Going Full Circle, 11 days to go – Rio Olympic Games, & some SurfSki updates

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In 11 days time, I will be attending my 3rd Olympic Games. I am super stoked to have come full circle, after competing in 2008 for South Africa in the Women’s K4 and K2 events (making the final in the K4) and then being in London with Bridgitte Hartley (my K2 partner from Beijing, I helped her by being a training partner in the lead-up to London 2012 where she medalled in the WK1 500m event) and now going into the Rio Olympics as Team USA Olympic Coach to my athlete, Maggie Hogan.

It’s kind of cool seeing the sport from so many different angles, and I am very excited about this next phase of my career. It’s 11 days until the opening ceremony, and we have a lot going on before then!

I was just in Portugal (possibly my favorite country!) I was just recovering from my jetlag (we were there in June for the 3rd Canoe Sprint World Cup – where Maggie got a silver medal in the 5k) and all of a sardine-tin found myself back on a plane heading across the globe.

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Maggie silver medal World cup 3 WK1 5000m (please note my Rio themed-board shorts!)

I can’t say I was upset at having to return to Portugal… Great wine, pastel de natas and cooking downwind! The Nelo Summer Challenge is one of the best events on the World Series, and is also an ICF World Cup race.

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Thanks Macca Hynard for the cool photo!

As usual, Andre, Marisa and all their team staff put on a spectacular event. The wind delivered and we had great conditions for racing.

Schoogirl error on my part cost me my 5th NSC title, as I casually jogged up to the finish line not realizing that Angie Mouden had caught up to me as I played it cautious through the surf zone. Great race Angie, and good to see some younger talent coming through.

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I managed to sneak a last-minute trip to Hood River for the Gorge Downwind Champs. Strangest thing, doing a downwind on a river! A lot of fun, and we caught a good day of cracking wind on Thursday and again on Saturday. Unfortunately race day (Friday) was pretty flat, and didn’t quite go how I would have liked. Teneale Hatton showed her strength on the flatwater to paddle away from the women’s field to take the win. Great to see so many good female paddlers from all over the world taking part (NZ, Australia, Spain and USA).

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Yes, those are Zebra print paddling pants! (Slipins)

The whole team behind the event, led by Energizer Bunny Carter Johnson, put on a great few days. Seamless downwinds with a daily, repeating shuttle, a beer garden, and great food all made for a fun break!

And now the countdown begins, we leave in a week, and I am very excited about being a part of one of the largest and most successful Olympic teams in the world. (Underneath my Team USA t-shirt my blood is green, and I am also super excited about seeing my other team mates go out and perform on the world’s greatest sporting stage!)

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Go Team USA & Team South Africa!

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North American Surfski Cup

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These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel!
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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.

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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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Mixed Doubles Demo Event

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I had the privilege of paddling the Mixed Doubles Demo event with Tim Jacobs. Uber calm, totally focused, highly skilled regarding the runs, a true sportsman and a total machine in the front of the Nelo Double Ski!

Thanks TJ for a great paddle, was really fun, especially those last few kilometers when we started hauling them in! Thanks Andre for the super fast Nelo Double.

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The best part was that we actually placed 3rd Overall amongst the men’s race. As there was a shortage of boats, they ran their event first, and ours later in the afternoon.

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The Inaugural ICF SurfSki World Championships

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Standing on the start line in Ofir, I took a moment from trying to control my nerves, to look back at the amazing sight of nearly 400 paddlers lined up at the first official World SurfSki Champs!

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I have never felt prouder of the sport that means so much to me. That it is finally getting recognition on the world stage means so much. I could not have been more stoked to be a part of the history making!

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I am so thankful that I could be standing there, and taking part!
Andre and his crew of Nelo staff (of course the ever resourceful Marisa included) have gone out of their way to set the benchmark for future editions of this race.
And the benchmark is high!

The only factor they could not control was the weather! Even with a 3 day window, and having the event in a traditionally windy month did not bring forth the kind of conditions everyone was wishing for, but that’s SurfSki paddling!
Unfortunately Dawid Mocke had to have his appendix removed and miss the race he so deserved to be a part of! Rest up Dawid, and see you on the start line next year.
My race:
A bit of a chaotic mess of a start, being seeded way on the wrong side meant a hard task of trying to negotiate the tangle of boats and bodies and get across to the seeded paddlers and their clean water start. Alexa and I were just too slow to get across, and I watched Nikki and Michelle hop onto the wave of the freight train that is Teneale Hatton! What a machine, her paddling speed is phenomenal, and I am sure she is going to smash World Sprints this year!
Nonetheless, I turned in 5th position (not in the front like the Twitter feed said – Teneale and I were both in Yellow NeloSki’s which much have caused the confusion) just shy of a minute behind at the 2km turn buoy/hotspot. I tried a slightly deeper/straighter line, while the others went in. It looked like Nikki took the lead with Michelle slightly shallower, and Teneale just behind.
I seemed to be gaining on my line, but as we got closer to the Point, I lost again. I could see Teneale in my range, and just concentrated on what little bumps there were to reel her in. I caught her and then re-assessed, still on a slightly deeper line.
Just before the harbour wall at Povoa da Varim, I saw a bunch of guys come past them, but it seemed only Michelle got on the wash, dropping Nikki. I was excited to at least be back in the medals after turning 5th, and then I realised with 3.5km to go I just might catch Nikki. I had a slightly better line, having checked out how far the final turn buoy was out to sea, I made sure I stayed out for it. I caught Nikki with 200m to go. At that point I presumed Michelle was on the beach, and I was racing for the silver.
To my surprise I saw Michelle being led out to the turn can, but from the far left. She must have missed the final can, what a disaster! I gave it 100% and just got my nose there first. The final push to the beach was excruciating, and I felt like I was running on the spot, but managed to stagger there first!

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Definitely not the way I would like to win a World Champs, but when you get given an opportunity in a race like that, you take it with both hands. I am really proud of how the women’s race was so close, the standard is shooting up! (The image above shows how close it was, with Teneale half a minute back.)

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I’ve been there before (as we all have), worked really hard to get in front, and someone catches a wave from the back. Or really given it all to get a lead on the Fish, and botched the final weir, only to watch your race disappear in front you, after all your hard work! The bottom line is that a race is from the start line to the finish line, and you have to give it your all for 100% of the distance.

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We all make mistakes, and sometimes they are just more costly than others. I am just glad I was in the mix, and close enough to be able to make it work for me.
Well paddled Michelle, it was a heart-breaking mistake!
All I can say is, it’s not over until you cross that finish line, and I feel I paddled really well to come back from such a horrendous beginning!
Next up is mixed doubles with Tim Jacobs! Should be interesting as we have never paddled together before!

Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for your help and words of encouragement. And a real special thanks to my mom and dad for coming with and being “super seconds”!

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Photo by GlobalSurfSki.com

Well done to Prawn for winning gold, TJ for his silver and Cory on his bronze!

ICF World SurfSki Champs

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I’m in Portugal for the FIRST EVER OFFICIAL World SurfSki Champs!

SO exciting, and so great for the sport! Nelo is (as usual) going out of their way to host a super event! The vibe is fantastic, and I can’t wait to race.

I did the LifeSaver Knockout race when I arrived, it was super fun, just tough to paddle hard after such a long trip! Richard von Wildeman won the men’s and I won the women’s.

Here is a link to GlobalSurfSki for some photo’s

I will try take some photo’s today and post them (including one of my super fast Bright Yellow NeloSki racing snake!)

Here is a link to the race website:

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And don’t forget, if you want to follow the race LIVE via YouTube, go and subscribe to White Hot Media’s Channel. Click on image below to go sign up.

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OK, time to explore Vila Do Conde (and have a sneaky espresso or two).

P.s. I Love Portugal!

The Curse of the Wooden Medal

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Marathon Racing is taking a lot of flack right now, with the ICF releasing new rules and a 30 second penalty box similar to water-polo for paddling offenses. It’s been interesting to read the discussion on the FaceBook page where some of the sports greats are debating the rules.

For me personally, nothing beats racing my surfski, that being said, marathons are a great way to stay fit and the racing is intense!

Over the past few years I have had some success racing the World Championships, with a bronze medal at my first ever Worlds in Gyor, Hungary in the WK2 with Nikki Mocke.

Racing to a bronze medal in 2007

Racing to a bronze medal in 2007

After that I stayed away from marathons until Portugal in 2009 which was a hard race, top 10 in the K1, and a DNF in the K2. The following year began my “Wooden Medal” curse.

After a terrible start in the K1 race, I managed to catch up and race a fantastic 26km, until the last portage and a small hiccup, leading to being out sprinted for the bronze. The first of my “Wooden” medals.

Banyoles 2010

Banyoles 2010

The following day Bridgitte Hartley and I hopped in a double, and once again, got out sprinted for the bronze, #2 of my “wooden gongs”.

2011 saw me injured and miss the Worlds in Singapore. The following year in Rome, saw my 3rd “wooden” medal in the K2 with Robyn Kime. Not out sprinted this time, a nasty penultimate portage saw us lose the bunch and therefore be out of contention.

Rome 2012

Rome 2012

This year see the World Marathon Champs (new rules and all) being raced in Copenhagen. I am in the K2 with Bridgitte Hartley again. Lets see if we can turn my curse around! Here is the link to the website: Click me

However, first up is the FIRST EVER OFFICIAL WORLD SURFSKI CHAMPS in Portugal in 4.5 weeks time! I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. A huge step forward for the sport of SurfSki, and a pretty cool event to be a part of! I can’t wait!

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