Surfski, Outrigger Added To Paddle For A Cause Race


ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY – There will be new event categories and prizes awarded to competitors who race around Absecon Island in the 12th annual Paddle For A Cause presented by Seashore Construction.

For the past 11 years, the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation only awarded trophies in three major categories: standup paddleboard, prone paddleboard and other; a catch-all category for all types of watercraft.

Trophies and prize money will be presented to the first three overall finishers in the new standalone surf ski and outrigger canoe categories at the after party of the 12th annual Paddle For A Cause presented by Seashore Construction, Saturday, June 8 at Golden Nugget Atlantic City. These previously fell under the other category and now, $250 will be awarded to first, $150 for second and $100 for third place for these races.

One competitor who requested the change is JC Malick, a surf ski paddler who makes the trip up from his home in Melbourne Beach, Florida to paddle in the race each year along with his wife and fellow paddler Lisa.

“It’s tough. Some surf ski and outrigger paddlers will come out and paddle their best race ever, and at the end of the day, they just want some recognition for their hard work. Above all else, the reason for this paddle is to support those fighting the fight against cancer,” said Malick. “I paddled my first race in 2013 in honor of my Aunt Betsy of Smithville, who lost her battle with cancer only a few months before the race. I know a lot of paddlers race and paddle in honor of those that they love who are either fighting or who have heroically fought the battle with Cancer including the race’s namesake and local legend Dean ‘Jersey Devil’ Randazzo.”

Malick was the first finisher overall in last year’s 22.5-mile race with a time of 3:31:48 and hopes the addition of the new surf ski and outrigger canoe categories will draw in more competition for him this year.

The overall course record stands with local surf ski paddler Sean Brennan who completed the race in a mindblowing 2 hours 44 minutes a few years ago. Prize money will be awarded in each of the new categories based on the number of new participants added to this year’s race and will ultimately be announced at the event.

“I don’t think the prize money is nearly as important as the recognition, said Malick. “But, there are some paddlers out there that could probably use the money. If I win any money, I will undoubtedly donate it back to the charity, because at the end of the day it’s all about coming out to fight cancer.”

In addition to the grueling 22.5-mile race, the 12th annual Paddle For A Cause presented by Shore Construction will feature and 8-mile race and 8-mile and 4-mile fun paddles again this year. These are open to all participants in all types of man-powered watercraft and all skill levels. Trophies will also be awarded this year to the top three overall finishers in the 8-mile race. The four-mile fun paddle ends at the Wonder Bar in Atlantic City and includes return transportation to the Golden Nugget where the event is being held and is a favorite of local fun seekers.

Anyone who has been impacted by cancer is also invited to join in an open paddle-out at 9:30 a.m. at the Frank S. Farley Marina. Guests will honor cancer survivors and victims by paddling into the bay on anything that floats and casting specially engraved memorial pocket stones into the water.

Honorary stones and keepsake stones are available with custom messaging for a $20 donation with all proceeds from sales going to the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation. The stones are environmentally friendly, 100 percent natural and contain no added color or paint. Stones can be purchased online at

All are also encouraged to come out and paddle or join on the Deck at Golden Nugget at 4 p.m. for an after party and awards ceremony. Tickets are $25 and include food and entertainment. For more information about becoming a paddler, fundraiser, donating or joining the party visit




Surfski Holland has put together a solid up-and-comer for May that may be worth a try if you’re looking for a reason to travel to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The race travels along the Wadden Sea and is touted as “having strong currents and long rolling waves, ideal for downwind conditions”.  Options include 34 km and 22 km distances for both Surfski and SUP. The course travels along a relatively protected area with a spit of land outside of the race line.

When you’re done with the hard part, just 35 miles to the south lies Amsterdam, which beckons to be explored for its variety of entertainment, beauty and history.

OUTRIGGER ZONE VEGA SURFSKI--First Impressions -Theo Burn

Hitting Shores

Hitting Shores

There’s a revolutionary new surfski hitting the market and it’s generating a LOT of buzz.    I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to paddle this ski and I have been getting deluged with questions.  Those that are brand loyal are asking questions with a hint of derision, while others are asking about it with more than a hint of excitement.

Walk Through

Walk Through

The boat in question is the Vega Surfski by Outrigger Zone (OZ).  Part of the excitement is that OZ makes their outrigger hulls using a different process than traditional ski manufacturers.  They use inflated bladders, pre-preg carbon fiber, and autoclaves to produce hulls that are extremely lightweight and rigid. This process makes a hull with no seam, with the hull and deck all one continuous piece.  When OZ announced that they would be making a ski designed by legendary Outrigger Canoe racer and boat designer Kai Bartlett, there was a lot of excitement and speculation about what final product would emerge. When Kai first built a foam blank prototype and raced in Hawaii against a stacked international field of pros, the excitement built even further— When he placed highly in an elite field with a heavy prototype— the buzz went through the roof.

Demo boats are hitting the dealers, and we were lucky enough in Chattanooga to have a demo day on the first day of spring.  Jeff Schnelle of Paddle Dynamics brought his load of OZ canoes and the Vega along with various paddles and Epic skis. Jeff himself hadn’t paddled the Vega since he unwrapped it because his home state  waters have been frozen solid, so he was gracious enough to let me have the maiden run in this groundbreaking ski on a beautiful sunny day here in the south.

I had seen photos of the ski, but for some reason, photography could not do the stunning paint job any justice.  A white hull, metallic silver deck and red bucket and gorgeous styling gave this boat the looks of a 67’ Corvette!   Kai’s styling influence is seen in the front and rear recessed deck bungee locations. I have two Kai Bartlett outrigger canoes and I really like that continuity of his design into this ski.  Between the paint and the design, this is simply the most visually stunning surfski I have ever seen. I think the new Revo skis coming soon to the US are eye-catching as well, but it will be more similar to a Lamborghini Countach than the flowing lines of the Vega.

Nice Lines

Nice Lines

Of immediate interest to me was the bailer.  There was a lot of speculation about whether it would be a trap door type (Debrito, Anderson, Epic) or bullet scuppers.   Turns out, it’s a plunger actuated drop down bullet bailer. My messing with it on the water was inconclusive, but it seems easy to foot operate opening and closing the bailer.  I didn’t mess with it much, as I didn’t want my inattention to result in a swim in 45 degree water, however, I think the concept is innovative, and I’m interested to see how others experience turns out for them.

The footboard used  simple tightening cams that were essentially bicycle hub quick releases—It was infinitely adjustable, and very quick to change. The design DOES require tightening or loosening of the rudder lines and tying them off—This only takes seconds however.

But this review is not going to be about technical aspects of the ski, much of which I don’t have at my fingertips.  This is about first impressions of paddling this new ski! Immediately I was shocked at the impressive initial stability of this sub 17” wide ski.  Once I started playing around in it, I realized the secondary stability was equally impressive. I would rate the stability of this boat somewhere between the Think Evo II and the Think Ion.  I use these skis as reference as I’ve owned both and currently own an Ion. This stability is most likely due to the very low bucket position. Not only is the bucket very low, but the bucket is quite narrow.  I have wide hips, and I was quite snug. The fit reminded me of my Gen 2 Uno Max. This lower seat position had me working hard not to ding up the sides of the hull with paddle. If I have a chance to paddle this ski again, I’d try to fit it with a small seat pad.  Of course, I’d leave the seat pad at home if I had a chance to do a downwind in this ski! My guess is most elite paddlers will pad this seat for better comfort, hip rotation and power.

Putting the Vega through it’s paces

Putting the Vega through it’s paces

In the dead flat conditions with a surf rudder and a fair amount of rocker, this ski didn’t glide for days, but made really nice speed.   My racing and training partner Jason Hjelseth did numerous hard back to back pushes in this ski and his Nelo 560 and posted nearly identical numbers.   The pronounced front rocker of this ski and minimal tail volume make this boat look like a shark aggressively cruising with its head partially out of the water.  This rocker up front should really help downwinding, but trades a little speed in the flats.

Jason Hjelseth Having A Go

Jason Hjelseth Having A Go

This lightweight ski is extremely stiff, and feels like my previous Outrigger Zone Storm OC-1.   There’s just a feel that these super thin, rigid boats have that differ from the skis with conventional layups.   I like it, and I’m sure crossovers from the outrigger world will like it as well. I’m guessing ski only paddlers may find it a bit skittish, but we’ll see.   I’m excited to see the reactions from others.

The larger rudder on the demo boat was definitely more suited to the surf than flats.  Combined with its rocker the demo boat had slalom kayak turning. Sadly, the test paddle only had glassy smooth flat water so I didn’t get to see how this translated in the waves.   I hope someone (I really hope it’s me!) can do a follow up article on how this ski behaves in the rough.

Speaking of rudder, this ski had a very pronounced rudder “thump” during very hard turns.  I initially thought I hit a wayward limb during my turn. I was able to recreate it on every hard turn.  All of my ruddered craft do this as well but it may this boats rigidity and lightweight that transmits this effect more.  I was VERY pleased to figure out I hadn’t hit anything!

Every new ski and make that has hit the market has made the sport better in some way.  Every new model and brand has brought innovation, improvements and selection. Increasingly there are skis that fit every body type, size, paddling style, and conditions.    The ease and enjoyment of the skis you paddle now are in large part due to the new players changing things up, seeing what works and what doesn’t. I’m certain the stunning new Vega will have an impact on future generations of skis, and may certainly be making an impact in race standings.

If the success of Kai Bartlett’s outrigger canoes translates into the surfski world, there is a significant new player in our sport.


About the Author—Ted Burnell AKA “Theo Burn”, is a seasoned paddler and racer with a wide range of experience on a variety of paddle craft including: OC, Canoe, SUP and Surfski and team boats.

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.

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