Red Bull Midsummer Vikings 2022
This year saw the third Red Bull Midsummer Vikings take part in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The event is the brainchild of multi times world champion, and twice winner of the utterly insane Red Bull Heavy Water, Casper Steinfath.
The concept is very simple: It's a 24 hour team relay race. For a whole day, team members take their turn in paddling the just shy of 5km course taking in both sheltered water in the Amager Strandpark and not so sheltered water of the Øresund. Each year the event raises money for a local charity and this year 71.614 DKK was collected for SMILfonden!
We'd originally purchased a team ticket a couple of years ago, but COVID managed to scupper that, so we rolled out ticket forward twice. Teams need between 3 and 5 paddlers, but due to the original members other commitments, we ended up with only two guaranteed paddlers. We put a shout out on social media, and thanks to the fabulous 'Sup My Race' group on Facebook, we found a third members.
Our Team (FAbbey - named after our club, AbbeySUP) now consisted of myself (Glyn Smith), Ben Green and Random-bloke-called-Chris.
Myself and Ben have paddled together a fair amount, with the Saltwalk Race Team (doing a variety GBSUP and N1SCO races), and events such as the Trent 100 and Loch Awesome.
Random Chris turned out to be Chris Macdonald, a team paddler for Loco Surfing, so no pressure there!
The logistics of getting to Copenhagen were initially worrying, but turned out to be pretty straightforward. We'd spoken with other paddlers we knew who were going to make sure we hadn't missed anything obvious. Ben and I arrange to fly together and meet Chris out there as we were in different parts of England. Ben and I flew from Gatwick to Copenhagen with Norwegian Airlines, and Chris flew from Manchester on EasyJet. All of us were travelling with iSUPS and travel paddles. Norwegian Airlines had a 23kg baggage allowance and didn't bat an eyelid at the board bags!
Ben and I had a 8:45am flight, so decided to head down the night before and use a hotel/parking deal. So off we set on Thursday night, arriving in plenty of time to check in, grab some food and a quick drink.
Friday morning saw a 5am alarm call to give us plenty of time for the taxi ride to the airport and to check in.
Checking in was much less hassle than we were expecting. We scanned our passports, entered the flight details and printed off the luggage tags. Having bigger bags seemed to work to our advantage as we were directed out of the queue and told to drop them at the oversize baggage drop of point, which we did and then fought out way through the crowd at security into the departure area to grab a quick breakfast and wait to board.
The flight itself was exactly what you wanted in a flight. Not too long (around 90 minutes) and basically boring!
Copenhagen airport was really nice. Much nicer than Gatwick! Our bags appeared at the collection point a couple of minutes after we got there, and it only took a few minutes to clear passport and custom checks and head outside.
After getting only slightly lost, we eventually found the Metro station and caught the M2 line for two stops to Femøren St. (Metro)
We'd booked a room for the three of us at the Radisson Park Inn, which was just next to the Metro station, and a ten minutes walk from the Paddle HQ - ideal location!
The hotel kindly let us check in early, so Ben and I dropped off the bags and took a quick walk to meet Random Chris and everyone else.
At the bar area, we found our missing Teammate (now called just Chris) having a quick drink with Allistair and Alison (The infamous SUP Tandem paddlers AKA The Kilted Warriors!). And it was rude to refuse a swift half!
Casper and Team were hard at work with the finishing touches, and put up the signup for the Naish Mega SUP Super Sprint races. We joined up with a few from one of the other UK teams (From Southampton) and decided it would be fun to enter - Team Hybrid was born!
The Sprint Races were a simple format - two teams of up to eight race their Naish Mega SUP to a buoy, turn and return through the large Red Bull inflatable finish arch, after passing over or under a rope obstacle. There are no other rules...
After a quick practise, we were off. Team Hybrid made it first to the buoy, and then the rope obstacle when we were rudely boarded by the opposition 😂 I remember swimming quite a bit after being pushed off, but managed to grab hold of the other board (before being pushed in again!), so round one to us!
We somehow managed to win the other heats and made it to the finals, which we came second in (out of two!) despite repeated attempts of sabotage on our part. Casper kindly gave us valiant runner-ups a cold refreshing beer 😀
Once the Super Sprints were over, it was time to relax properly, grab a beer and some food (great burgers by the way!) and then head back to the hotel for some sleep before the chaos.
Saturday was another beautiful day, so after breakfast in the hotel, we kitted up and headed down to the race area to get ready. I'd thrown a 3mx3m camping tarp in the bag, and this was now being used by three teams as a base camp!
Due to weight and size limits, we'd flown without pumps for the boards, but Allistair and Alison from the Kilted Warriors kindly let us use theirs, so it was time to get pumping and get the boards ready.
In terms of boards, I was using my trusty Naish One N1SCO (12'6x30"), Chris was on a 14'x27" Loco and Ben was riding an Itiwit 14'x25".
With the boards blown up and deposited in one of the two storage areas, we headed over for the midday race briefing, followed an hour later by the Opening Ceremony.
The race itself was due to start at 2pm, with all paddlers on the water by 1:45. All paddlers then paddle behind one of the safety boat up towards the top end of the inside water. Once we got to the second bridge, the first bunch of paddlers would carry on the lap, and the rest of the their team would turn around and paddle back to the start.
Our Team's plan was to each do a single lap, and then switch to two laps each for most of the next 24 hours.
So, at 1:45, we joined 400 other paddlers on the water to start the 3rd Red Bull Midsummer Viking challenge. And 15 minutes later, we set off following the safety/disco boat.
The first half of lap one was relatively gentle, but as soon as we got to the second bridge, where the safety boat left us, any pretence of going for a gentle paddle soon went out the window as everyone dug in and started to race.
After the second bridge, the course curved to the right and then around a headland and we were in the sea between Denmark and Sweden!
Fortunately, for the first lap, the sea was relatively calm, but there was a strongish tail wind, so it was great to try and ride the bumps for a little while. The course followed a line of buoys, before passing another headland (with a horrendous amount of reflected chop!) and a gentle right turn, crossing another small bay before a sharp turn into the sheltered water once again, and then up towards the finish line.
We had a small glitch in our first change over, but soon Chris was underway for his first lap, followed some time later by Ben
After doing a lap each, we now started on two laps sessions. And the Danish weather started to show it's sense of humour. The wind was increasing, so it was a strong headwind up the calm, inside waters, and than a strong side wind on the sea leg. And with the side wind came the side chop. Lots and lots of side chop! A lot of people were falling and more were paddling for some time on their knees. Being a predominantly inland paddler, I really do not like side chop, so after a few stumbles in the white capped waves, I paddled a fair bit kneeling. (Along with the wash from small boats and large container vessels out in the Oresund, there chop was probably over two foot in places, and often breaking over your board - I had flashbacks to Loch Awe!).
As the afternoon turned into the evening and the night, we swapped places and took our turns paddling for two laps. After each turn, it was customary to head to the large displays showing the live tracking data and seeing where we were compared to everyone else. Off the water, there was time to refuel and drink and relax waiting for your next turn.
The wind fortunately died down as night approached, but at the briefings, thunderstorms had been mentioned for Sunday morning.
Having come off the water at around sunset, my next stint was around 1am. As it was midsummer, and slightly more north than the midlands in the UK, the sky was never totally black, definitely helped by lights from nearby Copenhagen. I caught up with Amy from Saxon Raiders (Amy is a fellow ex-Saltwalk paddler and occasional paddle buddy!) on the way to the open sea. As we went around the headland, the sea was mostly calm (thankfully!) but the mist was rolling in. Apparently my comments about it looking like something from a Stephen King book did not go down too well!
Having worried a little about the night paddling beforehand, it was very straightforward. The buoys we followed in the daytime all had lights, and the headland halfway down the outside straight was fitted with a huge light on a crane. All paddlers were required to have a red light on their body after 9pm, so it was easy to see a row of flashing red lights moving off into the distance. Passing the large light the welcome sight of the entrance to the inside water was visible in the distance.
Aside from my rear light, I'd also taken my night paddling light front light (a waterproof, rechargeable GoPro mounted light) which we use for night paddling in the winter months. Very, very glad to have it on as it gave a good spread of light to see any oncoming bumps.
After my two laps, I attempted to grab an hour or two of sleep back at the tarp. I'd also taken an old carrymat (used it to wrap the paddle in for travelling) and this was proving very popular with everyone!
I didn't manage to sleep properly, but it was definitely a good idea to lie down and at least try and snooze. The weirdest part of the night was being awoken by someone's spaniel puppy who had decided that my face needed a thorough licking!
Being awake, coffee was desperately needed, so it was another trip over to the main food tent to drink, refill hydration packs and attempt to fully wake up.
With the sun making a damp and cloudy appearance, the first signs of bad weather really started. Torrential rain was the first issue, and we had to move some of our (still) dry clothing out of the tarp shelter and into one of the main marquees in the camping area. Then the thunder started, and the race director made the call to stop the race and wait for the storm to pass. This was probably the worst part of the whole race for me. We'd had no proper sleep for over 24 hours, the temperature had dropped to around 12/13 degrees C. It was wet and gloomy, and the adrenaline/red bull/caffeine were all starting to wear off. After starting to shiver, it was time to put on some layers (thin neoprene top and some paddling leggings), have a walk around and grab a hot chocolate.
Throughout the stoppage, the race team kept us up to date with the latest forecasts and some weather inspired music (Riders on the Storm, etc). The storm only stopped the fun for a couple of hours, and it was soon time to get everyone back out racing.
As there were only 5 or 6 hours left, we decided to do single laps each. Chris went out first as it was his lap that got cancelled.
My last few laps were mostly uneventful - We had to be back to the finish line by 1:45pm for the mass Champagne lap. Ben arrived around 1:15, and there was no way we were going to do a 5km circuit in under 30 minutes on inflatables!
The Champagne lap was a short paddle to try and recreate the Smil logo from this years charity. We followed the safety boats and everyone paddled around a large circle whilst the Mega SUPs made the face. We then paddled back through the arch to receive the finish medals 😀
The last item on the agenda was the prize giving.
In total, we raised 71.614 DKK for the SMILfonden
And that was it! 24 hours finished.
We than deflated boards, packed up our stuff and headed back to the hotel for a welcome shower and to change into no paddling clothes!
Ten minutes walk from the hotel was a fantastic Thai restaurant and burger bar, which was just what we needed after the last 24 hours.
The next day, we spent a few hours bumming around Copenhagen, and then flew home.
It was probably the best paddling event, and one of the best non paddling events I've been to. Would I do it again? Well, we're already planning it!
See you there!
Highs and Lows
The worst points for me (in no particular order)
6am - race stopped, cold, tired, shivering
Red Bull and adrenaline come down!
3am - doggy face wash
Monday afternoon - flying home
(there were far, far more than listed here - the whole event was fantastic)
Naish Super Sprints - And bonus of runner up beer from Casper.
Our Team - we did good!
Random beer and cake being forced on us on Friday by a party next to the event HQ
1am sea paddling - surreal experience
A few bits and bobs about what we took, how we got there, etc
Ben and I flew with Norwegian Airlines from Gatwick to Copenhagen. Flights were around £115 each (return) and included 23kg of luggage
Chris flew from Manchester with EasyJet
Ben and I had a hotel/parking package from Sandman hotels. This included taxi to and from the airport.
In Copenhagen, we had a three bed room for three nights at around £400 total.
The hotel was 2 stops on the metro (around £3) and ten minutes walk to the race,
The boards flew as hold baggage in their boardbags. Special bags/suitcases were not needed. My N1SCO travelled in style in a Fanatic boardbag (with wheels) as my N1SCO bag is very tatty!
Boards and Stuff
I used a Naish One (N1SCO one design raceboard). It's 12'6x30" and is dead easy to paddle. It's not the quickest board, but it's certainly not the slowest if you put the effort in! Propulsion was with a QuickBlade UV-88 four piece carbon paddle.
Ben used an Itiwit Race 14'x25 and an Itiwit Carbon paddle. Can you guess where Ben works?
Chris Used a Loco 14'x27 along with a matching Loco three piece paddle. Chris is sponsored by Loco!
We all used waist leashes for the race.
No special paddling gear was needed. Thin neoprene was good during the cold early morning, but the conditions in Copenhagen in the summertime were mostly great, and similar to UK weather (it did rain)
I took a 1.5l hydration backpack. Others had bottles.
I also took some High-5 electrolyte tablets (caffeine and sugar free) instead of supplement powder to keep the weight down and avoid travelling through customs with a ziplock bag of strange white powder.
Lights - Cheap bike lights worked really well when clipped onto a waist leash.
I also had a GoPro mounted front light (around £15 from Amazon)
My paddle was wrapped in a cheap camp mat.
A 3x3m camping tarp, with poles was also thrown in. Next year we'll try and take a proper tent.
Toothbrush/Toothpaste and deodorant. The hotels all provided soap/shampoo/towels.
Clothes - spare shorts/tshirts/underware for dryland
Paddling clothes - Shorts, technical t-shirts, neoprene rash vest, cap (keeps sun and rain off your face!), wetshoes (did paddle mostly barefoot)
My luggage came in at just 23kg, but was probably over limit returning home thanks to everything being wet!
In hand luggage, we took battery packs for phone/watches and the lights (no LI-ON batteries in the hold luggage).
I also took a small Fuji digital camera to get some better snaps.
Oh, and a passport.
Huge thanks to my team mates Ben and Chris, as well as the other residents (denizens?) of Camp Little Britain - The Saxon Raiders (Dave, Carl, Amy and Nataliya) and The Kilted Warriors (Allistair and Alison).
It was an absolute pleasure to paddle with you all 😀