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Happy 45th Birthday Rob Mousley

Saturday, 17 May 2008 15:52 | Written by 
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VIP Rob enjoys a beer in Dubai
VIP Rob enjoys a beer in Dubai

[Editor: This feels weird - I knew nothing about this article until a few minutes ago - but it's a nice surprise! Thanks Al!]

Since you are reading this article on surfski.info, it is very likely you will come across the name 'Rob Mousley'. Rob is the joint founder of surfski.info and is a prolific writer and avid surf-skier. In the 3 years of surfski.info's existence, Rob has published over 600 articles which have generated nearly 5 million pageviews from readers all over the world.

Sunday 18th May is not only the day of surf-skiing's most famous race, the Molokai Crossing, but, by some huge co-incidence, it is also Rob's 45th birthday. Rob is currently in Hawaii and will be realising a dream of taking on the winds and ocean swells to make the 56km crossing from Molokai to Oahu. In the last few weeks Rob has written a number of articles profiling the world's top surfski paddlers, and I thought it would be a good idea to profile Rob himself!

Who is Rob Mousley?

Rob was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where he grew up and went to school.  Rob has always had an inclination towards water sports: at school he learnt to sail and he and a friend, John, were East African Fireball (sailing) Champions for a number of years.  In 1981, Rob came to South Africa to study Engineering at the University of Cape Town.  Sailing proved too time-consuming and, in the Cape’s frigid waters, unpleasantly cold for a tropical boy, so Rob turned to diving instead.  In 2000, he started surf-skiing, and it soon became his favourite pastime. 

Rob's obvious passion (obsession?) is surf-skiing and, in particular, downwind paddling. He has paddled something like 60 Miller's Runs this summer.  He paddles several times a week, throughout the year, and is a keen participant in the local racing series.

Rob Mousley Durban 2007
Rob before the Durban World Cup 2007

Rob is now is at an age where we can call him eccentric rather than weird. One of the first things I noticed about Rob was his strange mix of high-tech and low-tech. His paddling buddies call him "Gadget Man": on his belt are his ever-present cell phone and Leatherman knife. When he paddles, it is with a cell phone, VHF radio, GPS, PFD, helmet cam, camera, flares…you name it, he has it. Yet, amongst all this technology, he will always wear his low-tech spectacles tied in place with an even lower-tech piece of frayed string. How he sees through the droplets and spray I don't know.

In the “real world” of earning a living, Rob works in Information Technology and currently leads a team of programmers at Grapevine Interactive, creating mobile communication applications. Rob is married to Louise, who teaches English at a local Waldorf school and they have an 11 year old daughter, Zoë. They recently moved house to the leafy, rural surroundings of Noordhoek in Cape Town. (Rob’s house is the one with surf-skis dangling all over the garage and paddling gear strewn around.) Surprisingly, Rob does have quite a number of interests outside surf-skiing, and one of them is books, and, in particular, books about the Second World War.  The Noordhoek house has room for quite an acreage of bookshelves, but it’s a safe bet that it won’t be long before they’re all full.  (Louise is waiting in some trepidation to see how many literary souvenirs of Pearl Harbour will be smuggled home!)

Rob's gifts are communication, enthusiasm and energy. He has a huge network of contacts; his cell phone and email are constantly abuzz with calls and messages. It is tiring to watch, but we are fortunate to benefit from these gifts at Surfski.Info. Rob's hope is to one day be in a position to 'work' full time on Surfski.info travelling to exotic places, paddling and writing.

Rob Mousley Cape Point 2007
Rob - finished in Fish Hoek (Cape Point Challenge 2007)

Rob tell us about your training for the Molokai.

I didn't do as much as I wanted, trying to balance work, home and surfski.info with paddling, but I've done a personal record number of Millers Runs this year (logged about 55 for the season) interspersed with some 30km flat paddles when the wind wasn't blowing and I've done two 46km paddles across False Bay.

I did a fair amount of gym work too, focussing on developing core strength and fitness - so I hope that pays off. 

I should have done more flat water work - quality sprints and so on - but the wind blew too much this summer, and I was just having too much fun on the downwind runs (I figure that downwind paddling resembles intervals in any case!)


How do you feel about the race, it looks like it is going to be a tough one, are you ready?

Not really!  I was gearing myself up for downwind conditions but it looks as though we're not going to get them!  I'm going to take plenty of juice; I'm going to take it easy and try not to get overheated.


You have paddled with the best surf skiers in the world, what have you learned from them?

Just how little I know!  I had a ten minute "refresher course" from Oscar Chalupsky in the waves on Monday and it's extraordinary how he has an instinct for the waves.  I have concentrate so hard to watch for the dips coming from either side and to try to decide when to accelerate to get onto the next one.  It's obvious that he doesn't even have to think about it - he's a magician in the waves.

From Dawid I guess the biggest lesson is to remind oneself in the middle of it all why you're paddling - (for me at any rate) it's not to win (although like everyone else I do get competitive with the guys around me); it's that I love paddling - sometimes you have to remind yourself that you're there to have a good time. 


How do you manage to hold down a day job, have a family, paddle and still have time for surfski.info?

Yep - that's a tricky one!  


Molokai is the Mecca of surfki, now that you have made the pilgrimage does it live up to the hype?

I'll tell you after the race!  No, seriously, I was talking to Aussie Dave Kissane the other day and he said what a number of other guys have also said - it's the whole trip - the experience of being here, rather than just one day.  Hawaii is such a beautiful place to paddle - and the experience includes the downwind runs that you do in the week before the race; the visits to the museums; the hikes in the lovely parks; the snorkling in the crystal clear warm water with the turtles... 


Where do you see surfskiing going in the next 5 years and the next 10 years?

One the best things about trips like these is the opportunity to talk to other paddlers from around the world and to find out what's happening in their countries.  Without exception, they're all saying, "the manufacturers can't supply enough boats".

So it's clear that surfski paddling is in a massive growth phase.

Without blowing our horn too much I think we've been a part of that - it's been incredibly gratifying to have, for example, one of the Aussies come up and say that one of the reasons that he and his buddies came here to compete was the coverage that we gave the race last year.

But we need more - I think we're at the point now where we have a product in the World Series to offer to big sponsors, and my goal for the next year is to land a big sponsor - so that there's more money in the sport and, crucially, more publicity to elevate the profile of the sport.  It's obvious - it's a healthy outdoor lifestyle sport that anyone can do, but which has no limits.  Whether you're the Sunday paddler who cruises up & down flat water or the type that gets a kick out of going downwind in a gale and 10ft waves, it's the same sport.  There are no limits!  This is what excites me - I can't understand why everyone isn't out there on a ski!

So where are we going?  My vision is:

  • More races around the world
  • More inclusivity (ie more people can participate; more people get onto the World Rankings
  • More money - so that the top twenty guys can afford to go to more races

We need to balance the need to make the top end of the sport professional, while opening it up to more "average" paddlers.  We need everyone to be able to at least aspire to do Molokai for example.   

I could go on - but I need to go pack my stuff for Molokai!


I am sure that you will join me in wishing Rob a fantastic 45th birthday. Rob, we salute you, and we wish you fine winds and strong seas behind you for both the Molokai and the next 45 years.

- Alain. 


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