The Canal des 2 seas in Stand up Paddle by Mathieu LAFFARGUE !
One hell of an Adventure
A personal and solidarity challenge, that of joining Castets (33) to Sète (34) by the Canal de Garonne then the Canal du Midi to finish on the Etang de Thau in 15 days by Stand up Paddle!"
I discovered SUP in 2018, thanks to Nicolas MOLINIÉ who passed on his passion to me when I had just lost my father to cancer. The idea was born at that time. Three years later, I started supporting Ingrid ULRICH's association "Au-delà de l'Océan", which encourages people who are ill or coming out of a long illness to get back into shape and/or stay in shape through sport and Stand up Paddle. The departure was given on Sunday, July 18, 2021, day of my 37th birthday..
Stage 1/15: Castets - Marcellus 23km
I was supposed to leave in the morning, but I'm sick, big cold and a strep throat. So I decide to leave at 1pm from Castets, just to rest as much as possible. I have the pleasure to have my daughters, my mom and my partner in this beginning of Adventure, they also help me to inflate my board because I am still very tired. Direction the Domaine Quiescis in Marcellus to join my friends and a memorable birthday party with an initiation to the Polynesian Dance and the Haka. 23h00, lights out, direction a suspended hut for a good night of sleep. Tomorrow, the serious things begin.
Stage 2/15: Marcellus - Damazan 35km
Here I am in the big time, I can't go back. Yet, not even 1 hour after my departure, here I am in MNS mode for kittens. In the middle of the canal, his back legs don't want to work anymore, his eyes under water and closed, just his little muzzle and his desire to live...I put him on my board, we get out of the water and my companion came to get him. She will be called Grisette! The night went well in bivouac, in the forest with animals and various noises: in short, I slept 3 hours, but happy to have spent my first night alone in a tent.
Stage 3/15: Damazan - Le Passage 31km
This third stage will be epic (spades)! Around 11am, I get stung by wasps on a pontoon! At least 4 stings including one on the face. A little moment of fear, a shot of cold water and here we go again! End of the course very difficult because of the overwhelming heat and no more water. But what a pleasure to see my photographer friend Lionel MAINGUENEAU who helps me to cross the 3 final locks and takes very nice souvenir pictures. A second night in bivouac agitated, with rodeo of motorcycles and scooters at the departure of the canal bridge.
Photos © Lionel MAINGUENEAU
Stage 4/15: Le Passage - Valence d'Agen 30km
Departure early in rocket mode, objective, to put rhythm because this evening direction the Garden of the controller with a small glass of wine, charcuterie and a good shower! I have a very warm welcome except for the dog who wanted to eat me. Tomorrow big day, so big sleep after having made the care on my pricks and my blisters on my hands.
Stage 5/15: Valence d'Agen - Saint Porquier 35km
Big day with 12 lock passages! All in management both physically and mentally and also in terms of drinking water. This stage validates 1/3 of the journey and brings me closer to my final goal! But I spent a lot of energy, I'm tired and setting up the bivouac is difficult between the sunflower fields, the forest and the Garonne canal.
Stage 6/15: Saint Porquier - Castelnau d'Estrefonds 29km
This morning, hard, I see the difference of recovery in bivouac and lack of water / food compared to the previous night! The day is complicated, stronger current, headwind, lack of water and to finish a boat that makes me big waves, I had the impression to be in Hendaye. I realize that the road is still long but tonight I will meet my partner and my girls for the weekend. We will sleep 3 nights in our van and 2 days without my 30-35kg pack. In short, happy to find the little Family.
Stage 7/15: Castelnau d'Estrefonds - Romonville Saint Agne 36km
Again, big day. A lot of stress with the crossing of Toulouse. But this morning when I wake up I can't close my right hand anymore, an edema probably, I move my hand little by little and 5min later I manage to close enough to hold my paddle. I go along the railroad, nothing to report on the course except the lock n°1 of Lalande, which marks soon the end of the Canal de Garonne and the beginning of the Canal du Midi...but before, I have to cross the pink city ! I'm going to switch very quickly to rocket mode, I don't feel at my place here...between squats, sirens, smells of pollution and others, in short, it's the city and everything is not rosy. The passage of the locks is difficult, fortunately I don't have my bags. The last lock is at the bottom of a tunnel where it is all dark...the stress rises, a monumental lock, once on the ground a voice says to me "ATTENTION TO THE CAMERA" I explain my case, no answer, I trace...to put me back to water as fast as possible and the voice says to me "PUT DOWN YOUR EMBARCEMENT, YOU CANNOT GO FURTHER" I said to myself my friend, you are not going to stop me here! Here I am jumping the railings and I went further! At the time, I freaked out but afterwards, I tell myself that it's great because if anything goes wrong, help can arrive quickly. Anyway, the day is over, I'm happy to see the girls and the Van again, I'm enjoying it because from Monday I'll be back alone. Canal du midi here I come!
Stage 8/15: Romonville Saint Agne - Renneville 34km
Go one more day down. First time I've had the wind at my back since the start and it's great! Since yesterday, I am very vigilant because many dead branches between two waters and brambles on the edges but finally the danger comes where we do not expect it ... I pass a couple with their son, I greet them, put my sup, turn my head 10sec and here is that "Zebulon" makes trampoline on my Paddle! Fortunately, the equipment is solid, nothing serious, I could continue my way after a big scare. End of the day in camping, with beer and shower, in short the great luxury! Tomorrow, I take back my bags, alone to face the locks of the canal du midi.
Stage 9/15: Renneville - Saint Martin Lalande 30km
Locks, more locks. Today, I found Dédé and Roger but 2 bags, yes they have a name...we have to keep busy during the trip! I start to cross some boats, so I have some waves to change a little. I have the wind and the current with me today and it's really cool. I said goodbye to Anissa one last time, we won't see each other again, but she's one more support in this Adventure, as she sent me the water points until the finish. I stopped at the lock store at the end of the afternoon to drink a small beer and buy water for the rest of the trip. I met Elisabeth and Lydie. The latter invited me to spend the night on their land on the edge of the canal. The day ends well but quite trying, we are Monday and I can't wait to arrive.
Stage 10/15: Saint Martin Lalande - Carcassonne 25km
I'm awake around midnight, I hear 2 "gunshots" 5m from my tent, a rodeur broke the window of the parked car with an axe! Huge scare ! Here I am all alone in the middle of the night with my carbon paddle as my only weapon of defense and my headlamp. I warn Arnaud, the owner of the land, that we will shoot 1h30 on the property but nobody is there anymore. There, I say to myself it's the end of the trip, I didn't sign up for this, to put myself in danger, I think about my 2 daughters...but I received that morning about fifty messages, I think again about the association, to all those who believe in me. I finally set off again after the visit of the gendarmes. Bad luck, after 1 hour I lose my fin...fortunately, I have a spare one. There are 5 stages left, 2/3 are already done!
Stage 11/15: Carcassonne - La Redorte 42km
Departure this morning from the Mirage barge, under the rain. A big day, the record km since my departure, I passed a lot of boats blocked at the locks. After Carcassonne, I saw a man hugging the trees (sylvotherapy) and the cicadas gave me a private concert until I arrived. There are more and more boats here, and most of them don't know how to navigate, so I double my caution and some insults are flying...I'm very well welcomed by La Marelle at my arrival and we load the sup in the car in epic mode to reach the shower! I'm getting closer to the feat, but no flaming the road is still long.
Photos © Xavier Dartiailh
Stage 12/15: La Redorte - Ventenac en Minervois 22km
An easy stage on paper except that headwind all the way, a splinter planted in the finger, no shade all the way because the plane trees on the canal have the colorful canker disease. As nothing is easy, you have to stay focused and concentrated until the end! I can't wait to arrive, the body remains strong but the mental a little less but the welcome of Anaïs and Bruno at their home and a very good evening reboost me!
Stage 13/15: Ventenac en Minervois - Béziers 42km
The most difficult day, at the lunch break, I learn that we will lose our cat "Tipunch". He has been a part of our Family for 14 years and I am not here to say goodbye, nor to support my companion...in the middle of the afternoon, he joined the cat paradise. My heart is not in it anymore, I cried a good part of the afternoon, I thought a lot about my father but I didn't let go! I'm a day ahead of schedule, I'll finish in Marseillan tomorrow evening but I don't know yet about the bonus stage in the Etang de Thau. I'll have to tell the kids and it will be difficult. In any case, thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those who encouraged me there too and especially my companion who drove 3h30 to join me in the evening with the girls. "Stay strong, lift your head, don't give up and always move forward"
Stage 14/15: Béziers - Marseillan 37km
And here is the end of the canal du midi! I managed to do the canal des 2 Mers in 14 days, I have trouble realizing, I am sporty but not a champion of Paddle. I want to thank Sébastien who will do the last 15 km of this stage with me and his partner Cécile! Finally, tomorrow I will take the start of the bonus stage, the crossing of the Thau Lagoon to Sete.
Stage 15/15: Marseillan - Sète 13km
Part 1 Stand up Paddle: 3km - Part 2 Run: 10km
The last stage, the bonus, the cherry on the Paddle! Departure with Sebastien directions Sète, a crazy wind, waves, we crossed a small width of the pond of Thau and we finish in the salt marshes in galley mode ...So I decide to finish by running, so close to the goal, there are still about ten kilometers to go. A moment alone with myself, important, resting feet on the ground! Objective exceeded for my first Adventure!
A Total of 467km, 116 locks, hours of sailing and the desire to go to the end! I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, friends, buddies, meetings, strangers, partners, my trainer Yoann STUCK, my mom, my partner and my daughters...I finished thanks to you all! A thought for my Dad, who I hope could see from up there! And thank you for the association! Thanks to you, let's believe in ourselves, in our dreams, everything is possible, I love you! Born To Ride!
Cover photo ©Lionel Maingueneau
Stand up Paddle: Redwoodpaddle Funbox'R Pro 12'6 × 31'5 Explorer.
Paddle: Redwoodpaddle Race full carbon tiger tube round.
Pump: Redwoodpaddle Manual triple action stand up paddle.
Bags: Redwoodpaddle 1 waterproof backpack 45L and 1 waterproof shoulder bags 15L.
Thanks to Chris and Julie and the entire Redwoodpaddle team.