The History of the Iconic Nautic Paddle down the River Seine

This weekend would have marked the final stop of the APP World Tour which would have seen the best racers in the world assemble for the world racing final in the heart of Paris, where the Racing world champions would be crowned.

The APP athletes alongside 1,000 Stand-Up Paddle enthusiasts would have taken to the River Seine yesterday for the paddle of their lives through Paris’ most impressive landmarks. The APP Pros would have been welcomed inside the Salon Nautique for the supercharged sprints in the indoor pool, a set up that is the first of its kind in the SUP world.

But where did this unparalleled, annual triumph begin? It all started in 2009 when the Stand-Up Paddle brand, Naish, was hosting a SUP tour in France and were searching for a special venue for its finale. With the Nautic Paddle boat show on France’s doorstep, which has welcomed 200,000 water sport lovers to Paris annually since 1962 and Stand-Up Paddling on the rise, where better to host the final? It was decided, the SUP tour would culminate in the monumental River Seine.

The founder of the River Seine race, Didier Lafitte, recounts the origins of the event that has become a hallmark of the annual SUP calendar.

“The first event was complicated. 100 people were supposed to paddle, but we had to reduce the fleet to 30 because it was so cold. It was – 2 degrees Celsius, everyone was freaking out. It hasn’t been that cold since. The shoulders of the paddlers’ wetsuits were white with ice, it was crazy. Some people came to do it that couldn’t even paddle, the first event was a bit of a mess.”

But since its rocky beginnings, the event has gone from strength to strength and is now the biggest SUP event in the world. Where 30 people paddled in the original crossing, on the 10 year anniversary in 2019 1,000 paddlers took part and there were a further 2,000 applications.

In 2019, paddlers from over 40 nations assembled on the quay side of the River Seine to paddle through snow, rain and wind to see Paris like it has never been seen. Paddlers start at the age of 12 and go all the way up to the age of 70, meaning no one is left out of the feat.

“It is December in Paris; it is freezing, it is raining, and you have to get up at 5am when it is still dark, but still 1,000 people travel to Paris from all over the world for the opportunity to get a unique view of Paris. Each year when I am in the boat, managing the race, I am always like a kid watching the river and the bridges. It is just so beautiful and to see it from the river is truly unique.” - Didier Lafitte, Founder of the Nautic Paddle.

It is hard to imagine 1,000 Stand-Up Paddle boards making it in one piece to the start line on the Seine, but by now the Nautic Paddle is like a well-oiled machine. The 1,000 participants get briefed at 6pm the night before the race and the crew wake up at 3am on the morning of the race to transport 1,000 boards to the quay for a 7:30 start.

With SUP growing exponentially across the globe and Paris being the capital of this growth, where more suitable for the final of the APP World Racing Tour? 2018 was the first year that the APP hosted its finale of the racing tour in conjunction with the Nautic Paddle event. It meant that the biggest names in the industry would congregate in the River Seine for the ultimate stab at the world title. Four world champions have been crowned in Paris so far including SUP icons Casper Steinfath and Seychelle. This partnership has meant that not only do the participants have the opportunity to paddle in one of Europe's most iconic cities, but it allows the amateurs to be a part of the world tour and to revel in the electric celebrations that come with an APP final.

“It’s like having a tennis game with Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, SUP lovers all over the world can paddle alongside their heroes like Casper Steinfath or Michael Booth, it makes it so special.” - Didier Lafitte, Founder of the Nautic Paddle.

The APP and the Nautic Paddle have revolutionised the SUP event by firstly providing an unparalled opportunity for pros and amateurs to unite, but also by providing an indoor sprint venue in a swimming pool- the first of its kind in the Stand-Up Paddle industry. It allows SUP to be brought to the masses in a spectator-friendly way that is so immersive, those that watch are guaranteed to feel the spray off the pro’s paddles.

Casper Steinfath was crowned with his first ever world championship title in Paris 2019 after competing on the Stand-Up World Series since its origin. He reminisces over this colossal moment with us.

"Paddling down the Seine River in Paris is always something special. But in the heat of battle I usually don't get to pay attention to all the cool French monuments. But there is something very cool about paddling past the Eiffel Tower just as the December sun is rising. It makes the whole atmosphere magical and I could not have dreamed of a better place to secure my 2019 World title."

The APP and the Nautic Paddle have been successful in their feat to bring SUP to the city and this is just the beginning. The Pros and amateur paddlers will return to Paris in 2021 for their annual pilgrimage down the River Seine where two more world champions will be crowned.

Stay tuned at APP World Tour and @appworldtour for entertainment and tour updates.