2016 is now in the books and paddlers have had a lot to celebrate this past year.
The games of the 31st Olympiad brought an orgy of paddlesports for a few ephemeral days of summer.
Marcus Walz (ESP) brought home gold in the 1000 meter with Danuta Kozak (HUN) snatching gold in the women’s.
Liam Heath (GBR) kept the British stronghold on the 200 Meter while New Zealand strong woman Lisa Carrington (NZL) continued her dominance on the women’s side of the short game.
Full results here: Rio Olympics
Sadly, we lost one of our own during the games, as canoe slalom athlete and German coach Stefan Henze tragically lost his life in an automobile accident while in Brazil.
Also, former Canadian Gold Medalist Adam Van Koeverdan announced his retirement in poignant fashion after Rio.
Hank McGregor (RSA) stakes his claim as best all around endurance paddler of the year by winning the World Surfski Series overall title with five top race wins: Molokai, The Doctor, The Dragon Run, Pete Marlin and Mauritius. If those weren’t enough, he then capped it off by winning the grueling end of the year Fenn Cape Point Challenge.
He also notched a World Marathon Canoe title in K1 and K2 (along with Jasper Mocke) and won the Berg Marathon (his 11th) and Hansa Fish River Marathon.
Men’s reigning ICF World Surfski Champion Cory Hill (Aus) brought the fight in 2016, distinguishing himself as a worthy champion with wins at the Nelo Summer Challenge, West Coast Downwinder and the New Zealand King and Queen of the Harbour. Hill narrowly missed the win at Molokai, after taking a hit on the reef at China Wall in the final few kilometers.
Other notable winners include:
Sean Rice: Dutch Coast Race, The Euro Challenge.
Kenny Rice: The Allwave Cup.
Dawid Mocke: Canadian Championships
Jasper Mocke: Gorge Downwind Championships
2015 Women’s Champion Teneale Hatton (NZL) also performed admirably with wins at The Gorge and the Dragon Run.
Hayley Nixon (RSA) wrested the World Surfski Series title away from Hatton with a stunning victory at the Perth Doctor.
The women’s division remained tightly contested right until the season finale, with Nixon, Nicole Russell and Teneale Hatton all going into the final with the title up for grabs.
Other notable female winners.
Rachel Clarke: King of the Harbour, Maraamu.
Liz Pluimers: Molokai
Angie Mouden: Dutch Coast Race, Nelo Summer Challenge
Nicole Russell: Dragon Run
Wendy Reyntjes: Mauritius
Carola Cordes: All Wave
Aamai Osabba Olaberri: Euro Challenge
In grassroots racing, participation continued to grow internationally, with the United States seeing the most dramatic increase.
In North America, several newer races have emerged to augment some of the longer standing queen events.
The Gorge Downwinder, Canadian Championships, Shark Bite Challenge, Chattajack 31, North Shore Cup, among others have seen their stocks rise along with other events such as the MR340, Texas Water Safari, and the Blackburn Challenge.
The Chattajack in particular, saw huge growth. The five year old race increased numbers to 550 available slots---and sold out in 11 hours.
2016 saw several cancellations as well. The U.S. Surfski Championships was nixed as was The Shark Bite Challenge. The latter, with Jasper Mocke, Sean Rice and many paddlers from all corners of the U.S. appeared to have all the makings of a true showdown; was unfortunately canceled by the Coast Guard, for conditions that would have otherwise been highly coveted.
The Big River Race in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was also canceled and repurposed as the Big River recovery effort, after heavy rains created devastating flooding in the area.
In industry news:
Nelo teamed up with Oscar Chaulpsky for a complete redesign of the company’s surfski line. The line was introduced this year with the revamped Nelo 560. The ski’s feature shorter length than most elite boats with lowered gunwales, light weight as standard, wave deflectors etc. More recently, Nelo debuted the 510, a plastic rotomolded design.
Epic retooled their V12 model to shine as a big water elite option with Hank Mcgregor racing the boat to victory at the Hong Kong Dragon Run. Also from Epic in 2016, The V8 pro, V8 double and a shorter rotomolded V5 hit the shelves this past year. Additionally, the V7 saw some slight modifications as well.
Think Kayak were big movers this past year, making sweeping changes throughout their line. The Generation 3 Uno Max was released with tweaks aimed at increasing stability while simultaneously enhancing surf and big wave performance. The Max also now shares bucket sizing with the Evo and Ion.
Also a low volume version of the Uno Max has been released, aptly named “Uno” with team riders Mackenzie Hynard and Teneale Hatton putting the boats through their paces.
The Ion came back from the drawing board a completely different boat with, among other changes, bucket adjustments, a lower profile, enhanced cutaways and more stability while the Evo received a similar changes sans hull modification.
Vajda: Released an addition to their elite line up with the “Next” series.
Stellar: Big changes at Stellar as well. Stellar, already sporting solid depth in their line-up, brought out their latest generation of adjustments. With a hull tweaked for more speed, ergonomic bucket adjustments and tweaks to weight distribution and rudder/cockpit moved aft, Stellar brings dynamic changes to their latest models.
See more details at Wesley Echol’s Surfski Racing website.
Plastic ski’s continue to proliferate with Epic, Vajda, Nelo, Pyranha and forthcoming Think kayaks all pushing forward with rotomolded, entry level price-point designs. Bringing accessibility to the masses.
Along with all the excitement and growth from the past year, we bid farewell to those who have left us and wish them everlasting downwind...