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Kick-starting the season at the XXL Paddelfestival

by seppi-strohmeier

After last year’s strong debut, expectations were high for the second edition of Germany’s biggest canoe and kayak demo event. But with four full days of free paddling on Markkleeberg’s modern whitewater course, twice as many exhibitors as 2013 and a total of 5,000 visitors attracted throughout the venue, the XXL Paddelfestival continued to ride on a wave of popularity.

It is only a few years ago that the industrial coal exploration zone of the former GDR south of Leipzig (Saxony) had been converted into a scenic recreation area full of lakes, geo education sites and cycle paths for residents as well as tourists. In doing so, a modern whitewater course was built for kayaking and rafting, which now forms one of the area’s main leisure attractions. For the second time, this whitewater course hosted the Paddelfestival Markkleeberg, Germany’s biggest canoe and kayak demo event, initiated in 2013.

The perfect opportunity to try out a new craft

From the 1st until the 4th of May paddlers gathered in Markkleeberg again, using the Festival’s early date as the perfect opportunity to fully start into the spring season. As a little twist in this year’s event format, organiser Horst Fürsattel arranged two additional days of free paddlig on the course, already before the main expo would open on Saturday. So it didn’t come as a surprise that the nearby campsite was crammed with people by the time we got to Markkleeberg in order to set up the Palm stand for the weekend.

And you thought the M5 was busy?

After a wet and chilly Friday, the weather warmed up right on time, creating perfect conditions for a weekend full of paddling. Thanks to the great outcome of the Festival’s first edition, this year’s list of exhibitors was twice as long. All major European paddling brands and a number of retailers made their appearance, presenting products for the whole range of paddle sports: whitewater, touring, open canoeing, racing, inflatables, SUP and more.

Great scenery invites you on a journey across the lake next to the course

The versatile course proved to be the perfect set up for this venue. An easier beginners channel with plenty of eddies, a steeper technical channel spiced with playholes, and, to make it more interesting, a change of flow levels every couple of hours, made paddling all day long tempting. Not to mention the scenic lake close-by, which was used for guided tours and clinics. On Saturday evening, a large audience was spoilt with a Big O movie presention and the spectacular Prijon Curve boater-X in floodlight. Drinks and stories were shared at the bonfire party, making sure that no one went to bed early.

Lots of action in the boater-X at night

Sunday morning brought another highlight of the Festival: the Palm Junior Trophy, where 17 kids between 6 and 14 years competed in a fun boater-X. This year, two separate races were held. The first took place on calm water for the younger competitiors of the field. The contenders raced in groups of 4 and had to paddle around big red floatation bags that were converted into buoyes.

But even more action in the Palm Junior Trophy on Sunday

The second race was a proper boater cross, where competitors had to sprint across flat water first, then take the conveyor belt up to the top basin and eventually race down the WW II training course to the finish. The final of this race turned out to be particulary tight and hard-fought while family members and friends lined the course cheering and creating a fantastic atmosphere. No one, of course, missed out and in the end everyone was rewarded with certificates and at least one of the many prizes that Palm supplied for the event.

Hot contenders for the Sickline title in 2024, getting race practice

Once again, the XXL Paddelfestival proved to be highly popular and a fantastic event to kick-off the season. Over the four days, about 5,000 visitors and 1,000 paddlers had come to the festival, clearly exceeding last year’s numbers. The dates for 2015 have already been released as the 1st until the 3rd of May. So make sure you come to Markkleeberg, too, and take part in the Festival yourself!