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His friends thought it was a crazy idea, but Thomas Oschwald did not let himself be put off, even when the first two attempts failed. The third time he succeeded. He travelled by water from Geneva to Basel, using only two means of transport: his SUP and his feet combined with a trailer by reacha. We asked him to share his experiences with us.


There are many ways to get from Geneva to Basel: By car or train the journey takes just under 3 hours, by plane the distance would be less than an hour. Using a little muscle power, you could reach your destination by bike in 15 hours or on foot in 50 hours.

But there is also a waterway that runs from Geneva to Basel. And this is exactly what the stand-up paddler Thomas Oschwald had chosen for his ambitious "project". The goal: a trip from Geneva to Basel - alone on rivers, canals, lakes and other waterways only with the SUP and a trailer to be able to transport the stand-up paddle always to the nearest shore.

First try, second try, third try

The idea first came to the mind of enthusiastic stand-up paddler Thomas Oschwald when he was thirty years old. Two years later he set off, but an intestinal infection crossed his plans during the first attempt. Two months later, run number two followed: Oschwald paddled all the way to France, but encountered impassable obstacles there: ship locks, canal tunnels and power stations seemed to make the dream of a crossing via SUP finally burst. Or is it?

The fact that the adventurer was finally able to fulfill his dream 10 years later, he also owes to his reacha hand trailer because that was one of the biggest hurdles:

"Without the possibility to pack my equipment on a trailer, my dream would have failed after only a few kilometers due to reality. Otherwise, water-poor rivers, numerous ship locks and power stations, a lack of permits and canal tunnels would have remained impassable obstacles."
With the SUP in the Alps

All beginnings are hard - to the start at the Oberalp Pass we walked the first 100 km

Flexible equipment is crucial

When you talk to Thomas Oschwald about his unusual journey on the water, you will meet a person who quite deliberately doesn't seek adventure in remote places, but rather in the midst of civilization - ideally on his doorstep. The uncertainty about a route that has never been travelled in this way did not worry him, but - and this is important to him - he wants to be equipped in such a way that he can react flexibly to all possible eventualities:

"When it comes to the equipment, I want to be sure that my project will not fail with the first little problems. My equipment must therefore be able to react flexibly to all the real and mental obstacles. In my inflatable stand-up paddle board and reacha trailer I found the perfect combination for my journey from the source of the Rhone to the source of the Rhine."

Up and down with the reacha

For example, Thomas Oschwald had a few stages on his way to Basel, where hydroelectric power stations or ship locks were repeatedly in the way at intervals of a few kilometres, making it impossible for him to continue his journey with the SUP. Then and there he paddled to the shore and loaded his inflated SUP onto his raecha trailer, which he sometimes folded up and sometimes carried with him in one piece with his stand-up paddle:

"Thanks to the great flexibility of my reacha-trailer, I was able to adjust the width and length of my trailer to the dimensions of my bags and my board with a few simple steps. The bags fitted perfectly on the trailer and formed a stable base for the board. In addition, the width was adjusted exactly to the width of the tail of my SUP board, so that I could simply place the trailer on the back of the board between the obstacles that followed in quick succession."
With the SUP on the Rhine

Since the reacha trailer is easy to dismantle, Thomas was able to convert it into a stool

Pull or push? The main thing is to keep moving!

On some days, Oschwald was even forced to walk for several hours along the trail. For water-poor rivers, hurricane-like headwinds or impassable channel tunnels drove the stand-up paddle enthusiast ashore time and again. Oschwald was of course particularly grateful to his reacha trailer, but not only because it can easily transport up to 60 kg (a maximum of 35 kg can be transported on a bicycle trailer), but also because he could pull and push it:

"Even though 50 kilograms and more were on my reacha trailer on some legs, I still flew over the tarmac. This was due to the high quality wheels and the possibility to balance the trailer perfectly. I often pushed the trailer with a light front load. So I could simply put my hands on the handle and push the trailer in front of me with hardly any effort. Only uphill I pulled it behind me."

Thomas Oschwald had to bypass some of the channel tunnels on roads and paths

Handy and multifunctional

Only from the mouth of the Rhine did he continue exclusively on the water. From there to a little bit further than Basel, Oschwald paddled an enormous distance with his SUP: over 1000 kilometers he defied the capricious currents of the Rhine. His reacha trailer was usually lying disassembled on the board. But on stormy days with bad weather or strong currents, the reacha was used again - just not as a trailer:

"On stormy days and with extreme currents, which I could only conquer sitting down, I built a stool out of the wheels and the draw bar to be able to defy the forces of nature sitting down. Another feature that I discovered spontaneously and saved myself from failing several times."

Oschwald had to cover the last few kilometres to the source of the Rhine on foot and used his reacha again according to its actual purpose: as a hand trailer.

SUP camping tour in the Alps

The last few kilometres to the source of the Rhine are again up the mountains on foot

Finally at the destination - without a single bottle of water

Oschwald finally reached his destination after two and a half months and almost 3000 kilometers. On his journey he "sailed" through six countries with his SUP and covered a distance of more than 2000 km - without using a single plastic water bottle. For this was another goal of his stand-up paddling tour: Oschwald deliberately did not use bottled water, because he wanted to find out for himself "how difficult the path to clean drinking water can be", or not.
According to him, this was not always easy, but finally, thanks to his follower, he was quite flexible in his search for suitable water points:

"It was a fight against the current of the Rhine and against his own despair. But as big as the problems and obstacles were, I was able to avoid them again and again thanks to my reacha trailer."
Climbing with the SUP to the source of the Rhine

The last meters with the SUP on his back over fixed rope routes

The fulfilment of a 10-year-old dream

We at reacha were excited and thrilled when we first heard about the unusual journey of Thomas Oschwald. The fact that one of our reacha athletes had travelled such a remarkable distance fills us with pride and of course also with gratitude. We are happy that we were able to help Thomas to fulfill his dream. It won't be his last dream or his last tour, as he said to us himself:

"A 10-year-old dream may have come true, but many new dreams have been born. Ideas and projects waiting to be fulfilled: Big and small tours, which will take me out into the world and deep inside myself. The uncertainty is waiting for me and wants to be discovered. Not in a straight line, but peppered with obstacles and problems."

Finally, we wish Thomas for the future that he will be able to overcome all the obstacles that arise on his travels - we are more than happy to provide our reacha hand or bike trailers.

You can find out more about STAND UP FOR SAFE WATER and other projects of Thomas Oschwald at www.teachandtravel.ch.

Paddling with the SUP on the source of the Rhine

Final destination - all alone Thomas Oschwald paddles on the source of the Rhine

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