World Paddle Awards Announces 2017 Nominees


The World Paddle Awards released their nominees for 2017 with a list that included a few familiar Surfski paddlers.

Rachel Clarke

Rachel Clarke

RACHEL CLARKE (New Zealand) - Nominee for the 2017 Sportswoman of the Year Award

  • Born: 1990, Sports: Ocean Ski and Surf Ski, Represents: New Zealand
  • 2017: 1st Molokai Championship, 1st NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour, 1st Gorge Downwind Champs, 2nd Canadian Surf Ski Champs
  • 2016: 1st NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour 26km, 2nd Molokai Championship, 2nd Canadian Surf Ski Champs, 2nd North American Surf Ski Champs, 3rd Hong Kong Dragon
  • 2015: 1st NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour, 1st West Coast Downwinder, 3rd North American Surf Ski Champs, 3rd US Surf Ski Champs, 3rd ICF World Surf Ski Champs, 3rd Perth Doctor 

Rachel Clarke is quickly becoming one of the most accomplished females in the history of ocean racing. After adding another Molokai Ocean Ski, Queen of the Harbour and World Series title wins to her belt in 2017, Rachel has asserted her dominance amongst some of the toughest fields the sport has seen.

These successes now make Rachel a two times Molokai winner and five time Queen of the Harbour winner, which is no mean feat. Against the likes of Teneale Hatton, who is a world-class paddler in her own right, Rachel is deserving of many accolades.

Whilst many top athletes like Rachel are able to train and race as a full time job, Rachel is able to achieve these amazing results whilst still working as a full time Police Officer in New Zealand. On top of this she is also fully immersed in the sport as a coach and volunteer for many local surf life saving paddlers.

As recognition for her achievements, Rachel has received the New Zealand Police Association Sportsperson of the Year award twice, becoming the first back-to-back winner of the honour. Her hard work and personal sacrifice earning her mountains of respect from her colleagues, fellow athletes and the wider community.

After years of significant victories with minimal acknowledgement, Rachel is completely deserving of a nomination for the Sportswoman of the year award.

Other activities and achievements off the water

  • Front line Police officer based at Auckland’s North Shore for the past 6 years.
  • Volunteer lifeguard at Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving club
  • In her spare time she loves going to the beach and spending time with friends and family.


Oscar Chalupsky

Oscar Chalupsky

OSCAR CHALUPSKY (South Africa) - Nominee for the Lifetime Achievement Award

Twitter: @Oscar Chalupsky

  • Born: 1963, Sports: ocean ski paddling, kayaking (sprint and marathon), surf life saving
  • Represents: South Africa
  • Results: 12 x Molokai winner, multiple winner of the Sella Descent, Lucky Strike Challenge and Umkomaas River Marathon
  • Co-founder of Epic Kayaks
  • CEO of Nelo Surfski

Oscar Chalupsky is one of the most decorated and recognisable watermen in the world. His resume spans over an incredible 36 years, with few paddlers holding a record comparable to this. His effortless technique and knowledge of the ocean has seen him achieve results some athletes can only dream of including 12-time Molokai Ocean Ski Champion, multiple winner of the Umkomaas River Marathon and Olympic representative.

What’s outstanding about Oscar is his longevity and tenacity which has seen him take on and beat athletes over 30 years his junior. In 2012, at 49 years of age, Oscar took home his 12th Molokai title, 29 years after his maiden win. A truly inspiring result.

On top of his ocean ski successes Oscar competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games where he was the team captain for South Africa. He is also a multiple winner of the prestigious Umkomaas River Marathon.

Oscar won the world-famous Sella Decent in Spain in 1986 with his brother Herman. The biggest marathon race that everybody wants to win! His father won the same race in 1968 and both their names are carved into the bridge over the Sella. Oscar came second in 1981 with Matt Carlisle. With his brother Herman he had five top 3 finishes.

The above already would take a 'normal' elite athlete several lifetimes, but Oscar also won the Lucky Strike Challenge 10 times. This endurance feat started as a friendly challenge on January 7, 1972, between ultra-distance runner John Ball and Surf Lifesaving legend John Woods, who would paddle the race, where the outcome would indicate who was faster - the runner or the paddler? The Challenge is the ultimate contest between man and the elements of nature, a reputation that has enticed competitors back every time it has been staged.

Away from the competition arena Oscar has played a vital role in the development and success of Ocean Ski Paddling. In 2000 Oscar co-founded Epic Kayaks, which today is one of the leading brands in Ocean Ski Paddling. In May of 2015 Oscar stepped down from his position with Epic and took over as the CEO for Nelo Surfski, which is currently the worlds largest kayak manufacturer.

Oscar’s many successes have inspired the paddlesports world and left people wondering how he does it. In a bid to answer these questions Oscar conducts surf ski clinics around the world which teach paddlers how to train, race and win using his methods and technique. With thousands of people already beneficiaries of Oscars expertise, he has left an everlasting impression on this community.

Oscar Chalupsky is larger than life, a legend, and known for his particular sense of humour; the way he is able to light up a room with his energy and passion. Oscars service to the paddlesports community has already spanned over 36 years and lucky for us, there is no signs of him slowing down. As a previous nominee in this category, the World Paddle Awards acknowledges the fact that these achievements and contributions to the sport do not diminsih and in Oscar's case are ongoing. Consequently, the nominees who finish second in this category each year will be renominated moving forward. The whole paddlesports community will be forever greatful for Oscar's passion and committment to the sport and as a result he is a deserving nominee for the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other achievements:

  • 1978: Junior and Senior Surfski champion, Junior and Senior Iron Man champion. Both in South Africa.
  • First person in the world to win junior and senior Iron Man about one month before Grant Kenny.
  • 8 South Africa Iron man titles and 11 Senior surf ski titles.
Hank Mcgregor

Hank Mcgregor

HANK MCGREGOR (South Africa) – Nominee for 2017 Sportsman of the Year Award. Photo credit: Balint Vekassy


  • Born: 1979, sports: canoe marathon (K1 or K2), downriver, ocean-racing and surfski, represents: South Africa
  • 2017: Gold K1 & K2 World Marathon Championships; Gold World Cup Surf Ski; Silver Molokai Surf Ski Race
  • 2016: Gold K1 & K2 World Marathon Championships; Gold Berg River Marathon; Gold Maui Jim Molokai Challenge
  • 2015: Gold K1 & Silver K2 World Marathon Championships; Gold Berg River Marathon
  • 2014: Gold K1 & K2 World Marathon Championships; Gold K1 Hansa Fish River Marathon; Gold Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon; Gold K1 Maui Jim Molokai Challenge

Hank McGregor has officially reached legend status after winning (another!) double gold in the K1 and K2 at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in September, replicating his historic wins in 2014 and 2016. The two gold medals now gives the South African paddling icon a total of ten world championship titles, seven of which have been in the K1 event (K1: 2003, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017; K2: 2014, 2016, 2017).

In front of a home crowd in South Africa, Hanks experience and world class tactics proved to be too good. With 500m to go after the gruelling 30km paddle, he was in pole position and outsprinted his competitors to take him his ninth World Title. In the K2 event tactics again came into play, with he and his K2 partner Jasper Mocke played their cards close to their chest before unleashing in the final straight to take the win ahead of Hungary and the other South African crew. 

These two historic wins cements Hanks name in the history books as one of the most dominating canoe marathon paddlers of his generation and possibly of all time. He is also one of the most multi-talented and diverse athletes across all competitive paddlesports. In addition to his successes as a marathon paddler he is a multiple South African river marathon champion, multiple South African surfski champion and winner of numerous international ocean races. In 2017 he won the ICF World Cup surf ski race in Mauritius and claimed a close silver medal at the famous Molokai Ski Race in Hawaii.

He has paddled competitvely, and been winning, for over 20 years, and his results only seem to be getting better. In addition to his amazing achievements on the water, Hank is a devoted family man, runs a small construction company and is devoted to improving Surf Ski paddling in South Africa. As the winner of the 2014 WPA Sportsman of the Year Award, this year marks Hanks fourth consecutive nomination. 

Activities and achievements off water:

  • Hank and his wife Pippa have organised the inaugural Euro Steel McGregor Series, aimed at getting paddlers into their boats and paddling in the early season, to have some fun events to participate in and to encourage new and young participants into the sport and into the wonderful world of marathon racing.
  • WPA Sportsman of the Year 2014.
  • Hanks father Lee was a top swimmer for South Africa who was not allowed to compete at the Olympics or World Championships because of apartheid in the country at the time. Lee became a leading ocean, surfski and river paddler, plus an ironman instead.
  • Hank and his wife Pippa have one child.


THE MOLOKAI CHALLENGE (United States of America) - Nominee for the 2017 Industry Professional Award

Website:, Facebook:

The Molokai Challenge, originally named Kanaka Ikaika, is a true test of paddling skill, endurance and knowledge of ocean surfing. It tests a paddler’s ability to maneuver against unpredictable weather conditions in the Kaiwi Channel.  Considered as one of the roughest ocean channels in the world, paddlers from all around the world converge on Molokai every year to test themselves against their competitors and the unpredictable conditions.

1976 was the first crossing by Dale “Doc” Adams, which took him 7 hours and 30 minutes. Doc Adams called his crossing “the challenge of the day,” but it has since developed into the premier long-distance, open ocean, solo crossing in the world.

In 1977 Adams consulted Hawaiian linguist Pilahi Paki who described the effort as “Kanaka Ikaika,” which literally translated means “Mankind’s respectful challenge of the great, mighty ocean.” This translation couldn’t be more accurate. Following his crossing, the first official race was held in 1977, organized by newly formed Kanaka Ikaika Racing Association with Doc Adams at the helm.

The start is off the west end of Molokai near Kaluakoi, and traditionally finishes 32 miles away in the Marina off Hawaii Kai. With such a rich history featuring the best paddlers the world has ever seen, the race has grown into what is now considered the World Championships of Open Ocean Surfski racing.

After decades of staging these championships, the Molokai Challenge is a deserving nominee for the 2017 Industry Professional Award.

Dean Gardiner

Dean Gardiner

DEAN GARDINER (Australia) - Nominee for the Lifetime Achievement Award

Website:, Facebook Page:

  • Born: 1965, Sport(s): ocean racing/surf ski, outrigger, Ironman, represents: Australia
  • Results: 9x Molokai winner, surf ski World Cup gold
  • Founder and organiser of Australian Ocean Paddler series

Dean Gardiner has been at the pinnacle of Australian ocean racing for more than twenty years. Dean’s career started with a mix of lifesaving, surf ski and Ironman events, before he decided to focus on the longer distance surf ski races.

Since he made the move to ocean racing, Dean has won races all over the word, from the US to Tahiti. Dean won the inaugural surf ski World Cup in 2004 (Cape Town). He entered his first Molokai in 1989 and has competed every year since 1999. The arduous 32-mile race takes place on one of the roughest ocean channels in the world, making those who finish some of the toughest paddlers in the world.

Dean has won the revered Molokai title nine times. His experience and extreme fitness meant Dean could set the race record in 1994, only to reset it again with the current record of 3:21:26 in 1997. Dean is the only man to have won both the Surf Ski and Outrigger Molokai titles in the same year.

Dean is largely responsible for the growth of the sport in Australia, with considerable financial investment as the owner and founder of Ocean Paddler and the Ocean Racing Series, which will comprise of 13 events for the 2017/18 season.

Dean’s passion for the sport has gone far beyond competing; he is also an excellent coach, event organiser, sponsor and mentor. On top of all this, he works for Fire and Rescue NSW.

Dean has achieved a lifetime of excellent results in the sport, setting the bar high at international events and driving the industry in Australia. As a previous nominee in this category, the World Paddle Awards acknowledges the fact that these achievements and contributions to the sport do not diminsih and in Dean's case are ongoing. Consequently, the nominees who finish second in this category each year will be renominated moving forward. The whole paddlesports community will be forever greatful for Dean's passion and committment to the sport and as a result he is a deserving nominee for the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. 

You can learn how to place your vote here: