Frangipani SUP at the Spring SUP Race in Italy

Friday 5th April marked the start of the 7th edition of the Spring SUP Race hosted by Delta SUP and held at Club Village & Hotel Spiaggia Romea, Comacchio, on the North East coast of Italy. For this ICF World Ranking Event the weather played ball, with a sunny, cloudless blue sky all weekend for everyone to enjoy.  The fantastic venue has the large ‘Lago della Nazioni’ private lake, is a sports resort and accommodation village with a central buffet style dining room, cafe, swimming pools, gift shop and a myriad of outdoor activities, from horse riding (they had meadows full of friendly white Camargue Delta ponies) to cycling through the beach fringed pine forests in search of flamingo filled lagoons.

Talking of flamingos, the cartoon “Mr Determined Flamingo” featured throughout the race event, adorning our race bibs, event publicity materials and the winners’ medals. Paddle faster, the flamingo is coming!

Accommodation was clean and functional, with different price points.  A basic two/three person ground floor chalet with fridge, ensuite shower, TV and half board (all you can eat buffet) for 2 people for 4 nights cost us €560, with self catering options also available. The dinner buffet was at times very busy (but with a great atmosphere) and the food was excellent, with wine and pasta on tap!

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The beach was a 10-15 minute walk from the accommodation through the pine forest, where we spotted several deer in the dappled sunshine.  When we checked out the beach on Thursday there was obviously a real problem with sea erosion, which had created steep and pretty dicey cliffs of sand that would not have held up to the number of competitors needing to access the beach for the ocean Distance race, planned for Sunday.  There was a digger there and work had clearly been done to try to rectify this but the organisers made the right safety decision and moved all Distance racing to the lagoon.

Between the woods and the beach there was a walking/cycling track that ran on for miles and some beautiful natural sculptures had been made from dried driftwood, that was plentiful all around.

The hosts Delta SUP and seasoned Race Director Simone Tugnoli Peron were very hospitable and helpful, though Simone and his team had a very busy and pretty stressful weekend with so many competitors of all ages battling it out over 1000m Technical and 200m Sprint heats, semis and finals plus 12km Distance and 5km Inflatable racing – including ParaSUP and Surf Ski – over 3 days, all on the long lake. That was a logistically very tough task with everyone needing race numbers, ongoing information updates and numbered electronic tags. And every race line-up boasted a myriad of nations, we counted at least 17 with just a quick glance at the start lists on day one, such a huge achievement. Well done and massive thanks to all the organisers.

The luscious lawn alongside the lagoon was shaded by fir trees and amongst these an impressive list of brands displayed their wares and chatted to athletes and their families in the event’s Sports Village, including Rapid SUP, NSP and JBAY.ZONE to name just a few. ‘Family’ was definitely the name of the game and the number of families and very determined youngsters competing was just mind blowing.  We have never seen so many teeny tiny full carbon paddles! We are so far behind the curve with this in the UK, it’s pretty sad.  Let’s keep the youth issue firmly on our agenda folks as we grapple with developing our sport in the UK.

A special and huge shout out to Vlad and his team at Rapid SUP who loaned Frangipani SUP Mike a 14’x 28” Grand Tourer for the 5km Inflatable race and who also provided a pop-up sauna for competitors. We had plenty of laughs with this great Ukrainian crew, based out of Poland!

Getting a beloved and valuable 14’ race board off our little island and to an international event can be a real headache but there were workable options for this event: fly it with Ryanair from Stansted to Bologna, then self-drive car hire (roof bars can be problematic!), or book the transport laid on by Simone and the hosts, or rent a race board at the venue (of course additional costs for all these).

I rented the Sunova Allwater FAAST Pro 14’ x 23” – a board I ride at home – from Andrii Kraitor’s Union Paddlers and their local rep at the event Stelios Moustakalis was SO helpful and efficient. The boards were ready Thursday afternoon for those who had arrived early, available on the lawn just steps away from the lagoon beach.  And whilst on the subject of the lovely Stelios, he made a very wise observation; without the Masters categories (aka the parents) there would probably be a lot less children and young competitors. So hats off to the ICF for the Masters age fleets! He also waxed lyrical about the ICF Stand Up Paddling World Cup that is being hosting in Crete, Greece, this September 27th-29th. It does sound beautiful, and Stelios says “Check it out and come over!”

There was a lot going on over the 3 days and you really had to keep your wits about you to not miss getting through Race Control onto your various start-lines. Friday saw Tech heats and semi finals.  Saturday was Tech finals, Sprint heats, semis and finals and the Inflatable race. The Sprint rounds took much longer than expected to process and overran somewhat, which I personally found a tad tricky from a hydration, nutrition and warming up perspective. I can only stomach oat or soy milk, banana and water before sprinting and with the delays, and afternoon turning to evening, I started to get hungry and chilly, plus I was still not quite sure when I would get started! But Sprints can get complicated for organisers with close racing, fast action and contested video finishes – but it happened eventually and I gave it both barrels to exhaustion!

The loud music on the beach was really pumping on Saturday with some incredible sounds and I personally went and shook the DJ’s hand and told him what a great job he was doing. I always dance in warm ups and waiting on the start line, to stay relaxed and zone out all the other competitors (thanks for that and everything else Coach Seychelle) and at this event I was rocking the music! It can be quite daunting with camera people walking in front of you filming you and drones hovering just above your head, as you try not to expire with nerves as you wait board in hand on the beach for the starting signal. But really, I don’t care what anyone thinks and at the ICF World Championships in Poland in 2022 I got a whole line of cold and nervous women dancing as we waited for the start sequence.

As ever Mathieu Astier, Mr TotalSUP worked tirelessly to commentate and bring the live feed to the homes of our team mates and friends, which is logistically much more complicated than it looks. His energy, enthusiasm and knowledge are very special and he is a very special person.

Sunday was another blue sky, sunny, cloudless day, with Distance racing, ParaSUP and Surf Skis, with several exhilarating mass starts and laps of the lagoon in warm conditions (whilst the white ponies grazed and looked on bemused!) After all racing was done and dusted, a catered lunch with a huge cake was laid on lakeside and an efficient prize-giving Sunday afternoon rounded off a brilliant weekend.  We were stoked to be amongst several amazing Brits racing with GBR next to their names in all three disciplines – we ALL raced our hearts out – but Ginnie Betts (3 firsts – a stunning hat-trick) and Sarah Perkins (2 seconds – boom!) stole their age category show, fighting hard to the very last second in stacked heats and races. Congratulations to them and well done to everyone who made it out to Italy.

Thanks very much Delta SUP, Simone, the local team and everyone in Comacchio for your hard work and sparkling hospitality. See you again!

Mahalo – Anni Ridsdill Smith – Frangipani SUP


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