Latest Surfski News

Tuesday, 17 October 2023 07:11
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” I thought to myself a few moments after launching on the brand new V10 4G for the first time. It was getting dark; it was raining; the squalls were lifting sheets of spray off the water… directly offshore. What WAS I thinking? The answer is that I’m a sucker for new toys – and if I get my hands on one, I HAVE to play with it. Damn the weather, full speed ahead… Since then I’ve paddled the boat many more times, in much pleasanter weather. Here’s what I think of this,…
Thursday, 08 June 2023 12:42
East London, South Africa: Angus Warren watched helplessly as the shark’s teeth crunched through the hull of his surfski. “It seemed to go on and on,” he says, “pushing and chomping. I was thinking, why is it not working out that it isn’t food? “I can’t tell how long it took, but I had enough time to shout a couple of times to the others.” The next thing he knew, he was in the water…
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Thursday, 27 April 2023 18:42
CAPE TOWN - Hank McGregor and Josh Fenn convincingly claimed back their Prescient Freedom Paddle title on Thursday in a dramatic race marked by tough conditions and a rain-delayed start.  Conditions were extremely tough - a brisk northwester blowing spray from the big confused chop into the paddlers' faces as they headed out to the island.  Huge breaking surf on the far side of the island ensured a wide line but the wind dropped as the fleet started on the journey back to the finish, making it that much more difficult and energy sapping to catch the runs.  
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Tuesday, 25 April 2023 11:50
Last Friday, however, I paddled with Dawid on a windless autumn evening in Cape Town. Cruising from Fish Hoek to Muizenberg, we paddled together, stopping at all the coves to surf a few waves. In short, the operative word was "fun". This was a different Dawid - off duty - and, well, I've never paddled with anyone so noisy before. Whistling, singing, shouting to folks on shore - yahooing as he caught a wave. Heading home at dusk we crept up behind a group of seals lazing on the surface. Dawid began barking like a five-year-old paid by the bark...until…
Thursday, 09 February 2023 07:39
A look back - aaaaargh! A mountain. Let it go through... A smaller one, with a glimpse of something massive lurking further out to sea. Catch it, catch it! Sprint, sprint, you’re on it, here’s the break zone, keep going, keep going, the roar from behind and the sudden acceleration as a massive foamy caught up to me, keep it straight, keep it straight... Phew. Arrived. Panting. Stop the watch. ok. Made it. Empty the boat, pick it up to prevent it knocking you down. Done.
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Saturday, 26 November 2022 17:16
The South Africans cleaned up today at the most prestigious surfski race in Australia – arguably the most prestigious race in the world - taking five out of the top six places and the entire podium at the Shaw and Partners “The Doctor” in Perth. Defending women’s champion, Kiwi Danielle McKenzie won the women’s trophy.
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Saturday, 19 November 2022 13:01
Gold Coast paddler, Cory Hill, took first scalp in the five-event ocean ski racing series, the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week, winning the inaugural race today, the 24km Fenn West Coast Downwinder from Fremantle, just south of Perth, to Sorrento Beach. In fine conditions with a 16 knot SSW wind courtesy of the famed Fremantle Doctor, the start off Port Beach was intense with the top paddlers in a terse battle to make the first break.   But it was 33-year-old Hill – the 4-times DOCTOR champ who relishes the Perth conditions – who was able to shake the field…
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Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:54
It’s not easy to catch a rolling, runaway single ski in 30kt of gusting wind – and as they attempted to grab it, Alex and his doubles partner lost their balance and fell into the water. By the time they’d remounted, the single ski was gone – blown away by the strengthening near-gale. They turned and paddled back upwind to find their buddy.
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Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:08
Accident reports are easy to write when the story ends happily, but this one didn’t and it’s with a very heavy heart that I’m writing this, with a view to learning what we can from it.
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Wednesday, 15 July 2020 09:13
When the NSRI found Duncan MacDonald, he was approximately 6km off Smitswinkel Bay, drifting rapidly further offshore. Gale-force squalls whipped sheets of spray off the waves, reducing visibility almost to nothing. What Happened? Given the small size of the surfski community, there’s always intense interest whenever there’s a rescue. What happened? What did they do wrong? What can we learn from it? Clearly there are lessons to be learnt from any mishap – so here’s a description of what happened, shared with the permission and cooperation of the folks involved in the hope that we might all learn from this…
Friday, 24 April 2020 11:41
Durban – As the continued coronavirus lockdown grips the country, Canoeing South Africa will host a 24 hour Canoeing4COVID-19 event this weekend as a way to raise funds for members of the broader paddling community that have been badly affected by the lockdown.
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Wednesday, 11 March 2020 14:35
“Hey, Rob! Help!” The shouts penetrated the sound of the howling wind and crashing waves – and even through the noise it was obvious from the tone of his voice that something was seriously wrong. I turned and headed back upwind.
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Tuesday, 03 March 2020 14:43
Many paddlers use Personal Locator Beacons, or tracker apps like SafeTrx on their mobile phones. But handheld VHF radios are also a great choice to consider – especially when they’re DSC-capable like the Standard Horizon HX870E.
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Monday, 24 February 2020 12:01
I finally got my hands on a demo Fennix Swordfish S this weekend and did two Miller's Runs in succession to see if I could feel any difference in handling between the 2018 Swordfish S and the new Fennix model.  Conditions were challenging: False Bay was covered in whitecaps, whipped by a combination of a 25-30kt southeaster and small, confused seas.  The result?  I definitely want to spend more time in this boat.
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Thursday, 26 December 2019 10:30
The shark smashed like a freight train into Roger Swinney’s surfski in an explosion of noise and spray, knocking him off into the water.  “I managed to get back on the ski,” he said, “but I fell off again and as I remounted the second time, I saw the swirl and tips of the shark’s fins. “I didn’t see it clearly, but from the force of it and the movement in the water, it looked big!”
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Rob Mousley

“Bloody Awesome!” – 2019 ICF Ocean Racing World Championships

Monday, 16 September 2019 11:31 |

I knew a few of the paddlers had done the course earlier in the week and… my goal was to sort of sit with them and see where their line was,” said newly crowned World Champion Danielle McKenzie. “I had no idea where I was going. As far as race plans go, I had absolutely nothing… Just go pretty hard from the start. Yeah, bloody awesome!”

Jamo Porter, Danika Mowlem win Poor Knights Crossing in NZ

Tuesday, 10 September 2019 18:50 |

An angry sea and some supercharged paddlers gave the 2019 Zest Brokers Poor Knights Crossing ocean paddle race a dramatic edge with race records tumbling thanks to strong tailwind conditions for the event held in Tutukaka, Aotearoa.

ICF Ocean Racing World Champs - Weather Forecast

Tuesday, 10 September 2019 11:25 |

The weather sites are forecasting a moderate westerly wind for the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships tomorrow. We look at the forecast wind, waves, tides and currents and what this all means for the paddlers…

2019 ICF Ocean Racing World Champs - Briefing

Monday, 09 September 2019 16:18 |

The race organizers have just issued the provisional program and race course for the next few days in Quiberon, France where the 2019 ICF Ocean Racing World Championships are about to take place.  Here's what you need to know.

Where is it?

The event is being held near Quiberon, which is located on the southern part of the Quiberon peninsula in Brittany, France.

(The area is packed with maritime history, including the Battle of Quiberon Bay, 20 Nov 1795, between the French and British navies and an abortive invasion by French Royalists, assisted by the British Navy during the French Revolution.)

Winters are notoriously long and cold and Atlantic gales regularly smash the coastline… This isn’t an area noted for winter paddling!  But in summer it’s warmer and the exposure to the open ocean means that there’s almost always movement in the water, making for challenging, technical conditions. Given the location of the islands and the Quiberon peninsula, race organizers have a number of course options to choose from in order to create as much downwind conditions as possible.

2019 ICF Ocean Racing Championships Course

The organizers announced this morning (Monday) that the World Championship race will most likely take place on Wednesday, with the start some time after 2pm, when the maximum wind is forecast. The wind drops off on Thursday and Friday, the alternate days in the event waiting period.

The Masters race will take place on Thursday.

Both races will use the same course from the Gâvres Beach to Pentièvre Beach, just to the north of Quiberon itself.

course

NB: If the forecast changes over the next day or two, the course and program could change too!

Who’s Racing?

The Who’s Who of the surfski world will be lining up on Wednesday and an international crowd of masters paddlers on Thursday.

The 27 countries represented include: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mauritius, The Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, The Netherlands Antilles, Tahiti and the United States.

You can download the full list of entries here:

2019 MOC

Cory Hill (Aus), the defending World Champion, Gordan Harbrecht (Ger) and Hank McGregor (RSA) at the Mauritius Ocean Classic in July this year

Who’s going to dominate?

I think the conditions are going to be technically challenging, with small runs coming in over the paddlers’ right shoulders.

With moderate wind, and small waves, the paddlers are going to have to work the runs, accelerating left and then working right in order to stay on course. There probably won’t be much paddles-down surfing.

The paddlers with the most open ocean experience will have an advantage in the conditions and that inevitably means the Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders (especially in the women’s race).

Both the previous men’s and women’s champions are present to defend their titles: Cory Hill (Aus) and Hayley Nixon (RSA), but they have plenty of competition…

  • Hank McGregor (RSA) came second in the 2017 World Champs in Hong Kong and beat Cory Hill in Mauritius a couple of months ago. The World Championships is just about the only title that McGregor hasn’t one, and he’d love to take this one.
  • Mackenzie Hynard (Aus) came second behind Cory Hill at the Perth Doctor.
  • Kenny Rice (RSA) won the under-23 title in Hong Kong and won both the Canadian Downwind Champs and the Gorge Downwind Champs in the USA earlier this year.
  • Tom Norton (Aus) took the Nelo Summer Challenge title in July, winning both the men’s race and the overall bonus prize.
  • Gordan Harbrecht (Ger) put on an outstanding performance in Mauritius in July, coming second to Hank McGregor (and beating Cory Hill) in a sprint finish.
  • Sean Rice (RSA) won the first ICF World Champs in 2013. 
  • Plenty of other talent from France, Portugal, Spain, Australia, South Africa and many other countries…

hayley nixon

Defending Champion Hayley Nixon (centre) in Quiberon

The women’s race should be a huge tussle up front:

  • Defending champion Hayley Nixon (RSA) won the Mauritius Ocean Classic convincingly in July this year.
  • Teneale Hatton (NZ) won both the Canadian Downwind Champs and the Gorge Downwind champs his year.
  • Georgia Laird (Aus) came second in the Molokai Challenge this year, beating Hayley Nixon into 3rd position.
  • Angie Le Roux (Fra) knows this section of the French coast well – having won the Breizh Ocean Race in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018!
  • Bridgette Hartley (RSA), Nicole Birkett (RSA), Bianca Beavitt (RSA), Sara Rafael (POR), Rachel Clarke (NZ), Judit Verges (ESP), Amaia Osaba (ESP) will also be keeping the front runners honest… what a race it’s going to be!

Angie Le Roux

When the race isn't the World Champs, it's know as the Breizh Ocean Race - and Angie Le Roux has won it 4 out of the last 5 years - and won the inaugural event back in 2010 in massive conditions.  She knows this area like the back of her hand...

Race Alert! R250,000 West Coast Express Launches in South Africa

Thursday, 18 July 2019 11:55 |

Big prize money has been offered before in surfski races, but the massive handicap prize-pool is really going to shake things up,” said Russell Sadler, Race Director for the newly announced West Coast Express, and Operations Manager for the World Surfski Super League (WSSL). “At least, we certainly hope it will,” he laughed.

Nelo Summer Challenge - The Insights and The Drama

Thursday, 11 July 2019 14:40 |

Running down the water’s edge, Hayley Nixon leapt onto her surfski. As she took her first stroke, the paddler next to her, floundering, clipped her ski and she half fell out. Frantically she recovered her balance, only to be hit and almost knocked out again. “Just. Move. Please!” she yelled…

Sprint Finish at 2019 Mauritius Ocean Classic

Tuesday, 02 July 2019 16:11 |

As the three men rounded the point at Le Morne, “Flash” Gordan Harbrecht shouted, “Is it 16 or 18km for the race?” “Mate, you see that red object up ahead? That’s the finish!” Instead of the 3 or 4km that Harbrecht had expected, the line was only about 800m away – and the big German exploded into a sprint…

2019 Maui Jim Molokai Challenge Preview

Friday, 24 May 2019 13:53 |

The Maui Jim Molokai Challenge is a “challenge” no matter what the conditions – windy or calm, the heat and the distance make this a daunting race. So how do the paddlers prepare for the race? Here’s what you need to know about the race, with insights from some of this year’s competitors.

The Race Course

The Molokai Challenge is one of the oldest surfski races in the world, being run for the first time in 1977 across the Kaiwi Channel from Kaluakoi Beach on Molokai to the Manalua Beach Park on Oahu.

course

 For the very latest NOAA forecast, click here.

The race is just over 53km long and paddlers face a number of obstacles:

  • Just getting off the beach before the start can be problematic when a NW swell is running.
  • The sheer distance and heat are a major challenge, especially for paddlers coming from colder countries, and even more especially when the trade winds aren’t blowing.
  • Currents can play a huge part in the race and knowing what line to take and whether to head north of the rhumb line can make or break your race.
  • Towards the finish, the paddlers have to negotiate the notorious China Wall where there’s a wave that can boost your speed – or drag you over a reef potentially breaking your ski (and you!)
  • And the last 3km are on ever flatter, protected water, culminating in a 500m sprint to the finish, potentially into the wind.

 

finish

2019 Conditions

The current NOAA forecast for the Kaiwi Channel (as at 24 May) says,

Sunday: East winds 15 knots. Wind waves 5 to 6 feet. Mixed swell northwest 4 feet and south 4 feet. Isolated showers.

The air temperature is forecast to be in the high 20sC/70sF. The water temperature is currently near 27C/80F… so it’s really, really hot. Those “isolated showers” might be extremely welcome.

The first challenge facing the paddlers will be to get through the surf before the start. The beach is fully exposed to the NW swell and shelves steeply so that there’s a fierce shore break. With swell that big, it can break further out as well.

The key to getting out safely is patience and to wait for a gap between the sets.

Assuming the forecast is correct, and the easterly wind blows at 15kt, there will be fast moving runs to catch. But the oncoming ocean swell will make the conditions bumpy, technical and tiring.

 

tides

The current should be running with the paddlers for two thirds of the race and they should finish at the ebb without too fierce an opposing current (but the waters south of Oahu are notorious for behaving in an unexpected way...)

Cory Hill

Defending champion (and current world champion) Cory "Chill" Hill said he doesn't change much for Molokai.  "Just a longer race," he said, "Keep it simple".

He'll be paddling a full carbon Fenn Elite S.

  • Fluids: Watered down Powerade, and just the Fenn juice bottle of around 1.7l, slotted into place at the front of the footwell.  "I make sure I'm extremely well hydrated leading into the race," he said.
  • Clothing: Shorts and shirt.  (He does wear the Vaikobi V Cold range in winter, but not in hot weather.)
  • No sunnies, no paddle grips.
  • No wave deflector, but "Joshy Fenn is making some really good ones, so I'll be training and racing with his product."

he also shared some of his thoughts about racing, family life and the race itself with Tim Altman:

Clint Robinson

The highly experienced (and three-time winner) Clint Robinson isn’t expecting the records (set last year) to be broken. 

Tim Altman spoke to him a few days ago about his expectations for the race, and Clint shared some insights about the race and some of the other competitors!

Oscar Chalupsky

The 12-time winner of the race is notorious for using hardly any liquids during long distance races.

This year he’s paddling a Nelo 600 double with Seth Koppes.

His setup includes:

  • No gels, no juice (although he might, he said, take 200ml of water from his escort boat during the race). (Both men are Keto Diet adherents.)
  • Two GPS on his footstrap; one for navigation, one with speed, HR, distance and time displayed.
  • He’ll be wearing long pants (“shorts tend to ride up at speed”) but a short-sleeved shirt and “enough” sunscreen.
  • The boat has a wave deflector on the front deck and Oscar says he always checks the rudder lines, particularly.

Oscar’s predictions for the race? Cory Hill, Pat Dolan, Hank McGregor, Clint Robinson, Mackenzie Hynard, Austin Keiffer, Michael Booth and Alastair Day.

Oscar's been staying on Big Island in the lead up to the race and posted some phenomenal footage of paddling in the channel between Big Island and Maui a few days ago:

Hank McGregor

The three-time Molokai champion is back to have another crack at the race - and is featured on this clip filmed by Aussie Jim Walker, catching a loooooong run back into the beach in Oahu.

Hayley Nixon

South African, Durban-based Hayley Nixon is the current ICF Ocean Racing World Champion and won both the Double and Single Surfski Championships in South Africa in April in Cape Town.

Part of the Shaw and Partners Team, she paddles a Carbonology Sport Pulse surfski.

Arriving in Hawaii a week ago, she’s feeling at the top of her game for the race. Her preparations:

  • No gels: “I don’t take gels, I’m not a sugar-based paddler. More of a high-fat, low carbs. If I have taken any kind of gel in the past, it’s in the form of a nut-butter.” She doesn’t like gels in any case because of the hassle and time it takes to open and eat them. She admits to carrying them with her sometimes just in case, but has never had to use them in a race.
  • Fluids: Hayley uses water with electrolytes/rehydrate, not reliant on sugar. She’ll have backup fluids on her escort boat, given the heat and length of this race. The fluids will be in a fridge bottle mounted on the boat. (She doesn’t like the weight of camelback bags, although in short races she sometimes uses a small one on the front of her PFD.)
  • Clothing: She’ll use a Vaikobi Ocean long-sleeved top, high UV resistance. Aside from the sun screening, it gets wet which helps keep her cool. She said she’d probably wear shorts though; lots of zinc on the face, hat, maybe even sunglasses, “If it’s sunny, the reflections are quite hectic.”
  • Boat prep: She’s never used a wave deflector.
  • Paddle grips: She uses silicone tape on the paddles, bought from the hardware store and replaced every couple of months. “Quite a few people use tape,” she said, “or o-rings to help position hands on the paddle shaft.”

Tim Altman interviewed Hayley a few days ago on Oahu:

Rachel Clarke

The New Zealander has plenty of experience in Hawaii:

  • 2018: 2nd (just over a minute behind Hayley Nixon)
  • 2017: 1st
  • 2016: 2nd
  • 2014: 1st

She’s paddling an Epic V11 Elite, the black surfski weighs in at under 9.5kg/21lb.

In March this year, Rachel completely dominated the King and Queen of the Harbour race in demanding, technical downwind conditions in Auckland.

She said, “My training has been going well, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in so we shall see how it unfolds on Sunday!”

rachel clarke

Her race preparation:

  • Fluids: “I use electrolytes in my bladders; I’ll have one in my footwell with the tube pegged to my shirt.” She’ll have more on the escort boat, and when she needs a replacement, her partner and second, Sam Mayhew, will “jump in and change it out for a new one.”
  • Gels: “Absolutely, I think these are key!”
  • Boat: If it looks as though it’s going to be a downwind, then she’ll put a wave deflector on the boat.
  • Clothes: “I like to wear a singlet in races and shorts, unless it’s freezing.”
  • GPS: For navigation, she’ll rely on the escort boat, but in the ski, her GPS will be displaying speed and heart rate.

To prepare for the Hawaiian heat, Rachel spent sessions in a sauna at home in New Zealand. Having prepared inadequately for my own race back in 2008, I can attest to the importance of being acclimatized; the humidity adds to the stress of the high temperature.

Georgia Laird 

Tasmanian Georgia Laird is tackling Molokai for the first time.  She should be in contention, having won the 2018 Perth Doctor (beating Hayley Nixon).  Tim Altman interviewed her and her coach, Naomi Flood.

Mackenzie Hynard

No stranger to Molokai, Macca came 6th in the 2018 event. The 24-year-old is one of the younger paddlers who’ll be near the front of the race.

Macca is sponsored by Think Kayaks, the Think UNO his weapon of choice (and before I get a million queries, in this video clip of Macca riding a wave in Honolulu, he was trying out a Think Ion, but that's not his race boat!!)

Race prep:

  • Nutrition: Mars bars stored “up one side of paddle shorts”, 2l of fluid (1l water, 1l Powerade).
  • Boat: Wave deflector on the deck, otherwise no special prep on the boat.
  • Clothing: Stock Vaikobi shorts and shirt with a hat. Plenty of zinc and sunscreen.
  • GPS Setup: Macca doesn’t bother about his heart rate, “I just use it [the GPS] for splits.” Neither does he use it for navigation, “Take a line and hope it works!”
  • Attitude: “Get the mind in the game of hurting for what may be 4 ½ hours. Anything under is a bonus.”

Who does he rate in the race?

“Cory, Hank and Clint; their experience is so great. Then Pat Dolan with his local experience.

“Austin Keiffer. Young and new blood of Josh Fenn and Nick Gale.

“Boothy, even though on the SUP program no doubt will be up front.

“Ali Day, coming off successful Australian Ironman season and have won the most Coolangatta golds ever will be there, especially if it’s flat or small, as he will grind for days.”

Austin Kieffer

Kieffer lives in Sausalito, California and has been competing around the world in surfskis since 2016. Most notably he scored a podium place at the Perth Doctor in 2017. In 2018, he scored a 5th at the Irish Coast Paddling Championships, but injured his shoulder, scuppering his chances of another podium position at the 2018 Doctor.

He paddles the Fenn Elite S in full carbon lay-up. When I contacted him, he was scrambling to get a footplate problem repaired in time for the race. “Drawbacks of being the last Fenn athlete to arrive, I guess,” he laughed.

 

austin keiffer

Austin Kieffer paddled the Maui to Molokai race earlier this year

His race day prep includes:

  • Clothes: Vaikobi Ocean V Cold Shorts. “I use these because they are a little thicker,” he said, “and cut down on bum chafe. Since they’re always wet, they don’t make me hot.” Vaikobi ocean performance shirt, with the sleeves removed (“Kinda my signature, haha”).
  • He’ll be using sunscreen but, “I’m super anal about getting my hands greasy so I’ll put it on way before the race and then wash my hands a lot. Definitely need it for this race, though.”
  • No wave deflector. “I’ve trained without it and don’t really need one, aside from which, they get knocked off so often during event transportation and I don’t want to want it and then not have it!”
  • Fluids: “I’ve really tried to dial in my nutrition and hydration more this year,” he said. He uses plain drinking water with perhaps just a touch of Numm for electrolytes depending on the day and will have about 2.5l in a juice bag placed in front of his footplate.
  • Gels: Austin will be taking 6 gels, planning to eat 3-4 of them. “Last year I needed more than I had,” he said. “I’ll probably take one every 45min, washed down with the plain water, and I want at least 2 spare.”
  • GPS: He works with Time, distance, heart rate and average lap speed with auto lap on 1km. “The HR will really just be something I’ll pay attention to only if I’m seriously in the red or out in front,” he said. He added: “I’m racing to podium and as long as the thing doesn’t stop, I’ll suffer through any HR!”
  • Escort driver: Unfortunately, his known and trusted escort driver pulled out so he’ll be working with someone new. “But my dad will be my second, on the boat.”

Austin said candidly that his money is on Cory Hill to win the race. “But,” he said, “I’m going to set myself up with the best possible chance, and for sure I’m gonna be on that podium!”

2019 Freedom Paddle - Done and Dusted

Wednesday, 01 May 2019 08:36 |

Woah! They’re in trouble…!” I looked up to see a mountain of a wave racing in towards the northwest tip of Robben Island. A lone double surfski turned to meet it, the crew paddling frantically. Up, up, punch through the feathering crest… Phew, they were safe, but what about us?  

Hank McGregor and Andy Birkett out to win Freedom Paddle

Monday, 15 April 2019 18:03 |

Cape Town - Multiple world marathon champ Hank McGregor will jet into Cape Town for the Freedom Paddle double ski race around Robben Island on 27 April with the single-minded intention of winning the race with his partner Andy Birkett to add the prestigious title to his comprehensive CV of achievements.