Summer in Winter

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It’s that time of year again, when I am fortunate enough to jet across the ocean to some summer weather, and plenty of International racing! Thanks to my sponsors Nelo, I am sitting at George airport, and I am starting to chew my nails, as my first flight is delayed, and I have a connecting flight in Joberg to catch. My eventual destination (for the first part of this trip) is San Francisco, for the US Surf Ski Champs.

Click on the logo to go to the race website:

It’s my first trip to the USA, and I am so excited. The race has, in the past, produced some amazing downwind conditions, and I am frothing to catch some runs, especially after the past few weeks of river racing on the Berg. You also get to paddle past some amazing landmarks, like Alcatraz and The Golden Gate Bridge. That’s one way to be a tourist!

Next up is the Nelo Summer Challenge, I won the 10km event last year, and placed 3rd in the “Life Saving” style event. 10km might be a bit short for me, as I really start to enjoy it when it gets tough, but it is a nice change to the usual 2 hour events we do. It is fast, hard and much closer with regards to the racing, so a lot more exciting! Here’s the link to the event website:

Then I travel south to where it’s even warmer for the Portimao race of Champions. I also won the long distance event here last year, and placed 2nd in the short sprint event the day after. This year the course has been shortened, promising full downwind conditions. Here’s the link to the race website:

Yip that’s me on the race website! Cool hey? That funky Nelo Surf Ski got auctioned off after my string of European races last season.

So, 4 weeks away from home, 12 flights in total, 3 countries, and 8 events! Should be awesome! Last year I still had an extra 2 weeks overseas as I had World Marathon Champs in Spain at the end of the trip! One year older, and hopefully a bit wiser, saw me shorten the trip somewhat. I was pretty buggered after that trip last year, and arriving home just in time to race the Fish River Marathon probably was the icing on the cake!

This year everything is a bit more spread out, with the 30th Fish River Marathon only in the 2nd week of October, and Marathon Worlds being a month later than normal, at the end of October.

While I am travelling and racing, our National Sprinters will be trying to qualify for the London Olympics. I am holding thumbs for them! Today actually marks three years since we raced at the Beijing Olympics. Feels more like 10!

Last weekend also saw Hank win the Avon Descent in Perth, and Hilary Pitchford winning the women’s section. Well done you two! A whole bunch of South Africans where at the 75th Sella Descent in Spain, one day I’ll get there….

I had a nice break after the Berg, but recently have been  struggling with a wrist injury. I have been having to improvise a lot in training, but am hoping the break has done me some good.

OK, that’s it for now. Hopefully my plane takes off soon, so there isn’t too much of a mad scramble on the other side!

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2010 over and out

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Did you feel it?

2010 was one jam-packed year! It always seems like the more busy you are, the longer the year. 2010 was one pretty long year! Add to that the fact that time flies as you get older and I am left with one long, fast year:)

It was my 2nd year “post-Olympics”, and another chance to race as much as I could. I also took on a coaching job in Port Elizabeth which let me get to meet a whole bunch of new, excited-to-paddle people. I have much to be grateful for, and here is just a short highlights package of my year…

1. Moved cities. Not sure whether to put this in the “lowlights” section! PE is a very different place, you either love it or hate it. Luckily, the people there are super friendly and nice. Moved back to the Land of Milk and Honey-Plett:)

2. Spent a lot of time in East London, which could be the jewel of South Africa, but shhh! Let’s not let that secret get out. Beautiful coastline, and great people.

3. Became the owner of Splash, the Staffie puppy on one of my coaching trips to East London. A total handful, but worth every vet bill and ripped up piece of furniture. I have been on more beach walks than ever before, and he is a great running partner, and forever happy and forgiving companion.

4. On the sponsorship front, I was fortunate enough to become a part of Team Nelo, and the move has been the best thing. I am loving paddling my NeloSki so much, that the majority of my training is now done in the ski rather than the K1. I have also managed to sign on for 2011 with all my current sponsors. Thanks for your ongoing support PVM, Knysna Racing, New Balance! and Rudy Project (and all your support and generosity Thule).

5. I got to go to Portugal (and Spain and Dubai) and spent a few weeks in that great country, and do some pretty cool new races.

6. I won my 3rd Dubai Shamaal, 3rd Cape Point Challenge and my 3rd SA Surf Ski Title.

7. I FINALLY won the Fish River Marathon!

8. I had 2 very solid performances at the Marathon World Champs (Flatwater), coming 4th in the K1 and the K2, which makes me fired up for the 2011 Worlds in Singapore! Time to change those Wooden medals into real ones!

9. My parents came and watched some international Surf Ski events! Great to have their support.

10. Last but not least, the Soccer World Cup. What an event, and what a success for South Africa as a nation!

The year is over and I am still so stoked on paddling. Here’s hoping you all have a great 2011!

Here is a great slideshow of some photo highlights for 2010:

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Pre-Dubai and a general rant…

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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!

 

 

 

 

Nelo Summer Challenge

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Ronny, Mike, Japs and I

So I thought I had posted about the Downwind race but clearly not.

It went well, I had an ok start, and actually was in the running for the Hotspot, with Bridgitte H, but I wasn’t sure which direction the line was from the buoy to the pier. She got her nose there about a meter before mine though, I was feeling good so I kept up a pretty consistent pace into the wind until the turn can. Bernadette Wallace (Aus) was with me when I turned, and I managed to to hook a run as I rounded the can, yes please! I opened up a gap, and never looked back, just trying to link the runs together.

The event had a live internet feed, and there was even  helicopter filming us from cool angles. I decided to go for broke in the shorey, well actually I thought I would paddle away from the wave, but I ended up making a great entry for the camera’s! I won by over 2 minutes from Bernadette, and a further 5 minutes back to Bridgitte in 3rd.

I have never raced such a short event, and it was actually great to feel buggered at the finish but not totally exhausted like you do after 25km of racing.

All in all, a superbly well run event, with TV footage from the day playing, and a Buondi Coffee bar on the beach (I think that was my personal highlight!!)

The 2nd event (800m ski race) was going to be tough against the sprinters, but I surprised myself and got a 3rd place. Very happy with that, I think if the wind was blowing and the conditions got technical it would have suited the surf ski guys a bit more, but Jasper still managed to win the guys event!

Helena and I

During the event they had TV footage showing from the day before race. There was a great vibe at the beach, and later in the night we went to Europe’s Biggest Beach Party (50 000 people), and got to see vanilla Ice live! Took me back years!

The Start

Nelo & I

Next stop… Portimao!

Portugal

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Photo above of our paddle yesterday. Glassy conditions, but in the sea there is always a bump:) Ask the flatwater guys and gals (someone took a swim!)

Great to be paddling with so many Olympic and World Champions, truly special event this. Nelo has organised it like a Sprint Regatta in some ways, with cool ID cards, and an Athlete area. So far it is looking to be one of the better surf ski events I have been to in terms of organisation. The race course is pretty short, we have already done it twice since I got here, and there is a van to fetch us with a massive trailor for all the boats. Very cool.

Now I just need the wind to blow so that I can show the Flatwater Sprinters what they are missing out on:)

Will put more photo’s up later.

Mich

All packed& ready to go.

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Packing for this trip has been quite a mission. Not only am I racing 5 Surf Ski events (think life jacket, butt pads, juice bags, GPS)  but also a Flatwater Marathon Champs (think foot rests, pumps, seats, juice bag) but also a River Marathon-The Fish (think splash cover, different life jacket, more juice, recovery stuff…) Wow! I am going to 3 different countries, if you count Cradock (it really is a country all on it’s own-go there, you’ll see!)

The weather is also going to be hot and summer-like, then freezing and cold!!Not to mention that Splash tried to help me pack, by eating some of my vitamins, and ripping up a few plastic bags. Gosh, hope my parents cope with him for the 5 weeks I am away!

Oh well, I love a Challenge!

I am so pumped for this trip. Although that jittery, excited feeling could be all this bottomless coffee I have drunk at the Mug ‘n Bean at OR Tambo airport!!

It’s been a while since I have gotten excited for a trip. The past few years, trips normally meant training camps, and long stints away from home, plus Sprint World Cups, where you paddle in a straight line, against countries who are professionals, and have been doing sprints for years, well funded and supported by their countries canoeing bodies. I don’t miss the staying in dodgy places, training all day, and racing only 3 times a year. This trip alone I have 5 surf ski events, and 2 canoeing ones. It’s going to be so awesome, and all at beach locations, including an island!! Bring it on!

There is internet at the hotel so I should be putting regular updates on, as well as some cool videos from my on-board camera.

I am also giving 2 coaching clinics in Portugal.

http://summerchallenge.nelo.eu/ for more info on the 1st event.

Thanks to Correl and Andre for being my training partners for the past few weeks, I hope it’s going to pay off. I’ve had a slightly different training approach this year, let’s see what happens.

My plane is boarding, I better dash. Have the final 2 episodes of the FINAL season of Lost on my computer… Can’t wait to finally know what happens. (or at least make some sense of 6 seasons of a TV series that has me stumped!)