Sean Rice---Reloaded

Former ICF World Surfski Champion Sean Rice has been a man on the move for the past two years. The 27-year-old South African has been traveling the world, preaching the gospel of surfski to all.  

Rice and fiancee Emily Mcgrath have taken on the daunting task of bringing the PaddleLife show to you; wherever you are. PaddleLife is Sean's coaching model and includes seminars and one-on-one coaching options.

 Along with all the traveling, logistics, coaching and seminars, he has had to find the time to keep an elite level of training to be prepared to race at the highest level.

We caught up with Sean as he get's ready to bring 2.0 to the streets in 2017.  


SN: Catch us up with what is currently happening in your world; where are you now and what are you currently involved in?


Sean: Currently based in London with my Queen. Emily and I have made Richmond our home and really loving it. After so much time on the go, it has been a real treat to unpack, unwind and catch up with friends and family. I’ve just finished my first week of being back in the boat after nearly 6 weeks off. To start again is never easy but Richmond Canoe Club has a great bunch of really friendly and good paddlers who I can train with. The paddlers here are hard, training all the way through winter. I even managed to crack the nod to paddle a K2 with local paddler Tom Sharpe. 20km with 3 portages down some locks on the river Thames. So much fun! We ended 4th after Toms great racing skill outweighed my lack of fitness haha..

No Holds Barred racing in the UK

SN: How long will you be in London, or is this a permanent move?

Sean:  We plan to be here for the foreseeable future. London is very central for travel and is an incredible city for culture, food and business.

SN:  What’s your take on the paddling scene in London?

Rice and Sharpe in red

Sean:  There is an active paddling or rowing club every 3-5km along the river. The water quality is great and attracts a huge amount of water sport activity all through the year. I have been so impressed with the UK and how sport aware every member of the public is. There is a great patriotism to the sporting success of the Brits in all sports. Olympic success though makes you nothing less than a hero! You don’t get that in SA as much, not on this level.

SN  Are you spending most of your time on a K1 boat now?

Sean:  Back where it all started yes, in the K1! I love it. Kayak paddling keeps you very humble and honest in your efforts. I do still paddle my ski but through the winter it’s much more comfortable to be under a spray deck!

Rice and Sharpe working the slipstream

SN:  You’ve been traveling and teaching around the world for the past two years now with your PaddleLife, can you tell us a bit about what’s next for you?


Sean:  That’s correct Emily and I have been on the road with PaddleLife for 2 years now and I’ve been traveling for races around the world for 8. We have visited nearly 40 countries so far. We have been fortunate enough to visit many beautiful places, build friendships and coach literally thousands of paddlers. Traveling, racing and coaching are all big passions of mine. I hope to continue for as long as my arms can!

Gotta love what you do

SN: Will you continue along the same path with PaddleLife, or will you be making any adjustments/additions?


Sean:  PaddleLife 2017 is full steam ahead, but not completely the same way. We have some exciting news to follow soon. I would tell you right now but then I’d have to……

More to follow in the coming weeks!

SN:  What have you taken away from your experiences over the past two years with PaddleLife?


- Travel light

- If you look hard enough you should be able to find a Surfski just about anywhere coastal around the world, except for maybe central Africa, Russia and parts of South America (Lots of Surfski in Brazil).

- a plan only lasts until first contact with your enemy (Airlines and visa applications)

- Airlines ALWAYS win!!!

- the world is small and full of good people. Honestly the hospitality we are offered around the world is just incredible. We have made so many good relationships with what were complete strangers to begin with.

- Paddlers drink A LOT!


SN: On the issue of drinking---
What’s your personal favorite?

Sean: I’ll have red wine by choice. I try my best not to drink in excess too often. There is no question that alcohol has serious implications on performance, recovery and overall wellbeing. Ironically, the sugar in my chocolate bar is probably just as bad or worse for me. For that reason I don’t need to be giving life advice!


SN: Looking back, what did you see as the one area most of the paddlers you worked with needed improvement in---what mistake were most of us making?

Sean:  Bad equipment selection leading to being unstable and in the end not enjoying paddling as much as they could/should. Paddling with your mouth closed (clenched jaw)and forgetting to breath is also common. It’s the smaller things that make a big difference sometimes.


SN: How would you describe your past year racing?  Did you meet your goals, run into obstacles etc?


Sean: Unsatisfactory! I achieved some great results but for the most part 2016 was not what I expect of my performance. I knew I was always behind my competitors with preparation and that’s not a good way to start a race. I have changed a few things around for 2017!!! Watch this space.


SN: So, did extensive traveling derail your performance or enhance, and if so, how?

Sean: I don’t blame it completely but it was tough to keep structure in our lives. Then again I get to visit 20+ beautiful countries annually while chasing the summer sun. Some sacrifices are justified and I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity.


SN:  What was your best race experience from the past year and why?

Sean: I was really happy with my 2nd at Molokai considering my build up being a crazy 6 week roadshow around the USA! I didn’t paddle on the same piece of water more than twice for 6 weeks! Doing all that has taught me how to be a more dynamic paddler that’s for sure!


SN: Think Kayaks unveiled several modifications throughout their line in 2016, to what extent do you contribute to the design process?

Sean: THINK have included me and all their paddlers in the design process from day one! Listening to top paddlers give critical analysis of each boat often helps towards understanding other paddlers wants and needs. The THINK range is very good and to improve on them often requires just small adjustments. 5 x 1% improvements combine to make something noticeable but not too different. I’ve never been a fan for radical design changes to products unless completely justified. THINK take extreme pride in the fact that every boat is completely perfect before launch!


SN: For your specific race whip, the Uno Max, how have you found the changes?

Design trials

Sean: Home sweet home for me. I’ve been testing and even sometimes racing the new boat for many months before launch. This is necessary to make sure the boat is perfect!

SN: You and your Fiancee/Marketing Director/Business Partner Emily were engaged this past year, have you settled on a date?  Will she continue to travel with you to the same extent?

Sean and Emily


Sean:  Yes, Emily and I got engaged in Tahiti after World Champs in 2015. We haven’t settled on a date for the wedding yet unfortunately, but hope to have it back in South Africa. We have no pressure so just enjoying the time as it is. Emily has started her career in London which will limit her travels for 2017 but she is sure to still come to the big ones!


SN: Hank Mcgregor put up excellent results this past year.  What will it take to get by him next year?


Sean: Just hope he has some more babies! Well thinking about it, maybe that’s the secret to success? Dawid, Jasper, Hank, and Bouman is keen as mustard!

Matt Bouman