Battle of the Toughest in Dubai


Photo Rob Mousley (

Wow, what a HOT race. Seriously the hottest I have ever been for 2 hours. I actually felt like my head was going to explode and to be honest I was hoping it would, just to end the suffering!

Two days before the race I woke up with a raging sore throat. I took all the precautionary meds, like Echinacea and Vitamin C, lots of water, and slept for an extra 2 hours. It didn’t hold it off and the next day I woke up with a blocked head, runny nose, and stuffy chest. Lovely! The best part is that most of the sinus medication is banned according to Drug Free Sport. Now most of the ski paddlers aren’t on the program, and probably don’t even get tested. I however, have been monitored for the past 4 years, thanks to my flat water and Olympic background. So it was good old Olbas and Vicks to open my breathing bits!

The Race

Woke up to NO WIND. I stayed positive and when the flags started to move I felt some relief. This was short-lived, as by the time we got to the race start venue, it had died off completely. As usual, a mad start. Not my greatest, but managed to catch up to Nikki quite easily. Just sat behind and conserved my energy. After we turned, I tried to stick to an outside line. Nikki went hammer and tongs, and opened a gap. I was wondering how I was going to finish, let alone win. After some nice, ice-cold Octane juice from PVM (which I luckily froze the night before), I felt heaps better and decided that sick or not, I didn’t fly all this way to come second.  I put in a hard charge, and managed to haul her in and open up a gap. Se must have been having a bad patch, and the gap opened further. Then the beginning of my “desert death” started! I felt so utterly crap that I convinced myself that if I finished the race, I could stop paddling forever! Sad, yes.

Amazingly I hit the last 4km of flat water first. I was quite far right and I could see Nikki to my left. It seemed the better line going into the current and her and another paddler closed a small part of the gap. I put my head down and tried to focus on my technique and make the NeloSki move into the current. I felt a bit better and went for a hard but sustainable pace. Looking behind me, I got that “hunted” feeling as I saw a group of paddlers putting the hammer down to chase me, with Nikki sitting on the wash. There was no way I wanted to be caught like that, and I tried to hold them off. Luckily the finish came only just soon enough, and they all finished 20m behind me. Totally shattered at the finish, I couldn’t get any air as it felt like my throat had closed off. Took a while to feel human again. It’s always great to race someone who never gives up, and Nikki never did! Relief is an understatement, and I was really happy to get off the water! Ruth Highman from Perth was 3rd, with Chloe Bunnett in 4th. The Think guys had a stormer with Ben Allen winning and Sean Rice in 3rd. Dawid, the most consistent guy on the paddling circuit for sure, was 2nd, and won the Overall ISPA Title again!

So that is my 3rd win a row at the Dubai Shamaal. A pit there is no incentive for the women to sweeten the deal 🙂

Thanks to Andre and the Nelo Team for the awesome ski (very cool branding) and team kit and VIBE! Well done to Ben Brown, a total newbie to ski paddling and getting a top 20.

I flew home Saturday, and caught the final race of the Discovery/Sunglass Hut Series at Fish Hoek beach. Felt horrendous to try and paddle with fatigue and sickness, but all I needed to do was to finish to take the Series win, so I maintained a steady pace with a pre-determined heart rate, and enjoyed the downwind on the way back in from the Lighthouse, to get 2nd behind Nikki. I am back in Plett now for some R&R, then it’s back to CT for the Cape Point Challenge.

2 thoughts on “Battle of the Toughest in Dubai

  1. Chuck Haberlein

    Absolutely amazing performance! Especially considering how miserable you must have been even without all that physical effort. Take care and get well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s