3 days, 3 countries, 100 miles, 1 lake. Mario Stecher SUP’s Germany’s Lake Constance

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This past summer, Mario Stecher went on tour around Germany’s largest lake, Lake Constance on his Tahoe SUP Rubicon.   Bringing back with him stunning photos and an unforgettable story of castles and vineyards,  lions and lighthouses and of course, cake and coffee!

100 miles completed through Austria, Switzerland and Germany on Lake Constance  (Bodnsee)  but the journey is more about a personal comeback from a debilitating kite surfing injury inspired by the strength and confidence building ability of Standup Paddling.

Thanks to Mario, for this entertaining and educational, translated excerpt of his diary.  Originally edited by Stephan Gölnitz (www.sup-mag.de), translated into english by Andy Dressler (www.seatrek.de)

 

Mario Stecher on Tour – First SUP Circumnavigation of Lake Constance Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germany

9-11 July 2013, 160km (100 miles) along the shoreline, 28 hrs total paddle time

“Mario – this is a crazy idea!“ – were the first thoughts as I started my SUP adventure on this huge and impressive lake nestled between Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Up to 13 hours a day on the SUP, amazing encounters and new perspectives, on Germany’s largest lake… paddle Nirvana!

How it all started:

Athletes constantly need new goals and challenges. After a complicated operation for a broken leg after a kite surf accident on the
Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germanyCabo Verde Islands, and the long rehab that followed, it was only a short time before I felt the extreme urge to get out of my mental funk and get back outside, get out into nature, and get really fit again.

SUP training on the local bavarian lakes is one thing, but I needed a taste of what was to come; an appetizer to see if I was capable of paddling something much bigger.  On 17th,  June 2013, in +35C (95 Fahrenheit) and sunny conditions I set out to paddle around Lake Chiemsee, just southeast of Munich, Germany. After 11.5 hours and 80km (50 miles) of sweating it out, I had the tired but positive feeling that I was ready for the real thing.

Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germany9th of July 2013. Day 1:

After loading up my VW bus beyond capacity, while on the Autobahn to Lake Constance, I heard on the radio a story about an extreme swimmer who had recently failed to swim the length of Lake Constance (approx 63km, 40 miles). The announcer seemed to be saying to me “just leave it alone“… don’t do it“… and with a wry smile at the corner of my mouth, I drove onwards.

Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germanyDay 1 started at 05:00 getting dry packs and equipment onto my shiny new Tahoe SUP Rubicon touring board. The radio once again came to my aid, this time with a song by Lenny Kravitz “Fly Away“. I felt ready and was eager to put the board into the water and get started.

06:00 stark reality kicked in and my mood dampened as I pushed through a surprising amount of plastic garbage mixed between driftwood. A sad picture given that my launching point near the city of Lindau, Germany, is in the middle of a nature reserve. It all got better quickly however as the lake panorama opened up in front of me.

Not so Lake like

Lake Constance, with it’s 536 square km (207 sq miles) felt alot larger than I remembered it from my childhood. Seeing this vast expanse was really the first time that my mission and upcoming challenge started sinking in. I was still a bit tired, and the thoughts of “Mario, what the —- did you get yourself into this time.  This isn’t a lake,Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germany it’s an ocean!!!“ kept rolling around in my mind.  I tried to keep my head together and paddled forwards from Lindau, clockwise, towards the impressive ports and huge approach buoys around Bregenz, Austria.

I paddled onwards to the inflow of the river Rhine which was extended by a large concrete river bottom to protect the Bay of Bregenz from the inflow of sand. As I came closer to river inflow, I was surprised by an extremely strong current and swirling water, scaring me wide awake! After some unplanned whitewater, wobbles, and near wipeouts, I managed to paddle wide around the river inflow into safer water near the Swiss / Austrian border.

Bring on Switzerland

As I paddled further towards Switzerland I had my first encounter with “Siggi the Sailor“ and his family. He Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germanyturned on his small moter to catch up to this lone SUP paddler. After a bit of chit chat, I was promptly invited to board the sailboat for some cake and coffee, an offer that I simply could not refuse. So, after some minutes of rest, rejuvination, and watching Siggi try his first SUPing on my Tahoe SUP Rubicon (passing the test with top scores!), we said goodbye and went off in different directions.

As I paddled further along the Swiss coastline I was delighted at the numerous fountains that shoot water up 20m into the air. A wonderful way to cool off in the 30C+ heat!

Destination Konstanz

And then, just before the Swiss town of „Romanshorn“, I experienced the highlight of the day. Just a short distance in front of me I noticed two turtles with a diameter of a soccer ball. I couldn’t help wondering if they were in their natural habitat, or were pets that were set free. Just before I could get out my camera, both ducked under and swam away, so that our little encounter would stay „just between the 3 of us“.

With a feeling of happiness and luck, I paddled off and shortly thereafter awarded myself with a shore lunchbreak at 15:00. A little tired and powered-out (after 9hrs of paddling), I continued north along the Swiss shore, only to be greeted by a nasty headwind of 15 knots. After 3 difficult hours of pounding, I arrived at my destination of the day: the city of Konstanz, back in German water at 20:30.

This beautiful city with it’s impressive architecture, promenade along the lake, and many cafes & good restaurants, is an ideal “SUP city“. It wasn’t long before I met two paddlers near the shore. After some chatting and explaining that I had already been on the water since 6am, they invited me for some sunset cocktails to celebrate the day. As much as I wanted to, I decided against it in favour of a long nights sleep.

Day 2:

I decided the night before to set my alarm for 4am, to minimize time spent on the water in windy conditions, and because I did have quite a stretch to cover. Unfortunately, I was so tired from the day before that I slept right throught the alarm and woke at 5:30am… to some seriously sore muscles and painful hands. After a Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germanyquick breakfast, I headed in the direction of “Flower Island“ Mainau, Klausenhorn am Obersee, until my first morning break at Marienschlucht, a beautiful hiking destination, and a great SUP destination with huge trees draping over the water and cliffs shearing deep into the clear water.

This doesn’t look like Europe

As I paddled towards the furthest northerly point,  “Bodmann-Ludwigshafen“ couldn’t help but notice the calm and quiet of this area – far removed from the mass tourism in some of the other areas.  With the extra energy this gave me, I paddled in a good clip towards “Uhldingen“, an area where one can discover and enjoy the many old buildings built on stilts in the water… like you would see in Southeast Asia. A really great spot to explore on my Tahoe SUP!

Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germanyIgnoring the „Befahren Verboten“signs near the stilt house museum area, I sneaked in for a closer look in hopes to get some nice pictures. After some pictures snapped, and odd looks from museum workers, I darted off as fast as I entered in the direction of Meersburg, some 18km away.

Let him eat cake

Meersburg, a city of museums and vineyards, defines itself with it’s beautiful location; castles along the water, narrow alleyways in the charming town center, and it’s many cafes and wine tasting. This is Germany at it’s finest. sneaked in for a closer look in hopes to get some nice pictures. After some pictures snapped, and odd looks from museum workers, I darted off as fast as I entered in the direction of Meersburg, some 18km away.

As I paddle along the shore, being greeted by waving spectators, I notice that the batteries are getting low, and it’s time for an
Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germany afternoon break. But just as this thought dangles in my mind, I hear a “Juju Mario! Juhu, Juhu!“ coming from the water behind me. I can’t believe it … it’s Siggi the Sailor, and his wife! What a funny coincidence.

“You didn’t eat all of your cake yesterday“ both of them joked as I climbed onto the boat. As we enjoy fresh strawberries and grapes, and the rest of the delicious cake, we trade stories about our adventures since we last met. After 15 minutes I get back on my Rubicon and we say our friendly goodbyes.

The weather people and their forecasts!

I thought they said winds coming from the NE, but it’s the exact opposite. I find myself paddling hard into a headwind, mostly on theConstance, sup, tahoe sup, germany left side. Hours and hours of heavy headwind paddling go by… finally I reach the german city of Ludwigshafen at 20:00.  With not much sunlight left, I hurry to find a suitable campsite away from the hustle and bustle. Using my last available energy reserves I sprint for a good 45 minutes and find a small sandy beach with giant willow trees growing right out of the water. What a special camping spot! Lucky once again!

Hmmmm. Lucky? A short while later the whirl of mosquitoes fills the air and I scramble to put on as much clothing as possible. Still biting my hands and face, I decide to light three small campfires with the objective of smoking them away. It worked! In the relative calm I am able pitch my tent and cook dinner. A short time Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germanyafterwards, after 12 hours of paddling, I fall into a deep sleep.

Day 3:

Early in the morning, just before opening the tent zipper, I can hear my winged friends once again. They are hungry for breakfast and are waiting for me! I decide to outsmart them and eat breakfast in the tent. After some planning and preparation, I dart out of the tent and quickly pack up, jump onto the Rubicon and paddle fast onto the water and into the wind. I change into my shorts on the water to avoid getting stung a million times.

Day 3 starts out really well. It’s slightly breezy, pushing me gently towards the more southerly town of Langenargen, Germany which has a beautiful castle built right on the shore.

Constance, sup, tahoe sup, germanyNow I only have about 10km to go!

In a great mood, I pick up the pace and continue south, past shoreline Villas, towards the Island of Mainau, after which I will see my journey come to an end at the city of Lindau. Back to where I started.

My aches and, by now very painful and blistered hands, are forgotten as I head closer and closer to Lindau, Germany, with it’s imposing “new“ lighthouse from the year 1856, and giant stone bavarian Lions at the entrance to the port. I made it! I did it! I’m in Lindau, the end of my journey.

Completion!

With the good knowledge that there are no bigger lakes in Germany that need to be circumnavigated, I find my bus and load the board, paddle, and gear.

Exhausted, in pain (my hands don’t look like hands anymore), but happy. 3 countries, 3 days, on one lake. Germany’s biggest lake, Lake Constance, with it’s smiling weather Gods, didn’t force me to my knees.

This time on the radio, on the way home, I didn’t hear any reports of athletes not achieveing their goals on Lake Constance

Aloha! See you on the water!

Mario Stecher

Sponsors: Sea Trek Germany, Tahoe SUP, Triggernaut Sportglasses, Fitness Center Via Sole

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