More than 4,000 paddlers took part and crossed Hungary's largest lake from Zamárdi to Tihany and then returned to Zamárdi Beach at last weekend’s Cross-Balaton Paddling, as the region prepares to host this year's ICF stand up paddling world championships.

Among the most popular categories were kayak, canoe, dragon boat, and SUP, with more than 800 paddlers completing the nearly eight-kilometre distance by stand up paddleboarding.

This year's ICF SUP World Championships will be held by the Hungarian organizers on the second weekend of September on Lake Balaton, Hungary's largest lake and its most popular tourist destination. The centre of the event will be in Balatonfüred, very close to the location where the Red Bull Cross-Balaton Paddling took place on the weekend.

It was the fourth year the Hungarian Canoe Federation organized one of the largest leisure sports events in Hungary. The Cross-Balaton Paddling event has also been held in 2018, 2019 and 2020, which was very successful this time as well. More than 10,000 visitors attended the site of the watersport festival in one day.

On the Zamárdi-Tihany-Zamárdi route, 4,051 paddlers completed the crossing in 2,056 units. The most popular discipline in the amateur competition was again the SUP, with 806 on the board dashing against the windy and undulating track in the sparkling sunshine.

Among the paddlers, several of the sport’s previous stars lined up at the start gate. Among them was the London Olympic silver medalist, Dávid Tóth, who paddled across Lake Balaton for the first time.

“Previously, as an active racer, unfortunately, it didn’t fit into my life," Toth said.

"This is not like an Olympic preparation or a training session, one comes here to have fun. It is surprising to me that so many people have taken part, it is good to see how many people in Hungary are fond of water sports.”

One of the most enthusiastic attendees of the Cross-Balaton Paddling is the three-time Olympic champion Botond Storcz, who once again completed the distance.

“It was so good that I crossed it first in a mixed doubles and then in a dragon boat," Storcz said.

"I don’t think anyone who has never done canoeing competitively had an easy time because of the strong winds in places, but the task was doable. It felt great and it was great to see so many people here when I arrived at 11am, the beach and water were already full, we had to pay attention as we paddled along with the others.”

Gábor Schmidt, president of the Hungarian Canoe Federation and head of the organising committee of the SUP World Championships, said that they organised large-scale leisure sports events like the Cross-Balaton Paddling because they wanted to get as many people to try water sports as possible.

“Hungary is particularly rich in water surfaces that are also suitable for sports for amateurs in the 7-8 months of the year," Schmidt said.

"The Red Bull Cross-Balaton Paddling is on the one hand a big celebration of water sports and on the other hand an excellent rehearsal for the ICF SUP World Championships in September, which will be held in Balatonfüred under similar conditions to the Cross-Balaton Paddling.

"The big specialty of the autumn event is that there will be a so-called amateur race, an OPEN category where everyone who wants to can take part at the world championships with their inflatable boards.”

Two “civilian” ambassadors of the World Championships, television presenter Vivien Mádai and singer-actor Zoltán Bereczki, have already taken part in the Red Bull Cross-Balaton Paddling this weekend, and will also take part at the World Championships as amateur SUP racers.

The five fastest amateur female and male SUP-racers of the Cross-Balaton Paddling will also be there at the World Championships, as they qualified for the competition in Balatonfüred with their results over the weekend.

Peter Balogh

Stand Up Paddling
#ICFstandup #ICFSUP