A quick 3 trains, and a short flight and it was goodbye English summer (what!) and hello Portugal! As usual I was blown away by the guys at Nelo and their amazing efficiency and organizational skills. They always seem to be one step ahead, and have all areas of a race covered. From airport shuttles, to hotel choice, to boat setup, they leave nothing to chance. For me a personal highlight was having an espresso machine in the tent ON THE BEACH, with uber cool bean bags to lounge around on while waiting for the wind to blow!
And did it blow! Take a look at this video made by Greg Kitto of White Hot Media of a little downwind we did on the Thursday before the race…
Besides going way too shallow and having to punch through a few big ones on some reef, I had a super time out on the water. Not as super as others it seems. Rene Poulson, who is no slouch with a paddle in his hands (Beijing Silver medalist, World Cup medalist, London 4th place and more) had a rough day out, and I am pretty sure he now has a greater respect for the Atlantic (and any) ocean! The part I took away from the day, was that we are blessed to grow up in a water culture such as South Africa, where Mother Nature gave us all a klap growing up, and taught us to never forget who is boss, and to try and equip ourselves as best as we can with the skills needed to enjoy what she has to offer.
Vila de Conde has a lot going on, with great beach runs in the rising sun, a lengthy promenade, cafe’s and good restaurants, and a quick train ride to the city of Porto for some sight seeing. With Mercedes being one of the event sponsors, each day we got chauffeured to the beach in style!
Race day arrived, and I would be lying to say I was not nervous. First ski race back after injury for me, and after only being in a ski for 2 weeks since my op in March I was hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. The game plan was to go out conservatively until we turned onto the downwind section, and then go for broke. 10km is a deceiving distance, it’s not short enough to be a flat out sprint, but not long enough for you to have any breaks, in pace or concentration. So basically you are left with a race at about 98% pace…
The whole morning the water was flat and glassy, and I had almost given up on the idea of a Ski race, when the wind started picking up, as Andre had said it would. You could hear the collective sigh of relief from all the ski paddlers, and the groan from the flatwater sprinters! But that is what we were here to do, GO DOWNWIND!
Getting a good start is crucial, and with all the guys jostling for a good spot on the start line, it was actually easier to get out of the hustle, and start mid-beach. Us females just don’t have the strength and start speed of the guys, so the plan is usually to tuck in behind a fast, heavy slip and hang on into the headwind section. Paddling against Olympic medalists in the relative calm water of the start is always going to be a hard task. After turning onto the downwind section, I tried to place where all the other women in the race were, pretty tough when everyone looks the same with life jackets and hats on. I passed Bridgitte Hartley and Beatriz Gomes pretty quickly and spotted Kiwi Teneale Hatton in front of me. From this point on I concentrated on the run in front of me, and trying to string as many together as possible. The rest of the race is a blur, I know I came past Teneale after about 10/15 minutes, and then tried to work my way a bit deeper. The last 1km with a side wind was brutal, and I knew that if we hit the beach together I would lose the run up to the flag. Fortunately I got there before and could jog across the line.
Winning this race is a great feeling! I am stoked to race against such a high quality women’s field, and that Teneale pushed me so hard. Women’s paddling is certainly on the upwards spiral, and it’s great that Nelo recognizes this and rewards it in their prize money. I am looking forward to the first official ICF World Surf Ski Champs to be held in Porto in 2013!
The guys had a cracker race with the South Africans dominating! Jasper Mocke, Dawid Mocke and Sean Rice making up the top 3 (and Sean taking out the hotspot against all the sprinters!) Dawid wrote a great piece, read it here.
Day 2 brought on the “round the cans” racing. Flat surf means it’s Olympic Sprinters time! I didn’t really have much of a chance, but gave it a go nonetheless! I managed to catch the smallest of bumps, getting myself back up to 3rd, 4th & 5th group, but ended up with the 5th! Naomi Flood showed them how famous iron women surf life savers start, and smashed it, making up for her boat admin disaster on the downwind race.
Full results here.
I haven’t that much fun on a tour in a long time! Beach parties, racing, beach runs, great coffee, great vibes, awesome people… I can’t wait for next year 🙂 Thanks Andre, Marisa and the whole crowd at Nelo for one fantastic week!
My bags are packed again. As much as it is always super to come home, this chilly weather has me super excited to hop on a plane and get going on another Eurotour!
First up is the Crestuma Marathon (click on name for link to race website), part of the ICF Classic Marathon Series, and the venue of my first Marathon K1 Champs back in 2009. I am flying via London, and I am sure the hype of the Olympics will be amazing to feel, even if I am just passing through!
Next up is something that has been on my bucket list for a long time, The Sella in Spain! Or more officially The International Descent of the River Sella . I am super excited, and as a junior Daniel Conradie used to tell me epic stories of the race, the party and the whole vibe of this crazy sounding race! There is a good group of South Africans going, with race winning hopefuls, I will be sure to post more on that so watch this space!
There are a few other races in Spain, and I have secured an international partner, so it’s looking exciting!
Then it’s back to London, to watch my friend and K2 marathon partner Bridgitte Hartley smash up the field in the women’s K1 500m event at the Olympics! 4 years ago we lined up as a very last minute crew for the K2 500m, and made it through to the semi-finals. (I also made the K4 final, and I am sure it’s going to be an emotional experience watching the K4 race in London).
I will then be moving down to Poole, to spend some time with good friends Chloe and Pete, for a 2 week surf ski training camp, before heading off to Porto in Portugal for the Nelo Summer Challenge, and possibly the best event of the year! I won it the last time I raced back in 2010, and had to very sadly sit out last year with my wrist injury. It is also the venue for the inaugural World Surf Ski Champs to be held next year.
I am stoked to be going back for it, and the whole team at Nelo goes out of their way to make this one of the best events in the world!
Here is a cool video off the website (click on logo above to find out more about the race)
Then its home Gerome, in time for Spring!!
Train hard people, and remember, this is not the warm up, you are living the Main Event!!
One whole month has zoomed by already. Unbelievable. Slightly on the back foot here, but I am making February’s goal to get ON TOP of things, with better planning & scheduling, and even more importantly, PRIORITISING!
My new Nelo Ski and K1 arrived yesterday. Holding the 2 beauties I couldn’t help feel that shiver of excitement that new, COOL stuff brings! It kind of renewed my stoke to go paddling again. Not that the stoke was gone, just that it is now doubled. The colour scheme I have chosen, and which the great guys at Nelo managed to get 100% right, looks crazy good!
Thanks Andre and your team. The effort that goes into these boats is incredible, and the finishes are something to see! Did I mention they are LIGHT!! Stoked:)
Here is a shot of the Quattro K1:
I am loving the design! To find out more about the boat, click on the photo.
Here is the side view:
I had a quick session in it yesterday, and I loved it! It has a bit more meat in the tail than the Vanquish 3, and the front deck is rounder.
I will do a proper report as soon as i have had some more time in it.
I can’t wait to get into the new ski, the surf here is just massive today so I think I will use my old boat (just in case…)!
(Imagine it survives the shipping and road transport process to get from Portugal all the way to Plettenberg Bay, and I smash it in its first sea run!)
And again, I will post a review of the 2 ski’s and compare them.
I have been paddling a lot of doubles lately, and been using the Genius Double Ski. Loving the boat, will get some pics up soon!
OK, going to hit the water now.
Oh yes, crazy weather. We have been having unbelievable weather, and strangely warm turquoise coloured water the past 2 months. It’s also been super humid, and hot! It’s been great. Just strange. Normally in December we get a SE wind that pushes the cold current that travels past our bay, into the shoreline, making it super cold. Not this year.
OK, signing off! Have a super weekend, paddle a LOT and enjoy it!
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:
After a pretty hectic trip to get here (we had some car troubles) which made for a quick heat acclimatization, we arrived to paradise! I really love it here. It is pretty hot, with great beaches. I have been on a few trail runs, and there are these cool cliffs, and caves right on the water. I will take some photo’s and post them soon!
I gave a coaching clinic this morninig, the guys here are super keen to learn.
I have been on 2 downwinds, the 1st was pretty big, thoroughly enjoyed it until I realised that I was on the wrong line and had to back track a little!
Race day is tomorrow, followed by another beach party (I am starting to notice a trend with the se races in Portugal…)
Anyway, will post some photo’s soon, and a race report.
The Algarve region of Portugal is great, warm water, hot days, cool cliffs and good paddling.
Enjoying being here immensely.
Camera went o the blink today, hoping it will work again later so i can post some cool pictures of my paddle earlier, otherwise I will make a plan!
More news soon,