BetonBrouwers well-prepared to be the best

| Patricia Reyes

The BetonBrouwers are a group of Civil Engineering students from the UT that build concrete canoes and race with them around Europe. We interviewed two of its members, Luc Scholten and Sander Leusink, to learn how they have prepared for this weekend’s Betonkanorace, the yearly Dutch competition being held in Eindhoven.

Pictured: last year, the race took place in Enschede.

What’s it like building a canoe made of concrete? Is it hard to make it float?

Leusink: ‘It’s common to think concrete is heavy so it will sink. But steel boats are also heavy. It doesn’t really matter how heavy the concrete is, as long as the shape is correct.’

How long does it take you to build the concrete canoe?

Scholten: ‘You can build the canoe in one day. But then there’s achieving the perfect mixture of concrete and having the perfect shape before applying the concrete over it. This can take months or even years. We try to innovate our methods the whole year.’

Do you also practice canoeing the whole year round?

Scholten: ‘Training gets a bit more intense just before the race. Our spring training takes place outdoors, whereas in the winter we mostly train in the pool. Some of our members are also in the kayaking association DKV Euros, so we agreed with them that some of us can train in the pool.’

Leusink: ‘We use steel canoes for most of the training, but it’s also important to train in concrete before the race. We want to build flexible canoes, but that makes them harder to handle. If you make a small mistake your canoe can turn really fast, you have to know how they work.’

What are your expectations for this weekend’s race?

Leusink: ‘We always try to win and the last years have shown that it’s possible.’

Scholten: ‘This time, the team from Leipzig is participating. Those men are constantly training and they have very good canoes and canoers.’

Leusink: ‘They are our most important competitors, but we’re still the best Dutch team, so we’re hoping we can defeat them as well.’

Are you competing for a big prize?

Leusink: ‘The Betonkanorace is like the Dutch championship. There are prizes for speed but also for construction aspects of the canoe. It’s nice to have prizes and of course we want to be known as the best. There is no prize money in the Netherlands so thankfully we have many sponsors, to keep the BetonBrouwers alive. Also, my personal opinion is that I’m part of this team because it is fun.’

Scholten: : ‘Fun, passion, and innovating concrete canoes are the most important things. Money from sponsors is what keeps us innovating and trained to become European champions. We always go for the big prizes as we want to win the title of best concrete canoers of Europe.'

You give your canoes really weird names like ‘Krokano’ or ‘Kanosoufflé’. Why is that?

Scholten: ‘Every year we choose a theme. Last year we named them after alcoholic drinks, this year we chose snacks. We also use coloring pigments in the concrete that match the canoes names.’