2016, already!

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Amazing how fast time flies when you are having fun!

I have to admit that I have been super slack on the blog posting front, and can only put it down to too much water time, and a lot less laptop time:)

Since my last post, I got to experience possibly the best Euro-Trip I have ever been on! It started with the World Sprint Championships in Milan, Italy. I was there as Team Leader for Team USA as well as coach for Maggie Hogan. I’m proud to say that Maggie raced a phenomenal K1 1000m to get the bronze medal, and in doing so, became the first podium finish by a US citizen at a Sprint World Championships in 2 decades.

It was my first World Sprint Champs as a non-athlete, and with all the meetings, running around and late nights working, I can honestly say that it is a way better experience as an athlete:)

From Milan we flew to Porto for the 2015 Nelo Summer Challenge. As usual, Andre, Marisa and the crew at Nelo put on an event not to miss! Add this one to your calendar folks! (July 8-10th, 2016). Great location (hotel on beach where race finishes), fantastic Portuguese food, and of course, great Nelo service with regards to the boats and setup. I got to play around in the new 560, and I can’t wait for mine to arrive! *(Update, mine has arrived…awesome…blog post to follow)

After the event, Maggie and I hopped in with the guys from Santander, and drove North to one of the best kept secrets in Spain! Johnny, Pablo and all the guys at the Santander club made us feel so welcome that we ended up staying a few days extra! What a beautiful place, with loads of great paddling, surfing and mountain biking!

After renting a tiny little car, we zooted up the coast towards the beautiful San Sebastien, and ended up in Biaritz. Unfortunatly no surf, but a lot of great sightseeing. After a whirlwind tour, we headed to Bourdeux, home to a 400 year old bakery, and of course, wine country! No place for a surfski on the rental, so the lack of training was made up by tasting the local wines and cheese:)

 

From there it was on to a part of Spain I had not seen before, the whole Costa Bravo coastline. It was really beautiful and sunny, and too short a visit, I’ll have to go back! From Barcelona airport, we headed to Budapest and onto Gyor for the 2015 Canoe Marathon World Championships.

Before the event could start, a day trip to Vienna bumped up our tour to 5 countries in 2 weeks. It was not without drama (aka a parking fine and challenges to our navigating skills to try and find the traffic police station!)

Gyor was the venue for my first ever marathon Worlds, way back in 2007 when I won a bronze medal with Nikki Mocke. We had just qualified for the Beijing Olympics and this was the last thing we felt like doing! It ended up being a really great experience (the medal helped!) The course actually flooded away that year, leaving us with no portages and a very sore butt after 25km’s!

2015 was the polar opposite, with probably the lowest water for our event, forcing the bunches to ride almost single file, scraping along the rocks at the river bank.

Despite the whirlwind travel schedule, and lack of proper training build-up, Maggie and I raced to a 4th place (my 4th fourth place at Marathon Worlds now…), the best placing by a USA marathon team.

After the event, it was Budapest by storm. I really love that city!

After a few weeks back in the US, it was time to head across the Pacific to Tahiti, for the 2nd ever ICF SurfSki World Champs. With the lack of available ski’s, the women’s race ended up being held on the Friday, and the men’s on the Saturday.

Having a separate start was great, you could identify/recognize who was in your race, and if you were in the lead, you actually were in the lead:)

I had a solid race, and am happy with how I paddled knowing how much I afforded to put into my preparation this season. I knew to hold off a strong flat-water paddler like Teneale Hatton, I would need at least a minute lead after the downwind leg and coming into the final 3km stretch of side wind. I did what I could, but I don’t think I had put enough of a lead in. Getting chased down is never a fun feeling, but it’s a consolation to know that I got caught by the 1000m world record holder!

After a week of living the island life, we caught a plane to Bora Bora, and then a boat to Taha’a, to take part in the 46km crossing that is the Maraamu SurfSki Race. Nothing quite beats an ice cold coconut water after a grueling paddle, and the private island lunch/swimming/chilling-with-your-new-mates experience afterwards was one of my favourite parts of the summer tour! Mosole puts on a truly special event, one I will push hard to get back to! Stoked to be able to reverse the finish order of Worlds the week before, and get a race win at this place of dreams! (my 2nd in this event). Well done to everyone who finished this toughie (but goodie).

Tahiti is such a special place, and it comes through in the awesomeness of the locals! Thanks to Johann for hosting us and looking after us so well! You are such a talented guy and it was great getting to know you.

That pretty much sums up the racing part of 2015.

Thanks to everyone that still supports me in achieving my dreams! I am stoked to be able to travel the globe, spreading the good vibes of open ocean paddling!

 

See you on the water,

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North American Surfski Cup

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These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel!
PAG 2015
I left Oklahoma City with Team USA to travel to Toronto for the Pan American Games on July 5th. With a relatively small team to look after, I still had my hands full.

It’s been an adjustment to move to “the other side”, but in a way it is a lot more rewarding looking after others than yourself, and I am fully enjoying the transition on the sprint side.

My multi-tasking skills are improving too, as noted by above photo taken while cycling, timing and coaching!
I unfortunately missed the 1st of the surfski races, the Canadian Champs, and instead headed straight to Hood River for the Gorge Downwind Festival to race 2 events – the North American Championships and the Wild Side Relay.

hood river race
What an amazing venue for a race (or a holiday!) The river is warm, and the wind blew every day. It’s a strange sensation to be doing a downwind, on a river, against the flow, and in fresh water!

I had a great race, taking the lead about 2km in. Teneale Hatton (NZ) took a shallower line, and was a little behind me most of the way. I hit the last 3km, the wind died a little, and the runs went flat. Having the world’s fastest 1000m paddler hunting you down is a little daunting, and with about 1km to go she caught and passed me! Well done Teneale!

Here is a video taken by Carter of the last few flat and grindy km’s. (Thanks for the video, and the shouts of encouragement!)

The whole event was put on by Carter Johnson, who did an amazing job! From the crazy bus to shuttle us to a downwind every day, to the great food and beer, I can’t think of a reason to ever miss this event! Carter had a super team of helpers, including the wave-queen, Judy Jensen, and a number of volunteers. The event was in aid of Rivers for Change (http://www.riversforchange.org/)
The standard of the women’s event was nice and high, with some internationals making the trip out, including 2 Kiwi’s (Teneale and Rachel), an Aussie (Rowy), a South African (Samantha) as well as some local US Paddlers (Maggie). There is nothing better than seeing growth not only in numbers but depth of talent too! Let’s keep the momentum girls!

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Women’s Podium

On the 2nd last day, I teamed up with Maggie Hogan to do the Wild Side Relay, which consisted of 4 legs of roughly 8-10km each. The second leg I did took me through some of the best runs I had all week, in a section called Swell City! A great concept for a race, and one of the few events that utilized their wind window. Unfortunately I left Maggie with the last leg, a real slog with no wind! She pulled through and managed just fine though!

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Downwind Transport

Race 2: The US SurfSki Champs

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After spending a few days in San Diego at the USA Canoe Kayak Sprint Nationals, put on by the San Diego Canoe Kayak Team (well done Cathy and your team!), I flew into San Fransisco on Saturday morning, ready for some Golden Gate action!

Unfortunately no real wind at the start, although it was sunny and hot! Can’t have it all right? Teneale rocketed off the start line, showing us how it is done!
The current was crazy as usual, and I am not sure if my line was correct. Once under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, we went South of Alcatraz, for the first time since I’ve done this race. The runs were fantastic around the island, followed by a bit of a flat spot.
Once through that section, it was runs all the way into Berkley. I seemed to be gaining on Teneale, but she was just too strong for me to catch her!

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The women’s field again nice and solid, with Rachel in 3rd, Maggie in 4th and Rowy in 5th.
Full results here:
Next up is the Nelo Summer Challenge followed by the 2nd ICF World Champs in Tahiti. With the rest of the world going, it’s looking like it will be one epic race!
See you on the water,
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Defining Success

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The clean slate of 2015, a new year filled with fresh opportunities.

All through January, I have been reading loads of articles and blog posts about goal setting and New Year’s resolutions. Read some of them here and here and here.

We have all heard about process goals, the breaking down of a large, seemingly insurmountable task, into smaller, more manageable tasks/goals. As Carrie Barrett in the article on Training Peaks says: “The rungs in the ladder you’ll need to climb in order to reach the big goal”.

Before we even get to the process part, the most important part of this process for me is the first step – Defining Success.

I was watching Silver Linings Playbook on the flight from South Africa, that scene where the 2 main characters (Pat and Tiffany) compete in a dance competition, both being novice dancers. Pat’s superstitious father (played by Robert de Niro) has entered into a parlay with his gambling pal, where 2 things needs to happen for him to win back double the money he lost on the first bet. Firstly the Eagles need to beat the Dallas Cowboys, and then Pat and Tiffany need to score a 5.0 in the dance contest.

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The eagles beat the Cowboys, and the pair scores a 5.0, and start celebrating (with the other dancers looking on in bewilderment at their joy in receiving such a low score).

What I love about this part of the movie, is that they are so stoked on their score, and it’s “only” a 5. Look at the other dancers expressions of condolence! They feel sorry for them for only scoring a 5.

10 is a perfect score, if your goal was to win the contest, or dance a perfect routine. Pat and Tiffany’s goal was to score a 5. They (and Pat’s dad’s gambling buddy) had defined what success would be. They achieved a 5 out of 5=100%. Success!

How do you aim for improvement, if you don’t know what it even looks like?

Here’s to a super 2015!

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cold weather paddling

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“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”
Carl Reiner

Leading up to the US SurfSki Champs in August, Pat Langley of Vaikobi was so kind as to send me a pair of the V Cold Paddle Pants.

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I remember as a kid being able to surf for hours in just boardies, but somehow as I’ve got older, there seem to be an increasing about of thermal tops being added to my paddling gear collection.

V_ColdPaddlePant_Rside_largeHere is a quick review on the V Cold Paddling Pant:

I pulled them on for the first time on a reasonably chilly and windy day, and immediately felt the warm factor. I took this as a great sign, and by the time we had hopped on the water for a quick downwind run from Fort Baker to Berkeley, I was looking forward to the cool water.

If anyone has paddled in San Francisco they will know that the water is always pretty cold. As Mark Twain said “The best winter you’ll ever have is summer in San Francisco!” The pants kept me nice and toasty, and even though I went pretty hard in the paddle, I never over-heated. The breath-ability and temperature management systems of the pants works a charm.

They were surprisingly comfortable, as I was expecting the neoprene to cause a bit of resistance to movement in the seat as I rotated with the paddle stroke, but the cleverly designed panels of different material make these pants fantastic with regards to range of motion. They are pretty stretchy and the low front and high back is perfect for a seated sport like surfski. (I also like the blue seam lines effect-no chafing and make the pants look pretty cool too).

All in all, these are now my favourite pants to paddle in. With winter settling in properly in Oklahoma City, they are coming in handy in my K1 as well.

As it’s said – “there’s no such thing as cold weather, just poor gear”! Click on the logo below or the images of the pants above to go to the Vaikobi website to find out more.

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The 2014 Hansa Fish River Marathon

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Sitting in Oklahoma City last year, watching the race unfold via twitter feed, I definitely knew I would not let this year’s Fish River Marathon slip by without me being on the start line!

Cradock 2014

The whole experience is uniquely South African, from the arid and beautiful Karoo/Eastern Cape landscape, to the brown river winding through koppies and thorn trees, to the crazy river paddling culture. Not many countries in the world have a race where paddlers navigate seriously challenging raids in ICF-style racing K1’s and K2’s (this year even served as National K3 Championships!).

K3 shooting CRadock

The vibe is unlike any other race I have done, and definitely one to add to your Bucket List. I lined up for my 9th start in 20 years of paddling the river, anxious as the last time I had been on flowing water was the 2012 Fish! Nonetheless, I had a super fun 2 days with no swims, and felt really solid in my great Vantage K1 from Knysna Racing Kayaks.

Toastrack Bridge

Toastrack Bridge-Gotta bend low to miss smacking your noggin on that!

With a rather large buffer between myself and 3rd place, I had the luxury of portaging Cradock weir to avoid any chance of a mishap, although missing out on the thrill of that drop was a rather large sacrifice to make to ensure my race position.

Shooting Cradock in year's past

Shooting Cradock in year’s past

Cradock 2009

The event organizers chose to do a reverse order start, giving all of us racing in elapsed time and A batch a much appreciated lie-in, as we only got going at 1030AM. The idea was to have a bigger crowd of supporters at the finish when the race winners came in. I think I refer the earlier start rather, as a highlight of the race is going to Cradock weir after I’m done, and watching the masses shoot it.

Spectators watching paddlers negotiate Soutpans Bridge and the following rapid

Spectators watching paddlers negotiate Soutpans Bridge and the following rapid

With 2 nights of local South African bands playing, the whole weekend package is totally worth the trip.

(Check out Barry Lewin’s Blog for some cool video footage.)

Next year’s dates have been set, and unfortunately it looks a little tight to be able to make the trip back to SA from Tahiti, who is playing host to the 2nd edition of the ICF World SurfSki Champs.

I have a few more days here in my beautiful hometown Plett, and then it’s back to Oklahoma City!

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