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North American Tour

Heading away on my North American venture, unfortunately Sam couldn’t attend with me due to work and we just bought a home so someone need’s to stay home and unlucky for Sam that was him! I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with fellow Epic paddler and friend from Australia,  Ryan Paroz and his mum Marion. I jetted off on a night flight direct to Vancouver, smooth flying in the sky only to have a 2 1/2 hour wait for my oversize bag due to the machine breaking. Straight from the airport down to Deep Cove, North Vancouver for a light flush out paddle. Ryan did the local 6km Joe’s vs Pro’s race. Wednesday – Friday consisted of a couple of fine tuning paddles, clinics avo on toast and of course a few coffee’s! Thursday morning we drove up to the race location of Squamish with the beautiful mountains in the distance. Saturday came around quickly and it was race day. I was feeling really good, the wind however was looking not so good, but I guess that’s why I do a lot of my training in flat water, because you’ll be prepared for it when the wind doesn’t come ;-)! 2pm came around and the race had started, the women started with the men so it’s awesome trying to get on a male’s wash. I had a great start on the right hand side. I was feeling really good on the way out to the hot spot boy approximately 2kms from the start, I noticed fellow NZ paddler Teneale on the outside about 4 paddlers away from me, I was in the inside, I approached the hot spot boy and there was a double next to me that turned right quite sharply, I yelled out “give me room” as they did this I came in line with the bouy which was sitting on the front of a boat causing me to nearly collide with the boat. I looked to my left and thought WOW, that was close but definitely thought I got to & turned the bouy first female. I acerbated out of the turn and it was like catching little speed humps! I controlled my breathing and got into rhythm. The bumps were like speed humps almost slowing me down. Before we knew it we were approaching the final 5km stretch, at this point I was sitting in 3rd spot. I felt like I was going for a training paddle and couldn’t really get into the total race mode. I was about 40sec behind 2nd place and remained that distance until the finish. I was happy to come away with 3rd in the conditions we had, I have definitely raced better here in Canada and look forward to next year!

The following day it was an early morning rise with a 7am international flight which meant a very early wake up call and drive into the airport! Before I knew it after a little nap on the flight I had landed in Portland, OR, thanks to Mr & Mrs Vaikobi and their 2 lovely children I was able to catch a ride to Hood River with them. That week then consisted of awesome down winding, clinics and relaxing in a cool little funky town! This was my 4th time back in the Hood River and I love the vibe. Race day had been scheduled for Friday with the winds looking very good. It’s always different in this river in different parts of the course where the wind dies, becomes stronger, tactics on where side to go or do you gun it down the middle if the wind is pumping?! Throughout the week I had a bit of practice and we tried different parts of the river, I thought it was definitely fastest to go to the right hand side prior to Viento then hunt down that side until popping out to the island where you have to come to the middle (as in previous years also) so this was my race plan! Race day came around and I was excited for what was to come, wind looked good and I felt good too! Gun went and the women were away, I had a good start where as did Teneale & young paddler Ana Swetish, we were charging down the river, Teneale pulled ahead approximately 4kms into the race, I stuck to my plan and slowly ventured to the right hand side, upon doing this I pulled up right in-line with her, ‘great’ I thought to myself, I was in line and slowly pulling ahead at about 12kms, then all of a sudden she pulled right ahead and it was like I was standing still, I thought to myself ‘stick to the plan’ and I did but she kept on pulling away and remained about 200m ahead for the duration of the race, in this case possibly I should have gone to the middle and sterilised my downwind skills more to gain on her, but I backed my plan that at the end of the day possibly wasn’t the right decision! I finished in 2nd place, Ana in 3rd and Australia’s Jordan Mercer in 4th. Close racing and very tactical! I look forward to next year and being more open to my race plan!

Thankyou to Ryan & Marion for allowing me to venture with the both of you during this North American trip, I can’t thank you both enough!

Next up is the World Champs in Brittany, France!

Marvellous Molokai

Where to even begin?! Leading up to the 52km crossing across the Kaiwi channel I was feeling well prepared, mentally strong & I had a good feeling about it. I felt like I was the fittest I had ever been and had done a mixture of flat water vs downwind paddling. It always plays on paddlers mind’s whether the typical ‘trade winds’ would grace us with their presence, I know that everyone who raced the Molokai crossing in 2018 had high hopes. For me, the first 3 years racing across the channel it was dead flat, so I wasn’t holding high hopes going into my 5th crossing.

Thankfully this year our flight on the Tuesday wasn’t cancelled! Sam and I arrived in Hawaii early Tuesday morning with 5 days to aclimitize, adjust to a different time-zone, get my ski all set up and do a couple of final preparations on the Hawaiian waters. Upon arriving everything ran smoothly, I met with Epic’s awesome Kenny Howell to collect my V11 Elite (same ski as I used last year) and jumped straight on the water for an easy 45min jet lag flush out. From there we checked into our hotel and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. Wednesday was another lounging around type day, checking into Shaw & Partners Race Team HQ art the magnificent Halekalani which is in a class of it’s own. The next couple of days were much the same, chilling out, staying off the feet as much as possible and a couple of paddles in the mornings. 

Race morning = Sunday 4:45am alarm goes off, shower, zinc on face, walk across the road for a hearty Denny’s breakfast (only thing open at that time) Uber to the airport, jump on a miniature plane and 30minutes later we land on Molokai! From the sky we could see white caps going in the right direction and you could see a sense of excitement we would have some downwind fun! As for the support crew I’m not sure of this excitement for them as this would mean a bumpy ride on the boat!!! 

This year the women were starting in the second wave with the men following 30minutes behind. The forecast looked awesome with possibly better conditions than last year so it was a good possibility the records could be broken! A large shore break at Molokai was testing and you definitely had to ‘plan’ your entry quickly between sets and make a run for it!! I had my own race plan for the 52km’s but also knew I might have to be flexible if it didn’t go to plan. 9AM came around quickly and the women were away. Paddling into the distance with Oahu nowhere to be seen. The first 5km’s went by quickly with Jordan Mercer leading the women and Georgia Laird and I not far behind. Both Georgia and I caught up to Jordan throughout the next 20kms and we were side by side chasing runs until about the 25km mark. Up to this point I was feeling great! Comfortable in the downwind, HR was good, taking in fluid and things were looking good. Georgia and Jordan then upped the pace and I couldn’t reel them in, I felt like I was paddling so hard, trying to catch the runs I should have been catching but going nowhere, I felt powerless and actually sometimes wondered if I was moving forward!!!! Sam and Noah on my escort boat were always giving encouragement but I just felt terrible, with a sense of sickness. I stopped for a couple of seconds, shake’d out my arms, had a gel and thought to myself, “right let’s go Rachel” but nothing changed. From here on in, the girls had gotten further away from me, now it was a matter of finishing. I was approaching China Wall and saw Hayley coming in my inside but I couldn’t stay with her, Bonnie Hancock having an awesome paddle coming on my outside. As I came around the wall I went close to the channel as China Wall looked HUGE, and I wasn’t risking anything. I looked behind me as Sam was cheering so loudly and there was a nice 3ft wave I managed to pull onto and ride it pretty much the entire way in. I was thinking to myself DO NOT BROACH when the wave started top crumble. I looked to my left as I passed Bonnie where she was in the middle of the channel with no waves. I was able to put my paddles down for a good 2 minutes! This was probably the highlight of the entire 52kms!!!! Under the bridge I went and a right hand turn for the final 1km. I crossed the line absolutely relieved to have finished! I may not have got the end result I wanted finishing in 4th but I guess there’s always next year!!! I was 5 minutes slower than last year in better conditions this year, so I definitely wasn’t having a good day!! Big congratulations to the top 3, Jordan, Georgia and Hayley it’s awesome to have more and more women racing Surfski at an elite level!

Next up for me is the Canadian Downwind Champs in July and then straight to the Gorge for a week of downwind fun and racing!!!

Thanknyou to Sam for being on my support boat and the continuous support (maybe I will support you next year?!) , Noah for your awesome escorting and my sponsors for getting me here today and your belief in me! 

7 X NZ Queen of the Harbour

This race is pretty special to me, it’s where my long distance paddling all began about 8 years ago when I thought I would give a ‘long’ race a go. Something I was so new to and had no idea where it would lead me to where I am today. 

Leading into the race I felt quite a bit of pressure leading up to it, not from anyone else but myself. I tend to do this a lot and I guess it’s because I have such high expectations of myself. Which is a good thing right?! I had heard Teneale had to pull out of the event which is a shame as it would have been great to go head to head with her! Local kayak paddler Rebecca Cole was entered to give it a good crack as well as a few up & coming paddlers. I try to race my own race and not worry about other people as much as I can. I had been doing more miles on the water than ever before, I felt fitter mentally & physically, I feel pilates has been a huge help to all of this swell so I was in a very good head space. 

Race day came around quickly and we had some predicted Nor Easterly winds averaging 20km’h which I was excited about! The start time was mid day so we have a bit of time to wake up, get a good breakfast into us, collect our skis and make pour was up the peninsula to Shakespeare Regional Park. The race briefing was conducted and course was set, dry start stranding next to your ski, paddle into a head wind for 3 1/2 kms then turning around the media boat making our way down the coastline a further kms finishing at Takapuna Beach. 

Before we all knew it we were lining up on the beach ready for a start. You never really realise how hard it is to hold your ski straight into the wind standing on the ground, have your leash connected and your bladder system attached ready to go with over 100 other paddlers! 

Whilst making sure you’ve got all of that sorted your in the hands of the starter and the hooter went. I jumped into my ski quickly and got away paddling cleanly. I managed to have a flyer of a start sitting about 8th place out into the wind for the first 3 1/2 kms. I just tried to conserve as much energy as I could but not falling behind. As we hit the media boat we made a right hand turn  around it and then started heading down the coastline. From this point everyone started to take slightly different lines. I knew the tide was heading in with us and we had a strong push from our left should so wanted to stay out quite wide for as long as I could. My partner in crime, Sam Mayhew wasn’t too far ahead of me at this point so I followed his line for a while. I found this section quite fun, it was technical in the way of the swells pushing from quite an easterly direction but you could definitely surf the runs and keep cutting back left to ensure you didn’t end up too close to shore. Before I knew it we were coming around the Takapuna reef pole and into the finish line. I unclipped my leash and ran up the beach where Sam was waiting for me! I was so happy to find out I finished 7th overall in the single skis and had a superb race. I was just as happy to find out Sam had an incredible race finishing 2nd overall!!! This race was also our World Champs selection event so we were both happy to have good races fro secure a spot for that! 

Massive congrats to the men, Andy Mowlem for the win and Toby Brook for taking 3rd and in the women’s Rebecca Cole for a great race and Danika Mowlem taking 3rd. King and Queen of the Harbour is being moved to November so I’ll be able to give it another crack later this year!!! The reason for the move is to try and make it better timing for the likes of surf lifesavers & flat water paddlers to attend the event. Also it works well within other races around the world and hopefully some more wind!

Next on the cards for me is the prestigious Molokai at the end of May, so ill be doing a fair few miles on the water for the next few weeks!

Until next time 

Happy Paddling!

New Year – New beginnings

2018 was a year of a mixture of results (good and not so good), a major injury & starting a new job! I’ve learnt a lot over this past year about myself mentally, physically (the fact that I can run over 10km at a decent pace!) and I’m more than excited to begin 2019. 

Over the past year and a half I have been coached by the great, Lee McGregor based in South Africa. Last year I even ventured over to Durban to meet him personally after training under his programme for a few months! Lee is one of a kind, he has so much passion for paddling whether it’s surf ski, kayak or river paddling he loves it all. I found being in NZ it was very hard to complete his programme away from the group based in SA and I wasn’t really improving over this time. Due to my shift work a lot of the training was done by myself and I didn’t really have anyone to push me/vice versa for each session. At the end of the year I had a lot of time to think about the year and decided I needed a change! A change for the better, to improve myself, to push myself and be the best person I can be!

As of the new year and a relaxing holiday with Sam in Fiji (first holiday not racing in 4 years) I have joined forces with Gavin Elmiger, we are looking at the big picture and improving all the little things to make me the best athlete I can be. I’ve known Gav for a long time now, back when I was 14 in my days of sprint kayaking so I feel like we have a great bond! Half of my training is done with the North Shore kayak squad at Lake Pupuke with a great bunch of paddlers and the other half at the beach! Iv’e also started Pilates twice a week! I had never done pilates prior to this new year and I can 100% say it is not what I thought it was! After every session you can really feel like you have worked the entire body, core, stabilisers, flexibility and also great for breathing! 

The Takapuna Series started back this Tuesday which is a great little local race hit out usually about 6-8kms! It was so awesome to have more women turn up this week including Dene Simpson and Teneale Hatton, soon the women will be taking over!! This Tuesday it was decided that it would be a short race (3.2kms) with a 180 degree turn 150metres into it… crazy having 15 people heading for one bouy! I had a great start and managed to get on the inside turning in 4th place behind the guys, then it was literally hang on until the finish line! Brendon Davey and I had a great battle to the finish where we are currently still debating who took it! Tom took the win for the sprint race, Sam in 2nd and Oscar in 3rd and I wasn’t too far behind in 4th! I was happy with my race as I’m usually not very quick off the start! Hopefully next week it’s a longer race that really tests out the body or even better a downwind!

I’m yet to 100% decide on the events I’ll be racing at internationally this year due to work commitments but definitely on the cards is Molokai at the end of May! I’ll be heading over for my 5th crossing and hopefully I can make it a 3 x win! As for other events I feel like I want to race somewhere I’ve never been before! So keep an eye out for that update!!!!

Happy paddling!

Rachel 

Across the ditch.. The final one

The final race of 2018 was across the ditch in Sydney, Australia for the Shaw & Partners 20 Beaches.. 20 Beaches is one of Australia’s most iconic surf ski races that began in 1990 – 2015. Now we are back for 2018 with new race directors & a major sponsor, Shaw & Partners making the race one of the most attractive races around the world!! It is so awesome to see the sport growing especially with the younger generation coming up through the ranks & also equal prize money! 

Sam and I flew over on Thursday morning arriving in Sydney a short 3hrs later, jumped straight off the plane & Uber’d to Manly wharf where we met up with the Shaw & Partners crew for a lovely Japanese lunch & great yarns! Following that we checked into our accommodation and relaxed. I really struggle to relax and always want to go venturing so I find it’s best to watch a movie on the laptop to occupy myself!! Friday it was much the same, chilling out, a body surf at Manly in the waves and a quick 30 minute freshen up paddle from Narrabeen with Davey & Tess from Epic Australia. I am always so conscious about dosing up on Vitamin C,making sure I’m hydrated, having hand sanitiser on me 24/7 while racing due to the fear of getting sick.. And sure enough that morning I woke up with a sore throat. I kept positive that it wouldn’t be anything and tried not to think about it! That afternoon was filled with thunderstorms, lightening & heavy rain so Saturdays race course at this stage was unknown due to the weather. 

Saturday morning arrived quickly and the race start had been moved 2hrs forward to start at 11am. The race course was also decided to go from Station Beach around Barrenjoey headland finishing at Fisherman’s Beach (approx 20km’s). I was feeling positive, nothing I could do about my throat and was ready to rumble for the final race of 2018! The women all lined up for a start, approximately 10 minutes ahead of the men. The hooter went off and we were away! I My plan was to conserve energy for the first 3km’s which I did, I was in a pack with fellow Kiwi, Teneale Hatton leading the pack, Georgia Laird, Hayley Nixon and Wendy Rengtis were all present. About 1km into the race rounding the headland it got very messy with waves re-bounding off the headland. Teneale and I broke away from the rest of the pack, Georgia and Hayley took a deeper line down the coast. After about 3km’s I got into my rhythm and was loving the technical messy downwind, I took the lead with Teneale on my inside close by. For the next 10-11kms I was feeling great, in my own zone but also aware of where the other girls were. Once I hit the 14kms mark I literally felt like I hit a wall and there was no way I could get over it. I continued working what little runs were on the ocean as the wind was next to nil but my body was aching. Slowly I was getting passed and couldn’t continue my form of what I did in the first 14km’s. I finished the race crossing the line in 4th place. Absolutely stoked to have finished but gutted with my final outcome due to the race I was having. It was sort of my body telling me no more! Congrats to everyone who finished the race especially Hayley Nixon on another great win! 

For me my year has been filled with a mixed bag, with results like winning NZ Queen of the Harbour for a 6th consecutive year, achieving a massive PB at Molokai and breaking the world record by minutes but finishing 2nd by 1 minute after 52km’s! Then I have the lows, a 6mm elbow tear causing a 4 month break from paddling and somehow managing the worst timing to pick up the flu the week of a race! But I am so thankful that I am able to spend time on the ocean doing what I love. I am so excited for what 2019 is going to bring and have some mighty goals set! 

Thank you so much to my sponsors, Shaw & Partners, Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Maui Jim, Bennett, AUT Millennium, Pita Pit NZ, Healthzone Medical and Orewa Massage Worx, without all of you I wouldn’t be able to do what I do so thank you! My family & friend’s thank you for your on-going support & love! Sam, thank you as always for your support & always pushing me to be the best version of me!

Enjoy getting out on the ocean over the festive season! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Happy Paddling

Rachel 

Photo by Davey Brand
Photo by Davey Brand
Dragon Run 2018

Heading into the Steelecase Hong Kong Dragon Run I wasn’t really sure what to expect, having not raced for the past 4 months due to my elbow injury really played with my mind but the fact that I knew I had done the work leading up to the race really left me having to trust myself and the work that had been put in.

I’ve been to Hong Kong for the Dragon run twice previously so know the course, it’s a very technical course with a mixture or head wind, downwind and finishing with a head/side wind so it really does test all abilities on the water. I personally love a good technical race, it makes it more interesting as apposed to a flat/washriding race!Unless your a marathon paddler in that case you may prefer the flat!!

I flew over direct from Auckland landing in Hong Kong early Wednesday morning. I was lucky enough to be hosted by the lovely Gladstone family in their home for the week also staying with the Gladstone’s was fellow paddler/friend Hayley Nixon so we had some great laughs! A couple of days chilling and ticking the arms over on the water and race day came around quickly.

Saturday morning = race time. We ventured to the start in Clear Water Bay Marina in Xen’s very flash Tesla (dream come true) and were greeted by 40km/h winds coming towards us. This was a great but slightly nerving sign. To know that after 5kms of punching out into that strong wind as soon as we cleared 9 pins islands we would be surfing our lives away! The women were set to start approximately 18 minutes ahead of the men to try have a battle for the finish. Before I knew it the women were lining up for the start.. I had a race plan in my head to stick to but I guess you have to be flexible as things don’t always go your way when your racing! The gun went off and I had a good start, just sitting on the side of fellow Kiwi Teneale Hatton and we were punching out through the large waves. About 1.5kms into the race I pulled up next to Teneale and took the lead, and then about 3kms into the race Hayley also joined in and we were all together at this point until 9 pins. I tuned 9 pins in 3rd position just behind the lead 2 girls. I didn’t want to over do it so kept my cool and got into my zone during the downwind. After about 10kms I passed Teneale and was right behind Hayley for the rest of the way. I would have moments where I would pull up equal with her but couldn’t seem to pull ahead. We then headed around the Kissing Whales where we had about 5kms to the finish of side/headwind. At this point I was about 10 ski lengths behind. I put in everything I had to catch up but it sure was a struggle in that wind. I crossed the finish line with a sheer thought of relief that I had NO elbow pain! It didn’t matter to me that I had just got my best ever placing in Hong Kong (2nd) 36 seconds behind 1st, but that fact that my elbow was okay!

Another great race win for Hayley Nixon, myself in second and Teneale in 3rd, In the men’s it was Cory Hill in 1st, Mackenzie Hynard in 2nd and Sean Rice in 3rd.

I spent the next few days across in Chnia with Tyrell & Kate Impson checking out the Epic Kayaks Factory and paddling with the local factory workers in Hangzhou and Shanghai which was incredible! Thankyou Tyrell and Kate for your hospitality!

Next up for me is the Perth Doctor this coming weekend.Im excited that there’s such a massive field of women paddlers attending and I love WA!! Time to see if I can retain my first international title!!!

Happy Paddling

 

 

 

Moving on up!

Since my last post I unfortunately haven’t been able to do any races, my main goal was to get my elbow back to 100% prior to doing any racing and coming back too soon. I’m now at a point where I can comfortably say i’m back to being 100%, i’ve been training full on for the past 3 weeks and it’s been great. It definitely hasn’t been easy especially when I felt like I had lost all my strength and top end speed but I believe i’m in a pretty good space right now both mentally and physically. I’ve also kept up the running side of things aiming for approximately 25km’s a week to keep that good cardio running base fitness going!

I was recently asked by the Waitemata Canoe Club if I could hold a couple of coaching clinics for their paddlers. I’ve just finished a 5 week clinic with their members that wanted some coaching assistance with their paddling. It was awesome to see a range of abilities, men and women and also craft including spec skis, ocean skis, multi-sport and K1’s. I love passing on my knowledge and helping others gain skills and improve their technique. it’s a great feeling when you see the paddlers smiling because they’re not only understand what your teaching them but they are loving what they are doing!!!

Over the past 2 Tuesday nights our local surf ski races have started back, this was a true test for me to see how my elbow would handle it. But rest assured it was fine! I was nervous about how I would go, loosing that top end speed and really only doing very ‘easy’ paddling for the past month or so but it turns out I had nothing to worry about! These races are only between 5-8km’s so you don’t really have time to muck around.. It’s all go from the start. I surprised myself a little bit in both of races doing really well coming 4th overall both weeks, and most importantly my elbow was pain free! wohoooooo! I guess for me doing those local races puts me in a good head space moving forward over the next couple of weeks.

In 2 weeks time I’ll be racing at the Hong Kong Dragon run (where World Champs were last year) This will be my 3rd time back to Hong Kong racing on this course and i’m pretty excited to be going back! The course is usually a pretty technical 22km race with all types of conditions including side,head and downwind during the course of the race! This year the prize money has been increased and also equaled to the men thanks to Steelcase, Shaw & Partners and China Asset Management! With the prize money being so large it makes the race more attractive and brings the best paddlers from around the world which is so awesome to be racing the best of the best!!!! I am pretty excited to race here in a couple of weeks and put it all on the line.

After the Dragon Run i’ll be heading over to China to visit one of my major sponsors, the Epic Kayaks factory which will be an insight to see where all the ski’s are made and how everything is produced and also to meet the team behind it all!! I’ve never been to China so it will be a new experience and it will be awesome seeing some of the local Chinese sights and possibly some baby panda’s!

After the Dragon Run race there are then two major races in Australia i’ll be heading to. The Doctor held in the famous Perth, Western Australia and also the Shaw & Partners 20 Beaches in Sydney so stay tuned for more info on those races shortly!

Happy Paddling

Recovery & rolling hills…

In my last blog post I said I was going to become a runner due to not being able to paddle for a month because of my elbow injury, since that post I feel like I have learnt a lot about myself! Some things i’ve learnt include, I can run further than 12km’s and actually enjoy running now! secondly, I probably needed the rest from paddling to re-charge and set sights on new goals and lastly to spend time being the ‘supporter’ for once, a lot of races require a support person weather it’s on a boat, driving the car or just general support. It’s been great to support my other half, Sam at NZ races and be his number 1 supporter!

I’ve been running quite a lot to keep my cardio fitness up whilst I wasn’t on the water. At first I would struggle to get over 10-12km’s but now I am loving it! I even purchased some Nike Pegasus Zoom’s and I feel like I’m a professional runner!!! (jokes) but I must say it makes a difference! I thought to myself why not set some sort of running goal?! Next thing, i’ve entered myself into the Devonport half marathon, little did I know this course consists of mainly rolling hills and gosh are hills my nemeses! I have a goal time of 1hr 50mins so we will have to see how I go with all the hills! This half marathon is now less than 2 weeks away and I am nervous but excited at the same time to achieve something new!

After my final PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection I had to wait about a week for the inflammation to go down and let the tendon settle, then about 3 weeks ago I got the go ahead from my specialist to began paddling. First it was every second day for 30mins easy pace and now I am up to 75mins easy pace every day with no pain in my elbow which is awesome!! Hopefully from now on I can begin slowing increasing the intensity and putting more pressure on the blade during each stroke. It sure is awesome to be back on the water as I missed it ALOT!!!It feels strange not being able to put much pressure/power into each stroke but it’s a great time to work on my technique and perfect that as much as possible while I can!

I’ve set myself a couple of big goals over the next coming weeks and am also attending some big races including the Dragon Run in Hong Kong and the Perth Doctor which are both in November. Then I will head over to Sydney in December for the 20 Beaches! I can’t wait for these major upcoming races am sure the best of the best from around the world will be attending so it will be tough racing!

Keep an update for my next blog in  regards to my paddling updates and half marathon!!!!

Happy Paddling

Winter escape

Since Molokai I had roughly 6 weeks to prepare for the up-coming racing in Canada and the Hood River, USA. It’s one of Sam and my favourite trips as you get in a couple of great races, we love the scenery and also get to catch up with friends and sponsors! My training remained quite similar to pre Molokai, I definitely added in a few more shorter interval sets and dropped a couple of longer sessions. I had been having some minor trouble with my left elbow which seemed to calm down which regular phyiso treatment.

Mid July came around quick and we were jetting off to Vancouver direct.  15 hours later we arrived and jumped straight into our hire car and were on our way to Deep Cove where we were based for that week. We were lucky enough to be hosted this year by Joel & Jen Perkins who lived in a lovely home with their three children right in Deep Cove! The week consisted of a couple of paddles to freshen up and I also held a couple of group and one on one clinics which was awesome to share my knowledge onto keen, enthusiastic paddlers!! This year we decided to drive up to Squamish (race location) the morning of. It’s about a 45 minute drive so not too far!

Early Saturday we made the trip up to Squamish and dropped our ski’s off  at the race start and then headed to the finish where there was a mandatory check in, a short time later we were back at the start getting ready to jump on the water! Upon arriving at the start the wind was nil and it was heating up quickly! I was 100% prepared for no wind and it didn’t really bother me, at the end of the day we’re all racing in the same conditions! The pre race briefing was done and it was time to jump on our skis and paddle over to the start of the 21km race. I was feeling really good, a little bit nervous of course as I always am but nerves are good right?! Next thing we were all lined up on the start line and the hooter went, we were off and the men were flying! I had a really good start and managed to get on a good punch of guys wash and stayed there for as long as I could (usually starts are my weak point in a race) I kept paddling hard and before I knew it I was at the turning bouy, about 2km’s from the start which was also the ‘hot spot’. I turned the bouy and started heading down the Howe Sound. Fellow NZ paddler, Teneale Hatton was not far behind and headed slightly more to my right. I headed straight down the centre and managed to catch up to Sam which I was absolutely stoked with and thought to myself, WOW this could be the race I can sneak a cheeky place ahead of him!! Well that didn’t last long! With about 8km’s to the finish Sam and myself came together with Teneale and also Nick Cryder and about 100m ahead was Oscar Chalupsky. With about 6km’s to go Sam put in surge and pulled away from us also passing Oscar, Teneale and I then pulled away from Nick and it was neck and neck between us the entire way home. With about 1000m to go the effort went up a notch and we were sprinting for 1st place. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring out my ‘inner sprint’ and finished 2 seconds behind Teneale. Overall it was a flat, hard race and kept everyone honest! I was happy my elbow held up over the race and seemed to be fine! Well done Teneale for the win and also Local Sally Wallick for 3rd place! In the Mens race Sean Rice took the win, Kenny Rice in 2nd and Cory Hill taking 3rd.

The following day we packed up early and jetted off on a quick trip landing in Portland. We stayed here for 2 night’s with friend’s Ken & Di Barker in their lovely West Linn Home. It was great to relax and spent some downtime with them for a couple of days prior to heading into the Hood River!

On Tuesday we drove into Hood River where it’s a festival of paddling with paddlers from around the world, frothing over incredible downwind conditions, beer garden’s and friendships being made! We spend the week in a Air BnB with Epic Paddlers Greg Barton, Kenny Howell and Nate Humberston which was great fun! With the race having a 3 day window from Thursday – Saturday it keeps everyone on edge as to how much they can do leading into the window. Sam and I kept it quite chilled doing a couple of downwind runs and being careful not to over do it! Early Wednesday morning it was decided the race was being held on Thursday so we spend Wednesday relaxing and keeping out of the sun. Waking up Thursday the wind was howling early, the conditions looked great! So great apparently there were 290 paddlers that didn’t race. The Hood River is a unique place to paddle, it’s not like huge ocean swells but the wind allows the waves to stand up due to the wind against current. It’s a very technical race, do you stay in the centre and catch the bigger swells or go left or right to stay out of the current?! Everyone you speak to has a different opinion! I had a race plan and I was going to stick with that as much as i could!

Just after midday we were lining up on the start line, this time women had their own start about 15 minutes ahead of the men. The gun went and we were away catching runs! Australian Olympic Kayaker, Naomi Flood had a flyer of a start taking the lead early on. It was close between Teneale, young up & coming paddler Ana Swetish and myself for the first few km’s. I got into my groove and about 10km’s in managed to have about a 500m gap on 3rd with Naomi just ahead of me. Naomi was on the far right of the river and I was on the middle/right side. About 14km’s into the race I was getting sharp pain in my elbow. I was noticing my km speeds were getting slower and I couldn’t put much pressure on each left stroke. I kept paddling through it couldn’t hold my place and came home in 4th place. Massive Congratulations to Naomi for 1st, Teneale for 2nd and Ana for a podium finish!!! The men’s race saw Kenny Rice retain his title, Cory Hill in 2nd and Mackenzie Hynard in 3rd. Also a massive congrats to Sam for finishing 13th in a top class field!

Following the race I couldn’t paddle due to my elbow but made the most of being a spectator, coffee drinker!!! On Saturday we then flew to LA where i experienced the time of my life! We spent 2 days in Manhatten with Tim Burdiak and his lovely parents. We hiked the Hollywood sign, biked along the boardwalk to Venice Beach, hit the rides at Universal Studios and then spent the next 2 days at the happiest place on earth – Disneyland!!! Dream come true!

A huge thank you to everyone who helped us out over this trip you all made it incredible! To my sponsors Shaw & Partners Race Team, Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Bennett, Maui Jim, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium and Orewa Massage Worx thank you for your continuous support! Thank you to Coach Lee for your coaching & support!!

Upon arriving back to NZ after scans and specialist appointments I have a 6mm tear in a tendon that’s in my elbow so i’m now on treatment & rest period for a month. In the mean time, i’m becoming a runner and hope to keep my fitness up and be back for racing at the end of the year!!!

Until next time,

Happy Paddling