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.


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.