Our chance to become World Champions...
During our last adventure in 2017, a world-first ultra triathlon through the rugged wilderness of Patagonia, our final leg was a leap into the unknown. A 100km Stand Up Paddleboard down the unconquered La Leona river. Until that point, we had only been on SUP’s once before, and it showed as we tackled the freezing glacial river with the subtleness of a Trump rally. We fell, span, swore and swam, a baptism of fire, but we loved every second of it. Red Paddle Co had come on-board the adventure as a headline partner, and were the team that gave us the confidence and knowledge to take it on.
Almost a year on, we were reunited with the team, this time in a far more serene setting. We landed into Salzburg, Austria, and 30 mins later arrived into the Sound Of Music-esq town of Fuschl Am See. The sapphire blue water of Lake Fuschl was visible from our hotel room, and we were here not as tourists, but as competitors.
Every year, Red Paddle Co host the Dragon World Championships. A first of its kind SUP competition, where teams of four, race through a series of buoys, against six other teams. As you can probably picture, carnage ensues. Clashing paddles, tight corners, and back breaking paddling. Teams from all over the world gather, all with a shared desire to take home the crown, and becoming World Champions.
As we gathered on the shore of the lake, we were paired up with our newly introduced team mates, Tom and Maddie, two UK based journalists, with about as much SUP experience as ourselves (absolutely bugger all). As we sat there discussing team names (Settled on Paddlington Bears…), we watched as the Hungarians, French and Serbian teams dusted off their personalised paddles, and broke into team talks. We cupped ears, and tried to catch a word or two that would help us decipher tactics and strategies. No intel was gathered.
Over the next two days, we would race a total of five times, battling in sunshine and rain. Our first race saw us finish second (to the eventual winners), and our egos swelled. Were we decent? Were we about to pull off an upset? No. We weren’t. The next races didn’t go to plan, several falls, and lack of endurance lead us to slip down the world rankings. At the top-end, the reigning world champions from Barbados were flying high. These blokes meant business, they spent their lives running SUP schools on the Caribbean Island, and they were built for power. However there is a chink in every armour, and theirs was a simple one, the cold! At a comfortable 17 degrees celcius, Fuschl was a classic summers day back in the UK, but the Bajan contingent were feeling it. “I have never known cold like this, I think I may die”. With this conditional disadvantage, the dark horse of the contest emerged. A team of Hungarians, who were super-human quick, wiped everyone aside and stormed to a convincing win, taking the title and records with it.
The Paddlington Bears ended up with an understated, yet commendable 16th in the world (this will be going on our Linkedin profiles very shortly).
Competition and weather aside, the weekend spent in Fuschl is one we will never forget. We have been on similar trips, where the hosting brand tries to sell, and imprint on everyone attending. Here though, the RPC crew were all about the experience, and the culture they created in this tiny Austrian town was incredible. Teams who could not communicate verbally, instead made conversation via the medium of dance as the after-party kicked on until the early hours. We laughed and drank with people we would never usually meet, and that was what this event was all about.
We want to send a huge thankyou to the Red Paddle Co crew, and to all those who made the event so memorable. We have started training for next year, and will be recruiting two absolute units to join us on the board. It’s coming home….
To find out more, check out the website and follow RPC on social channels to get updates on next years event.