Birds scared of SUP but not of boats

Whenever you think you’ve seen and heard a lot in life, you’re quickly proven wrong. This message is currently number 1 in terms of idiocy:

In Switzerland there are birds that are afraid of people gliding standing on the water, but not of motorboats and other loud, fast vehicles moving on the water.

This in any case seems to be the claim of bird conservationists who almost got through with the authorities with demands to ban stand up paddlers from the Aare river in Solothurn.

But only almost:

Now there is a standing ban for stand up paddlers on certain sections while motorboats can continue to sail. But the Aare is not a small river as you would think, but in the city of Solothurn the Aare is up to 120m wide.

Actually, we wanted to write something more here but there are no words for laughter (but not happy laughter). The Swiss shoot the bird here and fire the “Füdlibürgertum” with big guns.

«Sit-Down» instead «Stand-Up» in Switzerland

Because stand-up paddlers scare birds on the Solothurn Aare, they are supposed to paddle sitting down. That makes people shake their heads.

When temperatures rise, Swiss lakes and rivers show the same picture in many places: the water is stormed by heat-loving people. The Aare in the city of Solothurn is no exception. On hot summer days, swimmers, rubber boaters and motorboats cavort in the river.

In recent years, this has been joined by more and more people on stand-up paddle (SUP). There was a real boom in 2020, when many discovered stand-up paddling during the Corona summer. Board rental companies and tour operators launched offers, and the canton built a jetty especially for boarding the river. Tourism, police and shipping companies were satisfied. Everything went smoothly, they said.

After the frustration the “compromise

At the end of summer, a shock for all paddle fans: the canton bans stand-up paddling on the Aare near Solothurn. A large section from Lüsslingen to Flumenthal is a national protected area, sailing with “dragon sail boards” and similar vehicles was already prohibited there. Since last fall, the canton of Solothurn also counts SUP among them.

The incomprehension of the paddlers was great. Their sport should be banned, while rubber, rowing and motor boats are still allowed to sail on the same section?

Now the turnaround: The canton of Solothurn partially allows stand-up paddles in nature reserves. But in order to disturb the birds there as little as possible, the paddlers have to sit down and are only allowed to paddle in the middle of the river. A “compromise for humans and animals”.

Sitting stand-up paddlers seem less threatening to waterfowl than standing people, says Rolf Manser, head of the responsible office. He wants to publicize the new regulation under the slogan “Sit-Down instead of Stand-Up”.

Nobody is happy

Roland Thomke, initiator of the association Pro SUP-Switzerland, has no understanding for this regulation. According to Thomke, the association represents the interests of around 400 regional SUP sportswomen and commercial providers. The ban is based on a false legal basis. The alleged scientific evidence that SUPs disturb birds does not exist, Thomke said. “There is no reason to unilaterally restrict stand-up paddlers over other water users.”

Jürgen Hofer, Director of Region Solothurn Tourism, blows the same horn. The sport of stand-up paddleboarding already has “standing” in its name. The canton had not worked together with the affected parties for its regulation. A round table with all those concerned is needed.

Thomas Lüthi, vice president of Bird Life Solothurn, is also not happy about the “compromise”. The regulation serves no one, says the bird conservationist. Lüthi doubts that they SUP athletes comply with the rules. “Sitting on a stand-up paddle, I imagine it’s like riding a bicycle while pushing the bike.” In addition, he said, the regulation does, after all, curtail bird protection in the affected section of the river. The problem originally only arose because the canton of Solothurn allowed motorboating here a few years ago.

The controversial sitting requirement on the Aare for a sport normally practiced standing up is in place until 2024 at the latest, by which time the canton of Solothurn wants to review the protected area, in particular whether it is still needed as a wintering site for waterfowl.