Photos: SUPSKIN, Wolfgang Leeb

Peter Bartl reports:

In winter, I always come up with some crazy ideas and this time I was wondering about the possibility of paddling through a long, cold winter night in Austria. The project could be called something like the
LONGEST NIGHT PADDLE QUEST” with the two main targets:

1) to paddle from dusk till dawn through the “longest night” of the year

2) to cover a distance of 100 kilometers or more

To paddle from sunset until sunrise didn’t sound too bad. And it was not really the longest night of the year (that was only 3 days later) but in return I just wanted to continue paddling after dawn for as long as possible, but up to a maximum of 24 hours!
Also, I have done more than 100 km in one go on several occasions before, so I felt tempted to maybe even charge for 200 km.

So I got in touch with friends and paddle pros to hear out their opinion: Günther Mossier from SUP Club Sulmsee and Wolfgang Leeb from SUPSKIN liked my idea and instantly promised their support for this adventure, even though it was on a very short notice (I asked them only a few days before).

My first option as paddle location was lake “Sulmsee” but unfortunately it was completely frozen! Special thanks to the owners of Röcksee for their support despite me telling them only 2 days in advance.
So, it was “Röcksee instead. The only downside was that it is much smaller and therefore I had to do more turns slowing down my overall speed.

19. December: On Saturday afternoon we prepared food and drinks for paddlers and supporters, set up a big JP-Australia tent, unrolled a carpet, prepared lights and candles and lit a fire place to survive the long and cold night.
My equipment was ready: my new JP-Australia Race, my Hippostick paddle and a very short “Peter Bartl” fin for the narrow turns.

After the start at 16:15 I was paddling at a pace of a little more than 9 km/h. Normally, I can do this for a long time, like at the 11-City event where I kept up the high pace for more than 5 hours and more than 45 km. But this day was different:
I over-paced and my body began to hurt very early in this adventure!
The temperatures at zero degrees Celsius would have been okay but the humidity of 100 % caused my lungs to get cold and to hurt!

All this after only 3 to 4 hours of paddling…

The longer it lasted, the more and more painful my whole body felt – except for the feet, although they were a little shaky. The pain killed all motivation and my mind tried to force me into quitting urgently. Normally pain decreases after a while, but not this time. My secret target –to paddle for 24 hours– already vanished very soon after the start and I only wanted to complete 10 hours.

But I did not want to give up!

So I just went on paddling, counting one round after another.

My supporters did a great job and sometimes guided me with the bike along the lake. I paddled on and gained more and more kilometers.

The sight was very poor and foggy and I had to be totally focused at all times to find my way and not to crash into one of the wooden jetties.

My pace went down and so did my motivation.

But then –after 10 hours– I regained a little bit of extra energy and pushed myself to achieve my second, 100 km target!

In the four breaks, a thin layer of ice instantly covered the board.

3 hours later it was done: after 13 hours the 100 kilometers were completed!
And because this was only shortly before sunset at about 7 am, I further reduced my pace and continued to paddle until dawn.

After a total of 14 hours and 10 minutes I had covered a distance of 116 km.

In the end, I am super happy that I managed to resist the urge to quit! And I am also a little proud of the achievement to paddle through one of the longest, cold nights in 2015. This adventure was for sure one of my hardest mental experiences ever!

Equipment: Board – JP-Australia Race 14; Paddle – Hippostick AL 7.5 186 cm; Fin – Peter Bartl Race Carbon; Clothes – Dador Dry Pant with 2 leggings underneath; 1 pair of socks, 2 pairs of neosocks, 1 Camaro Booties (size 46); 2 long sleeves shirts, 2 short sleeve shirts, race gilet, bike rain jacket; JP Beanies and caps; Speed Coach for timing