What can you say about the Makai Cup that hasn’t been said before? Stunning coastline, fantastic paddling and a team of passionate race organisers all add to a great weekend on the South Coast at Ulladulla. This year Sydney was in the grip of a heatwave, so the escape south into a cool Southerly change on Friday afternoon was most welcome.
I made the trip down on Friday afternoon, and got out for a quick spin on the ski with one of my training buddies, Cam Cox, out of Ulladulla Harbour. There was a great little wave breaking across some reef on the South side of the bay, so our planned session turned into catching waves for an hour instead.
Race morning arrived, and registration was done early. With the conditions forecast, the race organisers informed everyone that the race could start early, so there was no messing about. Get marked off, have a cooling swim, and head north to Sussex Inlet. At this stage, the extremely hot conditions in Sydney had managed to work their way down the coast, and the forecast wasn’t great for a downwind paddle. Temps in the high 30’s, very high humidity, and 10 got 12 knots of wind. It was going to be a tough day across all of the 24kms the race covers. Team Think had our World U23 champion, Mackenzie Hynard in town, with a strong line up including Mark Anderson, Sasa Vujanic and Cade Barnes all wanting to have their name on the cup as 2017 champion.
After scrutineering, paddlers made their way to the water to get ready for the start. Now when I say Sussex Inlet was like a picture postcard, that is probably an understatement. Simply stunningly clear water, beautifully clean sand and amazing colours. This place really is a little piece of paradise on a day like this.
Warming up, which didn’t take a lot, showed the temps were cooking. A friend noted that at the Inlet, it was 40 degrees with 94% humidity. Most chose to lie in the water trying to keep cool before the race started.
A nice clean start line, and the race was off, with a 3km dash to the turning can, and cash hotspot, before turning south and racing to Ulladulla Harbour. The run out wasn’t too bad, with a light side breeze to keep you cool, and lots of small little bumps to work. Once we turned the can, it was a really nice surprise to see that the light winds had actually kicked up some good runs. While it wasn’t anything like what we have seen down at the Makai Cup the last few years, it was certainly fun, with lots of runs to chase. The heat at this stage was hard going though, with no relief, and looking around you could see paddlers popping their caps in the water and dousing themselves with cool water when the opportunity arouse. While you could surf a few runs, if you revved up and popped over one or two, the heat really hit, so most tried to be conservative and surf what came to them, rather than try push too hard and pay the price.
I don’t think Ulladulla harbour could come quickly enough for most. It was a hard day on the water, and there were a lot of broken bodies sitting around the beach afterwards, mine included. After having a good start and dicing around in the top six, I started to feel quite ill, and started vomiting at around the half way mark. I was so off my food that night that I couldn’t even eat potatoes, and that’s saying something for an Irishman!!
There were lots of standout performances on the day. Mark Anderson became the first paddler to win back to back Makai Cups. Well done Ando. Cade Barnes finished third and kept his track record of being on the podium in every Makai Cup in tact, which is a testament to his longevity. Montannah Murray had a strong paddle and won the ladies event, and took the cash in the Ladies hotspot, which I was proud to sponsor. Special mention to a guy who trains with me, Cameron Cox. He’s worked really hard, while juggling the pressures of a new born child, and had a fantastic paddle to grab 8th spot. I know he was stoked, but for me it’s very satisfying to see guys race well and achieve their goals off the back of solid work. Well done buddy, must be your good coach!!!
While the 2017 running of the Makai Cup might not go down in the downwind history books as a classic, it was still another well run race, which continues to set the bar in surfski racing in terms of fun, organisation and of course location. A huge thank you to all the Makai Paddlers for their tireless efforts to keep the padding vibes strong on the South Coast and I can’t wait to get back down that way again really soon.
Photos: John Dick