top of page

SUPTwelve: 2024 Race Report

To report back on SUPTwelve we welcome Duncan Houlton, an Englishman living in Germany with the nickname ‘Flussmensch’, which translates to Riverman. When we spoke about events in the UK and I mentioned SUP 12 I could almost hear Duncan’s ears prick up. With a little gentle persuasion from me, he quickly entered before the race was full. It was a pleasure to meet him in Torbay, watch him paddle and we are grateful for his time in letting us know how his SUP Twelve journey went. 


After my last tour ended in the hospital with a hernia, I was looking for something new. 70km paddles on the Rhine were becoming routine; when 10 hours on the water is my comfort zone, where do I go from here? 


I was thinking about SUPTwelve last year but wasn't too keen for two reasons: the time of year and spending 12 hours in a dry suit! I have also never taken part in a race before. But when my plans changed for my England visit I asked SUPjunkie what SUP events were on, and the plan came together. 


I managed to register for SUPTwelve just in time and got one of the last places, and after letting SUPjunkie know that it was her fault if anything went wrong, I was committed! I had only 9 weeks to transform from a slightly podgy blob to a trained athlete, no probs mate! 


As I have never trained for anything in my life, I now had to learn “how" to train. Luckily, I listen to the wonderful SUPfm Podcast and had downloaded Training for the Uphill Athlete recommended by April Zilg on the Book Club episode. This took me ages to read as I spent most of my time training (as a side note, wrongly). I used my lunch breaks for strength training and managed to paddle twice a week.  


After a few weeks of this with no noticeable improvement, I purchased a heart rate monitor and had a eureka moment using it for the first time! I figured out where Zone 2 is and did the first paddle keeping between 115-125 bpm for 2 hours at a constant pace. Through doing this I rediscov­ered my meditative touring pace where I have the feeling I can go on forever! 


I had been training way too hard for 4 weeks! I have a split personality, No 1 is the 59-year-old father of two who is careful and well-prepared. No 2 is the teenage pro skateboarder who says “Go for it!” I'm happy to say, the teenager wins most of the time but the father of two must put his foot down sometimes. A combination of No 1 and No 2 meant that I did not miss one single training session in these 9 weeks! 


This is unusual as I am normally a procrastinator. In the days running up to the race, I got three paddles in on the Grand Union canal in Milton Keynes but left out the strength session, so I didn't overtrain. I really enjoyed the drive down to Broadsands as the road crosses dozens of rivers and Flussmensch visualised paddling every single one!  


Arriving at the beach was magical, meeting all the Facebook friends is always great as you feel like you know each other already. Meeting Simon from SUPfm and Sarah from SUPjunkie was like revisiting old friends. Also meeting Eric “Amanda” Armada was a comedy riot - our Facebook humour continued in real life without a hitch. Fun times! 


Everybody was so friendly and welcoming I felt right at home and got changed for a paddle in the bay. As I paddled out, I recognised the voice next to me from the Yukon 1000 podcast, Craig Sawyer. We had a nice chat about the Yukon, paddling on the sea for the first time, Scott Innes being " 'missing in action" and not wanting home to come from Costa Rica, but more importantly "board admin!"  


Brendon Prince was busy organising but took time for a chat - awesome work, dude, especially as the location was changed because of the wind at the last minute. After having a nice chat with Shaun Watkins who was also paddling his first race here, we helped stacking the boards up as strong winds were forecast for the night. 


I managed to find my hotel in the windy back streets of Torquay and fuel up for the next day's hard laps with an enormous portion of Chicken Tikka Masala! After laying my kit out exactly as I needed it for the early start in almost German style, I then tried to sleep. At this point the teenage brain took over and said, "I'm excited" repeatedly until 5 o’clock in the morning, at some point singing in my head, "no sleep til SUPTwelve" sung to the tune of "no sleep till Brooklyn" from the Beastie Boys. 


So, no sleep at all is probably not the best way to prepare for 12 hours paddling, as I put on my heart rate monitor my pulse was 70 bpm constant, not a good sign. I filled all my water from the bathroom sink as I thought the landlady said. Turns out I misunderstood her, unfortunately. 


Down at the beach the atmosphere was chilled but with an underlying tension that you could almost taste. After finding a place to put my kit next to Shaun, I chatted to Karen Greener, who was busy encouraging almost everyone to do well and looking after her man Bruce, the favourite to win today and winner from last year. 


All too soon Brendon is telling us how the race is going to run and at 7:00 we are off! The first buoy after paddling through the diagonal chop from behind was weird for me as no one did step-back turns, teenage brain said go for it and father of two said don't be silly! Teenager brain won as usual. As I step back and lift the nose while turning, the wind pushes me back and I almost fall - okay, crossbow all day! 


As I paddled across the bay, we are all suffering from the 50 cm side chop driven by 30km/h wind with up to 45km/h gusts. My pulse is at a constant 150 bpm. That's not zone 2 dude, I say to myself. 


After the next buoy, I enjoy the fact that I can paddle on the right side for the first time this lap, now diagonal to the next buoy and headwind to the beach. Here the wind is at its strongest and if you stop paddling for half a second, you drift backwards. I see facial expressions all around me that say how can I do this for 12 hours? Coming up to the beach my mindset was ''only another 17 then", my 120-bpm touring paddle plan was thrown out of the window, and I decided to just paddle. 


I had forgotten to drink, and the first sip of water tasted like chemicals. I chalked it up to having a new Camelba­k pouch and ignored it. After three laps I took a break and ate a small amount, although I was feeling slightly sick, the more I ate, the better I felt. Had a sneak peek at my Garmin and discovered that I was way faster than I expected on my iSUP. My pre-race goal was 18 laps with a secret hope for over 20. With my calculated one and a half hours break, I could achieve this at my current pace. 


At 6 hours I had done 9 laps, so I was still on target, but I was starting to feel sick again and slowing down as a result. I paddled slowly into the beach and felt worse by the minute. As I walked up the stairs SUPjunkie was talking to me, but I clenched my teeth and walked fast to the toilet to avoid puking live on Faceboo­k! After the deed was done, I felt better but needed some rest. I spent some time sitting and trying to refeed and hydrate. Luckily Shaun Atkins (nice guy) was sitting next to me and gave me his water for which I was so grateful. 


Shaun was disappointed because he'd "only" done 10 laps, I told him that he was smashing It considering he hadn't been paddling very long. After I managed to drink my beloved cappuccino, I was ready to go again and walked down the steps with “don't stop me now" playing on the D decks in my head. I was fighting against feeling disappointed for the silly mistake I'd made but managed to draw resilience from my thousands of hours spent on the water and decided to just enjoy.  


I had fun and enjoyed exchanging insults with Eric “Amanda" Armada. At some point I realized while chatting to Karen Greener that I had one hour and ten minutes to go and told her that I wanted to do one more lap. She told me in no uncertain terms that she did 15 laps last year and I had to do at least 16! Yes Ma'am!  


Thanks to her peptalk, I paddled my fastest lap of the race! As I checked my Garmin on the way in, I saw that I had 40 minutes left, father of two brain said: "take it easy”, teenage brain said "run!" With a burst of adrenaline, I ran up the beach and approached the sandy steps with the old man brain sending warning signs. As I jumped from the rickety Ikea step to the platform, my dodgy knee was threatening to collapse but my old skate reflexes saved me, and I took the applause as reward for not splatting face first into the concrete steps. I ran down the steps and back down to the beach feeling like a hero and even did a kind of fast beach start to celebrate! 


The last lap was a joy. With hardly any wind, I walked up the steps with an intense feeling of: “done it!" It took me a few moments to realize that the cries of "last lap" were also directed at me! Luckily SUPjunkie was there to help, she explained the last lap rule to the silly 59-year-old teenager who didn't watch the video that Brendon carefully prepared. I then did one more lap at a slow pace with no wind. As I walked over the finish line and received my victory hug from SUPjunkie, I realized that I'd almost reached my goal despite everything, I was proud of myself! I stayed next to the finish line to watch the other paddlers coming in and tried to Imagine what hardships and pain they had gone through to get here. 


It was fun watching the awards ceremony and listening to Brendon Prince wax lyrical about what this magical sport/lifestyle/addiction does for and to us.  


I wanted to stay and chat, but I was getting seriously chilled in the wind that we had been fighting successfully all day, and my board was the only one left on the beach. I noticed that my paddle was broken, and my drysuit had a tear in the knee. Yes, races are hard on your body and your equipment.  


While driving home, I was thinking about what comes next in my adventure agenda.  

First of all, a 100km recovery paddle this weekend on my beautiful Rhine, and my big goal this year is to paddle the whole Rhine solo in 16 days (don´t tell the wife!) Finally, I want to do another “Rave on SUP” - DJ’íng on a big SUP while floating down the river!   


Thank you, Brendon, Sarah, Simon, Karen, Bruce, Shawn, Craig, Amanda, and everyone else at this fantastic, unique event that I will be coming back to next year. Brendon, when does the registration open for 2025 dude?


43 views1 comment

1 bình luận

David Partridge
David Partridge
02 thg 5

Well done Duncan Chapeau or whatever the German equivalent is!

bottom of page