Sunday , March 26 2023

Kayaking Endurance Challenge St. Maarten-Saba-Statia

A film crew of five and representatives of the Inspired by Nature Foundation were in Saba last week filming a promotion trailer for, what is expected to be, a kayaking endurance race between St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius. Following in the footsteps of Saba’s recent Hell’s Gate Triathlon held in January, the planned challenge is expected to combine appreciation for the islands’ natural beauty with trail running and kayaking between the islands.

Director of the Saba Tourism Office Glenn Holm believes this initiative is a great opportunity for jointly raising the profile of the three Dutch islands and creating awareness about their beauty within the European Netherlands. He introduced the organisers, 31-year-old photographer Robert Verspui from Giessenburg, and 29-year-old Joast Bienenmann from Rotterdam, who extended an interview about their organisation, Inspired by Nature Foundation, an outfit based in the European Netherlands ( ). They organise natureoriented extreme sport expeditions to isolated places around the world and document these challenging experiences in their interactions with inhabitants and nature.

Their most recent such project was the Sumatra Challenge in 2011 ( ). It involved kayaking 4250km around the Sumatra Island, the fifth largest island in the world, and discovering the unique beauty of the place while interacting with all kinds of ethnic groups and experiencing their way of living.

The documentary of that nature challenge experience premiered on February 15 in a Rotterdam cinema, receiving good Dutch media coverage. They are now looking into having the documentary featured by various television stations. Bienenmann and Verspui met with the Saba Triathlon Foundation’s board members and are keen to harness their organising experience, as well as make use of all the support from all the community stakeholders that made the 2014 Saba Triathlon possible.

They also met with representatives of the Saba Conservation Foundation who they hope will also assist them in seeing through this project. “We need local people to be as excited by the event as we are,” said Bienenmann, who appreciates the local positive response. They both hope that the challenge will become an annual competition like the Saba Triathlon, and to eventually feature the Caribbean documentary in a world tour that would attract more outdoors enthusiasts to the island. “Saba is perfect for something like this,” said Bienenmann.

Verspui believes the first event will be small, but they still hope to attract more top athletes in kayaking, swimming, mountain biking and trail running to Saba. They explain that the trial event may bring in other smaller sports events to their island involving local youth and residents.

Verspui explained that their foundation combines a number of nature-oriented extreme sports and that they are looking at incorporating this within their Caribbean challenge. They use the imagery of the challenge “to focus attention on the biodiversity of the places explored. Saba has a beautiful biodiversity and, whether kayaking or on trails, we will showcase to people back home the beauty of this island. We hope people in Holland and around the world will get to see this.”

They have been working on the Caribbean Challenge project for the last two years. In order to gain momentum and attention for this project, they hope to have the trailer distributed before an actual trial challenge this year, ambitiously scheduled for June or, possibly, in November. They have finished with the footage of the trailer this week and are now concentrating on developing for fundraising. They believe the many big sponsors of the Sumatra Challenge will back them up on this Dutch Caribbean venture.

When asked what motivates them to do this, Bienenmann explained their academic background is in photography and that their passions are in an outdoors lifestyle that combines mountain biking, climbing, kayaking and pushing each other to experience nature to the fullest. Once graduated, they decided to combine their passions and go on exploring expeditions to inspire others to “go deeper into the unknown.”

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