Australian Mackenzie Hynard and South African Kenny Rice are currently the top two under-23 ski paddlers racing the World Series. To make things more interesting, the two race on the same squad and happen to be mates as well.
They recently took the time to answer some questions and and shed light on future plans.
SN: You are the U-23 one and two guys in the world right now and happen to be on the same team. How does this affect your mindset when you line up together at a race?
KR: I think being on the same team is a massive asset to both of us. Macca has just come onto the scene and set the new boundary for us to hit each race, this really encourages us to give it our all and then have a laugh about it after the race.
MH: I love it! Nothing changes. We both want to win and each other knows that but we are still great mates before, during, and after no matter the result. I think being on the same team only enhances that friendship and competitiveness.
SN: Any rivalry?
KR: Apart from our huge unsettled buffet rivalry in Reno we do obviously experience the same sense of rivalry once the race starts. In the end it is loads of fun pushing each other in races (if I am close enough to Macca!).
MH: Massively, but in a good way. We have a little tally going, 4 -2 isn’t it Ken?
SN: So you push each other?
KR: Yeah whenever we are near each other we always give a chirp to keep the spirits up and keep the other motivated. Not many people enjoy losing so I guess from that sense we give it everything when out on the course racing each other!
MH: 100%, every race Kenny is the first person I look for out on the water. As of recent we talk and agree on a line we will take for the race, that way its even Steven. However Kenny is dangerous, very dangerous especially in the big stuff and for someone of his age he certainly knows how to use the ocean to his advantage. He proved this back at the Doctor in 2014. I disregarded his age; everyone did. He didn’t. He knew exactly what he was doing, when to surge, when to rest and what line to take. The bloke got 2nd in one of the best fields seen in the history of the event. Even knocking his brother Sean off.
SN: You guys were dueling through the entire worlds race. Can you describe how the race played out for each?
KR: Well Macca always has a great start and then somewhere after that I pass him and have a killer middle section of the race. Then we hit the last third of the race where Macca yet again ups the pace and comes flying past.
That sums up the race from my perspective! Macca had an incredible last few kms which I was completely under cooked for. He really deserved it!
MH: Yes we were (dueling). We both got off to a rather good start. Mine a little better then Kenneth’s. We turned the hot spot mark at exactly the same time and it was on from there. Kenny linked a few straight off the mark and I was behind the eight ball. Kenny took an outside line, dodging all the boat wash. I followed him as we winged it outside. I followed Ken's line till about the half way point when he cut in a little sooner than I. I made some meters on him at that point and it started to become quite a tight race between us. I didn’t pass Ken until just before the reef pass and the flat 2.5km to the finish line. I knew I had to get some distance before the flat even if it was a few boat lengths given all Kenny’s past knowledge in marathon kayak racing. I was able to do that, and hold Ken off until the finish. That’s without saying I was paddling scared the whole 2.5km always looking back to see where he was.
SN: Both of you are currently knocking at the door for top step of the podium in the highest level of open age racing. What will it take to break through?
MH: Experience and lots of it. Racing at a high level teaches you many things. Just recently I screwed up massively, missing the start at this years doctor. The best guys don’t do that S*#h. It's fair to say I wont be doing that again. I also think post race reflection is something everyone overlooks. It doesn’t have to be in a spiritual way. Mine certainly isn’t. I just like to go over the wrongs and rights I did in the race. Put them all in the memory bank, continue to do the right things and remember to not make the mistakes again.
A good saying I have learnt to live by is “you should never regret a decision or action until you make it twice”. I’m always learning and always will be.
KR: Every race is a new experience where we both gain knowledge. Sometimes this knowledge is stuff that the older guys have already forgotten. Gaining this knowledge sometimes comes at a cost but in the end it only makes us better racers!
Seeing the workload Sean does is really eye opening and to achieve the things he has takes a lot more than just his talent. I think it will take time in the saddle and the use of our new knowledge and competitive drive to reach that level.
SN: Kenny, how are you splitting your time now between the ski and marathon?
KR: I took the last 2 years off marathons, but I'm planning on giving it a go again in the new year. In South Africa our seasons can change very quick and you need to take advantage of the marathon and river racing to get the time and quality in to be ready for the summer surfski season. In Cape Town our surfski season is literally only October to December, so training during the other months is really important.
SN: Do you have a preference and why?
KR: No doubt that a downwind knocks the socks off of a marathon race but saying that, racing a marathon race when you are fit and have a flawless race is awesome!
SN: Mackenzie, you’ve been involved with a several other sports; does your worlds victory alter your approach to training and competition? Will you be focusing more intently on the ski or will you continue to mix it up with other disciplines?
MH: It does a little. I will continue to replicate the sessions I believed worked leading into Worlds. Although I have become the U/23 World Champion I don’t feel the job is done. I want to be able to match it on the Open stage.
I have been quite heavily involved in Surf Life Saving from such a young age. Looking up to the best guys running around in the professional series. It has always been my dream to make this series and even though I have become a World Champion in the Surf Ski world. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to give up on the ironman dream yet. It is also great cross training for me and keeps my interests levels high all the time.
SN: The Think team has put up some impressive wins and high placings in the past year. What’s the dynamic like between members?
KR: Well the THINK team is a complex organisation. We have Sean who is the dad, he looks after us and keeps us in line. Emily is the mom, she agrees with Sean and keeps him in line. Teneale is like the older sister, she is lots of fun but we all know our place cause there is still that chance that she may beat us in a race ha ha! Myself, Daryl and Macca are the kids, apart from running amok we are on the team to carry bags, move/load boats, move trailers and eat the food!
But to be serious, we are all on the team to race our hearts out, have fun and represent the brand as best as possible, it is the least we could do for such a fantastic brand.
MH: We basically travel together, stay together and race together. The Surf Ski community in general is an awesome one to be apart of and I am so grateful for that.
In terms of our team, we have all really only met this year. Apart from Kenny who I had met back at worlds in 2013 where he was still U/18’s and absolutely obliterated that age group along with me. We all came together for the North American leg of the Surf Ski champs. We got to learn a lot about each other, what made us all tick and what riled one another. It is one of the best trips I have to date. In short, Daryl is the foreman who makes everything possible with Sean and Teneale being the professionals keeping Kenny and I in line.
SN: What has been your best experience of 2015 (ski or otherwise)?.
KR: The 'merica trip was the highlight of my year. The guys are all super amped and it was fantastic to spend some extra time there experiencing a different surfski season and scene to what we have at home. I made a lot of good friends who share the stoke of surfski with me!
MH: For me being crowned World Champ was pretty special especially in a place like Tahiti with some of my best mates there to celebrate. I don’t think it gets much better then that.
SN: Can you comment on your favorite races of 2015 and what it was about it that you enjoyed?
KR: Race of the year so far was World's. It was a bit far but the downwind was incredible!
MH: Can I pick two? Stuff it, I’m doing it anyway. My picks are the Gorge Downwind Paddling Festival in Hood River, Oregon and the Maraamu Surf ski Bora Ocean Paddle. Both events had the most picturesque scenery as well as a cool upbeat vibe. Having said this they have both been the most grueling races I have partaken in to date, but at the same time the most rewarding. I also don’t think it is just the race that makes an event stand out. It is the pre and post race stuff. Something both events have nailed to a tee, and are definitely a must do for all paddlers around the world. The more I think about it the more they have in common. They also have two of the most energetic, out of their mind legends running them. Carter Johnson and Mosole Sebastian.
SN: You both paddle the Think Uno Max; what about paddle setup? What brand and feather angle do you favor and why?
KR: I am currently using the ORKA Super Flex, on 60 degrees. This angle is what we get taught on so I know no better!
I race on 212cm shortest for rough water and as it flattens out I make them longer to about 215cm max in the ski on completely flat water. The shorter paddle helps keep the stroke rate up when you can't put in the power in the rough water and on the flat stuff the longer setting helps lengthen out your stroke and put maximum power into each stroke.
MH: My weapon of choice is Volt Paddles, made and sold out of Byron Bay, Australia by ex-pro paddler Kurt Tutt.
I use a gamma shape similar to that of the Van Dusen design.
212 is my length and 61 degrees is my angle. I have done some playing around with lengths and angles over the years and it is what works best for me.
SN: What is your strongest asset in a race?
KR: I wouldn't be able to pin point anything in particular but I'd say I do better in races with runs because I back myself a bit more on the runs as opposed to flat water! Although, I don't back myself much on a flat water race, ha ha.
MH: The last 3kms or so. As a junior it was an area where I wasn’t so strong, where I would fade and lose vital positions. I have worked on this aspect of my race changing it from my weakness and into my strength.
SN: Can you point to any one aspect that has made the most drastic difference in your paddling game?
MH: I started out paddling in Wollongong on the south Coast of NSW and it was the best. I cannot thank the guys and girls down there enough. They taught me how to paddle and brought me through the ranks. Without them I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. I have recently relocated home from Wollongong to the Gold Coast, to join BMD Northcliffe SLSC and to train along side Cory (Molokai) Hill and Michael (Lifestyle) Booth. Chasing these two around at training has allowed me to jump to the next level. I would go as far as putting my worlds win down to training with these two.
KR: Having fun. One thing that has become clear to me is that I need to enjoy it to perform. You never excel in anything you don't like so best make a plan to enjoy it!
SN: Mackenzie, can you tell us what happened to you at the start of the Doctor?
MH: Ahhh yes, I guess I can laugh about it now, well sort of. It was a rookie error on my behalf. Even though the race did start some 5 minutes early. I’m not blaming anyone but myself. I should have been up with the top guys on the line and not off warming up. I will not be making the same mistake in the future that is for certain.
SN: What are your goals for 2016?
MH: To crack that top 3 spot at an International World Series event.
KR: 2016... Well it is all up to the boss ha ha!
On a serious note I'd like to bridge the gap, consistently be on the podium and be seen as a threat in all the races I do would be the main focus. However, winning a World Series race would also be fantastic as a side goal!
I am going to do the Dusi Canoe Marathon with a mate in Feb and hopefully that sets me up with some solid base for a exciting new year!
SN: University and area of study?
KR: I am currently studying Sport Development and Management at Varsity College in Cape Town. They are also one of my sponsor.
MH: Griffith University studying a Bachelor of Business and Exercise Science. (Double Degree)
SN: Other interests?
KR: Any sort of water sport.
MH: Surfing, skating, coffee sipping, alcoholic beverages, travelling all with good company
SN: Favorite Sports team?
MH: Redbull Formula 1 Racing Team. What they do is out of this world. Everything is so sophisticated and precise. There is no margin for error they are absolute technicians in there line of work, I find it amazing to watch.
KR: The underdog in any game!
SN: Lifesaving Club?
KR: Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club.
MH: Northcliffe SLSC
SN: How does surfski in America compare with Australia and RSA? What are your thoughts on surfski in America?
KR: Surfski in America is growing fast. It is a completely new side of surfski where people are doing it to participate rather than only race, which is what we want because that encourages growth as a lifestyle/leisure sport!
In Aus and RSA once you learn you are kind of pushed into the racing and before you realise you are full on racing and on a training program but in America I see a whole different side where people are participating more leisurely and enjoying the thrill of riding waves, runs and exploring the coast apart from the odd social race they do. This is awesome to see because it encourages absolutely everyone to get involved and try the sport out!
MH: America is a booming market and surf ski community. I cannot wait to see where it goes in the near future. Our American trip was a whole heap of fun, with some awesome races and some even better people. There are many things that both South Africa and Australia can take from the American Surf Ski scene. I really like the social side of America's paddling scene. In Australia and South Africa a lot of people are pushed right into the racing side and can burn people out at quite a young age. America seems to be taking quite a different approach, focusing more on the leisure and adventure side with the racing taking second priority. This is a great way to get people involved within the sport and I believe there approach is working
SN: Where do you see surfski going in the next 5-10 years?
MH: I see it continuing to grow into the future and beyond especially with the events that are starting up all over the world. These are exciting times. I believe this positivity, enthusiasm and momentum is exactly what the surf ski world needs at this point in time and will directly relate to the rise of surf ski over the globe in the next 5-10 years.
KR: I would like to see surfski take the same direction as SUP paddling. The brands and names in the business deserve the recognition for all their dedication and hard work at getting this sport going.
A full on surfski World tour, like the surfing tour, would be great and I feel it is somewhere within reach in the coming years provided we all share the stoke!
SN: Thanks guys and good luck in future endeavors!
MH: Cheers. Time for a coffee