The wind arrives…

Heading into Molokai this year I was prepared for the worst.. three years I have now completed the crossing from molokai to Oahu, 53kms and every year it has been flat and hot. You would hear stories of the crossing having raging down winds, huge swells and a bloody good time, I was just yet to experience this and little did I know it would be this year! I had had an awesome lead up to this years race. I had a months training in Durban, South Africa with my Coach Lee McGregor then came back to NZ and carried on that training with a few races including the NZ King & Queen of the Harbour. I knew I had done all the work I could do along with juggling full time shift work as a Police Officer I had to plan and motivate myself daily to get the job done.

This year we decided to fly across to Hawaii slightly later, I wanted as much time to chill out in NZ and to not be over in Hawaii using up energy where it wasn’t needed. So myself, Sam, Family and a couple of other NZ paddlers we departing NZ on Wednesday night, well that’s what we thought we were doing anyway after about 7 hours waiting at the airport our flight was cancelled due to “engine troubles” and were told our flight was rescheduled a day later. Devistating as this would mean we would miss the big Shaw & Partners Announcement Dinner in Hawaii and we would have loved to have been there! After a stop home early hours of the morning, a relaxing paddle and we were back at the airport less than 12 hours later finally on our way!

Upon arriving in Hawaii early Thursday morning we just tried to relax. That afternoon we went for a famous ‘Hawaii Kai’ downwind which is approx 15kms finishing at the Outrigger club and it was probably one of the best downwind’s i’ve ever had! All the paddlers were coming in with huge grins on their faces and i’m sure it was one of their best too. the next couple of days we tried to chill out as much as possible and keep off our feet which I find is the hardest thing to do!

Before I knew it it was 4:45am race (sunday) morning and we were off to catch our charter flight to Molokai for the race! A short time later we landed on Molokai and were in our shuttle to the race start! The women were in the 2nd start (along with the OC’s) with the men starting 30 minutes behind us. The shore break at Kepuhi Beach wasn’t too bad this year so I got on the water with about 20 minutes prior to the start and had a good warm up.

A short time later the gun went, the women were off! I had a race plan and wanted to stick to it. the race doesn’t start until the 2hr mark, up to that point my goal was to keep relaxed but work the runs. I had a great start within 2kms of the start we were into the runners that just got better and better. I was having the time of my life!!!! Jordan Mercer and I were playing games of snakes & ladders throughout the first couple of hours, she’d go left, i’d go right one of us would take the lead the other would then come up the other side. We weren’t super close to each other as in side by side but definitely on the same pace. Throughout the entire race it remained like this and Hayley Nixon was about 200m behind us. Every kilometre I would remind myself, keep relaxed, DRINK and enjoy. My escort Noah and Sam did an awesome job keeping me on the right line and making sure I wasn’t going too far south on the runs. We got to about 4kms from the finish and it was game on, Jordan was close to the wall I was about 50m away left of her and Hayley was about 200m left of me, all next & neck. After nearly 50kms and this is what it comes down to?! Three girls fighting it out for that number one podium spot. I felt great, the best I ever have at this point it the race, I was bobbing up and down quite a bit, and felt like I wasn’t moving, at this point Jordan had falling behind and Hayley had gone very wide but moved about 80m ahead of me. I thought to myself that the only way I can win this now is to take a wave at China Walls. I headed in close but unfortunately not even a ripple came along! I made my way to the finish over e final 2kms and was so happy to cross the line in 2nd place. It was by far the best Molokai I have ever done with some amazing times from the men and women and creating my new pb from 4hrs 34mins which is now 3hrs 53min!!!!! ! The top 3 women went under the course record and finishing 1 minute behind Hayley was rather bitter sweet!!

A huge congratulations to everyone who completed the crossing! It sure is an achievement in itself to complete it! Thank you to Noah – you are the best escort out there! Sam you know you are amazing! My Family thank you for supporting!! Coach Lee, I know you were there on your laptop watching every second! And to my incredible sponsors: Shaw & Partners Race Team, Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Maui Jim, Pita pit NZ, AUT Millennium & Orewa Massage Worx for your belief and support – THANKYOU!!!

Happy Paddling

 

6 X Queen of the Harbour

The NZ Ocean Racing Championships aka King and Queen of the Harbour is definitely one of my favourite races, reason being; it’s in my home town and I can sort of call it my race. Going into the race I had won it 5 consecutive years and hoping to make it my 6th. This year the wind predicted was a strong westerly so the race was confirmed to be from Hobsonville, down Auckland’s Harbour finishing with a 5km headwind back to North Shore’s Takapuna Beach.

 

It was a mass start for the men/women combined which for me was good as I could jump on the guys wash at the start and really push myself. I felt I got on a good wash and wash pushing myself for the first few kms. It was quite technical with the wind and swell as we were a bit side on for the first 5ish kms so I had to stay relaxed. Once we turned the point near Beach Haven it was downwind along the Harbour. When I say downwind it was almost teasing us. Very small runs but enough to make a difference if you used your power efficiently. I felt I did this really well and I also stayed in the channel a bit more than other paddlers. I kept calm the entire way, continuously having a drink about every km or so to stay hydrated. Once I hit Devonport and made the left turn into the wind it was hard work. I was with a group of 5 paddlers, upon turning myself and another paddler put in a sprint and managed to lose the other 3 paddlers. From then on we worked together doing leads which seemed to make things slightly easier! 5kms later and I crossed the finish line! I was so happy to finish having a great race and also taking out my 6th consecutive title!

It was a technical overall race and well done to everyone who finished it!

A huge thank you to my supporters and sponsors for all your support throughout my journey!!

Shaw and Partners Race Team, Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Maui jim, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium and Orewa Massage Worx!

Next up for me is Molokai held in just over a month!

Happy Paddling!!!

 

 

A venture to South Africa

A trip to South Africa has been on the cards for a wee while now, training in Auckland, NZ is great don’t get me wrong but a lot of the time due to my shift work i’m training by myself or with my Partner, Sam so a lot of key sessions with a ‘group’ are minimal. I think personally one of my weaknesses in paddling is pushing to that next level in a group situation and realising I can push further and also learning when to relax on a wash and when to go! My Coach – Lee McGregor is based in Durban where he has a huge squad of paddlers (MAC’s squad) and I thought why not make a trip there this year! We decided that the end of March – beginning of April was a good time to make the trip. I would head over to SA for 3 weeks then back home and have a couple of weeks prior to NZ King and Queen of the Harbour and then a further month before heading to Hawaii for Molokai.

March 20th came around quickly and I was jetting off, 19hrs direct to Dubai with a quick stop over and then a further 8hrs to Durban I was rather jet lagged to say the least! I was greeted at Durban Airport by the lovely Jenna Ward who I met ocean racing around the world and lucky enough to be hosted by Jenna and her Family. That next day I was straight into the training – it was full on, training 3 times a day and living the dream (no work)!! It took me a couple of days to get rid of the jet lag and I definitely felt sluggish for those first 2 days but eventually started feeling ‘normal’ again. Most paddling sessions were done in the Blue Lagoon – a river that runs along the Durban Coast but believe me it is anything but blue! It was poo brown coloured and I learnt to keep my mouth closed as much as possible during sessions and I never actually realised how hard it is to do this! Training also consisted of 2 gym’s a week at the Prime High Performance Centre where Jenna’s gym coach Jaryd kindly allowed myself and Swedish Marathon paddler Emma Anderson to join Jenna at the gym. Adding to the weekly training were a couple of track and running sessions where I really felt the burn!

My first weekend in SA Jenna’s Family took us on an adventure to the HluHluwe Game Reserve. This was the one thing I wanted to tick off the list whilst in SA. It was a pretty amazing day where we drove around the Game park sighting 4 out of the Big 5 animals. The highlight was spotting 2 Lion’s having a sleep 1 metre from the road and literally being so close to the Lion’s I could almost give them a gentle pat!!!

During the end of week 2 in SA I picked up the infamous ‘Dusi belly’ where I was in bed for 14 hours straight vomitting, fever, headache, I was not in a good state but it thankfully it only lasted about 24hours as we were off on another adventure on Easter Friday! We headed to the Underberg where it’s famous for it’s river paddling and hiking. This one one of the most thrilling moments of my trip. Paddling down the Berg river, dodging rocks paddling down rapids, screaming at every moment I got, it was bloody awesome!

Monday came around quick and it was back to Durban for some more intense training! I was feeling like I was definitely making improvements and learning to be smarter in group situations. On Wednesday Jenna was heading to Port Elizabeth for the SA Lifesaving Nationals and I thought to myself why not go down too?! I quickly emailed SLSNZ to get clearance to compete at the South African Nationals, booked my flight and entered the Champs. We ventured to Port Elizabeth (a 1hr flight from Durban) and began racing the following day. It was great to test myself against the SA girl’s and it sure was fun! I unfortunately had no team events but made sure to compete in all the water events. At times where I wasn’t racing I went for a nice long aerobic paddle to keep the aerobic base fitness up. I had a awesome weekend coming away with 2 x 1st in the Ironwoman and Board race, a 2nd in the Ski (photo finish) and and 4th in the Surf Race. Following the Champs I headed back to Durban for a last couple of days training with the MAC’s squad!

Before I knew it, I’m heading home. It has been a great time here in SA and I have learnt a lot, not only about paddling but about myself and my mental strength aswell. A huge thank you to Jenna, Nigel and Fiona for hosting me you were amazing and I am so thankful for your hospitatilty, to Lee and the MAC’s squad for welcoming me and for the good times! I hope to be back in the near future! Last but not least a huge thank you to Herman Chalupsky for letting me borrow your Epic during my stay! And a huge thank you to my sponsors Epic Kayaks, Shaw and Partners Race Team, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Maui Jim, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium and Orewa Massage Worx!

Now it’s time to adjust back to the NZ time zone and prepare for some big events in the coming weeks/months.

Until next time,

Happy Paddling

Manly Bridge to Beach – Final race of the AORS

The Manly Bridge to Beach was the final race of the Australian Ocean Racing Series (AROS) for the 2017 season. It was a quick trip over for Sam and myself to Sydney flying in Friday morning and flying out Sunday lunchtime. This didn’t leave much ‘downtime’ in Sydney. Upon arriving on Friday we met up with the Shaw and Partners Race Team for a meeting of the up-coming exciting year and had a team photo shoot. Early Saturday morning we went down to the beautiful Rose Bay for a Epic Kayaks Clinic & Demo day. It was such an awesome morning seeing 50+ paddlers weather they were beginner, lifestyle paddlers or literally their first time in a ski!! It was so great to see and spend the morning helping others get involved in the sport and lifestyle. The clinic went until lunchtime so we made our way back to Manly where we we for a swim and chilled out until dinner time.

Sunday morning at the crack of dawn we were up eating breakfast on the go and making our way down to the race start by Blues Point Reserve where the start was from. The race was a quick 11km sprint. Most of the races we compete in are between 20-30km so this was literally a sprint. Go hard off the start and no time to sit back and relax it’s game on!!!

8am and the women’s race had started, the men were starting 5 minutes behind us so I knew they would be hunting us down quick! I had a good start leading the women after about 500m I backed off slightly so I wasn’t doing all the work. There were 4 of us in a row going between a channel marker and the rocks. I was the 3rd ski in from the left so believed I was fine and kept paddling, next thing I heard a loud scrap and my ski came to a halt. I had hit a rock. I kept paddling but my rudder had jammed up and I was struggling to keep my ski straight. This carried on for about 3kms and I was falling further and further behind. I eventually decided to jump out my ski and try and yank the riddle back but this did nothing it was jammed completely. I got back in and kept paddling the best I could.

Believe me it was the longest 11km race I had ever done! I was so happy once I made it to the shore and ran to the finish line. I had never been happier to finish the race with a jammed rudder but also so disappointed that my final race of the AORS had ended this way!

I still managed to finish 3rd in the Women’s race and also finishing 3rd overall in the women’s AORS final points score. My highlight of the 2017 AORS was definitely taking out The Doctor in Perth – my favourite downwind race of all time.

I would like to thank my coach, Lee McGregor, my sponsors Shaw and Partners Race Team, Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Maui Jim, AUT Millennium, Pita Pit NZ and Orewa Massage Worx. Also to Sam and my friends and family without you guys none of this is possible!

I am looking forward to an exciting 2018!!!! BRING IT ON

Happy Paddling

An end to the 2017 Surf Ski World Series – Sydney, Palm to Pines

One week of being home in Auckland, working and adjusting back to the time zone and we were off again… this time to Sydney for the final race of the 2017 World Series – Palm to Pines. Sam and I arrived on Friday lunchtime less than 24 hours before the race. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with Vaikobi founders Pat and Adrianne Langley in their beautiful home in Sydney. Pat was quick to advise us that the Sydney wind guru’s were not looking flash and it would be a ‘lap course’. Personally I wasn’t too worried about the ‘no wind’ factor but was excited to have a good race to finish off the season.

Saturday came along quick and we were all checked in at the Fisherman’s Bay ready for a start. I knew I just had to finish the race to finish on top of the World Series but obviously wanted to finish on a good race!There was a bit of a swell coming in over Long Reef and also the odd large wave popping up out of no where further out to sea. Due to the waves I decided to attach my leg leash (which wasn’t compulsory) to ensure there was no chance of loosing my ski of the reef! The course was a 4.5km loop around Long Reef and totalling approximately 18kms. The women would start 5 minutes ahead of the men to give us a clean start from the 150 men that were racing! The hooter went and we were away I had an okay start sitting on the wash of Vaikobi team mate, Hayley Nixon as we rounded the top bouy out at sea Hayley got the first run and I went slightly to the right of her. I looked behind me and saw a rather large wave and part of it had already broken, there was not a lot that I could do other than paddle, as the wave caught up to me I tried to keep paddling but the white water slued my ski and I was swimming, Fu** I was thinking. My leash was wrapped around my boat so I couldn’t jump back in, I had to un-do it and finally re-mounted my ski. In this time I lost 3 places and was about 700m away fro Hayley. I continued to paddle and tried every little bit to catch up but the other girls had made substantial ground on me. At this point the little voice inside my head is saying “Just finish the race now, don’t loose your ski”. After the 4th lap I detached my leg leash and ran through the finish line, disappointed with the result but realised I had just won the World Series, bitter sweet! A huge congratulations to Hayley for taking the win and a great battle in the last couple of weeks in Perth!

The World Series has been a goal of mine for a few years now, but every year failing to compete in enough ‘title’ races to be in contention so it’s great to finally tick that achievement off!! This weekend i’ve decided to take on the integral Mount Monster consisting of a 5km beach run, 1.4km swim, 12km ski finishing with a 6km board. I haven’t been doing much/if any swimming/board paddling so it’s going to be a tough race!!! After that it will be time for a bit of fun over the NZ summer and then re-charging for an exciting year in 2018!

A huge thank you to Lee McGregor for taking me on this year and for being a great coach! Hopefully sometime soon I can meet you in person! Sam for being there for me 100% especially when i’m grumpy after those night shifts 😉 Friends and family – you are all awesome and I’m excited for some adventures over Summer!

And to my incredible sponsors THANKYOU! It really would not have been possible to achieve this goal without all of you! Epic Kayaks, Shaw and Partners, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium and Orewa massage Worx.

Happy Paddling

After the ICF World Champs in Hong Kong I was excited to get to Perth, a known race for myself as it’s my 4th time returning, and one of the best places for a good downwind! For me personally was quite disappointed with my result at Worlds and felt I sort of had something to prove. Going into the Doctor I knew the chances of having downwind conditions were high and I much prefer wind over the flat as it’s my strength on the water. I was excited to prove myself after a 5th place the Worlds.

Sam, Andy Mowlem (fellow NZ paddler) and I flew from Hong Kong to Perth via a 3 hour stop over in Singapore arriving in Perth early hours of Tuesday morning. It’s safe to say I had a rather large sleep in to let my body recover. That night we were on the water doing a downwind paddle from Cottesloe to Sorrento and the conditions were pumping! 20kms cruising along the coast took us 1hr 15mins. Sam and I even managed to grab some awesome sunset pictures along the paddle too! Over the next couple of days it was just about relaxing and trying not to do too much.

On the Thursday night there was a Sunset Surf Ski Series race which was approximately 10kms from Fremantle to City Beach. This was a nice little warm up to get the body firing and again awesome downwind conditions where I took 1st place. Friday was a day for preparing for race day on Saturday. Early Friday Sam, Andy, Ryan Paroz (Australian & fellow Vaikobi paddler) and I went for a easy float and swim to refresh. From then Sam and I had lunch with a couple of the Shaw and Partners Team, race registration, loading the ski’s on the barge down at Fremantle and then driving back for race briefing and dinner!

Saturday morning came around quickly  – we woke up and the wind was already pumping! We caught the 10am ferry to Rottnest Island, I was sure to take my anti-nausea tablets as I knew it would be a bumpy ride on the way to the island. At about 10:45am we arrived at Rottnest Island and the next mission was to find your boat on the sand along with 420 other paddlers! Upon finding our skis it was time to find some much needed shade and get the boat all set up with the rudder, leash, flare and hydration pack. Shortly after multiple toilet stops it was time to paddle over to the Army Jetty where all paddlers meet up and wait for the start. I paddled over making sure I did a good warm up and then walked up to the sheltered area out of the sun. The women’s start was the 3rd start following the SUP’s and then the ‘intermediate paddlers’. Following the womens start were the remaining 250 odd men. Before I knew it the SUPS and intermediate men had started, one last toilet stop and I was heading down to the start. All the women were lined up and eager to get the race started! The hooter blew and we were off. The start defiantly isn’t my strong point but I had an okay start and there were three of us (ICF World Champ, Hayley Nixon, Australian, Tegan Fraser and myself) all in a row going for the ‘hot stop’ (approx 1.5kms from the start). About 100m from the hot spot pole I realised I was right there and tried to put in a little more power to try and take the hot spot! All three of us were pretty even rounding the hot spot pole and it really depended on which angle the official was sitting at on the boat as to who would have taken out the hot spot!

Upon rounding the pole due to the current and wind Hayley and Tegan had an unfortunate encounter with the pole causing them both to fall out. I stayed wide going around the pole and was about 3 metres away from the girls so was fine and could keep going. As soon as I rounded the pole I got into my groove and started chasing the runs, continuously surfing to the right to make sure I was on the right line and not getting pushed to the left. Upon rounding the Oil Rig and anchor boat I struggled to back myself that I was on the right line. I couldn’t see anyone around me and I kept hoping I was heading in the right direction. From Rottnest Island the ‘Centaur’ pole is approximately 21kms, add in some large swell and wind and you can imagine it will be pretty hard to find. After about 18kms I noticed a boat to my right and then saw the leading men following the boat, this is when I knew I was on the right line. Shortly after I turned the Centaur pole and was heading for home. The last 6kms lined up perfectly to Sorrento Beach and I was flying, getting speeds up to 24km/h and I was loving it, huge smile on my face enjoying every minute. Even at this point I had no idea where the other women were. I paddled into the beach and ran up to the finish line, everyone was cheering and at this point I knew I had taken the win! I was so happy to be back onto of the podium! I loved the technical conditions and I felt I really excel in the downwind conditions.

A huge congratulations to everyone who raced! It wasn’t easy and is such an achievement for everyone who finished!! A massive congrats to Kyeta Purchase (2nd) and Hayley Nixon (3rd) for a great race!!! It’s awesome to have such a great quality of women racing!!! Also a huge congrats to Cory Hill for taking out the mens race Hank McGregor (2nd) and Austin Kiefer (3rd).

Thank you to coach Lee McGregor for keeping me on my toes and being a great coach! Thank you to my Partner – Sam, I know you weren’t happy with your race but once you crossed the finish line you were more excited to see how I went over your own race! Friends and family and of course my incredible sponsors Epic Kayaks, Shaw and Partners, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium, Balance Sports Nutrition and Orewa Massage Worx!

Cannot wait for the Palm to Pines Sydney World Series race in 2 weeks time!

Until next time,

Happy Paddling 🙂

Photo – John O’Sullivan

 

ICF Ocean Racing World Champs – Hong Kong 

Saturday morning came along very quickly for the Womens race of the World Champs held here in Hong Kong. Commonly known as the ‘Dragon Run’ a 23km paddle from Clear Water Bay (second beach) finishing at Stanley Beach.

I have to admit I was checking the WindGuru app quite regularly leading up to today and the conditions were certainly looking very slim for any wind or ‘ocean racing’ conditions and it was looking to be one flat, slog in the heat!

6:45am and Sam and I were in a taxi down to the finish at Stanley to load my boat on the trailer. Shortly after that I was on a bus to the race start at Clear Water Bay. Upon arriving at the beach I got all set up and had a good warm up. We were notified that the race was to be delayed by 30 minutes to allow for the mysterious ‘wind’ to grace us with it’s presence. I was quite nervous for the race, with the most dominant women’s field ever I knew it was going to be tough, add in the heat, no wind and it’s going to be one tough race. Don’t get me wrong I would prefer wind any day as it’s my strength over flat conditions but I had to be prepared for anything!

10:30am and the race was off,

I buggered my start so had to work hard to get back up into 2nd, behind Teneale after 2km, as per my original plan. Three of us including Nicole Russell started to make a break on the rest of the field, another group was formed to our right and at that point I am told there may have been some ‘ocean assistance’ provided by a boat for the 2nd group but regardless the grind was on.

Rounding Nine Pins Island in second I decided to take my own line adamant I was going the right way into the haze. 15 minutes later I could finally see ‘kissing whales’ the next point and realised I was slightly too far right. In saying that though eventual winner, and Vaikobi team mate Hayley Nixon was also on the right side of me so maybe I wasn’t too far right?!

From there it was Hayley, Teneale and myself solo, with what appeared to be a small slightly back to my left. Coming into kissing whales Michelle burn had an awesome stretch out left to turn second, and at that point I joined the group of Olympian Bridgette Hartley and Nicole. We managed to catch Teneale with about 3km to go, a group of 4 to battle it out for 3rd.

I was absolutely knackered and grinned it out to the finish finishing in 5th place.

Not quite the result I wanted but I gave it 110% and it’s so exciting to see the Womens field so strong this year, multiple Olympians and amazing racing. Onwards to the World Series Title Race – The Doctor in Perth next weekend. I’m hoping for the famous ‘Doctor’ winds for an exciting race in some technical downwind conditions!

Massive well done to all the girls that completed today, but especially to Hayley Nixon, our new ICF World Ocean Racing Champion!

A huge thank you to everyone for your support, Sam for running around after me on the day before your big race whilst battling with a sore throat all night and today :-),

Coach Lee McGregor for keeping me honest in training and my incredible sponsors!!!! It wouldn’t be possible without you all!

Epic Kayaks, Shaw and Partners, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium, Orewa Massage Worx and Balance Sports Nutrition NZ.

Happy Paddling

Race Season… and a new team member

With the weather starting to warm up here in Auckland it’s about time to start jetting off for some pretty major races around the globe!!

First up this coming weekend is the ICF Surf Ski World Champs held in Hong Kong (predominantly known as the Dragon Run). A 24km race which really tests out all conditions for a paddler from head wind to side chop to ocean downwind. The best of the best paddlers from around the world giving it everything they’ve got for that World Title. The  following weekend is the Perth Doctor (World Series Title Race), another huge race (26kms) where you will see arguably (if we forget last years pancake) the best downwind conditions in a race. Again the world’s top paddlers will be jetting over to Australia’s West to take on the ‘Doctor’. Add in a couple of local ‘Sunset Series’ Thursday night races and i’ve got 4 races in 2 weeks. It’s definitely going to be a tough couple of weeks but I believe I’ve done everything I can to prepare!

I’m also extremely happy to announce I’ve teamed up with Shaw and Partners! It’s so great to be a part of the team and to have the support backing me along my ocean paddling journey! Shaw and Partners, is is one of Australia’s preeminent investment and wealth management firms. Check out their website here: http://www.shawandpartners.com.au/home

And of course I couldn’t be where I am today without a few amazing people; My family, partner – Sam, friends, Coach – the legend , Lee McGregor and my sponsors Epic Kayaks, Shaw and Partners, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, AUT Millennium, Pita Pit NZ, and Orewa Massage Worx. You all play a huge part in this journey and I am truely grateful!

I look forward to giving you all a recap on these races shortly!

Happy Paddling

After Canada Sam and I took the 7 hour drive down the coast to Hood River with a few stops along the way. We woke up reasonably easy Sunday morning to beat the weekend traffic and major queue’s at the US border. Past years getting through the border has been about a 30 minute wait with traffic, this year as we drove up to the border we drove straight up to only a 5 car line, and thought wow – this will only take 5 minutes! We handed our passports over to the border Officer and he asked general questions, handed us a orange slip and said head over to the carpark and go inside. What should have taken 5 minutes took an hour due to the fact that I went to Hawaii earlier this year and it had that stamped in my passport an expiry within the month although my ESTA Visa was still current. After a little stress and a payment made we were across the border! Along the way we stopped overnight in Portland with our good friends Di & Ken Barker and enjoyed a great night of laughs and amazing food!

The next morning we carried on to Hood River which was only just over an hours drive from Portland. Upon arriving we went straight down to the race venue and the wind was pumping so jumped straight onto the water for an easy paddle to flush out. Over the next couple of days we did a couple of downwind shuttles testing out different race strategies and lines to take. This was my 3rd time coming to Hood River and I always seemed to take the wrong line so wanted to be 100% on where I was going. In saying that I think I needed to be flexible, if the wind is cranking the middle of the river has the runs, however if its not then is it better to stay on the side out of the current?! A lot to consider and really is at the end of the day a decision you have to make dependant on the conditions. This year we had a 3 day race window Thursday – Saturday where we would only find out 24 hours before which day we would be racing. All the signs, wind apps & temperature apps were showing that Thursday was looking like the best day so we had a fair idea it could be our race day. As we all suspected on Wednesday morning it was announced that we would be racing Thursday. Sam and I then did an easy downwind Wednesday afternoon which was about 12km’s of downwind bliss! I was lucky enough to be able to paddle the new V12M prototype during a couple of downwind sessions and loved it so much I decided to paddle it on race day!

Thursday came around quickly and before you knew it we were on the start line! The women were to start approximately 5 minutes ahead of the men so we knew they would be hunting us down throughout the early stages of the race. Just after 2:00pm and we were off, I had a good start and started to head to the centre/left side of the river to start with, next to me was Teneale Hatton and further to the left was South Africa’s Hayley Nixon. It was back and forth between Teneale and I for about 10km’s. After we passed Viento State Park I headed over to the right side of the river and my plan was to stick there. Teneale managed to gain about 200m on me picking up runs from the middle of the river. Numerous times I doubted myself and thought ‘maybe I should move out to the centre, maybe it’s better out there’ but I stuck to the right hand side. For the next few km’s I noticed my speed was quite consistent and I started to gain on Teneale and eventually passed infront of her with about 4km’s to go. I kept paddling hard and just thought of all those 6km time trials I had been doing and tried to keep to that pace. I then had to move to the centre of the river as it got too shallow and the turning buoy was in the centre, as i did this I noticed Teneale on my back wash, I approached the turning buoy and put in a sprint as I turned the buoy and my wash was clear. The finish was about 500m away and I raced to the finish, un-clipped my leg leash and ran across the finish line where Sam was waiting for me with a huge smile on his face! I was so happy and relieved that I had finished, my training is paying off and I stuck to my race plan! 2nd place was Teneale Hatton and Hayley Nixon coming in 3rd. In the men’s race it was Kenny Rice in 1st, Sean Rice 2nd and Jasper Mocke in 3rd.

Now it’s time to head home and continue training and get ready for the ICF World Champs in Hong Kong later this year! We have a couple of local races in NZ that we will be doing to gear up for Hong Kong aswell!

A huge thank you to my sponsors for your continuous support!!!! Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Pita Pit NZ, Bennett Paddles Aus, Balance Sports Nutrition, AUT Millennium, Orewa Massage Worx.

Happy Paddling

Coming back to British Columbia, Canada – it really feels a little bit like home, the mountains, greenery and ‘outdoors lifestyle’ everyone seems to have! Sam and I left NZ on a night flight, 13 hours direct to Vancouver which meant for some hopeful sleeping! I managed to get about 7 hours sleep however I don’t think it was that easy for Sam due to his rather tall height! Upon arrival (19 hours behind NZ) we made it to our accommodation in North Vancouver, pretty tired and hungry so had some amazing food down at the local town and had a early night sleep. It took a couple of days to feel like we really got over the jet lag but eventually felt pretty good within time. We had a week to prep prior to the Canadian Surf Ski Champs & World Series Race. With my main race of the year being in November (World Champs) there is no real ‘taper’ desired so it was pretty much as per the usual training programme set by Coach McGregor. I defiantly didn’t feel like I am 100% ‘race fit’ going into the Canadian Champs which I think a number of things contribute towards that especially a huge factor being it’s winter in NZ. My goal was go to out and race my heart out and to the best of my ability and push myself but remember there is a bigger picture at the end of the year.

The Canadian Surf Ski Champs is about a 21km race down the Howe Sound in Squamish just North of Vancouver. It’s a beautiful little town with a bit of quirkiness to it. Going into the race as I did it last year I knew the course and landmarks to look out for during the race. Knowing that during race day (Saturday) it’s an outgoing tide so if there is wind blowing it’s very tactical weather you stick in the middle catching the runs or head to the edge – flatter but hidden from the base of the current. Talking to the locals prior to the race they all had different views on where to head! So I guess it’s up to the paddler to make a decision and back yourself!

Race day came along quickly and you wouldn’t believe it but the Howe Sound was blowing! Most people were pretty darn excited about the runs and the fact that we would have a bit of fun during the race. Race start time was set to be between 1:30pm and 2:30pm due to the conditions. We all arrived at the race start – Porteau Cove at about 12pm ready to set up our boats to race and the final check in. The wind was cranking so the race directors decided to run the race at the earliest point 1:30pm. I grabbed my ski (Epic V10L) and jumped on the water for a pre race warm up. The start line is actually about 1.5km further up Howe Sound so it’s quite a good warm up. I made sure I had done a couple of efforts so I was ready to go when the gun went. I was feeling good within myself and ready for a good race. As we all lined up the nerves had set in and I took a deep breath, next thing the gun went and we were off! It was about 1.5km straight out into the middle of the river to the ‘Hot spot’ buoy where we then turn to head down the Howe Sound. I had an okay start, I was on a wash with another male about 2 ski lengths back from the leading female, Teneale Hatton. As I turned the buoy I knew I was in my strong point, catching runners. I stayed in the middle of the river and Teneale went more to the right. I managed catch up and I was surfing really well catching the runs. A few km’s went by and I was trying to not worry about where other people were but noticed although I was surfing really well but possibly the inside line was faster. When I hit Watts point I was in 2nd place, I thought to myself if i’m going to win from here I need to take a different route. I went hard right and took a chance, I wasn’t sure what was going to be faster but I made the decision and had to stick with it. Upon coming to the mouth of the Mamquam Blind Harbour (2km to the finish) I had lost 4 places from my positioning where I decided to go right. So in hindsight probably wasn’t the best decision! I made it to the finish line and was happy with my overall race finishing 2nd overall female. A big congratulations for Teneale Hatton for taking the win and local Canadian Tamlyn Bohm for 3rd place. In the men’s race it was an extremely hot field with the best from the world taking on the race with Sean Rice taking the win, younger Brother Kenny Rice in 2nd and Jasper Mocke in 3rd. Sam also had a great race finishing 10th in the overall mens race, pretty proud of him and hopefully he can crack top 8 at the next race! 😉

From Canada we take the long drive across the border and head to Hood River just inland from Portland for the Gorge Downwind Champs & next World Series Race!

Happy Paddling