Review mirror 2013

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It’s that time of year again, when I get to look back at the 365 days that flew by, and reflect on the millions of experiences that were a part of 2013. I also try and learn something from the choices I made, and the situations that were a result.

2013 was always going to be a big year paddling-wise, with the inaugural ICF SurfSki World Championships taking place in July, in Portugal. My paddling year was centered around this one event, and with that being said, here are the highs (and lows) from my year in paddling sports:

Photo by Balint Verkassy/ICF

ICF World SurfSki Championships, Portugal – 1st place in the tightest of finishes. Definitely my highest highlight from 2013. World Champion. Finally.

Here is the blog post from that event. The Top 3 women were all within 30 seconds, and all were South African, testament to the strength of the sport amongst South African females.

I had a total of 3 sprint finishes in 2013, run-ups the beach. I won 2/3. I have been working on my running, but I think these came down to grit more than running ability.

Thanks Nikki, Michelle and Bianca for pushing me to the wire!

In March, I traveled to a part of South Africa I had never seen before, and raced the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon. Even more importantly, I got to know the Kalahari Lion, Gawie Niewoudt, and had 3 awesome days racing on the amazing Orange River.

GKCM 2013

I became National River Champion for the 3rd time, by winning the Swartlands Canoe Marathon. I really love this race, paddling through the trees on the best 2 days/stretches of the Berg River in the middle of a crisp Western Cape winter, with snow potentially on the mountains really epitomizes the Cape River season for me.

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Getting to do more than one type of paddling keeps me sane. Although I grew up in the ocean, and it will always be my true love, there is something really gratifying about mastering rapids in an unstable,  small piece of carbon and fiberglass. River paddling in South Africa is the ying to my surfski yang.

And then flat-water marathon is the purest form of racing. No hiding, no easy way out, no relaxing on the runs, no fun rapids to ease the pressure. Just tactics, fitness and ability.

The final part of the paddling year, saw me take on the World Marathon Champs in Copenhagen. Despite feeling particularly strong in the K2 with Bridgitte Hartley, we had unfortunate boat issues, and had to DNF. It was a frustrating and heart-breaking experience, and a definite low light of the year.

Finally, in December, I managed a trip back to South Africa to attend a friends wedding (watching two people that love each other make THE commitment was my other highlight of 2013!) and luckily got the timing right and managed to race both the Cape Town DownWind race as well as the infamous Cape Point Challenge.

CT 2013

Both were fantastic, with pretty epic conditions. Although under-prepared, I really enjoyed myself. Being back in the surfski and ocean after living in a land-locked state for 5 months was exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.

CPC 2013

The final event for 2013 was one that is close to my heart, the Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge, and this year was the 10th running it. R2.5 million was spent on children with special needs in my home town of Plettenberg Bay in 2013, an amazing achievement by this foundation, and one I am fortunate enough to be an ambassador for.

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This year I got to paddle with my buddy Giovanni Primo, and we had a great battle with Neal “Steel” Stephenson and Gabriel van Wyk.

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I also got to do a 10km trail run through the beautiful Kurland forest.

As much as I would love to paddle competitively forever, at some point you have to get a “real” job, and another major part of my 2013 was a move to a whole new continent, country, city and the beginning of a new phase of my career. Working for USA Canoe/Kayak has been a big step, and despite the daily struggle of not being next to the ocean, I am enjoying the optimism and positivity of the people here.nightskyline

This city is trying hard to create a more healthy lifestyle for its residents, and I love the attitude to change here in Oklahoma City.

As usual I am surprised at how fast the year flew by. My takeaway for 2013 is to make every moment count. It sounds cheesy, but life seems to be happening at ever increasing speeds!

Thanks for reading,

sig angled

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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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