The Channel of Bones – Molokai

After last years Molokai I didn’t think I would be heading back to race the gruelling 52km slog that it was. Dead flat glassy waters and I was just happy to finish the 2016 Molokai race. Late last year i thought to myself, you know what; I want to be the female ski paddler that’s known for Molokai, the most wins under their belt. I think for me the feeling when you cross the finish line in Hawaii Kai it’s a pretty unreal feeling knowing that you’ve just crossed one of the most dangerous channels in the world – ‘The channel of Bones’. Molokai is one of the most prestige races in the World so who wouldn’t want to go back?!

This year I arrived in Hawaii on the Saturday morning, 1 week prior to race day. I wanted to give myself enough time to acclimatise and feel comfortable during the week. Leaving Auckland with rather chilly weather it was quite nice to arrive in Hawaii with 28-30 degrees! Once I landed in Hawaii I spent the day with my mum just relaxing and checking into our Hotel. I had a rest day and just went for a swim and walk at the beach. Over the next couple of days I did a couple of downwind runs from Hawaii Kai (where the race finish is) to the Outrigger Club, this paddle is approximately 18km from the edge of China Wall. I had an awesome time during these paddles and thought to myself maybe this will be a downwind year for Molokai! The entire week was absolutely cranking conditions the daily shuttles were full. Once again as all the paddlers were looking on weather and wind apps it would seem we were going to have another flat year paddling across the channel. I wasn’t too phased by this, I had done majority of my training in the flat but of course a downwind would have been a lot of fun! On the Wednesday mum and I hired my dream car aka Jeep Wrangler and drove up to the North Shore for the day, we checked out the local town and spent some time checking out the famous Waimea Bay. That night we had a lovely BBQ at the Brand’s residence with fellow paddlers which was so lovely and amazing scenery to look out onto Pipeline from their backyard! Thank you so much Charles and Beth for having us! Days went by and I kept on checking the wind conditions but it was pretty set in that it was going to be flat. I continued doing my planned programme and tried to keep relaxed throughout the week.

This year I had decided to fly over to Molokai on the race morning, this meant I could have a hearty dinner and a early night sleep knowing that I would have to get up at 4am to catch the flight. By 6:30am we had landed on Molokai and it was about a 20 minute shuttle to the race start location at Kepuhi Bay. We arrived at the Bay and I had a about an 1 1/2 hours until the female start, the mens start was 30 minutes after us. I found my ski and got it all set up with my drink system and gels and made sure everything was set to go. The water looked rather calm and I though ‘Wow here we go again, flat racing’. At about 7:45 all paddlers gathered on the beach for a blessing which was really moving and I think made us all realise how special this race and channel we are about to paddle really is. At about 8:00am I located my support boat and waved him down, my mum then swam out to the boat with our gear bags and I got on the water for a warm up. I was feeling really good and was trying not to get too nervous. 8:30am and we were all lined up on the start line, also in the women’s start were the outriggers, double ski’s and a few on the intermediate male paddlers. The hooter went and I was off, I had a good start and was in a group with an OC6 and a women’s double ski. I stayed in this group for about 15km’s, I was feeling very strong and relaxed in the flat conditions. My plan was to stay controlled for the first 30km and then push it up a notch for the last 22km. With that in mind I didn’t want to push it too hard and have nothing for the last 2hours. This year I was paddling the Epic V12 where as last year I paddled the V10L GT (about 3kg’s lighter). The V12 is the ultimate downwind boat however noticeably heavier than the GT but that’s the boat I had decided to paddle and I love it. For the next 15km I was with the double ski and we had a few turns of taking leads. Up to 35km I was feeling really good, I went off on my own and tried to tick it up a notch. The muscles were beginning to ache and I was definitely starting to feel the pain. As I approached China wall there were a few pumps to catch but it was pretty hard work and as I got closer and closer to China wall it got messier, pretty much like a washing machine. As I rounded China wall I knew I had about 2kms to go, I gave it everything I had and pushed it to the finish. Crossing that finish line I was so happy, knowing I gave it everything and the icing on the cake to be the first female. I guess I was slightly disappointed to have done exactly the same time as I did last year but hard to compare with the conditions and paddling a heavier boat. I will definitely be back next year for another crossing!!! The mens race was one hot field with Sean Rice taking the win, Hank McGregor coming in 2nd and Cory Hill in 3rd.

A huge thank you to my sponsors for your ongoing support and helping me get here!!!!

Mahalo

King & Queen of the Harbour 2017

King and Queen of the Harbour has been running for the past 15 years held in Auckland, New Zealand, 4 years ago it became part of the Surf Ski World Series as a tier 2 race. It’s New Zealand’s biggest ocean ski race attracting between 150-200 paddlers including some international paddlers. The race is wind/condition dependant and the final course decision is made 1-2 days out from race day. Each of the four course options are about 25-29kms. Leading into the race I am feeling sting and ready for whatever the day and conditions will bring. My weekly sessions have been pretty hard leading into King & Queen of the Harbour including a lot of bungee and gold ball work. 

On Thursday afternoon the course was decided to go from Long Bay to Eastern Beach, East Auckland, approximately 27km with competitors having to round a yellow marker bouy 2km off Long Bay and also rounding the inside of the lighthouse just off Rangitoto. The wind forecasted was a 20km/h Northerly but it had quite a bit of easterly in it which meant we would be having the wind over our left shoulder all the way out to the lighthouse. I didn’t really know how much this would come into play but was ready for the challenge! The women were scheduled to head off 15 minutes prior to the men, this meant it would be a different story to when we usually start with the men and enabling you to pace yourself off the men you are familiar with. 

Race day – I was ready, ready to challenge myself across this course and give it everything I had. I am not usually the fastest of starters so the goal was to have a good start and get in front. 11:15am and the hooter went, I have a good couple of first strokes and got out in front, fellow kiwi Teneale Hatton was on my wash but I knew she was strong off the start so wanted to stay in front, I pulled away about a boat length ahead and maintained that distance until the yellow turning marker (2km off Long Bay). From there it was awesome downwind runners but heading towards Takapuna, unfortunately how awesome this looked we had to surf very far left to make it to the second turning marker – the Lighthouse, approximately 15kms away. Although this 15kms was very tough I am strong and sort of like paddling in it! Approaching the lighthouse I could see Cory Hill just to my left so knew I was on the right line, as I rounded the inside of the lighthouse the swell and wind dropped to dead flat conditions and into the current. This was hard, it felt like you had a bunch of seaweed on your rudder but in fact it was just the current. I knew I just had to keep pushing and try maintain an even speed as we were only half way through the race. Slowly a few men passed me and I managed to stay with a couple of men for a few km’s. Once I paddled past the edge of Rangitoto Island it was then almost a head/side wind all the way to the finish (approx. 7kms). Finally I rounded the cliff’s on the southern side of the harbour and felt relief, I thought to myself ‘only 2kms to go’ and paddled as hard as I could to cross the finish line! I was so happy to have had the best race I could have done within myself and so happy to have taken the win in the females race.

The top three women across the line were: Rachel Clarke 1ST , Teneale Hatton 2ND and Dene Simpson 3RD . In the men’s race it was Australia’s Cory Hill 1ST, Andy Mowlem 2ND, and Mark Anderson 3RD. Very tough racing with the conditions on the day but it is very awesome to see so many paddlers lining up for the race weather it’s for the win, a top 20 finish or even to finish the course.

Many thanks to my incredible sponsors: Epic Kayaks for your on-going support around the world and designing the best surf skis out there! Vaikobi what can I say the comfiest paddling attire and allowing me to be a part of the V Team! Pita Pit NZ, if you haven’t tried a Pita Pit yet – go grab yourself one! They are healthy and delicious. Bennett Paddles – Greg you do such an awesome job with my paddles and thank you for your support! Balance Sports Nutrition for your NZ made nutrition products that help me prepare and recover for my training and racing! Orewa Massage Worx – Roger thank you for assisting in my recovery in training and racing and AUT Millennium for your 100% support for use of your world class facilities. And how could I forget my Family, Partner, Coach and friends for all your support and belief, without all of you none of this would be possible!

Until next time,

Happy Paddling

Here we go again!!!

Heading into the 2017 Surf Ski World Series I am feeling refreshed, determined and excited about the season ahead. This year is definitely a key year for me with 6 World Series races including the ICF World Champs held in Hong Kong later in the year.

I have changed a couple of things to my usual routine one of them having a ocean paddling specific coach. I have teamed up with South Africian legend Lee McGregor (Father of Hank McGregor) to assist me with my programme, training and racing. Lee is in South Africia so is not physically at my training sessions and racing but is always there with me. My partner, Sam Mayhew also is under Lee so we do a few of the sessions together and anyone else who wants to join in! The programme is awesome, obtaining each weeks sessions and working out when I can juggle them in between work so I can make the most out of each session. Working full time shift work definitely takes a toll on my body and sleeping patterns so I have to make smart decisions and not to ‘over do it’.  I’ve been doing a lot of bungee work as well as weekly time trials ranging from 2km – 6km which Lee is always keeping an eye on! Going into the start of the World Series I am feeling strong and feel I have been doing the work to ensure I am at the level I need to be.

The first World Series race is being held in Auckland this weekend, King and Queen of the Harbour. It’s a race I am very familiar with and have won the 4 previous years. I have completed majority of the course options depending on the wind conditions so that doesn’t really bother me too much on which course is picked. Don’t get me wrong of course we would all love a cracker of a downwind where we are all smiling from ear to ear!!!! The course will be approximately 27kms and will take 1 1/2 – 2hrs depending on the wind and conditions on the day. I always get quite nervous going into a race even if it’s just a local Auckland competition, I guess I put a lot of pressure on myself and have very high expectations. I try to not think about it too much and just stay relaxed prior to the race. I am feeling really good about going into this weekend and imagine it will be a tough race with some tough competition! The men’s race is looking hot with the international likes of Cory Hill, Macca Hynard, Zsolt and Mark Anderson making the trip across the ditch as well as top NZ paddlers including Rio Olympian Marty McDowell, Sam Mayhew, Andy Mowlem and Simon Longdill so that will be a great race!

I would like to say a huge thank you to my incredible sponsors; Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Pita Pit NZ, Balance Sports Nutrition, AUT Millennium and Orewa Massage Worx for supporting me 100% and helping me get to where I am. Without you all of this wouldn’t be possible! 

Until next time,

Happy Paddling!

Photo: Josh Neilson Photography

The Chilly South – Surf Lifesaving Nationals 2017

It was my first time travelling down South for the Surf Life Saving Nationals which were being held at New Brighton Beach in Christchurch. In 2011, Nationals were set to be held here but due to the devastating earthquake they were moved to Mount Maunganui just days before the competition started. We all knew that we were to expect slightly colder water and to be prepared to freeze if a southerly came through. Nationals runs from Friday – Sunday and the Masters racing on the Thursday. Three full days of competition to get yourself prepared for. The weather forecast was looking not too shabby just days out from the event and a nice 2ft wave rolling in for us.

I flew out of Auckland on Thursday about lunchtime arriving in Christchurch mid afternoon, enough time to check out the holiday home and head down to the beach for a warm up. Upon arriving at New Brighton Beach it didn’t seem too bad, the sun was shining, slight onshore wind and a little wave… until I got in the water, it sure was colder than Auckland’s, North Shore waters!!! I was feeling pretty good and excited about the next 3 days of racing ahead.

Friday was a pretty full on morning but thankfully the water warmed up to a nice 28 degrees!! There was a slight onshore breeze which meant some choppy and slightly more technical conditions. First up was the surf race final following with ski heats and the board relay final where Danielle McKenzie, Kayla McKenzie and myself took the win! Being an Open women we generally have straight finals for a lot of the races due to the number of women and 1 heat in the individual events before proceeding through to the final.

Saturday was definitely a different story, with a max temperature of 14 degrees I was definitely packing all my warm gear in my bag for the day! Saturday was jam packed with a lot of team races including the Ski relay, board rescue, mixed double ski and surf teams. First up was the ski relay final where Danielle, Kayla and myself managed to take the win! Next up was the board rescue which came down to Danielle and I on the same wave as Piha coming down to a sprint finish where we just managed to take another win. Shortly after the board rescue was the mixed double ski where Sam Mayhew and myself teamed up for the heat and proceeding to the final not long after. In our final we had a good start getting hit by a couple of waves but had a great paddle coming into 4th place around the bouy’s. We just missed the lead wave finding ourselves in no-mans land where another two teams caught up to us on a wave and we ended up finishing 6th.

Sunday is known as finals day, where majority of the individual finals are held and the famous ‘Taplin Relay’ (men 6 person, female 3 person). First up was the women’s double ski final where Danielle and I managed to take the win which was such an awesome race! Catch the race here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC3wO74Bt6k&feature=youtu.be

Next up for me was the Ski final, a race which I really wanted to do well in following my win not long ago at Eastern Regionals. I was quite nervous but that’s not new for me. As we lined up on the start line I was fired up and ready to give it everything. As the gun went I somehow managed to fall out of my ski, I quickly got back in and managed to paddle from dead last finishing in 5th place. I was very angry with myself but had to move onto the next race!! Next and final race was the Taplin Relay which consists of three team members completing one leg each, a ski, board and swim with a transition run in between each leg. Kayla (ski), Danielle (board), and myself (swim) was the order of the relay. We managed to take 2nd place in a sprint finish up the beach.

It was a eventful three days of racing and cold weather!!! Mairangi Bay as a club finished an amazing 2nd overall in the Country! My body definitely needed a sleep in and full days rest following these three days!!! Following that i’ll be back into training before I head over to Australia to compete in their Nationals next week!!!!

Summary of results:

1st – Open Womens Board Relay

1st – Open Womens Ski Relay

1st – Open Womens Double Ski

1st – Open Womens Board Rescue

2nd – Open Womens Taplin Relay

3rd – Open Womens Surf Teams

4th – Open Womens Surf Race

5th – Open Womens Ski Race

6th – Open Mixed Double Ski

NZ Summer

Over the summer months in NZ it is a bit of down time from the ocean paddling world series season however the fun doesn’t stop there! It’s a busy time here for the lifesaving season so the training definitely doesn’t stop.

I missed a couple of the pre season events due to work however I was all set to go for the Eastern Regional Champs held in Mount Maunganui over Auckland Anniversary weekend in late January. Eastern Regionals see’s most of the country make the trip for the 2 day competition as it’s a great hit out prior to Nationals as most of the countries top competitors are there.

I had been doing quite a bit of spec ski work so was looking forward to the ski race and seeing how I went with not a lot of lifesaving racing over the season. I was up for a couple of team events also like the double ski, surf teams, taplin and ski & board relays which is always a great race! The mount put on a stunning weekend as usual with 2-3ft surf and some fine rays the entire weekend.

I had a great ski heat and was feeling really strong and comfortable in my ski shortly after the heat was the ski final. Tricky high tide Mount Maunganui conditions meant for a hip start and slightly more technical than we were used to. The gun went and I was away, I had a great start and was on the inside line. Devon Halligan was on the outside line and we came together half way out to the can. I was feeling so powerful and strong and kept pushing towards the first can. I took the lead going into the first can and then once turning the final can I dug deep to maintain my lead managing to pull down a little runner which turned into a wave. I was so happy to have raced my own race and also happy with how I felt during the race. I also had some great other team races finishing 3rd in the Open Mixed double Ski and 3rd in the Open worms Double Ski as well as finishing 2nd in the surf teams race.

A couple weeks later I decided to head down to Lake Karapiro in Cambridge to race in the NZ Kayak Nationals. I originally was only going down to have a good hit out at the 5KM event which was held on the final day (Sunday) but thought I could get a couple of long paddles in also prior to Sunday to mix up the training location!

I arrived in Lake Karapiro about lunch time Friday to watch some of the afternoon racing. Lisa Carrington then sent me a message asking if I wanted to jump in a couple of K4 team boats. The last time I was in a K4 was a couple of years ago so was quite nervous but thought why not?! The first K4 event was that Friday afternoon being the K4200m. I met up with the rest of the girls and we jumped in the boat ready to race. It surprisingly felt awesome being back in a team boat. In our K4 was Jaimee Lovett, Lisa Carrington, Anne Carines and myself in seat 4. We had an awesome race taking out 1st place! The following day I didn’t have any races so just went for a steady 10km down the lake. On the Sunday I had the K4200M in the morning which we also took out first place and had a junior paddler from Eastern Bay as Anne Carines was unable to make it. That afternoon I had the 5KM race. In my new training programme we do a lot of time trials so I knew it would be a great chance to have a good hit out. I was reasonably nervous as I hadn’t done a lot in the K1 for a number of years but was going to give it everything I had. The 5km race consisted of a 4 lap course consisting of 12 x 45 degree turns in total. I had a good start and by the first turn (500m) I was in the lead. I managed to increase my lead over each lap and kept pushing myself as much as I could. I finished with a great time of 24.02 seen as the number of turns we had to do and the cross wind. I was happy with my race and how i kept pushing myself throughout the race.

Following this weekend it was back to training in Auckland and making continuous improvements!

Until next time,

Happy Paddling!

(K4500M Final)

The FINAL two!

The final two Surf Ski World Series Races of my year… Hong Kong Dragon Run and the Perth ‘Doctor’ two completely different races two weeks apart. Hong Kong is completely foreign to me, first time racing there, unknown conditions, where as I’ve been to Perth twice before and it has been one of the best downwind races in the World but we all know conditions can change! I felt I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well, not only for myself but for my sponsors, coach, family & friends. I knew going into these last two World Series races that the women’s field is hotter than ever and it is so great to see so many female paddlers involved in the sport especially at such a world class level.

Sam and I set off to Hong Kong on Tuesday night arriving in Hong Kong early Wednesday morning with race day less than a week away on Saturday. Enough time before a huge World Series Race to convert your body clock, get in a few paddles on the race course? Maybe, maybe not. With both Sam and I working full time we have to be very selective about how much leave we can get off work to enable we can attend the races overseas. 

We arrived in Hong Kong and the first thing I thought to myself was how many people there were, streets were filled, roads were busy but the public transport was amazing! We checked into our Hotel which was about a half hour bus ride away from the race finish venue – Stanley. There were very few places to stay in Stanley but it was a cool little town with markets and a great paddling location! Each day prior to the race we would catch the bus down to Stanley and go for a paddle which was awesome to check out the last 5kms of the race course.

Saturday = Race day! We got up bright and early and caught the bus down to Stanley to load our boats on the trailer which were transported to the race start at Clearwater Bay. We then jumped on a bus with all the other paddlers and about 45 minutes later we were at Clearwater Bay. The race consisted of about a 7km side/head wind paddle out to nine pins then a 13km downwind section and turning right around Cape D finishing off with 4kms of flat/head wind. I started off with an average start, the women started with the men and I found myself in the washing machine at the back of a pack, I thought to myself about catching one paddler at a time and I managed to pass about 5 paddlers on the way out to nine pins (our first turning landmark)! I then got into the downwind section and felt like I was in my element. I was surfing really well and was having a lot of fun out there. Once turning Cape D it was very flat with the odd bump you could catch. I knew fellow competitor Jenna Ward was hot on my tail so I kept pushing. With about 2kms to go we were neck and neck fighting it our for 3rd and 4th place, we both had a good go at it and I just managed to edge ahead of Jenna taking 3rd place. Taking the win was Teneale Hatton with Hayley Nixon in second place. In the men’s race Hank McGregor had another flyer with Cory Hill in second and Sean Rice in 3rd. It was a very technical race but loved every minute of it and cannot wait to return to Hong Kong next year for the ICF World Champs in November!

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Just over a week later and Sam and I were flying out to Perth! Perth is one of our favourite places to race at! Awesome weather, down winds for days and friendly community! What else could you want!? We arrived early Wednesday morning which gave us enough time to get a couple of paddlers in prior to the weekend race on Saturday with the alternate race day of Sunday. Staying at the Sorrento Beach Resort was ideal, 50 metres away from Sorrento beach and the race finish and it was great being able to leave our ski’s on the resort lawn and easy access to paddle daily! I was feeling really good and was excited for what would be another world class race. It was decided by the race director that the race would be held Saturday. The conditions were looking very hot (37 degrees) and second to none wind! I thought to myself…. 37 degrees holy sh*t! I really concentrated on being hydrated over the next couple of days and having good nutrition.

Race day came along and it sure was hot! Sam and I  got on the 10am ferry from Hillary’s Harbour to Rottnest Island- About a 40 minute ferry ride. Upon arrival we found our ski’s and got them into some shade as it sure was hot! Once the ski’s were all set up we found a shaded area for ourselves and chilled out for a while. We stayed there until we were given notice to make our way over to the Army Jetty for a briefing (about a 1km paddle). After about 4 hours of waiting for the wind to arrive we couldn’t wait any longer so we were ready to start. SUP’s went off first about 1/2 an hour later were the women and 10 minutes after that were the men. I had a good start sitting on the wash of the leading female, about 2 minutes into the race I ran over a clump of weed and noticed my speed start dropping slowly. At that point I didn’t know for sure if I had weed or not but kept trying to push myself. Slowly I was getting passed and knew something was on my rudder so I back paddled and a large clump of weed came off. FANTASTIC I thought to myself! I tried to get back into the race about 10 minutes in but something wasn’t right. I felt like my head was going to explode and didn’t feel good at all. I drunk more and more of my fluid and tried to compose myself. This happened the entire race numerous times. I thought about waving down a support boat but didn’t want to quit or give up so kept pushing on. I finally made it to the finish and ran up the finishing shoot. I sat down on the beach and couldn’t see anything, my hands and feet were tingling and starting to go numb. Sam and the lifeguards came over to me and started giving me electrolytes and watermelon. After no improvement an hour later of being on oxygen, blood sugar levels very low and low blood pressure I was taken to hospital for observation. After about 5 hours in Hospital and bags of IV fluid I was feeling a lot better. It seems my body started shutting down due to the extreme heat and exhaustion. I was pretty gutted to finish off my World Series like this and it was definitely not the result I wanted. The top three finishers were: 1st – Hayley Nixon, 2nd – Teneale Hatton and 3rd – Nicole Russell. In the Men’s it was 1st – Hank McGregor, 2nd – Cory Hill and 3rd – Mark Anderson. 

Overall my season has had it’s ups and downs and I am so thankful to have been able to race around the world doing what I love. This wouldn’t at all have been possible without my major sponsor Epic Kayaks – It is a huge honour to be a part of the Team and I am looking forward to 2017! Also a massive thank you to Vaikobi, Pita pit NZ, Balance Sports Nutrition, SOS Rehydrate, Bennett Paddles and Orewa Massage Worx!

I’m looking forward to having a month off paddling and then getting back into it! Over the summer i’ll be continuing coaching in Auckland. I run group clinics and one on one’s anywhere from beginner paddlers to intermediate paddlers! If you are interested flick me an email at rachelclarkepaddling@gmail.com

Until next time –

Happy Paddling 🙂

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Left (Myself) Middle (Sam Mayhew) Right (Tim Eves)

Beautiful Bora Bora – Maraamu Surf Ski 2016

It wasn’t till a week out from the race date until I decided to make a late entry into the Maraamu Surf Ski/ World Series Race in Bora Bora! With the help of Mosole, Sam and work letting me take 2 days late notice leave I was able to make it to the race!I hadn’t really done any paddles over 25km since Molokai so I wasn’t really sure how my body would react to the distance but I was hoping my pre Molokai base training could get me through!

I left NZ on the Thursday afternoon flight and landed in Tahiti late on Wednesday afternoon. I stayed Tahitian Johaan which was pretty much in the city of Tahiti. The Next morning we had a causal hike up the nearby hill to get an awesome lookout over the city and water. Johann then took me around a few iconic Tahitian landmarks and I got to see some of the cultural side which was awesome! That afternoon it was time to fly to Bora Bora, about a 50 minute flight on a tiny plane! Upon arrival I was greeted by Mosole and he took me to the accommodation I was staying at for the night. I arrived late in the afternoon so just unpacked and had some time to relax. On Friday we all jumped on a catamaran and headed over to the island of Taaha where the race started. Upon arrival our boats were all ready for us to get set up and go for a nice light paddle! We all slept in a huge open hall for the night which was definitely a new experience and I think I must have woken up every hour!

Race morning arrived and I was feeling good besides the woken sleep. Race start was 8:30am from the reef pass about 4kms from where our accommodation was so I had to make sure I got on the water with enough time to paddle out to the start! I managed to catch a ride on the race of a boat wash for the majority of the 4km which was great to conserve some much needed energy! Bang on 8:30am and the hooter was off! I went out reasonably hard but didn’t want to blow out in the first 30 minutes. There was a large ocean swell coming over our right shoulder with a light wind heading directly to Bora Bora. I was unsure weather I was on the right line or not but stuck to my gut and headed to the left hand side of the island. In this time I felt really good caught some awesome runners getting a max speed of 20.1km/h and felt like I had good rhythm. With about 15km to go I sighted the huge white lighthouse we had to pass around so knew I had taken a pretty good line. From the lighthouse to the finish it was a gruelling 10km headwind paddle into current. Probably one of the worst 10km paddles you could ever imagine! My hands were full of raw blisters and I was hitting low speeds of 9km/h from this point on I knew it was all mental strength! I paddled strong to the finished and managed to pass a few people in that home stretch! i was so happy to cross the finish line and knew I had done the best paddle I could have done! It took me 3hrs 26 min which was 28 minutes behind the Men’s race winner, Hiromana Flores.

Thank you so much to Mosole for putting on an incredible race, I will definitely be back for another year! Congratulations to all 64 paddlers who put themselves out there and gave it their best shot as it wasn’t an easy paddle!

Also a massive thanks to my sponsors for continuously supporting me throughout my journey! Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Balance Sports Nutrition, SOS Rehydrate, AUT Millennium & Orewa Massage Worx.

Next up for me is a local NZ race – Cambridge to Hamilton, a down river 23km race which is this coming Sunday! Check out the details here: http://theboatshed.net.nz/cambridge/race-info/

Happy Paddling 🙂

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FROM CANADA TO THE HOOD RIVER!

The Canadian Surf Ski Champs was an absolute blast! What a truly incredible place to be paddling! The entire race I kept thinking how lucky we are to be paddling here! My overall race went well, I was happy with my result finishing 2nd, 2 minutes behind fellow NZ paddler, Teneale Hatton. The majority of the race was very small runners and they were almost speed bumps, you couldn’t sit back and relax as they were moving too slow!

The following day we packed up all our gear and took our time driving to the Hood River spending a night in Seattle with the legend, Greg Barton and his Family! Thank you so much for having us Greg! From what we saw of Seattle it is a beautiful place!!

We arrived in the Hood River on the Tuesday morning as usual the Gorge was pumping! White caps seen from the highway and lines after lines! how could anyone not be excited for what we were in for!!! When we arrived on Tuesday our race boats hadn’t quite arrived yet from Squamish so Sam and I decided to give the Epic V8 and V8 Pro a go! We had a raging downwind on these beginner boats getting some crazy speeds and they were extremely stable! The following day our boats had arrived and we got another 13km downwind in, the conditions wern’t as good but there were still some awesome runners on the Gorge! The following couple of days we still did a downwind and paddling but more freshening up for race day! Race day was brought forward to Friday maximising the 3 day window to enable the best possible race day! not long before we knew it Friday had arrived and it was time to race again!

Before we knew it, it was race day! – From the start of the race the runners looked awesome and I was thinking this is going to be a ripper of a downwind! The female start this year was about 10 minutes before the male start, which I sort of liked so we didn’t get swamped in all the men’s wash! The hooter blew and we were off! It was about 1km to the hot spot in side chop/runners. Teneale took the lead and rounding the hotspot bouy, I was about 3 ski lengths behind Teneale so knew I had some catching up to do. I really got into my rhythm and worked to my strength, I managed to get ahead by about 500m in the downwind section. About 8km’s into the race the runners died off and so did the wind, Teneale again took the lead and powered away. I tried to take a slightly different line as I knew I had to try something different. I knew Michelle Eray and the other women wern’t far behind to so I had to paddle my heart out to the finish. As I crossed the line I thought to myself that it was possibly the most teasing race ever! Starting off awesome and finishing in a very tough, flat, grinding way! however I was pleased to come away with a second in the women’s field! (one better than last year).

The Gorge is one of those races where you will turn up a week before the race and have awesome down winds day after day, however wind predictions didn’t hold up on race day but it was still an awesome race and will definitely be back! Congratulations to everyone who raced and achieved your goals!

The following day we packed up all our gear and had a massive drive back to Vancouver Airport! Luckly the Barker Family kindly offered us a bed for the night to break up the drive! We had a wonderful BBQ and night with a couple of other Epic paddlers too! Thank you so much Ken, Dianne and the Family for letting us stay!

Massive thanks to my sponsors Epic Kayaks, Bennett Paddles, Vaikobi, AUT Millennium, SOS Rehydrate, Pita Pit NZ, Balance Sports Nutrition, Orewa Massage Worx for helping me get here and all your support!

Back to the land of the long white cloud for a week of downtime then back to training!

Happy Paddling! 🙂

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Beautiful Canada

Sam and I arrived here in Canada on Saturday night flying direct from Auckland to Vancouver on a 12 hour night flight. On arrival it was about 3pm and we picked up our hire car and drove straight to our Hotel which was in North Vancouver. It was definitely warmer than back home in Auckland which was nice not having to wear track pants & a jumper everywhere!

Once we checked into our Hotel we pop’d down to the Deep Cove Kayak Shop and met Bob (Co owner of Deep Cove Kayaks) who showed us around the shop and sorted us out with our Epic boats for the up coming racing. After that we were still quite awake as there was a 5 hour time difference. Sam and I are quite the ‘Cinema goers’ so decided to catch a movie at the local cinema which was awesome!

Sunday morning we had a sleep in and then went down to the beautiful Deep Cove, approximately a 15 minute drive from our Hotel. We did a steady 1 1/2 hour paddle which was also great to check out the scenery of Deep Cove along with many seals! Following that we went to check out the World largest suspension bridge in Capliano which was crazy! The bridge is 140 metres long and 70 metres high above the Capliano river!

Monday morning we went down to Deep Cove nice and early and met Bob and another local paddler Russ and did a interval session which was good to get the heart rate up and feel a bit of burn! Following our paddle Sam an I hiked up the track along to the famous ‘Quarry Rock’ which was about a 75 minute round trip!

Tuesday morning was pretty relaxing as there was a local race in the evening so we really just chilled out for the day and didn’t do a lot. In the evening we headed down to Deep Cove which the paddlers have a weekly Tuesday night race however this Tuesday a lot of the international paddlers were arriving for the Canadian Champs so it was a great little hit out prior to the weekend! The race was just under 7kms in flat water. My plan was to race for the first 2kms then ease it back to 70-80% for the remainder of the race just to get a nice feel for the race start for the Canadian Champs.

Check out an awesome clip of the race here: TNR Deep Cove Race

On Wednesday we packed up all our gear and drove about 45 minutes up to a funky town called Squamish where the Canadian Champs are held. Mid afternoon we met up with fellow Australian paddler Ryan Proaz and paddled from the finish line to check out the finish of Saturday’s race. The water here in Squamish is noticeably much colder than in Deep Cove as the snow from the mountains run down into the water!

Thursday was a complete rest day so we decided to take a trip up to Whistler with Ryan and fellow NZ paddler Simon Longdill which was about a 50 minute drive north. If I could describe Whistler in one world it’s Beautiful! Right now it’s summer however there is still lots of snow on the mountain. We spent a few hours up the mountain and also did the Peak 2 peak gondola which goes from Whistler to Blackcomb Mountian. Following our trip to Whistler we went for a nice and easy jog around Squamish to ease the body up.

Friday morning we headed out to the race finish again and went for a final paddle prior to race day on Saturday. The Canadian Champs is about a 20km paddle from Portaeu Cove down the Howe Sound and finishing in Squamish. I am feeling really relaxed and also excited for tomorrow Canadian Champs! There is definitely a lot of top paddlers here so it should be a great race! Race start is 2pm here in Squamish so be sure to follow race updates here: https://www.facebook.com/canadiansurfskichamps/?fref=ts

Happy Paddling =)

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Flat as a pancake – Molokai 2016

Race day was Sunday so Sam and I decided to fly over to Molokai the day before and allow time to relax the night before and be able to wake up at a reasonable time (not 3:30am!) We arrived at our awesome little abandoned resort condo and was able to go for a swim at the beach, chill out and have a early nights sleep.

Race day! –

We walked down to the beach at about 7:30am and I  was ready to race. I was feeling good considering not being 100% but did not let that get in the way of my mind. It was very hot, about 28 degrees and no wind at all. This year the race was set off in 3 waves 7:50am was the standup paddlers and intermediate OC1’s, 8:50am was the female surf ski padders, intermediate male surf ski paddlers and OC1’s and 9:30am was the elite male surf ski paddlers. Shortly after arriving we spotted my escort boat and Sam must have swam out to the boat about 3 times with all our bags and hydration! I then jumped on the water at about 8:30am and went for a warm up paddle. 8:50am and the hooter was off! I had a good start and jumped onto an OC2 paddlers wash, there was about 4 OC2’s in our pack and myself and Australian paddler, Liz Pluimers. We all stayed in this pack for about 5kms and were quite North. The OC2 paddlers then had a change coming up so I decided to break away from the pack and headed slightly further South by myself. At this stage I was feeling quite comfortable and controlled. At about the 20km mark I was about 500-1km behind the leading female. From about the 20-40km mark I was in a world of pain, I felt very uncomfortable and felt like I wasn’t going anywhere! There were little swell bumps that you could try get a little run out of but nothing more than that! Coming up to China Wall it was very much like a washing machine and horrible to paddle in after 45kms of flatness in the water! Throughout the race Sam and my escort driver, Noah were very encouraging and helped me along the way. Once passing China Wall I knew I just had to make it to the finish line, it was not far only about 2kms. About 1km from finishing I saw a turtle pop out of the water right next to my ski and got such a fright! (possibly the highlight of the race though!) I crossed the finish line in relief that I had made it, disappointed in myself as I knew I could have raced better and felt like I let people down. I could hardly stand and it felt like I had pulled my glute bum muscles! Overall I was relieved it was all over and I could get out of my ski!

Molokai is always going to be tough especially with dead flat conditions we all weren’t hoping for and I think that our escort boats are a high priority for things like hydration, safety and support. Post race I was informed by another paddlers that there was some paddlers benefiting off their escort boat wash weather the paddlers were aware of it or not. This obviously upset myself and other paddlers involved and not something anyone wants to be advised or accused of. One  point I do want to share is I think there needs to be more safety/media/organiser boats on the water to make sure all race regulations are met and I will leave it at that.

I want to thank my partner & coach Sam for doing such a great job on the support boat and being there 100% of the way even post finish when I wasn’t very happy with the race. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you to Epic kayaks for everything that you have done for me over in Hawaii and the orginastion of the boats and transportation. Thank you to all my other sponsors including Bennett, Pita Pit NZ, Vaikobi, Balance Sports Nutrition, SOS Rehydrate and Orewa Massage Worx. Thanks to my family and friends for your continuous support!

I look forward to the having a little break and then back into training for the next World Series Race in Canada!

Happy Paddling 🙂

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