SN: Tell us what you’ve been up to since moving to Nelo?
OC: Just like all start ups, which Nelo Surfski is, it takes time to get the perfect product out as well as getting all the fitting to work perfectly. At Nelo, we try and test everything a few times over. I have also been doing a few races in Europe and the odd clinic, but can only go big once we have launched our complete range.
SN: Nelo has dominated the sprint market, what will it take for Nelo to become a major player in the ski world?
OC: I would say we will keep on growing faster than other brands so over time we would like to get there but it will take a while just like it did in the sprint kayak world
SN: Can we expect to see a complete redesign of Nelo Surfskis or just slight tweaks?
OC: Yes, complete changes but still keeping the lookand feel of the Nelo brand. I would say they are more stable and have more comfortable buckets and footwells. I have kept the length which is a game changer.
SN: Haven’t seen your name at many of the races in the past year, are you taking time off?
OC: The only big race I did was the Nelo Summer Challenge, which I came in 10th. I couldn’t really go to races until I have Nelo boats in all the race venues. I will be racing in Cape Town on the 12-13th of December. I have transported a surfski there. I hope that I will do the full program next year with our new Nelo surfskis.
SN: You’ve been taking stabs at catching waves at Nazare. What has inspired this utter madness?
OC: I have always loved catching waves in my surfski. I spoke with Garrett Macnamarra and Grant Twiggy Baker about how to go about it. I have most everything sorted for next time. The break is very huge and it is a bit scary. It looks so small from the cliffs, but when you're out there it is huge.
SN: You’ve been in the game as long as anyone. Where do you currently see the sport going?
OC: It has been my life since about 8 years old. I designed my first surfski in 1977. I would hope it is evolving even if there are lot of guys that copy each other. I think it is growing with new young paddlers coming over from SUP. I think it is growing world wide with Europe having the biggest growth.
The USA is also growing very fast with the new plastic surfskis. There is a huge outdoor population that will find out about surfski paddling, they are coming from SUP which is big in the USA and not so big in Europe.
SN: After years of traveling, racing and promoting the sport, do you still find the same motivation to get out on the water or has it changed over time?
OC: It is funny, my motivation hasn’t ever waned at all. I have to train, so that I can eat and drink as much as I want. I still feel I can win races if I have some decent winds. I am back on the water and I would like to make 2016 a big year in paddling. I might do more clinics in Porto which is a lot easier then Durban where I used to live. Porto has some of the best downwind and flat water paddling in the world to teach surfski paddling. Just check out the Nelo Douro Academy, and the other Nelo training centres. I have become great friends with Nelo himself and I am really enjoying seeing him getting so enthusiast about surfski paddling. He is getting better all the time and his smile when he catches a run is something that keeps him and me going. He is a real competitor and I am sure he will keep improving so that we see him in some surfski races next year.
SN: More stable boats have brought many new paddlers to the sport, do you see any other upcoming trends in boat design creating a similar surge in popularity?
OC: Yes, stability before ability has been my saying all along. If you can jump on and paddle the first time you will get hooked. Confidence builds success.
SN: You've invested time and energy into the Epic brand; can you talk about the process of making the decision to move on?
OC: I didn’t agree on the way forward so I went my separate way. It was difficult, as I did build a great brand. Maybe similar to Kelly Slater and Quicksilver.
SN: Absolute best moment on the Ski?
OC: I would say winning my first Molokai and my 12th.
SN: Absolute worst?
SN: I wouldn’t say worst, and there are lots of them, but losing a race when I knew I was faster but made a tactical error, that to me is the worst. Come in 10th when you tried the best is actually not that bad.
SN: Nearest disaster?
OC: Actually not too many, but breaking my ski 3 km off shore and having to swim in wasn’t fun. I had a huge shark swimming after me which was scary. I have been in huge surfs in Durban and broken a few surfski’s in half trying to get in or out through the surf.