Italian Team rider Leonard Nika completed the gruelling ultra-marathon distance of 204km, solo and unassisted in 24hrs and 40 minutes.
This is not Nika’s first SUP 11-City tour, but it was his first attempt at the non-stop edition and he is exhilarated, “I just did it — what a crazy SUP race!”. Here’s his recount of this extraordinary achievement in SUP racing.
Everything started with a conversation at dinner in Portugal 9 months earlier and I decided to sign up for the Non-stop edition of the 2022 SUP 11-City tour. First of all, I was inspired by a strong woman, Margriet Koeman, who did it the previous year. It was 11 years ago when I completed my last 11-City Tour in the 5-day edition. Doing it non-stop was something that amazed me thinking how can it be possible to do such a thing and I put it as a challenge with myself for this year… and now here I am, I’ve done it and also won! I tried to beat the world record of 23h 32min 16sec, but unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in this attempt, but coming so close to making it makes me think that something impossible can be possible.
I can’t thank everyone enough for making this possible ~ the strong team behind me that motivated me, helped me in all the logistics, for believing in me and mostly for following and monitoring me for the entire 24hrs to check if I was alright. It was this support and the positive vibes that got me to the finish line. Margriet, Cynthia, my girlfriend and my two kids that was always there cheering for me, Jacqueline and her husband, Tom, Jos and Fenna, Jordy Fraukje and of course all the event crew that was always helpful and organized for such a mission. Thank you!
My preparation for this event was more mental than physical. I did some yoga and meditation, in addition to my paddling training, but not for an ultra-marathon of 200km on a stand up paddleboard. In the past months, I had been focusing on the European Championship in Denmark and also training for the SUP surfing part.
Logistics are always a challenge when moving a 14-foot race board around, and fortunately, the equipment arrived right on time. For the 2022 SUP 11 City Tour, I used the 2023 Starboard Sprint 14×20.75 in the new Zero Construction (hollow carbon sandwich composite) which worked terrific in all the parts of the big race course, which was primarily flat but also had some sections with downwind, sidewind and yes, upwind. For my paddle, I choose the Lima Pre-preg Carbon in size L size because on flat water I prefer a bigger blade.
The first 50kms was kind of “easy” and that was my first goal to reach. I thought to myself if I can do that then I can go for another 50kms. It was when I reached the 100km mark, with more than 12hrs of paddling on my shoulders, that I realized what a crazy thing I’m doing. I got into a rhythm and the pain kind of disappeared, while I enjoyed the scenery as I looked up at the night sky – it was clear and with a full moon. Now 100 down with 100 more to go from there, there was only one thing on my mind — “I’m going to finish this in the fastest time!” I dug deep to pick up the pace so I began to paddle harder until the end, soaking in the amazing landscape and enjoying one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. There was a great team cheering for me which made this adventure truly incredible. The last 5km was the most difficult and painful, it felt like I was like doing 50kms in slow motion. In the end, the pain is forgotten and the memory of crossing the finish line was so satisfying and will always be remembered!
Photo Credits: SUP 11-City Tour