Villefranche Paddle Race: The new event on the French Riviera this weekend (here’s how it all started).
With Tahiti and Carolina just around the corner, this weekend marks the end of The Paddle League pre-season as a triple header sweeps New Zealand, NorCal and the French Riviera. But while the NZ SUP Championships (rebranded to the “Hoe Toa” race this year) and Santa Cruz PaddleFest (now in its 32nd year) are mainstays of the early season calendar, the Villefranche race in the south of France is fresh out of the box.
It’s always promising to see new events pop up as this sport evolves, and it’s even better when they’re in such a postcard-perfect location. Add in the event’s claim of being created by paddlers for paddlers, and I’ve been curious about the Villefranche race ever since I noticed their slick Instagram campaign a few months ago.
Having a strong focus on attracting amateurs/juniors and being held in a nation that is arguably the strongest breeding ground of talent in the sport today (there are 16 French paddlers on the world rankings), the inaugural Villefranche Paddle Race was also a prime candidate for The Paddle League Regionals.
So on the eve of the event, I asked one of the paddlers-turned-organisers, Martin Letourneur, what his motivation was for helping create this new race.
When I moved to Nice to study, the town of Villefranche was one of the first places I visited and immediately I saw the potential for SUP. It’s a beautiful place to paddle. So with three friends and the local stand up paddle club we took it upon ourselves to create the first paddle race in the Nice area and help share the sport with the local community.
It’s been organised with a lot of “good vibes” and support from the city and the sponsors. A lot of people have helped us and and the whole thing feels really positive!
It’s only the first year so we don’t expect a massive turnout, but we do hope to help grow the paddling community in this region with this event in the years to come.
It’s been a super learning experience as I’m know trying to connect my business studies with my experience as a pro athlete and trying to link it all together. With my shoulder injury and recent surgery, it feels awesome to stay busy in the SUP world by discovering all the behind-the-scenes aspects of a SUP events.
I’m stoked to be part of the sport even though I can’t race for another two or three months — hopefully I’ll be back for the end of the EuroTour.
So there you go. The Villefranche Paddle Race. A new one to keep an eye on.
We’ll have a full recap after the weekend (along with the rolling results from New Zealand and Northern California), but in the meantime you can follow Villefranche on Facebook and Instagram (ditto for The Paddle League Facebook | Instagram).
Love those shots of the paddlers walking through the old town…