lost time. At the 2nd buoy by the Chapel the turn took us back upstream and it was breezy. It was hard! I made it to the exit on land, carried my board and then dashed back into the water to start lap 2. It was hard work and again on the upstream run I had to dig deep to keep a strong stroke going. On the 2nd exit I was met with cheers of allez Laura! It was appreciated and I laughed and got back in for the final lap. I was overtaken, lapped, by 3 very fit young guys. I was of course feeling tired but gave it my all and even managed to run to the finish, yes run and with a big smile on my face!  

Next was the prize giving on the river bank. I must say the quality of the prizes was high with paddles, camelbaks, etc. being handed out. Suddenly I heard my name called for 3rd place Women's 8Km!! I was honestly so surprised and also proud of myself. I stood on the 3rd place podium and received a coiled leash and waterproof pouch from the Mairie of Beaulieu! I admit I got a little teary.

I have decided I will enter the 24Km next year, go big or go home!

A big thank you to the race organisers, it was a super event. Merci beaucoup!

 SUP Family photo

SUP Family photo

 Surprised and happy 3rd place finisher in my first ever SUP race!

Surprised and happy 3rd place finisher in my first ever SUP race!

 The start

The start

Finish line in sight!