The last 10 days have been a world-wind, I am on such a high from an awesome engagement on Monday, Birthday on Tuesday and spending some great quality time with the great people in our lives, over a special time for me.
Even in the craziness, preparations for the longer race at the King of the Bay went great. The adjustments to nutrition are working for the longer training and events and even though I was probably a little tired, I felt great leading into the race.
I again paddled with Clint Cook and we settled into a great bunch through the first flat section of the race, heading through the Durban port. It is a special experience to paddle out the mouth of the harbour and taking note of the awesome scenery was a must.
The conditions on the day couldn’t have been better. The SW had blown all of Saturday making the route into the NE wind, down to the turn maker a lot easier with a little bit of left over swell. We quickly got a gap on the other doubles once in the ocean and used the swell as best we could to keep the speed up, even into the wind.
At the turn we kicked hard for home holding some really nice speeds. I have to say that this was one of the easier King of the Bay races I have ever done, must be my very strong partner and happy heart. We took the win for the second week running and looking forward to race 4 of the series where we will have some more competition in a doubles specific race.
Jeep Team SA, team mate Hank McGregor won the single in style from Matthew Bouman and Nicole Russell edged out Hayley Nixon in a tight race for the ladies.
It was awesome to see such an awesome turn out for the event with new sponsors Bay Union and Zurich doing a great job of looking after the paddlers.
Next up is the Lion of Africa Surf Challenge this weekend.
The winter has snuck up on us already!!! Where has summer gone?
Well, thank goodness Durban is the best place in the world to paddle in winter, with warm water and perfect conditions. The winter surfski races are always a yearly highlight of the year. I couldn’t wait to get onto the line to racing again.
The prep hasn’t been great with some illness recently. The lack of boat time just got me more excited about the events, after missing out on my daily salt water fix quite a big lately. It’s amazing to note how much I miss it when not able to paddle.
For the 2016 winter I have decided to jump into a double with friend Clint Cook. Surfski paddling to me is meant to be fun and I love racing in a double. The last season I did in a double was with Brett Bartho some 10 years ago and the fresh feel of a new crew has me enjoying my paddling.
The first race of the season had a “FUN” theme and it was great to see people dress up in fancy dress, paddle with family members and most of all enjoy the very unique new course on offer. The community around the paddling is awesome and love interacting with so many people at the races.
Clint and myself had a great start, breaking away right off the bat. We got into a great rhythm straight away and slowly opened the gap on the field throughout the 12km race. Our average was really good doing 52min all on our own. This is a good sign for later in the season when we have more competition.
A big thanks to the mates who lent us a boat for the race. After splitting with my boat supplier earlier in the year, equipment had been an interesting challenge and I am very grateful for the people who have helped out so far!
The next race on the calendar is the Bay Union King Of the Bay, one of my favorites for the year. Lets hope the body holds out for a full 22km so early in the season.
After a fun KZN champs I booked a last min plane ticket down to PE for Lifesaving Nationals. I originally wasn’t planning on going for many reasons but the adding value to my club (second family) was worth the effort.
PE is not my favorite place in the world and my experience of doing lifesaving in the town, are not my greatest memories. This didn’t damper spirits, as I knew I would have a ball with the friends on the trip.
Going into the champs I was feeling a little bit rusty after not having raced much in recent weeks due to some injury concerns. To get in some extra time on the water I decided to take part in Masters Champs for the first time, which took part on the Thursday morning. I am very glad I did, as it blew out some cobwebs and got the body into race mode for the days to come.
On Thursday afternoon I captained the KZN team at inter provincials for the second year in a row. I had a decent paddle in the ski race, feeling strong and powerful. It came to a dash for the line with 4 people on 1 wave. I miss read the sprint, going to early (way to keen) and got schooled into 4th. Luckily I made up for my blunder in the taplin, having a good paddle to help my team to the win and to pip the Western Cape by 1 point in the competition. It was great to follow up the win we got last year, even if it was so close, with a very spirited Cape team right on our heals.
The first day of nationals flew by on Friday with no paddling events for the men. I was able to help some of the ladies from Marine, setting up boats and making sure all was running smoothly with our team. I am super proud of our coach Russell Sadler and the hard work our squad had put in for the champs. Seeing all this hard work pay off on the day was quite special and certainly inspired me for the days of race to come.
Saturday was a big one for the men’s ski paddlers with the single ski and ski relay on the program. The conditions were deteriorating badly, with a strong SW buster blowing the whole day. PE was certainly living up to its nickname of the ‘windy city’. This made for some very hard racing and a ton of close finishes coming back into the wind at the tail end of each race.
I felt good in my single ski heat and semi going through to packed final of young talent, local heroes and seasoned legends all out to take the title. I had a decent start pulling out to the buoys in the front pack, saving a little for the head wind home. Some suspect driving from the leaders, clashing on the apex turn can, meant a bun fight for everyone from 3rd to 10th with a number of the favorites for the title getting caught in the mess. I battled to find open space and hacked in the traffic before breaking out just after the swim cans to hunt the leaders. It was too late and I never got the wave the front 4 got onto, coming home in 6th. Up front a junior paddler, who had showed great form the whole week, Mark Keeling took the win from club mate Matthew Bouman in 2nd. Mark is a rising star on the SA surfski scene and I am very stoked that his hard work has paid off into a deserving national title.
The ski relay was going to be just as much of a bun fight with tons of top teams on the line. I started off for my Marine team, coming in across the beach in a lead pack of 3, handing over to Russell Sadler out second paddler. Russ was really sick and almost killed himself for our team as he stayed with the lead bunch. Matthew Bouman our 3rd paddler went out hard and lead the pack, getting a gap on the way home. I am sure he was sniffing a gold that he had missed out on in the single ski, but the sea wasn’t in his favor. Greg Lowe from Summerstrand caught a wave down onto Matt to take the win leaving us in 2nd. That’s lifesaving racing for you and got to take those ones on the chin, it’s never over till you are across the line.
The last day of racing on the Sunday held another 2 events for the ski paddlers, the double ski and then the taplin relay. A last min change with Russell being sick meant I had the powerhouse of Matthew Bouman in the boat with me. We had a good heat and got a little unlucky in the final, with more boats catching a wave down onto us. The photo finish went the way of the Lowe brother who really paddle well together, with us in 2nd. Seriously tight racing. The taplin is always fun and managed to catch a couple places for my team to come home just off the podium.
My club, Marine had a strong 3 days finishing second in the seniors. The stars of the week were certainly our ladies, who scored a huge amount of points for us. The competition was won by Fish Hoek, a fine showing by a team with no weaknesses. A number of their younger guys and girls are certainly coming of age and all stuck their hands up to be counted in and out of the water. Deserving winners by a very committed and passionate club, who won with much grace. WELL DONE Fish Hoek.
On a personal note I left the windy city with a hollow heart, very worried for the sport. I loved the racing, I loved the people but the champs were really badly supported. With numbers dropping and little being done to reverse the trend, I battle with the accepting mindset, that all is well. It certainly is NOT and the sport needs to evolve to survive. Will it still be around for our kids at this rate? I really am not sure.
The craziness that is this time of year with organizing the last race of the summer surfski series and the final prize giving has keep me from posting this story for a while.
The last couples weeks have been very hot on cold on the training front sorting out a shoulder niggle. I would start training again after some physio, only to have set back after set back. The consistency I crave in training has been something of a distant memory and the confidence as shaky as the training.
I got the weekend off to a surprising good start. After a long warm up (need for the shoulders) we jumped straight into he single ski final on Saturday afternoon. Russell Sadler, our Marine coach took it out really hard on the right of the arena and with some effort I managed to mow him down by the swim cans to take the lead. I stayed out of trouble to take the win, which is my 3rd KZN singles title in the row.
The next day I did the ski relay and taplin relay races, getting 2nd in both before winning the double ski race with Russell Sadler in the engine room. It was a fun weekend of racing at Toti with really great weather to boot.
Next up is SA Champs, which starts tomorrow. The first day comprises of the National Master Champs in the morning followed by the National Inter Provincial. I have never done a master event so not sure what to expect. I am a little rusty in the spec ski so any race practice will be great. It is a great privilege to the captaining the KZN team at the inter provincials in the afternoon, after captaining the team last year, to their first win in 8 years.
Check back for more updates from the weeks racing.
Photos by Graham Topfoto
With a new year comes’ a fresh perspective, new goals and a blank canvas of opportunity. The last thing one wants is something holding you back from a good start to the year.
Well, in some ways, the year has kicked off to an amazing start. My first event series for the year, the Varsity College FNB Surfski Series, has been very well supported but on the personal racing front however, the year has got off to a very slow start. I have been battling with a pinched nerve in my neck, halting my progress and putting my training on hold.
Big training sessions have been replaced with some painful and intense Physiotherapy sessions, with no paddling for days at a time. With a little voice in the back of my mind going, “it’s a new year, get going!!!!” Staying off the water has proved to be a serious challenge.
Patience was not a character trait I was blessed with, making the last couple of weeks quite frustrating. Being off the water has made me slow down and think about my goals for 2016 and how badly I want achieve them.
I have been working with a skilled and talented team of people who have not only helped me fix my weak neck but have also assisted me in other weak areas. I am running better than I have run in years, been more consistent with my foam roller, worked on my posture daily, stretched more and, very importantly, focused on technique in the paddle sessions that I have been able to do. All of these have aided in making me an all-round healthier human and in turn, a calmer, happier person too.
Last week, still a little bruised from Physio, I decided to take on Race 3 of my Friday night surfski series in Durban. After missing the first two races, I was excited to simply be on the water.
I got off to a safe but sluggish start through the solid surf at Marine, turning the first buoy near the back of a big front group of 15 paddlers. The first section of the race goes into the wind towards the iconic Moses Mabida Soccer Stadium, looking around I couldn’t help but be thankful for the opportunity to be racing again. It can be a rather picturesque and idyllic scene, with the fading light over the city, and being afforded the opportunity to share such a moment with hundreds of other like-minded paddlers is a truly a special moment.
Filled with stoke, I had a great first few kilometers passing boats to turn on the downwind with Steve Woods. I could see Wade Krieger about 75m ahead and jumped on a couple runners to catch right up to him. Unlucky for me he saw me coming and in turn really put his head down on the second lap to fight his way away from me again. Wade is in fine form and will be a force to be reckoned with this year now that he is focused on Surfski racing full time. I had a consistent 2nd lap trying to stay focused on my form. I came home 2nd, a little surprised with how comfortable it all felt.
I really have battled in the boat recently and the work on rehabbing my neck has done wonders. Perhaps there is something to this patience thing I have been missing over all these years.
I hope my excitement for simply getting on the water is a theme for this year, something to appreciate and push me even harder to achieve my 2016 goals.
Here is to a big year!
It’s taken me some time to put pen-to-paper, after an emotional week in St Francis. The value of life and it’s vulnerability were put into perspective through the loss of one of our Surfski community members.
If you follow any of my social media posts you would have already known that a paddler from Port Elizabeth, Trevor Vaughan, passed away tragically after the finish of the Surfski race in St Francis.
My heart goes out to his family, friends and the paddling community who are mourning his loss.
After a very busy Christmas week in Cape Town we were in need of a good holiday.
Arriving in St Francis in the Jeep Team Grand Cherokee, the idea was to kick the feet up after a long year of racing and have a little fun. There were two races on the cards for the week, one in the sea and the other in the canals, which were to be used to balance out the week of swimming, surfing, beer tasting and beach cruising.
Unfortunately I had been battling with a pinched nerve in my neck resulting in some numbness in my hand. This wasn’t going to detract from the fun to be had on the water, as a large field of over 80 paddlers lined up for the Sporty Anderson Memorial. I had the privilege of spending time with Sporty many years ago in Cape Town, where he helped me as a young kid. He would’ve loved seeing so many paddlers lining up in his honor.
I got off to a good start through the surf, leading out the front group towards the port. Top Australian paddler Reese Baker, out in South Africa on his honeymoon, turned the first can with Kyle Friedenstein and myself in tow. We all took different lines on the way to the river mouth with Reese getting there first with a 50m lead. Once on the flat water of the river he put his ears back and charged to a commanding lead.
The first double had come through the field, picking up Richard “chopper” Von Wildemann, then Kyle and myself. We cruised through the canals amongst the beautiful houses as a group, all having a great chat about how awesome the setting was and how lucky we were to experience this beautiful part of the world. The run over the sandbank at the river-mouth split us up and I knew this was a defining point in the race. I had a very good put-in, breaking away from the rest of the bunch allowing me to come home in second on the day.
It was after the race the tragedy struck, as Trevor Vaughan passed away from a heart attack.
The paddling, waterpolo and lifesaving communities’ response to the loss of Trevor’s life was heart-felt, with people coming together from all over the Eastern Cape to participate in a paddle-out memorial on the St Francis canals. Tradgic events like this truly put life into perspective, making us remember how short our stay here really is and to make the most of the time we have.
My girlfriend Carly, and I, made the most of the rest of our stay on holiday. The water was warm, the beer cold and friends a-plenty. I put this little video together from our time in St Francis, I am sure you will agree that the GoPro footage from my new hero session speaks for itself, it was a holiday of a lifetime.
Towards the end of the trip we also took part in the Canal Challenge. This for me was more of a social outing and I had the opportunity to take Carly in a double. Carly was thrown in the deep-end, and tasked with driving the boat. This was to give her an opportunity to experience first hand the elements of racing and paddling in bunches. She handled the task with flying colours, steering like a seasoned pro. We managed to win the mixed category and have a lot of fun in the process.
The holiday was finished off with a couple nights in the Berg with more family, making sure that we were refreshed and ready for the year ahead.
I cannot thank Jeep Team South Africa enough for the use of the Grand Cherokee for the tour. This machine is a work of art, making easy work of the long distances covered throughout the trip. Their support, along with that of Varsity College, make my paddling dreams come true, they really do have my back. The “Beast” has changed my outlook on what a great driving experience actually is. You have to test drive one of these!
I also have to thank my road trip partner Carly, for sharing the driving and most of all for her enthusiasm throughout. It would not have been the same without you, to many more paddling adventures to come.
The beauty of the Cape of storms and the experience of paddling around the point is breath taking. Something every paddler needs to do at least once. Its something that has drawn me back to the cold waters of the Atlantic.
The race has a nasty side, that excites and scares me. The challenge of the distance and the extreme conditions (cold and headwind) will scare most, it certainly gives me the shivers.
The weatherman didn’t come to the party and after a hard flat paddle to the point we were greeted with a head wind, coming home into Fish Hoek. Getting to the finish would challenge the 120 paddlers on the water for sure.
I went really well for the first 2 hours, cutting the rock on the point in 5th and joining up with Kenny Rice into the wind , as I prepared for the pain of the last 20km. Little did I know how bad that pain was going to be. I started cramping at 2h40min and spend that last 2 hours having to stop every couple min loosing a ton of time.
Survival mode kicked in, and the goal of reaching the finish became a real battle. A couple min at a time, setting little goals, at snails pace I got to the line in pretty bad nick. The course had tested my man hood for sure as it made men out of all those who finished. A well done to all who conquered the Cape Of Storms!
I will be back to round Cape Point again, with even more courage than before.
Well done to Hank McGregor with won his 6th singles title in fine form. The Jeep Team athlete really is unbeatable over the longer distances.
Thanks to Jeep Team SA for the use of the Jeep for the trip to the race. It has made the long drive to CT so much more comfortable. I am looking forward to the next part of the trip to St Francis in this awesome machine!
By Olivia Jones Communications – Pics by Kev Sawyer
Yesterday saw the conclusion of another exciting Winkle-Toti-Winkle Sea and Sand Marathon with paddlers enjoying the favourable downwind conditions on the day.
En route to compete in the Cape Point Challenge, Barry Lewin of Varsity College/Jeep Team SA took the top position with a time of 54:17.47 in the singles surfski race.
Lewin, who is no stranger to the race having competed eight times previously, said that the 15-knot southwesterly resulted in many smiling faces at the start of the race.
“I had an amazing day out on the ocean,” said Lewin, who managed to make good ground 200m into the race, using the wind to his advantage and surfing at an average of 17km/hour. “A big thanks to the race organisers and sponsors for putting on such a good show. It’s definitely a race I’ll come back to for years to come.”
The race, which was moved from Winklespruit to Wyndham Beach because of the wind, increased in length from the originally planned 12.6km to 15km in total. Undeterred by the extra distance, Zoog Haynes took second position in a time of 55:57.44 and Oliver Burn clinched third with a time of 56:17.12.
Downwind specialists, Bryce Hatton and Marc Stanton, were in their element and easily took the lead in the doubles race in a time of 55:39.70. The local duo was closely followed by Shaun Burgin and Robin Tindall in a time of 57:31.75, with Mark Lewin and Anna Clifford-Arwidi finishing in third spot in at time of 1:01:21.47.
The “first lady” of paddling, Michelle Burn, took the women’s top spot in a time of 1:01:51.15 with Sharon Armstrong taking second with 1:15:52.24.
The event – held annually on 16 December since 1972 – comprises three main events, organised by the Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club and sanctioned by both the South African Canoe Union and South African Road Runners’ Association. Traditionally, the 12.6km surfski race and the 12.6km long course beach run and walk both start and end at Winklespruit Beach after a journey to Toti Beach. The 4.8km short course beach run and walk goes until Warnernerdoone Rocks before returning to Winklespruit Beach.
The three events started on Wednesday at 9.30am with a simultaneous beach clean-up taking place this year, headed by Kyle Dawson of Wasteman.
“The weather was good with a strong southwesterly wind blowing which made for good downwind conditions that favoured the paddlers, but made things a bit challenging for the beach runners and walkers,” explained event organiser, Neville Hazell of Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club. “But despite this, everyone who attended really enjoyed the experience.”
Hazell said the annual event, held during the height of festive season, encourages both locals and holidaymakers to enjoy the spectacular beaches that the Sapphire Coast has to offer. In addition, he said that the event also gives community members a chance to see Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club in action, with the opportunity of joining.
“There is a great sense of camaraderie within the club and it provides people with the chance to truly enjoy the coastal life,” said Hazell. “We really look forward to continuing this great tradition.”
To ensure the safety of all participants, two rescue boats were deployed on the day with professional lifeguards stationed every 2km of the beach. A 4×4 vehicle was available for support and paramedics also in attendance.
In a further effort to ensure the beaches are at their best, Wasteman sponsored a concurrent beach clean-up with nippers from Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club and Wasteman employees taking to the shores to pick up litter along the route.
“The South Coast has some of the most spectacular beaches and we really want to showcase them at their absolute best which is why we undertook this beach clean-up,” explained event sponsor, Ross Fountain of Wasteman.
The event wrapped up with a prizegiving at Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club with top quality prizes sponsored by XXX
Winkle-Toti-Winkle Sea and Sand Marathon Results
Men’s Singles Surfski Race
1. Barry Lewin – 54:17.47
2. Zoog Haynes – 55:57.44
3. Oliver Burn – 56:17.12
Men’s Doubles Surfski Race
1. Bryce Hatton and Marc Stanton – 55:39.70
2. Shaun Burgin and Robin Tindall – 57:31.75
3. Mark Lewin and Anna Clifford Arwidi – 1:01:21.47
Women’s Singles Surfski Race
1. Michelle Burn – 1:01:51.15
2. Sharon Armstrong – 1:15:52.24
As I wipe the sleep out my eyes this morning I cant help but have this warm, fuzzy feeling inside, and a big grin from ear to ear. Flashes of an awesome weekend flood in, a father and son road trip, 2 cracker downwind races as well as connecting with the paddling community from around the country, what more can one ask for?
The Pete Marlin really is my favorite surfski race in SA for a number of reasons so packing the car on Thursday got the blood going for sure.
My dad and I have a lot in common as we both have a passion for the ocean and surfski racing. We organized to take the trailer of Durban paddlers boats down to the race and treat the weekend as a bit of father son time. What a blessing it is, to be able to hang out with you old man, talk kak for many hours on the road and share war stories from the trip on the way home. Its not something I take for granted and hope to be doing more trips like this in the future with the “Bullet” as he is affectionately know. Old, but still fast on the water or to tell a story (my word can he talk).
The racing kicked off quite early on Saturday with the singles World Series Race. The course was a 22km paddle from Orient Beach to Yellow Sands in some really fun SW conditions.
The protected start Orient Beach gave the paddlers a very fair start and 2 bunches were formed early on. I lead out the one on the inside with Jasper Mocke going out to see to find more swell with a couple paddlers following him. I learnt a lesson on this course last year how important the first 20min is. I battled to get going in 2014 and simply couldn’t catch up. The goal was to be in the mix in the first 5km to Nahoon point.
The first 10min of racing is quite flat in the protection of the harbour but very soon the tail of my Fenn was being lifted by a run and I was able to glide from 1 run to the next. Conditions turned out to be “PERFECT”, with small fast runs providing some really nice technical connections between them. The angle was the same as a SW in Durban and this familiarity got me into a rhythm with the runs really quickly.
Pushing hard early I managed to get away from the paddlers in my bunch of Wade Krieger and Steve Woods. This was a nice confidence boost as Wade has really been going well in Durban and thought he would be a threat on the day. It was hard to tell where other paddlers where, as we passed through the B, C and D batches who had gone off before us. I however knew Jasper Mocke (3rd at World Champs) would be strong on the outside.
The race went by so fast with the runs being so much fun. Linking one to another it was hard to think I was actually racing and asked myself at times, “is racing really meant to be this fun?”. It went so fast that I was surprised to look up to notice I was passing one of the points I use as a marker some 5km from the finish. With more awareness of the finish line I could see Dawid Mocke some 150m outside me and knew I was in with a shout if I could hold my speed.
Coming into the last km to Yellow Sands Point it was run for run with Dawid on a wider line. I missed 2 runs tacking out to get around the point and that was the difference, Dawid nailed the line to the surf zone and turned 2 runs ahead, to take the win. I don’t think I made any mistakes but Dawid was just that good and deserved it. Dawid drove out to check the finish the day before and his homework had paid off.
The race was now on for 2nd and Jasper Mocke had come in from a deep line and showed amazing skill catching a wave passed me and down the rocks. The wave took him right up to finish just behind his brother Dawid in 2nd. I scratched in for the last step of the podium in 3rd. This is a great result for me in a strong field of paddlers from around SA.
The training for worlds and loosing some weight has certainly helped in getting me in the mix on the racing recently. It is very motivating and I plan to keep up with the little things I have changed that have worked so well this year.
The second day of racing was the doubles on the same course. I jumped in with long time friend Steve Woods, who I have never paddled with before. We didn’t have any expectations with not having any time in the boat together but with another nice SW blowing we were excited about the fun downwind on offer.
We got away well with Jasper Mocke/Dom Notten (also a new combination) but the danger pair of Dwaid Mocke/Tom Schilperoort (a seasoned crew just having done Fish together) had gone out very hard further out to see.
The first 10km of the race was very hard with very small runs and no rest, climbing over the one in front all the time. Jasper again went out to see to find more swell and we started to chase Dawid/Tom. We held them for the first 20min but soon their strength started to show and they put on a 200m lead at 5km to go.
The runs improved in the last 10km with some much better speeds. We started gaining back some time but it wasn’t enough with Dawid/Tom taking a well-deserved win. Just like the singles, the race was on for 2nd, and this time it was Steve/myself who got a wave at Yellows Point ahead of Jasper/Dom taking us into 2nd.
All the paddlers at the event had a lot of fun on and off the water. It has to be one of the best-organized races I have been to. As I said in my speech at prize giving, there are 2 real standouts at the Pete Marlin. Firstly the people of the town in East London have to be the coolest bunch of hospitable people you could meet, they really rock. The second being the sponsors who back the event organizers, allowing them to put on such a good show. Thanks to all for the awesome weekend.
Big thanks to the Atkinson family for the home stay. Again in 2015 you opened your home to my dad and I. Gary you are awesome!
Well done to Charl Van Wyk (legend race organizers and king of the spread sheet) for all you do for the sport. I will be back for many years to come.
Next up for me is the Fenn Cape Point Challenge in December. Not my favorite race but an exercise in building some base for next years racing. Wish me luck with some base miles over the next month.