Emirates Palace SUP Festival 2016

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On Saturday, March 12th, stand-up paddlers from around the UAE joined together for the third annual Emirates Palace SUP Festival. Held on the pristine beach of the iconic hotel, the SUP Festival, organized by the Abu Dhabi Stand Up Paddlers, is an all day paddle festival with a variety of events to suit all paddlers young and old, those with plenty of experience and even complete newbies. This is one of the greatest appeals of the event, the ability to attract families, friends and keen paddlers to join together and share the love of the sport.

The morning started with raindrops, a sky filled with clouds and a strong breeze that was sweeping over the typically complete flat water in front of the Emirates Palace Beach. These conditions, if continued, would have provided much needed protection and relief from the sun, but the wind would’ve added an element of difficulty to the race course. Thankfully the clouds parted, the sun started to shine, and the wind died all before the first race kicked off at 10:30 a.m. It was a beautiful day for a SUP Festival.

With 69 participants from 22 different countries, as young as 5 and as old as 58, the event brought together a wonderful international mix of ages to compete against each other in three main event distances. These included a 500m Sprint Beginner Race for Kids, Juniors, Men and Women. A 2km Recreation Race for Juniors, Men and Women and a 4km Distance Race for Juniors, Men and Women.


This year’s race course proved to be the most challenging to date, a 1km course with six buoy turns and a 30m beach run in between laps. The beach run has become a signature part of the festival, in which racers jump off their board each lap, proceed with a beach run around a “chute” lined with flags and spectators cheering them on, then sprint back to their board to complete another lap. The 500m race completed two laps of shortened course, while the 2km and 4km events saw racers do two laps and four laps respectively. The feeling of jumping off your board to run the “chute” can be exhausting, however the cheers from the crowd encouraging each other to “Go, Go, Go” is an awesome feeling and makes every paddler want to do their best. Getting up close with the race course is the key to participants and spectator interaction which provides an added element of excitement for the races.

This year, the 4km race saw veteran and leading male UAE paddler, Amer Dandachi take top honour with relative ease. A quick start off the line, he gradually made space between second placer, Nick Yates, another seasoned veteran. Nick paddled hard to keep second throughout the race with a number of paddlers on his heels including, teen and Naish Middle East sponsored paddler, Guy Welchman. However, in the final lap it was Brian Stephenson who passed F-one paddler, Jakub Szczensy and Guy Welchman to secure the 3rd spot in the line up.


The 4km women’s race was won by Naish Middle East rider Jen Scully, who also was busy playing two hats as she has spearheaded the event over the past three years. Passionate about SUP and bringing the community together, this event allows her to do just that and fit in racing too. Guy Welchman and Conrad Bay took first and second in the junior category.

The 2km races saw tops spots taken by Mostafa Al Hussaini and Esther Farrant, both veteran paddlers, but making a return to racing after a year hiatus. The surf style race 12’2 and under were won by Sebastian Lhomme and Verna Nizolla. Lucas Bay won the junior 2km race.

Arnaud Perrisse and Jacinta Veitch racing in the 500m sprint took home 1st place for the Men and Women respectively. While Celia Dulieu and Lewis Cochrane won the sprint kids races.


With the main, more competitive, races out of the way, there was plenty of more fun on the way. The afternoon saw the team relay and tandem races, which allowed for everyone, young and old to race together in some exciting team racing. The tandem race had two people on one board racing around a small course of three buoys about 75 metres in distance all together. One racer stood and paddled, while the partner laid on the board, using their hands to help paddle along and gain speed. This was a close race, which saw carnage at the buoy as people tried their best to hang on. Coming in the lead crossing the finish line together was Jules Chartier and Victoria Thieffen.

The highlight of the day was the Mega SUP Team Relays. Using abnormally large stand up paddle boards from Red Paddle Co., these gigantic boards are used for team paddling. In these relay, teams of six were pitted against one another in a time trial. They paddled in unison or at least tried to, around a buoy and back, running the chute until they all crossed the line together. The top two teams battled it out in the Team Relay final. Team Naish just nudged out Team Red Paddle/F-One and claimed victory in the Mega SUP team contest.


The event wrapped with the annual N1SCO Naish One Design Race – a 100 metre sprint knockout – with exciting heats battling it out until the final. This is one event in which you never know who the winner will be until the final heat and the first paddler cross the line. You have to have a quick start, an even quicker turn at the buoy and be ready to jump off the board and run or even jump and fly through the finish line to secure the top spot. This year’s winner included Nick Yates, Jen Scully, Guy Welchman and Celia Dulieu.

Thank you to all of the participants, the spectators and of course the sponsors for a wonderful day at the 2016 Emirates Palace SUP Festival.

The event would not have been possible without the support from the following sponsors:

Emirates Palace, A2Z Events, OutdoorUAE, Naish, Ocean Sports Middle East, Pro-Limit, Crowne Plaza, F-One, Red Paddle Co., Starboard, SeaYou, Hydro Marine, Eywoa, Wadi Adventure, Live Love SUP and Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi


500m Sprint Men

1. Arnaud Perrisse
2. Paolo

500m Sprint Women

1. Jacinta Veitch
2. Severine
3. Ingrid Perrisse

500m Sprint Girls

1. Celia Dulieu
2. Nikka Vugrinec
3. Yenise Lefaut

500m Sprint Boys

1. Lewis Cochrane
2. Remy Lhomme
3. Sasha Perrisse

2k Rec. Men 12’6

1. Mostafa Al Hussaini
2. Jules Chartier
3. Adrian Nizzola

2k Rec. Women 12’6

1. Esther Farrant
2. Alexandra Ruta
3. Victoria Thieffin

2k Rec 12’2 & Under Men

1. Sebastian Lhomme
2. Stephen Gilbert
3. Chris Cochrane

2k Rec 12’2 & Under Women

1. Verna Nizzola
2. Gaelle Dulieu
3. Kristy Gkarikou

2k Junior

1. Lucas Bay
2. Dominic Vurginec
3. Levi Chard

4k Distance Men

1. Amer Dandachi
2. Nick Yates
3. Brian Stephenson

4k Distance Women

1. Jen Scully
2. Christel
3. Marie Lalanne

4k Distance Junior

1. Guy Welchman
2. Conrad Bay

Team Relay 1st

1. Levi Chard
2. Hosam Ashcraft
3. Nick Yates
4. Jen Scully
5. Guy Welchman
6. Brian Stephenson

Tandem 1st

Victoria Thieffen and Jules Chartier

N1SCO Naish Keiki

1. Celia Dulieu
2. Yenise Lefaut
3. Laura Lhomme

N1SCO Naish Junior

1. Guy Welchman
2. Conrad Bay
3. Lucas Bay

N1SCO Naish Women

1. Jen Scully
2. Marie Lalanne
3. Ester Farrant

N1SCO Naish Men

1. Nick Yates
2. Jakub Sczcensy
3. Amer Dandachi

Words By: Jen Scully

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