One of the most grueling races in the sport, the SUP 11-City Tour tests paddlers to their physical and mental limits. The event takes place in Friesland, a northern province in Holland, where competitors must paddle along a 220 kilometer (136 mile) route that passes through 11 historical cities. The competition began in 2009 and normally takes place over the course of five days, but there’s an even tougher version of this race for the ultra-hardcore paddling crowd––The SUP 11-City Non-Stop Race. No breaks, no stages, no mercy.
This year, seven individuals and two teams crossed the finish line of the SUP 11-City Non-Stop race, but only one paddler made history––Niek Van Der Linde. The endurance paddler not only set the course record with a time of 23:32:16, but also broke Bart de Zwart’s 24-hour SUP distance record (193.8 kilometers) by paddling 204.27 kilometers in 23 hours, 45 minutes and 27 seconds.
As for the paddle Van Der Linde used to complete all 204 kilometers? It was none other than our new Hydro FlowX. After discovering the Hydro FlowX while training for the race, Van Der Linde loved the feel of its smaller blade, softer shaft, nice grip and light weight––the results speak for themselves. We caught up with Van Der Linde to learn more about his achievement, mindset during the race, and how the Hydro FlowX helped him break into the record books.
How many times have you competed in the SUP 11-City Tour?
This was my fifth year. I’ve won 4 times and got 2nd once.
Talk about your training routine for this year’s competition?
Training is very important, but when you’re really motivated, it’s easy to overtrain. Over the years, I’ve been able to build the training load and now train six days a week. Most of my training is on a SUP, but I also wing foil or SUP foil and also run once a week.
Can you specify what board, fin and paddle you used for this year’s event?
I used the Fanatic Strike 14’ x 20” with an Infinity fin. And I used the Hydro FlowX Medium with Medium75 Slim shaft. I am 175cm and 69kg.
How did you hear about the Hydro FlowX, and why did you decide to use it in the SUP 11-City?
I saw the pictures half a year ago and really liked the shape. It looked liked the paddle had a lot of grip and that’s what I like! I’ve tested a lot of paddles, but I didn’t like them until I tried the Hydro FlowX. I just had to figure out which blade and shaft stiffness. About a month before the race, I finally ordered the paddle and loved it a lot!
How does the feel of the Hydro FlowX compare to other paddles you’ve previously used?
Even though the blade is a bit smaller than my old paddle, I have more grip, which is impressive considering my old paddle had lots of grip. At first, I wanted a really stiff shaft, but that was not possible with this new blade.
Eventually, the softer shaft proved to be the best thing! Even after 150 kilometers, my arms and shoulders felt good. This allowed me to still able to hold my pace during the last 54 kilometers. The weight of the paddle is also less than my old paddle. Together with more grip and less fatigue on the arms and shoulders, it was the best choice ever!
Talk about your mindset during this race, how you overcame fatigue and how you managed to notch such an incredible achievement?
At 50 kilometers, my pace started to drop because of a headwind. We were paddling into the night and then I had a really hard time and wanted to quit. But all the people cheering on the bridges gave me back my motivation. In the night there was also fog, so you had to be very alert to not miss a turn and also avoid weeds and trash in the water. So that kept me alert, as did my sports nutrition with caffeine.
What was the feeling when you crossed the finish line and learned you had broke the 24 hour record?
WOW! This is unbelievable. I can’t believe I broke this record and took it from the guys who did it on an unlimited 18-foot board! It is still unbelievable!
Talk about how the Hydro FlowX performed in the race and helped you manage fatigue? Were you surprised about how much of a difference the paddle made over the course of 24 hours?
Yes! It was a big difference. Starting with a fast pace is not hard, but with the Hydro FlowX I was able to keep this fast pace (8.6km/h average) for all 204 kilometers! There are no medals halfway…only at the finish. This also benefits the recreational paddler who wants to do a weekend tour.
Anything else you want to mention or people you’d like to thank?