Saturday, November 24, 2007

24 Hour Canoe Paddling Endurance Race

Believe it or not there are people out there who's idea of a good weekend is to spend twenty four hours paddling their canoe around a couple of bouys ! Admittedly the winner gets a couple of thousand euros, but I get the feeling that this race is about more than the money. It's more about 'Who's the Hombre' who can paddle his canoe through the wee small hours and stay sane.

Nikki photographed the start (I was on the water windsurfing, and let me tell you it was Windy and Wavey) and then we both watched them in the late afternoon, and by then they had done less than a Quarter of the race !

Here's our mate Drew and his paddling partner just before the start. In his day job Drew is a super hero in the quagmire of Tenerifean building logistics, but it's his alter-ego as "El Toro", an all round water-man that we see here: expert surfer, champion outrigger canoeist, and a kind of Tenerifean version of Laird Hamilton (the legendary big wave surfer and all round 'waterman' from Hawai). He's also doing up our new house, so I'm hoping that he won't be too knackered from the race :-)

Other contestants get a tow out, but Drew just lifts the whole outrigger and strides into the water ....

and they paddle off for the first minute of the 1,440 that they'll be out there ...

So it's a bit like the Le Mans endurance sports car race. Teams of two swap places through the night, and the team with the most laps at the end of the 24 hours is the winner.

Drew says he started out "paddling like hell to break the opposition" and then just kept paddling like hell ! Apparently the first few hours were the hardest, but eventually the body gets used to it and it becomes all about rhythm, counting strokes and breathing. The pain just gets him angry and motivates him, and the night was actually the best part of the race because the wind died, in the darkness there's no sense of distance and he felt like he was flying.

The Morning After

Nikki actually got up at the crack of dawn (remarkable but true !) to take these evocative shots of the exhausted competitors ...

The Finish

The Winners

Drew and his partner paddled over 300 kilometers and won it by a big margin, which wasn't a surprise - on a good day nobody out paddles El Toro !

Apparently his best moment was nipping into the Chinese in the square for a bite to eat while his partner was paddling (aha, so hardly roughing it then) and his worst moment ? ...
"realising there was no actual prize money" - just a trophy ... which he would, of course, have to defend next year, and so go through the whole thing again !

(nb there's more about El Toro in episode 3 of my Life On The Reef column for Boards magazine, reprinted on the blog here)

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