Ana Swetish -- Young Gun





  1. a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction

Ex:  American paddler specializing in big conditions

The top three women finishers from this year’s edition of the Gorge Downwind Championships revealed an unfamiliar name. Australian Olympian and Ironwoman series champion Naomi Flood claimed the top spot.  World Surfski Champion, 1000 meter world-record-holder and gold medalist in the 5000 and 1000 meter at the K1 ICF Worlds, Teneale Hatton garnered second place. But there nestled directly behind Hatton and in front of such notable heroines as Michele Eray, Maggie Hogan and Rachel Clarke was relative unknown Ana Swetish.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that she was a high-level multisport athlete from Australia or an South African ringer imported in to mow down any up and comers from the new world.

 So when it filtered back that she was a 15-year-old American schoolgirl, many were incredulous--even more so given the big conditions on race day.  Americans are not generally known for their big surf heroics, but a High School sophomore?

We spoke with Ana to find out more about our own homegrown power paddler.

SN:  Congratulations on your impressive result at the Gorge Downwind Championships.  Can you describe how the race played out for you?

A.S: Thank you! I was really excited on race day because of the huge conditions.  I wasn’t really worried about how I placed. I was just looking forward to going downwind in such awesome conditions. Off the line I learned a very quick lesson. At the horn, I just jumped on the first wave I saw and started surfing.  Turns out everyone else put in a pretty strong effort at the start and I quickly found myself quite a ways back. But I found my groove and was sharing waves with Rachel and Teneale by the narrows section of the river. At this point, I was just so excited to even be able to see some of the top women. I was able to keep up with Rachel and Teneale through the narrows and to Viento where I went more on the Oregon side and they more to the middle of the river. I got some incredible waves off Mitchell point, I didn’t even feel like I was racing!  I was just having such a great time surfing. I met back up with them around Wells Island and Teneale was ahead of me and Rachel was just behind me, which is how we finished the race.

Piloting the new Surge

Piloting the new Surge

SN:  What boat and paddle do you use?

A.S: I have been paddling a Fenn Spark for the last three years now and I have loved it! It fits me perfectly so I have not needed to add any pads or anything, which is nice. Recently, Fenn has hooked me up with their new Surge.  I have been having a blast in it so far! It is shorter than the spark, so it accelerates really nicely and is super playful in the waves. In flatwater time trials, I’m finding it to be about 3 seconds per Km faster. I believe I will be racing a Spark in Australia, but honestly I”ll be stoked with either one!  For a paddle I use a Jantex Gamma Rio small minus. I also have a Gara Odin S which I use occasionally and really enjoy!

SN:  Was this your first major race?  

A.S: Officially my second - I also raced the gorge last year - 6th place.

SN:  Significant improvement since last year.  What did you do to up your game during this time?

A.S: Over the last year I have been paddling a lot more.  It was really the first year my dad felt comfortable bringing me out in all conditions to train, so I had the chance to get out in much bigger water. The conditions at the race were a lot bigger than last year which I think helped me as well. I also got to go down to the gorge two times earlier in the year to train, so I felt very comfortable and familiar this year.  Finally, I think just growing up had a lot to do with it - both physically and mentally. My approach to training intensity was way different this year and I think it had a big effect.

In good company on the Gorge podium

In good company on the Gorge podium

SN:  Were you at all intimidated by some of the more experienced paddlers you had to compete against.?

A.S: I wasn’t really concerned with how I placed and I definitely didn’t expect to do as well as I did, so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure. I was just gonna go out and try my hardest and have fun surfing. But I can’t lie - it was pretty humbling sharing a podium with those athletes - I think I’m the only one who doesn’t have a wikipedia page!  The other thing is that literally everyone in the surfski community has always been so friendly and supportive. Pulling into Canadian Champs this year, Dawid Mocke pulled his car over and helped me unload my boat - how cool is that!?!

SN: Conditions on race day were generally considered formidable, is this an advantage for you?

A.S: Race day was incredible! Huge shoutout to Carter Johnson for running the race when others may have delayed it. I really love paddling in big and challenging conditions, and it seems to be a strength for me. The week before at a very flat Canadian Downwind Champs, Rachel and Teneale beat me by over six minutes, so the big bump seems to help me significantly.

SN:  What have you done to advance your surf and big water skills?

A.S: We get some good size conditions pretty regularly here in Bellingham bay and I have been getting out in them since I was 11. The paddling community in Bellingham has always been willing to help me learn how to paddle in waves and push me to get faster. I have also spent a lot of time in the gorge. The first time I surfed there was when I was 13 and I have been back many times since. I was lucky enough to do a training run with Austin Kieffer in conditions similar to those on race day, so I felt very comfortable.

SN: Austin Kiefer worked with you as well?

A.S: A few years ago we were lucky enough to have Austin come and coach our sprint team for a year. While he was here he worked with the team 3-4 times a week and he also would come out on the bay with me and help me learn to surf. Even after he moved to Sausalito, we have stayed in touch regularly. He has helped me plan my training and we meet up a few times a year at the gorge or in Southern California. He has always been very supportive and willing to do a session or two with me.  And his enthusiasm for paddling is so contagious! Not only do I get to work with Austin though, I work with DJ Jacobson weekly who was Austin’s whitewater slalom coach. He has helped me achieve big gains in funky water and has also been a huge help with the mental side of training.

SN:  Tell us a little about your background? Where are you from now and/or originally?  What do you do as a pastime? Do you have other interests?

A.S: I grew up and live in Bellingham. The bay is a 5 minute drive from my house and there is a flatwater lake less that half a mile from my house so I have always spent a lot of time in and around the water. I am a junior in high school, so I have to go to school and do homework, but other than that I enjoy swimming and hanging out with friends.

SN: How did you come to the surfski?  Do you have a history in other paddlesports or other sports in general?

A.S: My dad paddled surfski, so when the sprint team was started in 2013 at Lake Padden which is right by our house, my parents signed me up and soon after that my dad started getting me out in waves as well. I found I really enjoyed paddling in waves so that has been my focus, but I still train and race plenty of sprint.

SN:  Have you had success racing sprint K1?  Which events do you favor? How has sprint racing/training helped you with the surfski?

A.S: I have gone to sprint nationals three times now and every time I have gotten second in all my k1 events (to my k2 partner and best friend Elena Wolgamot) and first in all my teamboats. This year I was better at the 1000m because my starts are not super great, but my endurance is good, so it gives me enough time to catch up. The explosiveness of sprint has helped me in the surfski a lot because the short sprints are like catching waves. Also it just gives me more time on the water in a boat which is important. My sprint coach Steve, has also helped me a lot. He pushes really hard to be our best and encourages me to do both sprint and ski. A lot of the workouts we do are beneficial for both my teammates, who focus on sprint, and me, focusing on surf ski.

2018 Sprint Nationals

2018 Sprint Nationals

SN:  What are your future goals with paddling and racing?

A.S: I am going to the Doctor in Perth next month and am looking forward to getting some more open ocean experience there.  I have spent a bit of time in swell, but I know I have a long way to go before I’m as comfortable as I am in wind waves. I absolutely want to go to more international races in the next few years. I also have to think about college, so we will see how that affects things, but I will definitely keep paddling through and after college.  My dad tells me that I have to turn my seat around and try to get a rowing scholarship, but I’m still holding out for a surfski scholarship!

If it’s ok I’d like to give a shout to my sponsors: Vaikobi, Ocean Paddlesports, Fenn and Superclamp!  Also if anyone is interested, my instagram is @ana_swetish.


Stellar SEA Review --- Ian Black


A little over a year ago I joined the Stellar Kayaks racing team. I received an SEL in the Excel layup just less than a month before the 2017 Durban Downwind, the first and last big race for the year before I was to leave for North America to race the Canadian Surfski Champs and Gorge Downwind Champs in Hood River.

My first paddle was a 22km reverse Buffels Run from Fish Hoek in less than average downwind conditions. I was immediately impressed with the performance and characteristics of the SEL. I fell ill at the Durban race but went on to get 7th and 9th in Canada and the Gorge respectively, both satisfactory results. I met Dave Thomas and Ben Lawry of Stellar Kayaks USA in Hood River. Dave is a fairly quiet guy, evidently passionate about paddling and boats in general and has been nothing but supportive to me since I joined the team.

After a week of paddling the course in Hood River, both Ben and Dave pushed me to try out the SES, the slightly shorter and smaller Surfski produced by Stellar. Interestingly, up until that point, a lot of what I was hearing about the Stellar range (from the paddling community) was that the SEL was considered to be more of an intermediate level boat and the SES the racing snake. I found the SES to be narrower in the cockpit and up front, however not so much that I would consider it too small for me, as was suggested by some.

At the end of the week Dave, Ben and I got into fairly lengthy discussions around the possibility of a new boat. These conversations were exciting and provoking and I was optimistic about the possibility of a new boat becoming a reality. I'm not sure whether he had run it past Dave at the time, but Ben had already named the weapon the SEA. Stellar Elite Assassin.

The Sea

The Sea

The racing snake was to take a back seat to another new development for a few months, but I distinctly remember a phone call in December 2017, when things were going to get moving. We discussed the characteristics of the SEL which I had become fond of as well as the possible areas of improvement. It was at this stage too that I was absolutely confident in clearing the SEL from the "intermediate " class of Surfski having broken my Personal Best for the Miller’s Run 3 times in 2 weeks, as well as some good results in local races. There were a few drawings passed around over the coming weeks, but to summarize the brief, there were a few critical aspects that were to be addressed:

Water Line. The Stellar range have all got a distinctive upswept bow. Great for downwind conditions, this is often considered wasteful in flatter conditions. The SEA boasts a squarer bow-end with less rocker than the SES and SEL, without losing any functional waterline. It seems to be just as comfortable in the rough stuff as the SEL and holds a great line in the flat. Into the wind it slices nicely into the chop without any slapping.


Narrow bow. The SEA, particularly at first glance, is noticeably narrower than the SEL. it has been slimmed down to just a few inches wider than the footbrace, retaining the signatory pitched foredeck (only more rounded in the SEA) which is great for shedding water in downwind conditions.

Updated cockpit. This is where anyone who is self-conscious of their waist line would immediately become apprehensive. The foredeck transitions into a substantially higher-walled cockpit which in turn transitions into a rounded-out, slightly higher seat. The higher walls are a massive improvement on both the SES and SEL, and, provide a significantly drier ride. The higher cockpit walls drop down at the widest point of the bucket itself, making sure remounting is still easy. The seat itself is not much narrower than the SEL, but so precise is the engineering here that there is barely half an inch between the inside of the seat and the outside of the hull. My race boat was fitted with a debrito bailer which I operated easily with my heel throughout the race.

Behind the cockpit. The aft-deck boasts the traditional Stellar criss-crossing bungee cords, raised section for strength and neat rudder hatch. Flip the boat over and you'll see another new feature. One of the unmistakably Stellar characteristics is a keel-like hull toward the stern. Not on the SEA. This boat has been "shaved" down from the rudder (which has moved 2 inches toward the bow) to the tip of the stern. This has given it a slightly looser feel in the runs, without sacrificing and directional control. I used two different rudders throughout the week, one being the traditional 8" swept rudder and the other being a trimmed down high-aspect rudder at around 6,5". Both were equally as effective, and I had no problem controlling the boat, which turns significantly better than the SEL.

Paddling this weapon. I am 6ft 2 and 88 kgs (most days), wide-hipped and long-legged. So, I would guess I am on the larger and heavier end of the spectrum, particularly in the racing field. I love the width of the SEL and found the cockpit of the SES a bit low, especially in confused water. The SEA however, keeps the internal width of the SEL and SES but the higher cockpit walls mean that my size 11 feet are well sunken, ensuring a much drier paddle.



On my first paddle, the first thing I noticed was that the seat was different. It isn't anything major, but the slightly more rounded sides and squared off back of the seat was instantly comfortable with no seat pads as I am accustomed to. Great start.

Off the bat, the narrower catch was noticeable and as I dipped down the first little run off Viento I braced for that splash of water on my knees. It never came. The deck profile and raised cockpit walls made sure of that. I weaved my way down the 13km course up the Columbia River, through Swell City of course. I really enjoyed it how manouverable I found the boat when zipping between the short, steep runs.

The primary stability was rock solid, and only at some pretty extreme rolled positions did I begin to identify some instability, but certainly no more nor no sooner than what you'd expect from any other elite-level boat. Compared to the SEL and SES, I would say that it has the primary stability of the SEL and more like the SES when it comes to secondary stability.

I was able to accelerate on call, the narrower bow piercing through the bumps ahead and really throw the boat around to test its predictability and behaviour in the short, steep runs. The pic Dave took of me leaving the water after that run pretty much summed up my feelings and I couldn't wait for the next run. There is no shortage of speed in the SEA. Toward the end of the Viento run there is a patch of water which is a lot flatter than the preceding 12 km. It was there that I was able to get a really good feel for what the SEA is capable of. I did a few short-and-sharp max speed intervals, comfortably getting the boat speed up in under 15 strokes.

I did another run, the following day (Wednesday) which was a lot windier than Tuesday, still, I found no fault in my new toy.

On race day we had what race organizer and all-round good guy Carter Johnson would describe and "chronic " conditions. His pre-race briefing was long, full of detail and left nothing to the imagination. We were blessed with "proper" downwind (as Billy Harker would put it) conditions. The race, the conditions and the boat did not disappoint, my only regret is that I had used a plastic bag- covered seat pad to protect my nought for the 90 min race which had me slipping around a bit in the busier parts of the race. In hindsight, I didn't need the seat pad. Apart from a short stretch where I was in a bad patch of water, I had a great race and couldn't have been happier with the performance of the new boat. The boat was available for the week to be tried out by anyone who was interested, I look forward to hearing more from those who took that opportunity, I'm certain that reports will be nothing but positive.

Author with hammer down

Author with hammer down

All in all, I believe the guys at Stellar have got a winner in the SEA. Chatting to a few guys around race HQ in the week, one local had said that they’re stoked to see that Stellar has produced a “legit ski”. No one is more excited about this than me. Except maybe for Ben, he’s pretty excited too!



Everyone's A Wiener!


The role of Race Director is often thankless. There is very little if any, monetary benefit and with endless tasks to perform, something will often tend to go wrong. When it does, you can always count on a measure of complaining along the way.

R.D.’s generally do what they do altruistically; for love and promotion of the sport. As such, they try to provide an event that gives everyone something to enjoy--for this, they should be recognized and applauded.

One common way that this can be seen is the inclusion of multiple distance options. Many of the races offered across the United States have at least two and in some cases three or even four distance options ranging from short to quite long.

More options are better right?  Some competitors like the long haul while others, especially those newer to the game, may want to dab their toe in the water first with a shorter option.

And then of course, with more options comes the increased chance of bringing home some hardware as well--EVERYONE’S A WINNER!

But wait a minute;  are more choices really the better way to go?

The popularity of paddlesports are without a doubt on the rise, but even with the recent growth, numbers are still not anywhere near other top-tier events.  

The Math:

So if you take a medium-sized race with around sixty competitors, add in the standard system of boat classes:

  • High Performance

  • Fast Sea kayak

  • Sea Kayak

  • Recreational Kayak

  • SUP  12.6

  • SUP 14

  • SUP Unlimited

  • OC-1

  • OC-2

  • Tandem Kayak and/or Surfski

Divide in half or a third by gender.

Divide in half or so again by age divisions.

New division? Sure, why not?

New division? Sure, why not?

It’s pretty easy to see how watered down the overall number of sixty becomes once factoring in all these divisions.  At this point, with an even split, we are looking at 2-3 paddlers in each division. So you are virtually assured to place just by showing up and finishing.

Now, when you add another distance option, or maybe even a third or fourth, you cut that number down even more.

But I’ve come to believe that distance options do more than just reduce the overall competition, it can change the face of the event entirely, arguably, diminishing the “buzz” that can surround it. Imagine a Chattajack or Blackburn Challenge with 4 distance options? It loses its iconic appeal.

When you look at some of the more successful races, you’ll notice that most have only one distance option.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s long, short or somewhere in the middle. One distance identifies the overall “personality” of the race.  If it is short, it is a mad-dash to the finish straight from the gun;  while the long slogs become a war of attrition and mid-distance plays out somewhere in-between.

Here are a few examples:



3.1 Miles--Outdoors Inc-Memphis, TN---Very popular race with past notable attendees such as: Greg Barton, Mike Herbert, Oscar Chalupsky and a host of top regional paddlers.  When taking into account the current of the Mississippi River, finishing times have been as short as 16 minutes. Despite the short distance, it does not stop this event from being one of the most relished races on the calendar for many.

8.0 Miles--Shark Bite Challenge--Florida--Two distances, but very top heavy with elite paddlers in the eight.  When you can boast having had ICF World Champion Sean Rice, 12-Time Molokai Champ Oscar Chalupsky, Matthew Bouman, Jasper Mocke and world record holder Teneale Hatton tow the line, you know you have something special.

8.5 Miles--Battle on The Bayou, Mississippi--Always well attended with a wide variety of happy competitors, all the way from the top dogs down to those dressed up as crawdads.

13.5 Miles---Gorge Downwind Championship, Oregon--  Another two-distance event, and another which is extremely top heavy for the longer.  Quick sellout with over 500 entrants.

20 Miles--Blackburn Challenge, Massachusetts-- Long standing open water death march that serves up serious bragging rights.

31 Miles--Chattajack, Tennessee-- Race sells out in hours with over 500 entrants. Action speaks the loudest.

The interesting feature of all these races is not only that they all have either one, or at the most, two distances, but also that it doesn’t matter what the distance actually is. An event generates its allure from a variety of features, and a closer look at the above list demonstrates a marked difference in “personality” between all of those included.

What seems to occur with one distance is it “informs” you before entering for what you will be experiencing.  You will adjust to the given mileage regardless of skill level. This is why you see so many neophytes tackling difficult races such as the Chattajack.  If they had a shorter option, they might take the easy way, not do the work required, and miss out on the special feeling of accomplishment from completing such a lofty endeavor.  It literally brings out the best in you.

Go big or stay home--Sara Jordan

Go big or stay home--Sara Jordan

In fairness, having two distance options seem to be a reasonable middle ground without compromising the overall integrity of the event. In some cases, it may even be necessary due to conditions. Open water races especially benefit from a second, safer option for those inexperienced in bigger water.  But, aside from this exception, most races with one distance, regardless of how long or short, tend to bring out all manner of participants from elite down to rank and file. The ultimate bonus here: we’re all out on the water together, new or seasoned, fast, slow and all points in-between, creating good times for everyone in attendance.


Republished with permission from Chris Hipgrave.  For more great articles from Chris, visit

We’d been on the beach for just 2 minutes before the Mocke brothers started dropping nuggets of surfski knowledge on our international group of paddlers, underlining just how little I knew about the finer points of the downwind surfski padding. Over the next 2 weeks we’d be participating in their Downwind Camp at the famous Millers Run, South Africa, hosted by surfski legends Dawid and Jasper Mocke. The plan was simple … learn as much as I could and gain as much experience as possible from being in one of the global epicenters of surfski and led by two of the sports best paddlers.

Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Fish Hoek is located on the Western Cape close to Cape Town, South Africa and is the terminus of the famous Millers Run, the 12 km gold standard of downwind surfski paddling. This cute seaside town lies in a gap in the surrounding mountains creating natures own wind tunnel for perfect downwind conditions for a large portion of the year. As a result, you can’t throw a rock without hitting any number of the worlds elite surfski paddlers, including Dawid and Jasper Mocke themselves.

Dawid and Jasper are renowned for their surfski skills, but are also incredible hosts and educators, giving of their time and energy regardless of ability level and proficiency. They adeptly set challenges for each Downwind Camp participant as we safely navigated the turbulent waters of Millers Run twice a day as we gained confidence and grew our skill set. The Mocke brothers have truly created an incredible product with this Downwind Camp that will have a lasting impact on the sport.

Taking all the advise I could get from Jasper Mocke. Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Taking all the advise I could get from Jasper Mocke. Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

But there’s more than just the paddling to anchor these athletes in Fish Hoek. Incredible guest houses, like our “Tuscan Villa,” gastronomic delights like those found at “SALT” in nearby Kalk Bay and perhaps the best coffee in South Africa at “C’est La Vie,” all make it extremely comfortable to be based here. Any town that you can walk thru wearing your paddling attire and not get a second look, gets high marks from me.

The Millers Run itself is a short drive from Fish Hoek, starting at one of two boat ramps at Millers point. From there, you simply paddle out a kilometer, then turn left towards Fish Hoek and it’s game on. On big days, that 1 km paddle was often the hardest part of the day as we battled into the conditions before turning downwind for home. Some days the wind and swell lined up perfectly while on others, the wind and swell were offset, requiring a more zigzag course as you used the wind waves to gain momentum before throwing the nose in the hole of a ground swell for some big booming fun. No two days were the same allowing us to practice our downwind skills in varying measures. The 12 km run would take most of us 40-60 minutes to complete. On the water, we’re accompanied by Dawid, Jasper and a couple of the other talented paddlers, Alex, Luc, Dale or Ian. Bottom-line, we were in good hands, so if we got out of our depth, it wasn’t long before one of them would swoop in for the assist, or simply accelerate onto the swell next to you to yell words of encouragement.

On the biggest days, we experienced ground swells over 4 meters and 45+ knot wind gusts, with Dawid describing conditions as “extreme.” On days like these, we also broke out the double skis for those looking for a different perspective. Reaching speeds in excess of 30kph with Dawid or Jasper at the helm as you dropped into the bottom of a mountain of a swell, was more exciting than any carnival ride I’ve ever experienced.

Big day on Millers Run. Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Big day on Millers Run. Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Downwind Camp participants also got a chance to compete in the #nevercancelled Sea Dog Race. On the day I participated, several hundred athletes raced at a level of competition you’d only find at a World Series or Championships. At the pointy end of the race, the competition was equally ruthless with Jasper Mocke and Kenny Rice going blow for blow all the way to the run up the beach.

Chaos at the cans at the Sea Dog. Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Chaos at the cans at the Sea Dog. Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

So what did I learn? Too much to detail here, but confidence, speed, swell reading skills and perspective, all came up in significant measure. Heart rate dropped as did my times to complete the Milers Run. It’s no wonder that this area produces so many champions with this kind of training ground in their back yard.

The Downwind Camps are a unique opportunity to meet interesting paddlers from around the world as equally interested in downwind paddling as you are. The quality of instruction and leadership provided by Dawid and Jasper Mocke is unprecedented too. If you want to improve or learn to downwind like a champ, then surround yourselves with champions like Dawid and Jasper here in Fish Hoek and make the Downwind Camps a priority. I’ll be back next year to add more skills and experience to my repertoire.

Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Photo Credit: Cape Town Sports Photography

Kenny Rice and Hayley Nixon Win Cape Point Challenge


The Kenny Rice/Hayley Nixon Juggernaut just keeps rolling as the two capped their amazing year with yet another victory, this time in the grueling 50 km Fenn Cape Point Challenge.

Rice, who has been notching wins all year against the world's best was able to hold off a top-level challenge to finish the day with a hard fought victory.  Hank Mcgregor came in at second followed by Nicholas Notten, Jasper Mocke and France's Yannick Louse in fifth.

In the women's division, Hayley Nixon got it done again, besting 5000 meter World Record Holder Brigitte Hartley for the win.  Bianca Beavitt finished with a solid third followed by the promising young talent, Kyeta Purchase.

K. Rice successful year adds to his growing list of palmares:

  • 2nd Place at the Canadian Championships
  • 1st U-23 World Championships
  • 1st Overall Fenn Cape Point Challenge
  • 1st Overall Gorge Downwind Championships
  • Sea Dog Overall 
  • 1st Overall Breizh Ocean Race ICF World Cup
  • 1st Overall Peter Creese


Hayley Nixon likewise has also shown top form:

  • ICF World Champion
  • 3rd Place Gorge Downwind Championships
  • 1st Place Palm 2 Pines
  • 1st PLace Nelo Summer Challenge
  • 3rd Place  Perth Doctor
  • 2nd Sunset Surfski Race 1 & 2
  • 1st West Coast Downwinder

Weekend Roundup


Palm to Pines:

Cory Hill and Hayley Nixon continue to notch W's on their 2017 campaign as the duo take the win today in their respective categories at the Palms 2 Pines Ocean race near Sydney, Australia.

With the win, Hill asserts himself as the clear favorite on the elite stage. 

Rounding out the Men's top five was McKenzie Hynard in 2nd; Riley Fitzsimmons, 3rd; Sam Norton, 4th, and Bruce Taylor 5th.

In the Women's race, Danielle McKenzie claimed 2nd; Rachel Clarke, 3rd, 

Bianca Beavitt and Kenny Rice

Bianca Beavitt and Kenny Rice

Peter Creese:

Kenny Rice kept it close to home, winning the Peter Creese this past weekend near Cape Town, South Africa. 

Rice finished the 10 km race with a time of 50:27. Nic and Dom Notten finished second and this respectively at 51:03 and 51:50.

Binca Beavitt took the women's podium at 62:56 with Nicky Mocke and Kirsten Flanagan rounding out the top three.


U.S. Surfski Championship To Return?

After a two-year hiatus, the United States Surfski Championship has issued a statement of intent to return in 2019.  The San Francisco based USSC launched in 2003 and has played host to notable com[petitors including: Greg Barton, Dawid and Jasper Mocke, Sean Rice, Hank Mcgregor, Nikki Mocke and Michele Eray.


"US Surfski Champs is returning in 2019! After a long break, we plan on hosting the US Surfski Champs in May of 2019. We're in the permitting process right now and will update as soon as we get permit approvals. Tentative dates are early May- 2019."



$50,000 Euro Purse:

Sean Rice's Paddle Life website teased a 50,000 Euro purse for the upcoming 2018 Irish Surfski race.  No further details have been made available, but if the announcement comes to life, it will be the largest race purse to date in a surfski race.




World Surfski Series Updated Standings Released



(Click here to download the full men’s rankings)

With one (title) race to go – the Palm to Pines in Australia – it looks as though Hank McGregor has his second consecutive world series title in the bag.


1  Hank Mcgregor 3495

2 Jasper Mocke 3491

3 Dawid Mocke  3482

4 Mackenzie Hynard  3477

5 Oscar Chalupsky  3461

6 Mark Anderson  3426

7 Nicolas Lambert  3413

8 Lee Furby 3256

9 Maurizio Tognacci 3083

10 Michael Mckeogh 3054

11 Patrick Langley  2880

12 Shaun Rice 2500

13 Colin Simpkins  2715

14 Sean Rice  2498

15 Kenneth Rice  2498

16 Austin Kieffer  2487

17 Kyle Friedenstein  2480

18 Joshua Fenn  2450

19 Ian Black  2448

20 Bevan Manson  2445


(Click here to download the full women’s rankings)

In the Women’s series, it’s Rachel Clarke who is likely to gain points from next weekend’s Palm to Pines to take the win from Hayley Nixon and Kyeta Purchase.


1 Kyeta Purchase 3482

2 Hayley Nixon 2994

3 Rachel Clarke 2500

4 Michelle Burn 2500

5 Teneale Hatton 2496

6 Nikki Russell 2489

7 Angie Le Roux 2488

8 Tricia Gilbert 2473

9 Wendy Reyntjes 1990

10 Jenna Ward 1984

11 Tegan Fraser 1490

12 Chloe Bunnett 1489

13 Amaia Osaba Olaberri 1487

14 Sara Rafael 1487

15 Tamlyn Bohm 1486

16 Kirsten Flanagan 1485

17 Ana Swetish 1484

18 Sharon Armstrong 1481

19 Heather Nelson 1481

20 Lisa Gras 1479

Fitting Finale For Wall & Back 2017

Michelle Burn --Photo Graham Topfoto

Michelle Burn --Photo Graham Topfoto


The fifth and final race of the 2017 Illovo Suncoast Pirates Wall and Back Surfski Series saw victories for Hank McGregor and Michelle Burn, bringing down the curtain on the unusually extended edition of popular annual early summer surfski series.

The series had to be extended following the cancellation of two races due to dangerous conditions. Organisers then pulled out all the stops to give the people one last crack at the iconic 8km course to the harbour wall and back to Suncoast Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club, usually raced on Friday evenings but this week moved to a Thursday evening to accommodate the end-of-year congestion in family calendars.

Repeating his victory from winner McGregor out-classed a strong field of paddlers and showed that he is not suffering from the after-effects of a tough few weeks racing overseas.

"It's great to be back at the Wall and Back series having only been able to do two races this year due to local and international commitments," Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks' McGregor mentioned.

"It was awesome to get the win last night and support a local series like the Wall and Back."

The Wall and Back series is known for dishing up some tricky conditions and Thursday night's race was no different as paddlers had their work cut out for them over the 8km course. With that said McGregor's understanding of how to deal with varying conditions gave him the edge over the rest of the field.

"Conditions were quite testing with a heavy side chop which made it tough going to the wall and coming back.

"There was very little assistance from the ocean and I would say it was more resistance than assistance!"

Rounding out the men's podium on Thursday were Brandon van der Walt in second and taking bronze was Wade Krieger.

Thursday's final race of the series saw Fenn Kayaks' Michelle Burn take race honours as well as series honours with her three results which include two wins and a second handing her the title of Wall and Back women's champion for 2017.

Siobhan Sharp came home in second place in the ladies race followed by Kaylee Smit in third.

At the conclusion of the fifth and final race, Epic Kayaks' Matt Bouman was crowned overall series winner having won one race and finished two others meaning his three best results hand him the overall title.

Following an impressive series Gene Prato finished second overall ahead of 2016 series winner Wade Krieger who finished third.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS - Race 5 Illovo Suncoast Pirates Wall and Back Surfski Series

Overall 1.Hank McGregor 30:55 2.Brandon van der Walt 32:04 3.Wade Krieger 32:24 4.Andy Birkett 32:38 5.Gene Prato 33:27 6.Tyron Maher 34:10 7.Grant Van Der Walt 34:25 8.Murray Smith 36:20 9.Hamish Lovemore 36:45 10.Steve Cohen 37:04

Doubles 1.Steve Woods/Clint Pretorirus 32:14 2.Shaun Burgin/Donna Winter 35:10 3.Rowan Matthews/James Matthews 35:28 4.Malcolm Pitt/Greg Worthington 35:41 5.Jenna Ward/Luke Nisbet 36:05

Women 1.Michelle Burn 38:16 2.Siobhan Sharp 52:08 3.Kaylee Smit 55:38

Dream duo of Birkett & McGregor lining up Dusi assault



Andy Birkett dropped a bombshell ahead of the 2018 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon from 15 to 17 February by confirming that he has scooped multiple world champion Hank McGregor as his partner for the three-day K2 championship race.

Birkett has won the Dusi K2 title four times, with three different partners – Jason Graham, Sbonelo Khwela and Lance Kime, while McGregor has also won the K2 race with the “Dusi Duke” Martin Dreyer.

With McGregor entrenched in his K2 partnership with Capetonain Jasper Mocké that has brought them repeated world K2 championship gold medals, few saw the Dusi combination with Birkett coming.

“I raised it just before the Fish this year,” said Birkett. “I was amped that he took it seriously and then got back to me and agreed to race together.

“He is such a great athlete with a phenomenal pedigree that I am so excited for this year’s race,” Birkett added.

While the pair have fought it out over a number of years for the various marathon titles throughout South Africa, the 2018 Dusi will be their second major outing together, after having won the 2015 Umkomaas Canoe Marathon.

Their rivalry has developed a mutual respect between the two and Birkett is looking forward to paddling in a boat with one of the all-time greats of canoeing.

“Hank has raced some great Dusi K2s races, but with paddlers that might not necessarily be specialist Dusi paddlers, so I am really keen to see what we can achieve together. We have become good friends over the years and I have a healthy respect for him.”

With McGregor living and working in Durban and Birkett based in Pietermaritzburg, the Euro Steel team mates will have to plan their training time together, and give themselves enough time to work out the set-up of their boat.

“I have no idea who will be driving the boat! I am holding thumbs that I can,” said Birkett.

“The truth is I am happy to be in the back of the boat if the boat works well that way. I focus on enjoying my time in the boat, and with the way that the K2 combinations are coming together at the moment, I am really looking forward to the FNB Dusi in February,” he concluded.


The 2018 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from 15-17 February from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban.

Vaikobi On For Title Sponsor At Waterland Marathon

Technical clothing manufacturer Vaikobi has signed on as title sponsor for the Amsterdam Waterland Marathon with the longstanding race celebrating it's 46th running for the upcoming 2018 edition.  

The sponsorship is somewhat of a departure for Vaikobi, as the Australian-based company has in the past generally maintained support of only ocean races


Last year, Molokai winner and former ICF Surfski World Champion Sean Rice made the jump over to the AWM,  wrangling a hard-fought tactical victory over stiff competition from seasoned marathon veterans. 

2017 Winner Sean Rice

2017 Winner Sean Rice

In what could be viewed as firing a shot over the bow, Rice stated that he "would be back and would bring friends", possibly foreshadowing the inclusion of more surfski paddlers throwing their hat in for the race. With Rice's extremely successful 2017 campaign, including some work on K1 marathon races, it's not a stretch to draw correlations to the benefits he received from his flat-water training. 

Description from the website:

Race Info

The Amsterdam Waterland Marathon is an international canoe race where the great champions and the recreational paddlers battle for the honor of winning  Netherlands oldest and largest canoe marathon.

The Amsterdam Waterland Marathon has been organized for 46 years. The race  is one of the unique leading events in the international canoe circuit and part of the Canoe Marathon Classic Series  of the International Canoe Federation. By participating in this serie participants can earn points for the classic marathon world championship. The Amsterdam Waterland Marathon enjoys a growing international popularity because of its classic racing form in a unique Dutch watery landscape.

The international fame has led to a growing foreign participation and a revival of the canoe marathon sport in the Netherlands. The Waterland Marathon offers Dutch talent the chance to compete with international players in a familiar environment. The Amsterdam Waterland Marathon hosts the Dutch national championships of marathon in the same race as the international event.

Spectacle is guaranteed , the race consists of a mass start and two challenging portages . Portages in the marathon sport always guarantee a spectacular race . In this marathon a particular portage is even  more spectacular weather .

The marathon provides international competitors with a great opportunity to visit the vibrant city of Amsterdam after the competition.


Khwela & Ntondini Run Their Way To Ozzie Gladwin Glory

Khwela and Ntondini

Khwela and Ntondini


They might have been racing on a revised race course for the Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon, presented by Parklane Super Spar, but the result was expected as Sbonelo Khwela and Siseko Ntondini ran away from the rest of the field while Christie Mackenzie and Kerry Segal won the ladies race on Sunday.

Moving from its traditional home on the upper uMngeni River, the Ozzie Gladwin moved to the uMsundusi River this year and recent rains made the conditions ideal for the big field as they navigated the 20km from Camps Drift to the Bishopestowe Farmers Hall.

It was a well-calculated race from Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Khwela and Euro Steel’s Ntondini as they maintained a solid pace throughout the race and made sure they took advantage over the final portage into the finish.

“We kept up a good pace throughout and made sure that we were on the front bunch throughout the race,” the driver of the boat Ntondini mentioned.

“On the run Sbonelo pushed me hard because running is a bit of a weakness for me so it was tough but was great to get a win this early in the season.

“I really had to up my speed on the run because the boat kept sliding on my shoulder as Sbonelo kept running faster and faster,” he chuckled.

Everyone knows Khwela’s running prowess and he was satisfied with the early season result.

“I was happy with how our run went as we haven’t really had a lot of time to train together and we have only run with the boat once so far,” Khwela explained.

“It was surprising how strong we were today but we know that we still have a long way to go until we are ready for Dusi!”

It was a case of the young and the old for the other two podium spots with the experienced duo of Jacques Theron and Thulani Mbanjwa taking home second spot while the Under 23 duo of Stewart Little and Khumbulani Nzimande finishing in third.

Mackenzie and Segal

Mackenzie and Segal

The ladies race was an exciting affair despite the early break-away from the make-shift pair of Christie Mackenzie and Kerry Segal, who took advantage of the flat laps around Camps Drift.

The pair managed to get ahead and stay ahead all the way to the finish and despite the win, Mackenzie felt the pain of early season racing.

“The calves are a bit sore because we haven’t really paddled together, we’ve only paddled in one race together but it was nice to see where we stand going into the season.

“It’s a good wake-up call to get and it helps you realise how much work there is still to be done before Dusi,” Mackenzie stressed.

Segal will be pairing up with Kyeta Purchase for the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon and Mackenzie will team up with Bridgitte Hartley which will mean the ladies race is going to be an exciting showdown come February.

Completing the podium in the ladies race was the junior pair of Amy Peckett and Caitlin Mackenzie and the Peek sisters, Jordan and Cana, in second and third respectively.

Six-time FNB Dusi champion Andy Birkett is also currently in the build-up for the Dusi and with his partner away he teamed up with Jenna Ward for the Ozzie Gladwin and the duo paddled to victory in the mixed doubled category.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS – Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon, Presented by Parklane Super Spar

1.Siseko Ntondini/Sbonelo Khwela 1:31:14
2.Jacques Theron/Thulani Mbanjwa 1:31:18
3.Stewart Little/Khumbulani Nzimande (U23) 1:32:02
4.Banetse Nkhoesa/Alex Masina 1:32:48
5.Mmeli Cele/Maswenkosi Mtolo 1:35:09
6.Mthobisi Cele/Mpilo Zondi (U23) 1:36:44
7.Ant Stott/Clinton Cook 1:37:14
8.Minenhle Mbhele/Sandile Mtolo (U18) 1:37:35
9.Jason Graham/James Speed 1:38:14
10.Carl Folscher/Craig Carter-Brown 1:38:45

1.Christie Mackenzie/Kerry Segal (U23) 1:50:44
2.Amy Peckett/Caitlin Mackenzie (U16) 1:55:44
3.Jordan Peek/Cana Peek (U23) 1:56:33
4.Kim Peek/Cayleigh Shaw 2:01:03
5.Lorna Oliver/Melissa van Rooyen 2:01:36

Under 23 Men
1.Stewart Little/Khumbulani Nzimande 1:32:02
2.Mthobisi Cele/Mpilo Zondi 1:36:44
3.Jabulani Gwamanda/Nkosikhona Mabaso 1:39:09
4.Xolile Kondile/Bongani Ntinga 1:41:01
5.Siyanda Gwamanda/Khwandokuhle Mzolo 1:42:11

Under 18 Boys
1.Minenhle Mbhele/Sandile Mtolo 1:37:35
2.Dominic Leslie/Sam Speed 1:42:26
3.Kelly Tarr/Andile Mtolo 1:43:12