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The GlaGla SUP Race 2023

Posted by Lydia Burdett

This January, we joined over 800 paddlers from 25 different nationalities to assemble on the breath-taking shores of Lake Annecy to take part in the 9th edition of the iconic GlaGla Race. Part of the fun and friendly Alpine Lakes Tour, this unique SUP race has been challenging paddlers to brave the freezing paddling conditions (a staggering -3°C) for almost 10 years.

Our team went out to capture the action and find out why hundreds of paddlers have been returning to race on the frosty waters in France, time and again… The term ‘GlaGla’ means ‘teeth chattering cold’ and it is safe to say we swiftly understood the meaning of this phrase as soon as we arrived in the small town of Talloires. The normally quiet and sleepy village had been immersed with paddleboarders from across the globe, excited for an action-packed weekend of SUPracing.

Lake Annecy is overlooked by the dramatic snow-capped mountains of the northern French Alps. Whilst this makes a stunning backdrop for a SUP race, it also brings with it some seriously unpredictable weather conditions.

The morning of race day we awoke to a cold and crisp morning as we watched paddlers hastily scraping ice off their boards before warming up with hot coffee and donning their dry suits. However, sudden offshore winds left both race organisers and competitors feeling a little on edge as to whether the event could even go ahead. Thankfully, the ever-changing mountain weather worked in their favour and the winds dropped bringing clear skies and near perfect paddling conditions. A few last-minute adjustments to the course also meant that this SUP race could handle another shift if the wind chose to come back... Welcome to the mountains!

Wearing the right kit is essential when paddling in these wintry conditions. The majority of paddlers chose dry suits & wetsuits, while spectators and event MCs bundled up in our Pro Change Robe Evo. Our new Revolution 3-in-1 Waterproof Parka jacket also came in very handy with the team as we took to the water on the media boat to capture the live action of the SUP race, and to get amongst the atmosphere and true essence of the GlaGla. 

There are two main categories for paddle board racing at the GlaGla - a 6km short course or a long distance 15km that takes competitors around the lake. We spotted plenty of Red racing paddle boards out on the lake, one being that of SUP the World legend, John Mcfadzean, paddling the 6km route. He later shared just how special and rewarding this race can be… 

"The GlaGla Race for me is a trip down memory lane - I came here 5 years ago, once again challenging that fear or the cold! I never do it to get the best time, or an expectation on the podium, for me it's about the opportunity to paddle board in epic locations and the opportunity to hang about with likeminded people"

- John Mcfadzean

There were some strong competitors in this SUP race, a lot of them fighting the freezing conditions to the end. Many had returned from previous years to beat their earlier times, while others took a more light-hearted approach wearing fancy dress. The distance races were followed by a multi-person Dragon board race and a technical race. Frenchman Ludovic Teulade (listed as one of the top ten SUP racers in the world) took the top spot for the men’s category, completing the 15 Km SUP race in under 1 hour 30 minutes and Switzerland's Anna Tschirky took first place for the ladies in the competition, finishing in 1 hour and 36 minutes.

If you put the paddle board racing aside however, the true magic of the GlaGla has to be its community. From the dedicated volunteers helping participants prepare for their races  through to the enthusiastic spectators cheering from the side. It is the community atmosphere that keeps paddlers coming back each year to challenge themselves and their peers on the water all while reconnecting with like-minded people. It also offers an opportunity to mix and paddle alongside some of the world's best SUP racers and although the conditions can be challenging, anybody from anywhere can sign-up. The community offer great support for new paddlers looking to challenge themselves for the first time.

We caught up with one of the paddlers and volunteers, Estelle Tuaz-Torchon, to ask her why she loves the GlaGla SUP Race so much… 

"I managed a good personal time on my Red Elite paddle board this year. The weather was good in the end - We were afraid of the wind beforehand but it dropped and the sun came out. I improved my time by a quarter from the previous year and I'm incredibly pleased to finish in the top 5 in the inflatable SUP category''

- Estelle Tuaz-Torchon

Next year celebrates 10 years of the GlaGla race, so why not sign up today and start next year with a big (teeth chattering-ly cold) bang?