Guadiana Challenge 2017

The Guadiana Challenge 2017

The Guadiana Challenge 2017 is from Friday 7th April until Sunday 9th April 2017.

Booking now open

Tickets on sale now at €30 each and €20 for the festival dinner, drinks, free camping and tons of fun on Sunday with talks and other activities! Please select your option carefully, we have three options:

32km FUN paddle. Open to all paddle craft: SUP, kayak,canoe, OC1 etc

Book 32km FUN


10km FUN paddle. Open to all paddle craft: SUP, kayak,canoe, OC1 etc

Book 10km FUN


32km RACE. Stand Up Paddle only.

32km RACE

Huge thanks to for supplying the credit card booking system. More details about the event itself follows below.

Special note

In previous years we haven’t opened the gates to all kayakers and canoeists but we’d love to have you this year. Please feel free to enter and join us for the weekend’s festivities!

guadiana challenge 2017

A Weekend Festival

Friday 7th April (evening)

This year we’ll be putting on free welcome drinks on the Friday evening at 18h00 on the river side quay at Mértola. Pre-event registration will be available from 18h00-19h00 followed by a casual dinner at one of the restaurants in Mertola (we’ll arrange a special rate). It’s the perfect time to network and make new friends before the paddle on Saturday.

Saturday 8th April (paddle day)

Three different paddle events will take place as detailed below. All paddlers start from the river side quay at Mértola for registration:

  1. 32km Stand Up Paddle RACE from Mertola to Alcoutim.
  2. 32km fun paddle from Mertola to Alcoutim (SUPs, kayaks and canoes all welcome).
  3. 10km fun paddle from Mertola to Penha d’Aguia (SUPs, kayaks and canoes all welcome).
  • Registration 07h30 – 08h30
  • Briefing 08h30
  • On the water 08h45
  • Departure 09h00

Please note that the registration price includes the following:

  • Transport provided for you and your board back to Mertola after you have finished (from both Penha d’Aguia or Alcoutim).
  • Snacks, energy bars and drinks supplied in a goodie bag.
  • The official Guadiana Challenge 2017 T-shirt to be worn on the day (please).
  • Insurance.
  • Medical assistance if necessary.

We finish at the town of Alcoutim where refreshments will be available. For those of you who would like to enjoy the only trans-border zip line in the world, we have negotiated a 10% discount. Prepay at €16.20 or pay on the day at €18.

zip line spain portugal
Photo courtesy of

Riverside Dinner on Saturday night

After our return to Mertola, we will hold the prize giving and commence with the Riverside Dinner held on the quay. Live music will entertain us while we feast, and a campfire will keep us warm. However please remember to bring warm clothes for the evening. In case of rain we will divert to an alternative location close by.

Sunday activities

Sunday kicks off at 10h30 with talks in the tents down on the quay by stand up paddle adventurers from around Europe. The pizza truck will be on hand for lunch and Leonard Nika will be offering a professional race clinic (for those of you who want to get into racing or just improve). There is more info at the bottom of this post.

Map of the stand up paddle route

Take note of the landmarks to give yourself an idea of how long you have to go (or print out this map below). The first major tributary is at 5km, Penha d’Aguia is the first stop at 10km, Pomarão is the second stop and easily noticeable at 19km. The Rio Vascão comes in from the right at 22km and forms the border of the Alentejo and Algarve regions. Puerto de la Laje is at 24km with the finish at Alcoutim after 32km.

We’ll be adding more info to this page as we get closer to the event.

Guadiana Challenge 2016 Promo Video

Guadiana Challenge 2016 Photo Album

2016 guadiana challenge

Guadiana Challenge 2015 Photo Album

2015 guadiana challenge

Appendix 1

Race Clinic with Leonard Nika

Leonard Nika: Professional Stand Up Paddler.

  • Top 10 World Ranking 2016
  • 5 Time Italian Champion 2012-2013–2014-2015-2016
  • 3 Time European Champion 2012-2013-2014
  • 9 Years Sup Race Experience.

SUP Race Clinic

12h00 midday on Sunday 9th April 2017 at Mertola Quayside. 45€ (minimum 10 people maximum 20) early booking 5€ discount.

Part 1 Skill Training

  • Optimize body dynamics
  • Paddling Technique
  • Correct postural mistakes
  • Improve turns
  • Improve Beach/Water starts
  • Choosing the right equipment for racing (board, paddle, fins, camel pack, ecc)
    Preparing training routines
  • Nutrition before and after Racing
  • How to improve physical performance.

Part 2 Fun Race

  • Getting ready for the start line
  • Start Fun Race
  • Price giving

Update on the Guadiana Challenge 2016

Guadiana Challenge 2016
Guadiana Challenge 2016

Many of you have been asking about the Guadiana Challenge 2016. Apologies, I was planning to open registration in January but the organization of the event is running a little behind. We still have tons of time before the event and everything is almost good to go, so I will be opening registration very soon.

So let’s recap on some of the details:

  • The date is still Saturday morning April 2 2016.
  • The Event will start at 09h00 in Mertola at the quay at the end of Rua Dr.Afonso Costa.
  • Stages. We are dividing the event into four stages:
    • Stage 1 – Mertola to Penha d’Aguia (10km) Morning coffee and pastries
    • Stage 2 – Penha d’Aguia to Pomarao 9km (19km) Lunch
    • Stage 3 – Pomarao to Puerto de Laja 5km (24km) Afternoon snacks
    • Stage 4 – Puerto de Laja to Alcoutim 8km (32km) Drinks at the finish line.
  • Registration will cost €20 and is payable online here on very soon. We will limit the entrants to the first 40 people on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Registration includes:
    • a T-shirt,
    • transport from Alcoutim back to Mertola on Saturday evening after the finish for you and your board
    • food as described above
    • support boat
    • VHF emergency radio
  • Accommodation – it would be worthwhile to plan to stay in or near Mertola on the Friday 1 April and Saturday 2 April . There are beds available in the Nautical Clube of Mertola, The Castelo Inn, Alentejo Star Hotel and Hospedaria Flor do Guadiana.

Are there any questions? If so, just drop them in the comments below this blog post. Huge thanks and we’ll see you on the water!


Guadiana Challenge Map



The story behind the Guadiana Challenge 2015

Guadiana Challenge Video

The story is related below in text and photos, but if you’d prefer to watch the video of how this event started, check this out.

How the Guadiana Challenge started

In September 2014 Pedro (my business partner) and myself were paddling all areas of the Algarve to reconnoiter great spots to show our clients. We paddled almost everywhere we could, although we are so spoilt down here in Southern Portugal with fantastic paddling locations, we still have a ways to go to paddle every single place.

One of the most special trips for me was our descent of the River Guadiana from the town of Mertola in the Alentejo province to Alcoutim in the Algarve. I spent a few hours on Google Earth in the days before, flying virtually around the area and mapping out noticeable points of interest so we could gauge our progress. I wasn’t going to rely on GPS or maps as

  • mobile phone coverage in the area is sketchy
  • and batteries wear down quickly.

We didn’t have any fancy satellite chargers either, so I figured dead reckoning would be acceptable and you can’t exactly get lost on a river!


The desire to return to the Guadiana

It turned into an incredible river trip and after the first five minutes on the water, Pedro and I were already talking about bringing people back to paddle this beautiful place. I posted some photos on our Facebook page and quite a few stand up paddlers asked when we were going again. I had no plans, but then on a whim decided to pick a date and go for it.

Preparations for the Guadiana Challenge

I created a Facebook event and a registration page on Algarve SUP’s web site and before I knew it we, had 15 people signed up with more begging to come. I limited the participants and eventually we paddled with 18 stand up paddlers and a bunch of fun kayakers who came along for the ride.

 Perfect weather and no challenge!

The day went off without a hitch and we had smoking hot weather and a lazy tailwind pushing us down the Guadiana River. It was an idyllic journey and at lunch time the tide started to ebb and helped us out even more. The more energetic amongst us (including Portugal’s number one, number four and number eight paddle boarders) raced home to Alcoutim in about four hours.

The more relaxed participants (myself included) paddled for six hours, but at the finish line everyone was wanting more. There were even discussions of continuing down to the river mouth another 38 kilometres further south which would bring you to the coastal town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

I was happy, because if that wind had turned, the trip would have turned into a real challenge. However, the elements were smiling on us and 18 like-minded people who shared the love of this fairly new sport came together and experienced something wonderful.


guadiana challenge
A few of the paddlers after a refreshing drink in Alcoutim.

The Guadiana Challenge’s generous supporters

What was even more wonderful was the companies that came together to support this event.

Hutch SUP Wear

HUTCH-(1)Hutch SUP Wear climbed on board early in the process and donated super high quality quick dry t-shirts that you can see all the participants wearing. Simon Hutchinson from Hutch SUP Wear didn’t just print the shirts and move on, he was an indispensable source of support and marketing assistance throughout the preparation stages.

So much so that Simon and I are embarking on an exciting new project (with a pink logo!).


Birch Photography

birch-photoDan and Natasha Birch jumped at the chance to join us for a day out on the river to capture it all on film. This couple run Birch Photography down here in the Algarve but they’re not limited to Southern Portugal. No, no… they recently jetted off to Austria (!) at the invitation of some clients to shoot a wedding!

That shows you just how good they are and they certainly excelled on Saturday the 28th March, driving all around and capturing the Guadiana Challenge from all angles.


Aerial Vision Algarve

aerial vision algarvePaul Fuller from Aerial Vision Algarve donated his drone and his entire weekend to film us paddling down the 32km.

You can see for yourself how spectacular his aerial photos and videos are even amongst some technical difficulties out in the bush. Huge thanks to Paul and Aerial Vision Algarve.

honuhele sup boardsLastly and by no means least, Gui Martims from organized the essential elements of the day, helping out with logistics and discussions with the local authorities. Gui has just about supplied boards to almost all of the paddle board rental outlets in the Algarve. He is a keen paddler and came eighth in the Portuguese SUP series last year. Thanks and good luck for this year Gui!


Guadiana Challenge 2016

The Guadiana Challenge is now firmly on the event list of many paddlers in Europe. We will be back next year and hope to double the numbers. So keep in touch with Algarve SUP and we’ll update you on the registration date for next year!


Press Release – The Guadiana Challenge

Top European athletes take on the Guadiana Challenge

Portugal is at the forefront of the fastest growing water-sport in the world with a brand new, high profile event designed to test the abilities and stamina of some of Europe’s finest athletes.

guadiana challenge

On 28th March 2015 a number of professional and amateur stand up paddle boarders will descend 32km of the Guadiana River in a gruelling challenge from Mertola and ending 6-8 hours later in Alcoutim.

For those who haven’t come across this rapidly growing sport before it’s the favourite of many a list celebrities including Portugal’s own Rita Perreira. because of its ability to give a full body workout. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or just looking for a new peaceful and tranquil way to explore the waterways stand up paddle is a rapidly growing activity.

Stand up paddle boarding  (SUP) has been described as the closest thing to actually walking on water and consists of standing on a large surfboard while using a long paddle to move yourself forward. It needs balance and coordination but it’s much simpler, cheaper and quicker to learn than most other board sports and within 30 minutes most people go from beginner to getting a good session under their belt.

The greatest thing fans love about SUP is that you get your exercise without it ever being boring. Unlike a treadmill session at the gym you are playing in a beautiful aquatic environment, which is constantly changing and where you can see nature from a whole different perspective; it doesn’t ever feel like a chore.

Portugal is already the leading European venue for paddle boarding and has several  top professionals who are taking part in the Guadiana challenge in preparation for the world and European race series. This year there will be a total of six domestic races taking place in Portugal in venues including Porto, Peniche, and Lisbon.

The Guadiana challenge is the brainchild of Nick from Algarve SUP who teaches SUP and wanted to raise the profile of the sport and it’s benefits. “The Guadiana Challenge isn’t just a simple float downstream” said Nick “32km is a good distance for the average paddler and those people who are taking part will be facing some serious challenges on their journey”.


In March the odds are that the weather will be unsettled. Should the paddle boarders hit a headwind, their day will turn into a severe battle against the elements.


The effects of the tide are felt as high up as Mertola over 70km upstream from the river mouth and when it turns from low to high, the challengers have to fight a strong water current to just keep moving forward. Combine that with the effects of the wind and you’re facing some seriously challenging conditions.

Water levels

Who knows what the water levels on the river will be on that particular day. They could be raging high due to rainfall further upstream or if the water is low then the paddlers could be scraping rocks and carrying their boards over dry sections.

Never Give Up

One thing is for sure, this is not a challenge where you can easily give up if it gets difficult. The challenging route between Mertola and Alcoutim is very remote with only two small villages on the Spanish side, Pomarão and Puerto de la Laja. There is no easy way to get off the river or take a taxi back to the car. Sheer grit is the only thing that’ll get the paddlers to the finish line in  Alcoutim.

The Guadiana Challenge is not a race, it’s just a fun and challenging event amongst keen paddlers in Portugal and will be excellent preparation for the race season.

It will be an exciting adventure and only one outcome is certain: all the paddlers who get to the finishing line of the Guadiana Challenge will have to overcome some significant barriers to get there.

Algarve SUP is organizing the event with generous support from


Images from a previous paddle down the Guadiana River are available here:

We will issue a follow up press release after the event. Please feel free to contact Nick for any questions:

Algarve SUP on Social Media

The Guadiana Challenge – preliminary infomation

guadiana challenge
The Guadiana Challenge

Algarve SUP is organizing a (hopefully yearly) paddle down the Guadiana River from Mertola to Alcoutim. The initial trip is planned for March 28, 2015 when the days are starting to lengthen. If you’re a Facebook fan please join the event (if not let Nick know you’re coming).

In order to confirm you’re coming, we need you to pay a fully refundable €20 fee. It will be refunded at the start in cash at 08h30. Please pay with Paypal or a credit card.

Pay here

What you need to know

  • Date: Saturday, March 28, 2015
  • Start time: 08:30
  • Length: 32km
  • Duration: Anywhere from 3 to 9 hours depending on how fast you want to paddle.
  • Wind Conditions: Wind is always a factor when stand up paddling and should we meet an oncoming wind it will naturally be a lot tougher.
  • Tide: It’s tough to tell exactly what the tide will be doing that day as the paddle is so far away from the ocean, however there is a large tidal influence all the way to Mertola.
  • Location: We meet at Alcoutim and transfer to Mertola by vehicle. We paddle back to our cars. A map of the route is provided below.
  • Way-points: We have detailed six easily recognizable way-points, so you’ll know how far to go without having to worry about GPS’s and maps.

It’s three months away so still on the to do list is the following:

  • organize the transport (from Alcoutim to Mertola),
  • accommodation/camping options for people who are travelling from far and or who would like to stay the weekend,
  • a dinner on the Saturday night in Alcoutim

So stay in touch with the Algarve SUP blog. Oh and you can read about our initial River Guadiana trip if you haven’t already.

Stand Up Paddle 32kms down the Guadiana River

Stand up paddle on the guadiana river
Stand up paddle adventure, 32km down the Guadiana River, Portugal.

Stand up paddle adventure in Portugal

Stand up paddle for 32 kilometres? It sounds like a long way but if you hit it right and take advantage of the tides and the winds, you’ll have no problem. Miss a trick and you could be in for a tougher (but no less fun) time. We planned this trip as much as we could, but didn’t realize the amount of impact the tide had so high up the river.

An early start on the River Guadiana

We drove north east from the central Algarve towards Mertola. It’s situated right on the Guadiana River, 130km away from our base in São Bras de Alportel. Sailing down the modern highway we arrived at 7:30 am, in time for a quick coffee with a gathering group of eager hunters. It was a Sunday morning in rural Portugal and hunters are literally everywhere. Shaking them off, we headed down to the rivers edge and woke up the local caravanning community who had parked their movable houses on the local quay. A few curious heads popped out and were clearly intrigued by our wheezing pumps as we inflated the RED paddle boards.

Choosing paddle boards for the Mertola to Alcoutim trip

On this section of the river there are no rapids whatsoever, so I chose a 14′ RED ELITE Race board and my good buddy Pedro stuck with the 12’6″ RED Explorer. Great news for me as he was obligated to carry all the kit we needed for lunch! We were planning to reach Alcoutim by nightfall but honestly had no idea if we were going to come across a serious headwind, tidal shifts or anything else. So we planned for the worst and brought warm weather gear along as well.

Mertola to Ribeira de Carreiras (4.7km)

It was a swift glide down to our first “mile post”. Ribeira de Carreiras was 4.7km away and drifted down rapidly through thick early morning mist towards this little tributary. The river flow helped a lot and it only took about half an hour before we ticked Ribeira de Carreiras off the list. The water was like liquid glass and moved silently under us and sliced through the eery stillness. It was perfectly peaceful and so well worth it to do this trip.

Stand up paddle on the River Guadiana, Portugal
Stand up paddle on the River Guadiana, Portugal

Penha d’Aguia (10km mark)

Slowly the sun started burning off the mist and a serenely rural scene unfolded on either side of the Guadiana River. Rich green hills rolled away towards drier areas and the occasional jangling of goats bells punctuated the idyllic silence of the countryside. We were still moving fast downstream and came across Penha d’Aguia before 11am.

There’s not much at Penha d’Aguia, just a small restaurant overlooking the river. It’s a pity the owner wasn’t open for coffee, otherwise we would definitely have stopped in. He was down on the river bank doing some gardening and we chatted amiably as we drifted by. Next year he said he would have some rooms for overnight guests which, considering the incredible riverside location, should not be missed.

Lunch break (13.5km)

We pressed on, eager to stop for a spot of lunch as it was approaching midday and the morning’s exertions had left us feeling a little peckish. Luckily my beautiful wife had prepared three fantastic gourmet sandwiches each and once we had arrived at a suitable spot, we floated over to the bank, unleashed and scrambled up onto dry land.

Relaxing on a grassy hill overlooking the meandering Guadiana River, we filled up on tasty sandwiches, gulped down some fruit juice and drank in the beautiful scene. It really was a pristine area smack bang in the middle of nature and we were both really enjoying the stand up paddle trip. Pedro and I chatted about how we were looking forward to bringing visitors to see this amazing part of Portugal.

Pomarão (19km)

The next stop was Pomarão and as it’s an actual village there are two boat jettys. We tied up at one and traipsed up to the riverside café for coffee and coca cola. The weather forecast had been warning of possible showers in the afternoon and as we looked around a southerly wind blew up, the tide turned and life looked like it was about to get tough.


Returning to our stand up paddle boards at 14h00, we realized it was much slower going than our early morning down stream glide. We pushed on into the grim weather and struggled southwards to the border of the Alentejo and Algarve provinces. This was demarcated by the Rio Vascão at the 22km point.

guadiana-stand-up-paddle (22)
Rio Vascão forms the border between the Alentejo and the Algarve provinces of Portugal.

Puerto de la Laja (24km)

We stopped for a break and then cracked on to the Spanish town of Puerto de la Laja two kilometres further on. With no reason to stop we paddled on. It was now 15h30 and we knew we were fairly close to Alcoutim.

Alcoutim (32km)

The last 8km between Puerto de la Laja and Alcoutim actually weren’t too bad at all. The wind had died down and it seemed that the tidal current was relaxing it’s onward push. Sure, we were tired but that is what made rounding the bend to Alcoutim all the more enjoyable.

I’d do it again in an instant. Who’s coming to join us?