South African Jasper Mocke has been consistently placing at the top at the highest level of the sport, most notably winning the World Surfski Series title in 2014. We caught up with Jasper after his recent run through the states, which included his third place finish at the Molokai Surfski Championship.
SN: What age did you begin paddling and how did you get started?
JM: I First started paddling ski's and canoes at about 12 yrs old. But I did nippers (junior lifeguards) from 9 years old, so I have been in the ocean since I can remember.
SN: You had some pretty significant wins in 2014 and have been at the top of the game since. Did you alter anything about your training or approach that gave you an edge or otherwise pushed your paddling to the next level?
JM: No real changes. I would say it was a constant improvement and maybe a mental realization that I belonged there. I never feel like I've "reached it". I want to keep getting stronger.
SN: How has your transition been to Epic boats and with the team in general?
JM: As good as I could have imagined. My values and goals as an athlete match theirs as a company. Also we have a very competitive team which keeps us on our toes.
SN: You doubled with Hank Mcgregor for the Dusi and the 50 miler marathon, taking a win and second respectively; how do you enjoy river marathons in comparison with the surfski?
JM: I love the obstacles of river racing and the unpredictability. River racing has a huge following in South Africa so to be a professional you have to do well in it.
SN: You've spent a good deal of time in America so far this year, what is your opinion of the scene here in the states?
JM: The U.S. is so big it's hard to sum it up as one. Rather, I love the way it is developing in small pockets; Bellingham being a great example. Everyone should just keep going and share the stoke of paddling! That's what it's about. 100's of miles of unpaddled downwind routes that are waiting to be explored!
SN: In general, do you see the surfski gaining popularity internationally?
JM: Oh yes for sure. But you know what? Who cares about that. It's not a numbers game. We should do what we love and use that to enhance the quality of our lives and of those around us. If people see the fruits they'll want to get in a boat too. For more growth I think we need more mainstream media to start telling our story.
SN: What will it take for Americans to begin getting on the podiums in International races?
JM: Well if you look at guys like Austin Kieffer and Pat Dolan, they are already there. I would say they just need a little extra support and freedom to race often enough. So yes, support and constant racing. That's in the open division. In the age group divisions, the US is extremely competitive.
SN: Do you foresee returning for more trips to the States in the future?
JM: Yes certainly. It's a big priority for myself and my sponsors Epic Kayaks, Mocke Paddling and Euro Steel. We want to do everything we can to grow the sport and build working relationships.
SN: You pulled off a solid third in Molokai this year, can you break down how the race played out for you?
JM: From early on it was clear that it would be an individual effort for everyone. So I got into my rhythm and kept a steady pace all the way through. I could only really see Clint for most of the race. I tried to paddle the shortest distance of which I think we did a fairly good job.
SN If you had the opportunity to have another go at it, what, if anything would you do differently?
JM: Well I will, next year! I think I'll just get to the front and try to stay there as long as I can. If it's flat again I'll do more juice changes to reduce weight and possibly travel to Molokai a day before to avoid the early morning scramble on the day of the race. Other than that I'll just follow Cory and Hank as they seem to be the guys who know the channel pretty well. I'm still learning my way around there.
SN: What are your goals for the remainder of 2016?
SN: Most personally satisfying win?
JM: The Cape Town Downwind 2013 really stands out as it was on my home beach against a world class field. Also SA champs in Durban in 2014.
SN: Most difficult?
JM: The second time I won The Doctor in Perth, Australia. The last 5km's against my brother was of the hardest I've ever paddled.
SN: Any harrowing moments?
JM: Many, but most recently quite a few as I was doing long and lonely routes for Molokai. One moment stands out as I was 40km offshore in the middle of False Bay in huge seas and my vulnerability dawned on me. I prayed.
SN: Paddle Length and offset?
JM: 60 deg ranging lengths in different conditions.
SN: Thanks for your time and best of luck to you.