Pre-Dubai and a general rant…


After reading Rob’s pre-Dubai race report, I thought I would add to his one liner about the female race with my own little splurb… (budding journalist that I am).

No doubt there should be a great men’s race, with lots of surf ski hotties showing up.

In the women, Rob mentioned that Katie Pocock from New Zealand is coming.  Despite winning the race in 2007 and placing 3rd in 2009, she is unfortunately not going to make it.

Nikki Mocke will be there in her first attempt at the race. She missed the last few due to her commitments to the South African K4 that went all the way to the Olympics, quite a feat that she, as a surf ski paddler could convert her skill to flatwater sprinting. No offence to her husband, but to illustrate how difficult this is, Dawid tried to make it in flatwater, and had to resign himself to the fact that he is an amazing ski paddler, but not very fast on the flats! Nikki has made no bones about the fact that she is back, and has won the Durban World Cup since her return as well as dominating the Cape Discovery Sunglass Hut Surf Ski Series.

Ruth Highman from Australia, who was 2nd at the Dragon Run last year, and who also got 2nd at the recent Island Shamaal, will be making her first attempt at the Dubai Shamaal. The Perth-based doctor is known to be better in the downwind conditions.

Michele Eray has won the past 2 Dubai Shamaal’s, and is probably the only paddler who crosses all areas of the sport of paddling by competing in flatwater, both Sprints and Marathon, as well as River racing. The Olympian has had a agreat year, winning the Fish River Marathon last month, as well as placing 4th, just a few meters off a medal at the World Marathon Champs in Spain. Only Hank McGregor out of the men, also crosses over to other types of paddling sports with success.

Locally, Christie O’Higgins will be the favourite, and she gets to train on that part of the water as often as she likes.

Chloe Bunnet, originally from Knysna, South Africa, who know lives in the UK, will be there. She recently won the British Champs, and is thoroughly enjoying her new-found sport, having crossed over from Flatwater.

No one else has entered, neither have I actually! I better get on it. But anyway, I just thought I better write something because no one else is going to!

I made a small comment on my Facebook page today, and the debate that has been generated has been great! Love to stir the pot a little 🙂

Seriously though, the general disregard towards the women paddlers and lack of support really does get me down. How do we change this?

It has been mentioned that the Dubai Shamaal organizers put on big cash for the race in 2008 and not many people showed, well when they dropped the money the next year, even less showed. Why do none of the women come back (except for idiot me)?

Well firstly, it won’t happen over night.

Secondly, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Race organisors  can’t just expect everyone to start supporting your race because you up the money for one year! You have to make an overall effort, that means consideration for the different aspect of the women’s race. For one thing, the media guys all defend their lack of race commentary or reporting on not being able to find the women paddlers. Well, if getting another support/TV boat is impossible, have a separate start. Or something… Give it some thought… Also maybe actually ask the women how their race went…

The Nelo Summer Challenge had a great idea this year. They made 1st to 3rd equal in the men’s and womans prizes, then the women’s stopped, and the men’s carried on to 10th. This did not ignore the fact that the women that were there were top class/world champions, but it did acknowledge that there were more men than women. They rewarded the talent and not the depth! Go Europe! Is it just Africa that is still in the dark ages?

The National bodies (canoeing etc) and race organisers, and boat manufacturers should be the ones who are attempting to grow the women’s side of the sport. Canoeing South Africa were very quick to implement a “Development program” to help all the previously disadvantaged people (Males) out there. And it paid off with Michael Mbanjwe being the first male black Dusi winner when he won the K2 with Martin Dreyer in 2007. Now take this into consideration: women were only allowed to paddle the Dusi for the FIRST time in 1981, and it was in a K2 with a MALE. I don’t even know when they were first allowed to paddle on their own! That is a full 30 years after the first male paddled down the river. Should women not considered “development” paddlers then? Surely Canoeing South Africa should then also be doing something to help the situation then?

We have a long way to catch up. 30 years worth… Lucky we learn quick!

Physically we will never beat the top men (well unless there is something seriously wrong!). I must say though, that I have experienced men who will rather die then get beaten by me. Is that the problem? Is this all an ego issue?

Personally, all these guys that paddle in tights is a bit scary.

OK, that is enough banter. I am going to paddle, in my ski, with a bikini on! And yes, I am going to paddle further than the local guys, and train harder, just because I can. And I will squeal when I go down the first run, like a GIRL!





8 thoughts on “Pre-Dubai and a general rant…

  1. susan starbird

    Have you ever been to a surfski race where no spectators saw the women finish, because everyone except the timing officials went to the buffet as soon as the first men came in? Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but just a little.

  2. Steve

    Paddle harder if you want respect.
    Good luck on your next events.
    Really enjoy the blog and your adventures in racing.
    Best if luck

  3. Di Arnott

    Love it Michele! We battle in AUS with a general lack of respect for the female paddlers too, certainly in terms of prize money (Avon Descent top male got $10K, top female $1K – and the argument was that the $10K was for the first solo across the line, not men specifically . . .). I’m not complaining about the ‘scenery’ provided to the race in terms of the SA paddlers who came over, but it would be great to have you and other international women here as well and that won’t happen until the women’s prize pool is respectable.

    Interestingly, while most of the male paddlers I know race, there are a lot of women who won’t, and are happy dawdling . . . and a fair few of the women who race on the flat are terrified of the ocean. It leaves a very small number of competitive female ocean paddlers . . . .

    Hopefully see you at ‘the Doctor’ in January!

  4. Thea

    Brilliant straight in-your-face article. Wish all women can be assertive enough to “stir the pot” for what we believe in. Looking forward to meet you at the Shamaal.
    Thea- Abu Dhabi, UAE

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