The Cook Islands. What a place! What a visit! I was invited, along with Jo and Joel Simpson and Ando, by Josh Utanga and his new company Surfski Cook Islands to check out what’s on offer and I most certainly wasn’t disappointed. Ando and I arrived into Rarotonga on the Monday after racing in NZ over the previous weekend at the Poor Knights Crossing. Just before we boarded I rang Josh to remind him when we were going to arrive and in typical island style he had no idea we would be in, in only 3hrs. Haha. We arrived late and were taken to our accomodation before hitting the hay to see what tomorrow would bring!

Day 1 (Monday) started with a 20km paddle out from Avaavaroa pass to the old Sheraton hotel. We punched into it for a few km before getting a great 15knot downwind for about 10km. It was then shirts off for the rest of the paddle (we all know how much I love that!) and just taking in the natural beauty of the place. After a quick lunch it was time to do the cross island walk. It took us about 2hrs through pretty tough terrain. But what can I say, it was worth it! We got nearly 360 degree views of the island seeing coastline on all sides. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted as climbing up the Needle involved ropes and chains. The photos tell the story better than I can type!

On day 2 we paddled from Rutaki Pass to Trader Jacks in town with Josh skipping the paddle as we didn’t have a driver! We punched out for 3km again before getting a cracking downwind along the west coast. We passed surf breaks such as Socials and Black Rock which were barrelling pretty much all week. The impression I got was that the ocean is relatively undiscovered over there. After the paddle we headed to Te Vara Nui for a cultural dance/dinner performance which told a story of a seafaring warrior settling on the island in the 18th century. Guy gave up his daughter to the chief so they could settle there… Not totally sure thats the best story to be telling haha!

On day 3 we did an around the island paddle. We like to think we were the first guys on surfskis to do it! It ended up taking us 3:30 of paddling but we had stops at Trader Jacks (Avarua Pass) and Avaavaroa (for lunch at the Mouring cafe – the fish Tacos were unbelievable!!) before finishing at the Rutaki Pass in some pretty crazy conditions. It was a building South West swell and when we left in the morning it was small and tame. But as the day went on it built up and the tide went out making the return to shore an achievement in itself. The tide was rushing at at least 20km/hr through the narrow pass and we were essentially on a travelator. We managed to muscle our way in through the foamy treacherous waters before turning around and seeing 8ft sets close out through the pass. We all considered ourselves pretty lucky at that point and a sigh of relief was shed by all! In the afternoon we were treated to a bon fire with some local meat and taro, a couple of drinks and some toasted marshmallows to top it off! We also met a couple of Josh’s mates Tharo, Zayne and a few others which really added to a great day.

On day 4 there was no backing off except for Joel, the big fella needed a rest… Too many kilometres for this ex-200m kayaker! A tropical rain front moved through so we had the morning off to rest before paddling in the afternoon. I think everyone was a bit tired from the day before! We then had the best downwind of the trip getting a solid 20knot East wind allowing Josh, Ando and I to surf our way from Avaavaroa to Trader Jacks. We then headed to another cultural dinner involving breaking coconuts, eating a umu (hungy) and drinking some home brew! It was replicating the local environment on Atui and we got involved in a drinking circle that left many worse for wear haha! At this point it was Thursday night and I was suppose to board my flight back home. However got bumped and carried on with the night haha.

Since I got an extra day I made the most of it. Ando was unable to rise after the evening before a antics so Joel, Josh and I did our last session on Rarotonga in and out from Trader Jacks. We got another 13km done and finished of a 110km week which we were all relatively pleased with. Especially the boys who hadn’t been doing much… namely Joel and Josh. We then drank fresh coconuts and ate fresh bananas from the open air market, I love how they can still cultivate and live off the land. After our goodbyes at the airport to Ando, Joel and Jo I ran back to Josh’s with an 8km run along the beach and road. Josh and I then did a scenic drive around the points on the scooters and checked out the surf as all the points glassed off in the afternoon. It was magical!

The Cook Islands is a paddlers paradise and a training haven. No matter what way the wind and swell is going you can get a solid 12km downwind paddle in 365 days a year. It also gives you all conditions allowing you to work on your skills to become a more adaptable paddler. The beauty of the island is that its 36km around on the ski with distinct north, South, East and West coastlines which his allows for some great and testing paddling conditions everyday. I loved it.

Big thanks to Josh and Joyce for being so hospitable. Nothing was too hard and all our needs were catered for. I strongly recommend this place to all paddlers out there. It’s a picturesque holiday destination where you can now paddle surfskis and do what you love, what more can you want! I know I’ll be back!

For all enquires contact info@surfskicookislands.com or checkout their website www.surfskicookislands.com

Source: http://mgbooth.com.au/

Alex MClain-All in for Rio

When you think of elite level athletes, it's not hard to envision a predatory breed comprised of equal parts superhuman physicality matched with an imposing demeanor, fearsome enough to impress the likes of Mike (Da Bears) Ditka. 

26 Year old Alex McLain does not fit the latter archetype.  Her cheerfully sweet disposition belies her aggressive style on the water. 

Father far left. Mother far right.

Father far left. Mother far right.

Born to a sporting family, Mclain comes from paddling royalty. Her father, Rod Mclain, competed for the United States in the 84 and 88 Olympics in sprint canoe. Her mother, also an avid paddler was enroute to trying out for the Olympic kayak team as well when she became pregnant. 

...and today

...and today

Her double blade experience began in the cold waters of coastal Maine in 2005 at the young age of sixteen. She soon gained comfort on the waves, tackling increasingly bouncy conditions inherent to the rocky coastline. She developed a love of the water through finding the balance of working with the energy of the waves. 

She soon began racing and racking up wins in New England, including a win at the prestigious New York City Mayor's Cup. At nineteen years old she made her way to the big water of the U.S. Surfski Championships in San Francisco, finishing second in 2008 behind the venerated Nikki Mocke.  The strong placing served as notice to Mclain that she might have what it takes to take her love of the sport to the next level, or at least make a go.

on the waves

on the waves

So in 2011 she shifted her focus towards sprint kayaking. Initially, she felt a bit like the Happy Gilmore of K1; a ski paddler messing about with sprinters. However, she soon found purchase in the sprint world, culminating in a 2014 Pan American victory in the 1000 meter in Mexico. 

Currently, the ultimate goal of representing the United States in the Olympics has become her primary focus.  In preparation for a run at Rio, she is on the water putting in an incredibly grueling nine hours a day for six days a week. 

While fully focused on making it to the Olympics in sprint kayak, she sees a return to surfski afterwards. But as of yet, has no specific goals set beyond 2016.

Best of luck Alex-we look forward to your return to the waves after Rio.


Hometown: Stockton Springs, Maine.

Current Residence: Gainesville, Georgia (when not travelling).

Notable Wins: Pan American 1000 Meter, New York Mayor's Cup, 2nd US Surfski Championships, New England Overall Series Winner, North Shore 2015.

Club: Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak 

College: Bowdoin

Field of Study/Degree: Biology

Hobbies/Interests/Feats of strength: Art, Lacrosse.





Florida Paddleboarder Missing

Search continues for a paddleboarder missing off the coast of Florida since Christmas Eve.  The missing paddler has been identified as 51-year-old John Frye of Fort Walton Beach.  

A witness claims to have observed a man on the board in heavy surf behind the boardwalk on Okaloosa Island.  The witness looked away for a moment and upon looking back the man was gone and board was upside down in the water.  

Frye is described as a fit paddleboard enthusiast with experience.   

OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - UPDATE: December 25, 10:20 a.m.

Okaloosa County Sheriff's Officials have identified the man who they believe went missing Thursday while paddle boarding near Okaloosa Island.

The U.S. Coast Guard is involved with the search, along with beach safety crews. If you have any information about what happened, please call the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office at (850) 651-7410.

Source:  http://www.wjhg.com/home/headlines/Search-on-for-missing-paddle-boarder-on-Okaloosa-Island-363501961.html

Barry Lewin takes the 2015 Winkle-Toti-Winkle Sea and Sand Marathon

Yesterday saw the conclusion of another exciting Winkle-Toti-Winkle Sea and Sand Marathon with paddlers enjoying the favourable downwind conditions on the day.

En route to compete in the Cape Point Challenge, Barry Lewin of Varsity College/Jeep Team SA took the top position with a time of 54:17.47 in the singles surfski race.

Lewin, who is no stranger to the race having competed eight times previously, said that the 15-knot southwesterly resulted in many smiling faces at the start of the race.

“I had an amazing day out on the ocean,” said Lewin, who managed to make good ground 200m into the race, using the wind to his advantage and surfing at an average of 17km/hour. “A big thanks to the race organisers and sponsors for putting on such a good show. It’s definitely a race I’ll come back to for years to come.”

The race, which was moved from Winklespruit to Wyndham Beach because of the wind, increased in length from the originally planned 12.6km to 15km in total. Undeterred by the extra distance, Zoog Haynes took second position in a time of 55:57.44 and Oliver Burn clinched third with a time of 56:17.12.

Downwind specialists, Bryce Hatton and Marc Stanton, were in their element and easily took the lead in the doubles race in a time of 55:39.70. The local duo was closely followed by Shaun Burgin and Robin Tindall in a time of 57:31.75, with Mark Lewin and Anna Clifford-Arwidi finishing in third spot in at time of 1:01:21.47.

The “first lady” of paddling, Michelle Burn, took the women’s top spot in a time of 1:01:51.15 with Sharon Armstrong taking second with 1:15:52.24.

Michelle Burn   - photo-Anthony Grote

Michelle Burn   - photo-Anthony Grote

The event – held annually on 16 December since 1972 – comprises three main events, organised by the Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club and sanctioned by both the South African Canoe Union and South African Road Runners’ Association. Traditionally, the 12.6km surfski race and the 12.6km long course beach run and walk both start and end at Winklespruit Beach after a journey to Toti Beach. The 4.8km short course beach run and walk goes until Warnernerdoone Rocks before returning to Winklespruit Beach.

The three events started on Wednesday at 9.30am with a simultaneous beach clean-up taking place this year, headed by Kyle Dawson of Wasteman.

“The weather was good with a strong southwesterly wind blowing which made for good downwind conditions that favoured the paddlers, but made things a bit challenging for the beach runners and walkers,” explained event organiser, Neville Hazell of Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club. “But despite this, everyone who attended really enjoyed the experience.”

Hazell said the annual event, held during the height of festive season, encourages both locals and holidaymakers to enjoy the spectacular beaches that the Sapphire Coast has to offer. In addition, he said that the event also gives community members a chance to see Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club in action, with the opportunity of joining.

“There is a great sense of camaraderie within the club and it provides people with the chance to truly enjoy the coastal life,” said Hazell. “We really look forward to continuing this great tradition.”

To ensure the safety of all participants, two rescue boats were deployed on the day with professional lifeguards stationed every 2km of the beach. A 4×4 vehicle was available for support and paramedics also in attendance.

In a further effort to ensure the beaches are at their best, Wasteman sponsored a concurrent beach clean-up with nippers from Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club and Wasteman employees taking to the shores to pick up litter along the route.

“The South Coast has some of the most spectacular beaches and we really want to showcase them at their absolute best which is why we undertook this beach clean-up,” explained event sponsor, Ross Fountain of Wasteman.

The event wrapped up with a prizegiving at Winklespruit Surf Lifesaving Club with top quality prizes sponsored by XXX

Winkle-Toti-Winkle Sea and Sand Marathon Results

Men’s Singles Surfski Race

1. Barry Lewin – 54:17.47
2. Zoog Haynes – 55:57.44
3. Oliver Burn – 56:17.12

Men’s Doubles Surfski Race

1. Bryce Hatton and Marc Stanton – 55:39.70
2. Shaun Burgin and Robin Tindall – 57:31.75
3. Mark Lewin and Anna Clifford Arwidi – 1:01:21.47

Women’s Singles Surfski Race

1. Michelle Burn – 1:01:51.15
2. Sharon Armstrong – 1:15:52.24

Source:  http://barrylewin.co.za/?p=1469

Marine Surfski Series Ready to kick off 2016

The 2016 Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series gets underway on Friday, 8 January but already the province’s top surfski stars are hard at work prepping for the opening race of the ten-leg summer series. With both titles sponsors Varsity College and FNB back again in 2016, more of the same great value and organisation as well as the weekly clashes providing the ideal platform for participants and their families to ease into the weekend, the 2016 edition promises to be yet another memorable one for all.

“The Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series is the biggest of its kind in the world which creates a playground for some of the world's best paddlers and we can’t wait to bring yet another memorable edition to Durban's and the rest of KZN’s paddlers in 2016!” confirmed series coordinator, Barry Lewin.

Barry Lewin

Barry Lewin

“We have some of the best surfski talent in the world based here in Durban that sees each week’s contest a mini-World Champs up front while our hardy regulars enjoy many a ding-dong battle against mates a little further back in the pack each week,” he added. With its popular 8km long course and 4km short course options weekly, the series attracts hundreds of paddlers weekly with the opening leg once again expected to produce a three hundred plus field. “Thanks to the generous support of our title sponsors Varsity College and FNB we will once again be giving the first three hundred paddlers to enter the FNB Surfski Challenge, race one of the 2016 series, a great series shirt. “We have also refined our loyalty programme with all those who complete eight or more of the 2016 series’ races to receive an amazing PFD worth R1200!" said Lewin 2016 will again see the series look to assist two great causes close to the hearts of those involved in the series.

“Through Varsity College’s VC Cares programme, we will once again be giving away a surfski with all funds raised from the sale of raffle tickets going towards the great work that those involved in this programme do! “The Lettie Paddle initiative started by Danica Bartho a few years ago is another organization that has become synonymous with our series and again our pre-FNB Dusi exclusive Tuesday race on Tuesday 16 February will be supporting the Lettie Paddle efforts to raise cancer awareness and funds.”

Up front, the battle is again set to be hotly contested in both the men’s and women’s series title race. Household names the globe over such as Hank McGregor (Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks), Matt Bouman (Epic Kayaks) and Wade Krieger (Herbalife) will look to fend off challenges from Lewin (Varsity College/Jeep Team), Steve Woods, Adam Nisbet, Oliver Burn, Gene Prato and youngster Bailey de Fondaumiere. The women’s clash will again see the depth of Durban’s female paddling talent on display as Nikki Russell, Michelle Burn, Jenna Ward, Kyeta Purchase (all Fenn Kayaks), Donna Tutton, Hayley Nixon (neé Arthur) and Danica Bartho go head-to-head.

The series finale – the Varsity College Surfski Challenge – on 11 March will again double as the year’s South African Schools Surfski Championships where the country’s top junior will battle it out for the coveted national title and the chance to win a bursary to the Varsity College Sports Life program worth R50000. “It has been great to see the growth of the series over the seven years that Varsity College has been involved; growth in the number of participants, spectators and the competition!” said Varsity College's National Sports Manager, Carole Adam. “We have enjoyed seeing the progression of our own Sports Life students from first year to graduation and many are now enjoying successful careers. "We wish the series and all the participants, good conditions and enjoyable 2016 series,” she added.

FNB, back again after a memorable opening involvement with the series in 2015, are also looking forward to another great edition of the popular series. “We are looking forward to yet another breath-taking event as the ‘cream of the crop’ face off against each other in surfski paddling,” Preggie Pillay, KZN Provincial Head of FNB Business. “Our support for the Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series reaffirms our belief that adventure is at the heart of innovation and this is one of many platforms on which we seek to make a lasting connection with our clients!” he added. The 2016 Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series gets underway on Friday, 8 January with racing starting in front of Marine Surf Lifesaving Club, Addington Beach at 17h30.



20 Beaches organizer responds to complaints

Brett Greenwood, Event Organizer for the 20 Beaches Surfski race took the time to respond to complaints regarding the recent issues involving the December 15th, event.

20 Beaches 2015

As the Event Manager, I regret the way things panned out at the start of the 20 Beaches on Saturday 12th December. We can understand that it was disappointing for many of the paddlers. But it was as disappointing to us having put so much effort into the planning and running of the race. Rest assured, any lessons we can take out of this we will. There is a Risk Management Plan in place relating to the event and it was largely successful given that there was no loss or injury. That is our first priority. Other parties not under our control also affected the outcome as you will see below. I have listed the unfolding of events to illustrate to you the factors which contributed to the outcome. I do this with humility, not trying to lay blame or deny responsibility. I just want you to understand what happened on Saturday. Shortly after briefing paddlers started heading towards the beach and making their way past the break. Approximately 80 to 100 skis had successfully done this via a channel on the north end of Freshwater Beach. Large waves and possibly a lack of experience resulted in a ski against the rocks and several skis drifting south into the patrol area. The council lifeguard and patrol captain stopped all skis from entering the water as there was extreme concern for the safety of other beach users. We instructed our IRB’s that were loaded with the starting buoys to abandon the buoys and give all possible assistance to any skis that remained in the surf zone. The council lifeguard made it quite clear that if we did not employ all assets to control the wave zone he would deny access and stop the race. After negotiations with the council lifeguard it was agreed that 10 skis at a time could enter the water together and make their way out through the surf. All our IRB’s were then utilised to ensure this was carried out as safely as possible. Whilst this delay was happening the initial paddlers that left the beach earlier took it upon themselves to start a race. I believe these paddlers were fully aware there was no start boat but chose to start anyway. Once all paddlers were cleared off the beach a start line was established with the remaining paddlers and a start gun fired. Following that a start was also given for the Doubles and OC6. There was to be 3 distinct start waves for this race. Wave 1: SUP and All women on single skis Wave 2: All Men on single skis Wave 3: All Doubles and OC6 This was made clear via a newsletter on Friday evening to all online registrations and at briefing on the day. It is clear from the race photos we have been given that SUP’s, Women and some of the Men on single skis all left at the same time. We have no possible way of reliably establishing what time the initial group started or who was in this group so therefore a true winner cannot be established. As race organisers we cannot justify awarding paddlers who do the wrong thing, knowing it is wrong, so to be fair to everyone involved we will not be issuing prize money or results for the men on single skis. The prize money for these categories will be held by Paddle NSW for use at next year’s event. We believe the results for the Women, SUP’s Doubles and OC6 race to be correct, so prize money and results will be awarded to these categories. We will be in discussions over the next couple of months with the view of the start/ finish to return to the sheltered waters of Shelley Beach although this will incur additional cost due to the large council fees involved. Other alternatives will also be looked at. The major thing we believe compounded the problems on Saturday was starting the race on a surf break and the problems associated with it. I apologise to you, the paddlers who paddled the event on Saturday but especially those whose results were affected through no fault of their own.


Brett Greenwood Race Director

Troubles at 20 Beaches---Michael Booth



What Happened?


In this letter I will outline what I think happened on Saturday and why I think paddlers need an explanation. I will also give you my thoughts, ideas and potential outcomes to rectify what happened. Please read below and give the paddling community an answer by 6pm on Wednesday.


“What am I doing this for?” That was the first thing that went through my head Saturday morning. In hindsight I wished I just turned over and went back to sleep. My gut was telling me not to go and I should have listened!


The night before the race after deliberation with many past champions of the event I decided to book my flights. Flights were booked in on Friday at 7:30pm and $100 entry in, just before the cut off at 8pm. Like most paddlers, I was looking forward to travelling away with my mates and participating in a well-run event. It’s been a huge year for me and I have raced most weekends but at the end of the day I wanted to support Australia’s longest running surf ski race. I couldn’t resist.


20 Beaches hasn’t been an event I’ve attended over the years, despite it having great prestige among Australian paddlers (or used to?). After attending in 2012 it left a bitter taste in my mouth after poor management damaged my impression of the event. Growing up in Newcastle each year, many of the paddlers would drive down the F3 to attend what used to be the biggest race in the country. I looked up to all those paddlers from my local surf club and couldn’t wait till I got a shot at it. It was something I really wanted to win, as I got older.


After the event this year many paddlers including myself, were left angry, confused, disillusioned as to what the event has become. We just had to laugh! It was a joke! We all just want answers as to what happened over the weekend and why? I’ve said some things over the past few days that have been very critical of the organisation and management of the event, some constructive and some not. But now 48hrs after the debacle of an event, I have spoken, read and digested what I think happened and we all need to create positives out of this. The biggest thing that irked me after the event was when I was told by you, ‘the organisers’ that “its not our fault” and what I was saying “wasn’t helping”. Well I’m sorry but that kind of response is just plain and simply unacceptable. I just laughed and walked away. Who were you kidding?


I have had numerous conversations with people asking what happened? I really don’t think anyone knows? This is my recollection of events:


Leading into the event everything seemed great. It was well organised with check in, safety, registration and briefing all being very clear about start times and processes. However once we got near or on the water the shit hit the fan. So basically the thing that everyone went there for wasn’t organised aka the start and finish! I was told a paddler alerted you to the fact there was some surf at Freshwater the morning of the event? I also was told the Northern Beaches Lifeguard Service didn’t even know the event was on? And a lady set off her flare and was picked up by a roving lifeguard jet ski’s, as there wasn’t sufficient water safety? Let me know if I am wrong.


After the briefing the paddlers were advised to make their way out, about an hour from the start time of 1pm. The women, sups and OCs would go at this time with the rest 10 minutes later. There would be two pink cans behind the break that would constitute the start area and a beach finish at Palm Beach? Neither of these were the case.


I waited a bit on the grass and went down to Freshwater Beach in the northern corner about half an hour after the briefing. About 50 paddlers were making their way through the 3ft surf. A few paddlers were coming off but it didn’t seem like anyone was in any real danger. If you waited for the sets to come through there were large lulls in between. After about 100 paddlers got out, then everything seemed to go pear shaped. One paddler got swept into the flags in the middle of the beach and the lifeguard tried to stop everyone going out. This was ok, as he seemed to have control. This is when the clubby patrol got involved and all hell broke loose after that.


They launched about 6 IRBs and were yelling at people on the beach. They were zooming in and out of the break creating havoc. It became a circus! After a ten-minute break they would only let 10 people out at a time for the remaining 100 still on the beach. You can only imagine how long that would take… At this time as there were no pink cans out the back, like you advised, and ultimately paddlers had nowhere to hover around. There was also no communication between the organisers on the beach to the pack out the back. So they just started paddling out what could only be assumed to be 3-4km with a media boat following.


Once people start paddling they just go. I’ve seen a few posts about the culture of paddlers breaking the start. And yes it is an issue, however despite me not being in that group this time, I think this race is an exception to that call. I do know for a fact that many of the elite paddlers stopped the pack multiple times telling everyone to stop and go in. However many other paddlers refused to listen. But how can you blame the paddlers out the back? They had no idea what was going on? There was no communication whatsoever? I was probably a kilometre behind them… but how was I to tell them what was going on? I shouldn’t have to! I assumed the organisers would have told them? What about safety? Paddlers being that far out to sea with no water safety is downright dangerous! What’s the point of enforcing safety on the shore if there is no safety once paddlers are on the water? Is it mismanagement? Or was there just no water safety?


I had paddlers asking me what was going on. I had no idea. I was in two minds, do I just hang around or do I just paddle off with the mob down the coast? Do they know something I don’t? I nearly just paddled to the beach and went straight to the airport. There was so much confusion and I’m sure everyone has their own story! But who is to blame? I just floated down the course angry at my decision to go down to compete. But by the end, I was over it. I refused to cross the ‘deep water’ finish line. We were told it was a beach finish?


I believe something constructive needs to come out of this. Otherwise an event steeped in tradition will be lost forever. After this weekend I do not think the current organisers can handle that many people racing or the task of organising such an event. And that’s fine, event management isn’t for everyone but they need to hand it over to someone that can do it properly.


You said you won’t be giving refunds and all prize money will be pushed to next year. Who does that help? No one will be there next year anyway at this rate! Paddlers should be either getting a refund for an event that basically didn’t happen or at a minimum free entry if the event goes ahead next year! Think about the Kiwi’s they would have spent up to $1200 bucks to do the event, or the guys from Perth, $800. What about the QLD & Tasmanians $600? This isn’t just going to go away! Everyone has a bitter taste in their mouth. They all expected to come to a well – run event.


Something constructive needs to come out of this. Whether you as the management of the event sack yourselves or a new event is created? But the paddling community needs some kind of explanation! The sport needs to move forward not backward. The elites, punters and paddlers of all levels need an answer. It was one of the most expensive events to enter and essentially it just became a disorganised training paddle. It’s just not good enough.


The biggest problem coming out in the wash of this event is the lack of communication once paddlers went in the water at the start and after the event. I just can’t understand how an event can be stuffed up so badly? It’s not that hard! The paddling community needs answers. There are no results, don’t bother with that. Tell us why what occurred, happened? And how you are going to rectify your mistakes? Who is to blame? Why there wasn’t a contingency plan? This should all be detailed in an apology to the 250 paddlers who paid money for a service that wasn’t provided. I hope something constructive can come out of this.


We all deserve a response and outcome by Wednesday 6pm.


I look forward to your response,


Kind Regards,


Michael Booth

Source: http://mgbooth.com.au/ocean-ski/an-open-letter-to-the-20-beaches-organising-committee/ 

Dawid and Nikki Mocke-South African Champs!

Dawid Mocke claimed the South African championship at Fish Hoek, South Africa, beating out hard charging Simon Van Gysen for the top spot.  Matthew Bouman came in third, with Sean Rice fourth and Jasper Mocke fifth. 

Nikki Mocke handled business on the women's side.  Bianca Beavitt arrived in second with Kim Van Gysen third, Chloe Bennett fourth and Rebecca Newson fifth.on

Braxton Carter


South Dakotan Braxton Carter began fishing off kayaks seven years ago.  After having a go at an area race in his fishing kayak, he decided to have another shot in a faster boat, this time in a 24 inch wide sea kayak.  

In the natural progression of those with competitive juices in full flow, he soon opted for pure speed and found his way to the surfski; a Stellar SES.  Remarkably, within a week and a half of buying the narrow, 16.5 inch wide SES, Carter used it in the 50 mile Fort to Field race-finishing the full course and only taking one swim!  

Braxton prefers long distance marathon racing and has competed in 32, 50, 72 and 340 mile long races. He realized he would need a more stable boat to compete in his preferred long distance events and has since switched to a Stellar SEI, a Fenn Mako XT and an Epic V7.


He is currently prepping for 2016 by logging miles with others in the nearby paddling community from the South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Association and at the Sioux Falls Whitewater Park. 

One of his primary goals for the coming year is to compete in a proper ocean race as well as continue to improve his standings at regional events.



Age: 27

Years Paddling: 7

Education: Business Administration and Automotive Technology

Employment: Insurance/Investments

Ultimate Paddling Destination: Tarifa Spain

Palmarès:  Dam and Back Challenge-Course Record

           MR340 finisher in first attempt





Southeast Paddle Series a go for 2016

The Southeast Paddle Sports Series will return for 2016.  Although there was some speculation that organizer John Wellens would be stepping down and possibly folding the series, support from others in the paddling community has Wellens pushing forward for the coming year with the help of others. 

John Wellens   

John Wellens


Preliminary events include:

May 17 - Paddle Jam (by Kayak Trader) 


June 4 - Paddle Bender 


August 6 - Paddle Grapple 


Sept 17 - Tybee Island


Sept 24 - Port Royal Paddle Battle


Oct 1 - Kayak Trader Challenge

A final listing with dates and the possible addition of other races will be announced shortly.

You can check out the SEP series site here:



Off Season Workouts-Teneale Hatton

Here in the northern hemisphere, the cold weather for many signifies scaling back time on the water in favor of jacking iron in a heated gym.

So we checked in with current ICF World Surfski Champion, 1000 meter world record holder and general Valkyrie of the double blade-Teneale Hatton, to get her take on off season base training.  

SN: How do you train in your off-season?

TH: I guess I am pretty lucky as I am able to paddle all year round, but in my base phase I put more emphasis on strength and technique, so when I get into the big stuff on the water I am in good condition to handle the load. I always make core strength my primary focus - this is the starting point for overall strength and muscle control and is one of the most important if not the most important muscle group for paddling.

SN: What would your usual sessions look like?

TH: I usually do core 6 days a week in the off season. This is either done after a paddling or running session or to finish off a gym session. It only takes ten minutes but the benefits are worth it. I try to replicate the movements I do in my boat as well as controlling exercises such as prone holds and balancing exercises.

SN: What about weights?

TH: I try to keep my weights fairly simple, especially when trying to take the weight up. I don't do any funny twisting stuff with heavy weight that I wouldn't naturally do in my boat. Bench press, bench pull, chin ups, press ups, lat pull downs, tricep pulls and one arm rows are some of my favourites and make up most of my program for the year. I usually start off trying to build up base strength and endurance so lots of reps with light weight. This means you can do the movements with good control and technique while building up strength and endurance which also limits the likelihood of injuries. In my base phase I usually do about 3-4 solid weight sessions a week and 3 chin up sessions a week building up from 100-200 chin ups over the off season.

Southeast Paddle Trip--- Ted Burnell

Kicking off the trip with a race.   

Kicking off the trip with a race.



Sometimes, you just have to pack up the ski and hit the road. Last year I was itching to put my office job far from my mind and immerse myself in a solid week of paddling. I was already going to be traveling for a race, so I decided to turn that trip into a week of paddling exploration. I also decided this would be a great opportunity to meet some people from the Facebook paddling community that I’ve corresponded with but never met.

It started with a drive from my hometown of Chattanooga, TN to Santee, South Carolina to race surf ski at the North Shore Cup put on by EliteOceanSports, LLC. This is where I finally got to meet Mark Smith, and Wesley Echols. The Elite team of Mark Smith and Mark Mackenzie put on an incredible race and a first place finish in the four mile race was a sweet way to start my trip off.

From there I drove south with a stop to paddle my SUP on the Santilla river in Georgia. The Santilla is a beautiful tidal river flat that had nearly as much suspended mud as water. This paddle was a nice respite from driving and was right off I-95. I had brought my SUP to paddle any waterways that could damage my ski, but as we’ll see later, I should have stuck to this plan.

I then pushed south to Paddleboard New Smyrna Beach to demo some OC-1 outriggers and got to meet Erik Lumbert, a hell of a great guy. Unfortunately, the OC-1 I paddled was so nice I was bitten by the bug. I ended up buying one a year later.

I stayed overnight in New Smyrna Beach and started the day off with a sunrise run on the beach followed by 8 miles of paddling my surf ski in a mangrove river that had more twists and turns than I could count! Lots of wind, current and shallows made that paddle fun and challenging. Luckily my Think Uno Max slices against current like it's barely there.


Finally I headed south to refuel spent calories and rest at my parents in Palm Bay, FL. I did manage to get a sweet but extremely windy paddle on canals in some flooded plains in a wilderness area off the St. Johns River. My SUP proved to be a good choice for plowing through some of the hyacinth choked sections.


After a few days of gorging on my Mom's cooking, I headed over to St. Pete's where I got to paddle with Christian Cook on his awesome OC-2. This was a sweet canal run with an open ocean light downwind return. Paddling outrigger with Christian is a rare treat to soak up some knowledge. As the size of the swells diminished, I’ll never forget him saying “the small ones pay the bills Brother!”

I ended up camping at Fort Desoto campground and enjoyed a nice fire for my last night in Florida. The next morning I had a sweet but all too short downwind run on my SUP, but I had to terminate due to shallows and no possible way back due to the intensity of the wind. My walk back to the starting point revealed I had paddled much farther than it felt surfing those swells.

The next day I decided to head north with a brief stop to paddle to the Suwannee river. Unfortunately, it was very brief and catastrophic. This turned out to be a run I should have used the SUP for. The Suwannee is jet black water due to the tannic acid content.

Trying to beat a setting sun, I was rocketing down the river on my Uno Max and hit a submerged rock with the rudder. This bent the rudder back hard enough to jam the back portion into the hull. I decided this omen meant the paddling gods were done pleasing me so I packed up and put a hard drive home. Thankfully a friend of mine is a master boat doctor and she repaired the ski to a like new condition. Sometime later that season I got back to that river but paddled it in my antique Futura ski with a kick up rudder and had a blast. One of my favorite bodies of water anywhere and a must do paddle.

If you’ve never done an extended road trip with paddling as the focus, you really owe it to yourself. I felt like a new person when I was done. Something about exploring new paddling locations is really invigorating. Combining it with old friends you don’t see often, and paddling with people you’ve never met is icing on the cake

Downwind Paddling – A Never Ending Evolution---Nick Murray

This summer I didn’t have the bandwidth to blog about downwind paddling, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of interest.   As I sit down to write this, I’m on a 13 hour flight to Tokyo,  so what better time to recap my summer of downwind paddling.  Yesterday I was a little surprised and very pleased to clock a personal best on a downwind run that I’ve done many times.   I went from a prior record average speed of 8.1 mph   to an average of 8.4 mph,  which confirmed for me, that at least I’m heading the right direction.

My obsession with improving my downwind paddling skills is stronger than ever and thanks to my very patient family and living in one of the best downwind paddling areas in the country,  I was able to enjoy at least an hour or two of surfing runs almost every weekend of the summer.   Although I live right across the street from West Bay,  I’ve discovered over the past 2 years that the open water along the western shoreline of the Leelanau Peninsula is really where it’s at if you’re looking for consistent runs.    The closest launch point for me is Leland,  so that is where I’ve been doing about 80% of my paddling.     The prevailing summer afternoon conditionstypically consist of wind out of the west / southwestat around 5-15 mph.    While not big, this delivers nice runs in the Manitou Channel on a very consistent basis.    The majority of my paddling is in 2-3 foot waves,  which I find is perfect for easily linking runs together.   When the wind flips to the North, the conditions pick up in a hurry and the waves typically get into the 4-6 foot range with a lot more dimension and complexity.

When I have the time and willing support crew to shuttle me I’ll do a true downwind,  but 90% of the time, I just do out and backs from the beach heading out anywhere from 1-4 miles offshore then turning around and surfing in.    The warmer the water the further off-shore I’ll go

Getting into the Flow

The out and back approach means that I spend a lot of time turning around and starting from essentially a stopped position.   There seems to be a pattern here that when analyzed and broken down can offer some guidance.   Typically the pattern is that the wave starts to pick me up, I accelerate hard to get on it,  get a decent run on that first wave,  but then fail toget into a linking sequence.  This also happens to be a very common scenario for many beginner downwind paddlers who just can’t break out of the cycle of paddling hard, catching a run, then getting hung up in the trough until the next wave picks them up and they frantically scramble to get on it.     The core problem here is that the boat speed is not steady and consistent which is making it hard to match up to the speed of the wave ,which is critical in order to get parked on the wave for that brief moment in time, which then sets you up to find the next run and leverage your momentum to  link it.

I have found that most of the time it is better for me to resist chasing the first wave with a hard acceleration,  and rather try to find a line that allows me to just start paddling steadily for 20-30 seconds so that I can gradually build up my boat speed and then start catching the runs.   This might mean that you have to turn off the direct line of the waves or just find a smooth route in front of you.  It may seem counter intuitive but I believe it pays off allowing you to be better positioned when you do start getting on the runs.

Smooth and Steady Wins

When I first started writing about downwind paddling, I probably overemphasized it being one big interval session.  While that is very true for most beginners,  I realize now that the elites maintain a much steadier level of effort when they paddle downwind.    This was reconfirmed for me when I had a chance to quiz Zsolt on what he was seeing when he had the chance to paddle with Hank, Clint, Jasper, Oscar and other legends.   With 100% confidence and clarity Zsolt said the best of the best aren’t doing full on mad man bursts of efforts, rather they are extremely steady, certainly putting in charges and taking the opportunity for a paddles down break when it presents itself, but generally maintaining a pretty steady level of effort as they stay in sync with the flow of the water.   I study a lot of video to help understand how the elites paddle in downwind conditions.  It is always challenging with edited footage because you can’t get a true sense for the cadence, but recently they had phenomenal downwind conditions in Tahiti for the SURFSKI World Championships.  The crew took some great unedited footage that is absolutely worth checking out.

Mental Focus

Like many things in sport, downwind paddling is as much a mental game as it is a physical game.   I find that I have my best runs when I’m able to detach and observe myself and what I’m doing and then intervene when needed.    Often it goes something like this…   self talk convincing me that the runs just aren’t good, too messy,  too stacked,  too fast to catch, etc..    It is truly amazing how fast the self talk starts in.   

More often than not,  when I observe what I’m actually doing,  I see that I’m on a fixed line,  not evaluating the runs from side to side and simply trying to paddle onto the biggest runs I can see.  Rather I should be working the small runs, letting them take me where they go and just keeping an open and patient mind until the big runs start to present themselves.   (In my experience the small to big concept starts to apply at around 4 foot waves and up.  Anything under that on the Great Lakes seems to be more of a single wave sizes with some bigger than others,  but not typically waves on top of waves).  It probably ultimately becomes an experience thing, but for me and my skill levels,  3 foot and below runs are very straightforward,  but as it gets into 5-7 foot swell I need a lot more mental focus and discipline to link runs.

So whenever you’re out there and starting to think the runs just aren’t good,  remind yourself that:

  • The elite paddlers would absolutely be working these runs to their full advantage
  • It never hurts to take a time out, gather yourself,  and start fresh
  • In bigger conditions, the small runs will lead you to the big ones.   All of the legends preach this and for good reason.   The small runs allow you to build a higher and more consistent speed which is what you need to match the speed of the big runs and actually catch and ride them them versus just powering onto them and immediately sliding down the face.
  • I really comes down to a steady ramp up of speed  and then when you have that top speed and momentum and get on a nice big run, you have to be immediately prepared to carry that momentum and add additional strong bursts of paddling to power onto the next run

Body Language

The holy grail of downwind paddling is parking your surfski on the wave and riding it for as long as possible,  which is all about finesse, body language, and timing.   A great example of this is to watch the really good SUP paddlers and how they move up and down the boardto milk the rides.   We can’t walk up and down on the surfski, but we can shift our body weight forward, backward,  make micro adjustments (both braking and accelerating) with our paddles and play with slight angle adjustments using the rudder all to effectively increase the length of time we spend parked in unison on the wave.

I’ve found that among all the other benefits,  the lighter Epic GT model really allows me to feel the small waves better than I could before.  Oscar preaches to always have a paddle on the water, and while I believe this is true for beginners,  as your stability and feel for the boat and conditions improves, I find that in small conditions, holding the paddle ever so slightly out of the water allows for a better feel of what is going on with the boat relative to the wave and I can make better micro adjustments to stay on the wave.

A good technique to practice is seeing how long you can stay on a single wave.  When doing this, I find that I have to resist the urge to paddle and at times simply give a little forward lean or turn the boat just slightly to keep it running on the wave.

I have also been playing with throwing my body weight back to raise the nose.  In bigger conditions this can mean driving both heels against the footboard and fully extending both legs and putting my back over the rear deck.    When sliding too fast down the face of a wave I may also brake with the paddle by digging in on the brace which can really help hold the boat back and prevent the nose from burying into the wave in front.   If you do happen to bury the nose, the best thing to do is just apply some strong strokes and power through it and continue accelerating until you reach a good run out in front of you.    If you don’t paddle hard after burying the nose, there is a good chance you may soon stall out in the trough.  To take that concept one step further, once you start coming down the face of a wave, essentially the ride is over and you have to paddle hard until you are well positioned to park on the next run.

Stability is King

The more I paddle downwind the more I realize that you simply will not reach your full potential if you aren’t in a boat that makes you feel rock solid stable and confident.   Good downwind paddling requires not hesitating even a split second, to put full power into your stroke, just when your boat is in the most precarious position imaginable and all of your self preservation instincts are screaming for a brace.   

When paddling with beginners, one of the most common things I notice is that just at the moment when a strong stroke or two will put them onto a run,  they are bracing because they feel unstable and in that split second they miss the run and fall off the back of the wave and into the trough.    This issue is further exacerbated when you don’t have the luxury of running a direct downwind and you need to surf the waves at an angle.   In this case, a lot of times the runs will still be there, but it requires you to be fully confident paddling full on with the boat at perhaps a 45 degree angle to the primary wave direction.    I know that before I achieved good stability in my boat, my modus operandi would be to catch the wave perpendicular then surf across it at an angle,  the problem is that I was bracing the whole time and by not paddling through it, I missed the opportunity to link to more runs.  Consistently the ride would end,  I would have to square back up to the waves and then restart my momentum to catch the next run.   In the end it comes back to way too much starting and stopping and max efforts, versus steady paddling.   

Another conclusion I’ve made is that there is a significant difference between stability in 2-3 foot waves, versus 4-6 and beyond.    Not only does the complexity and dynamics of the bigger conditions by itself require much greater stability,  but catching runs in big conditions takes a combination of catching the smaller runs, but also being able to apply full power and generate significant speed.   Then once you’re on the big runs, it takes as much or more stability and power to make the transitions.

Moral of the story,  if you wan’t to paddle well in bigger conditions,  but aren’t 100% bullet proof in 2-3 foot conditions,  you should probably consider a more stable boat.

Every paddler should experience downwind

Downwind paddling is ultimately what the surfski experience is all about, I know for me it has become an absolute addiction.   It is so much fun that I really don’t even think about that fact that I’m getting a workout,  rather it is a pure playful, adrenaline fueled, and meditative experience for me.    It is also important to note that it doesn’t have to be dangerous or extreme.   With a good remount and proper safety clothing and PFD, safety kit, etc it can be made extremely safe.   Additionally it doesn’t have to be a big day to go fast and have fun.   I find anything 1 1/2 foot or bigger is typically surf able and a lot of fun.   I’m still clocking faster times in 2-3 foot conditions than in 4-8 foot.    

If you haven’t experienced surfing your SURFSKI I strongly recommend putting it on your list of priorities for 2016!

Thanks to Nick Murray of TC Surfski

Source:  http://tcsurfski.com/2015/11/14/downwind-paddling-a-never-ending-evolution/