Nelo Summer Challenge 2011 ** updated **

Thursday, 25 August 2011 10:31 | Written by 
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Nelo Summer Challenge Nelo Summer Challenge Credits: Nelo

Nelo certainly know how to put on a beach party of note: this weekend it’s the Nelo Summer Challenge – a 10km downwind race and a fun knockout sprint event on Sunday.  And the array of paddling talent at the event is astounding...

Bringing Flat water Champions to Surfski

Apart from the growing numbers of surfski paddlers who are taking up the sport in Europe in any case, the race provides a nexus point between the world of flat water paddling and long distance surfski.

The race has been criticized by some for being too short at 10km.  However, when you’re introducing K1 paddlers to the sport, a 10km distance makes much more sense, given that many of the sprinters are coming off months of training for much shorter distances.  Apart from that, says race director (and Nelo CEO) Andre Santos, “for us 10km is exciting because the racing is much closer and it’s more likely that there will be a sprint for the finish.”

Dawid Mocke is in Portugal for his first Summer Challenge.  

"This is a great place for downwind, there's so much potential," he enthused. "I would love to see a 20km race on this coast.

"Out of all the places in Europe, best so far that I’ve seen for surfski," he added.


At this time of year in Porto, the wind usually blows hard off the Atlantic, providing great downwind conditions.  A glance at windguru ( shows that the wind will be fairly light, but not calm (the race starts at 3pm local time).  

Mocke doesn't think it'll necessarily be flat, however.

"For example," he said. "Yesterday we had only 8kt, but there’s no obstructions along the coast - so even with just a little wind, runs were really nice – like a good lighthouse paddle in Cape Town.  Ave. speed was 14.5, 15kph which was great.

"So we don’t need a lot of wind to kick up the course – which is what makes it so good."

Startling Talent

Tim Jacobs

Tim Jacobs - defending summer challenge champion

A glance at the provisional starting list reveals a startling amount of talent that will be on display on Saturday.  A mixture of some of the world’s best Surfski paddlers:

  • (defending Champion) Tim Jacobs (Aus)
  • Dawid Mocke (SA) (current Surfski World Champion and current leader on the 2011 Ocean Paddler Surfski World Rankings)
  • Jasper Mocke (SA)
  • Sean Rice (SA)
  • Barry Lewin (SA) 

They'll be taking on some of the world’s best K1 sprint and marathon paddlers:

  • Kenny Wallace (Aus)
  • David Smith (Aus)
  • Jacob Clear (Aus)
  • Luke Morrison (Aus) (all the above with plenty of experience in surfski) 
  • Manuel Busto (SPA) (legend marathon champ)
  • Max Hoff (Ger)
  • Dani Sanchez Villoria (Spa) (arguably the best downwind paddler in Europe)
  • Joep van Bakel (NED)
  • Ben Brown (UK) (2010 world marathon champion and mean downwind paddler after training for a month in Cape Town!)

And many others too...

"Quite a line-up!" said Mocke.  "I think the key is not to get star-struck!  Being such a short race, anyone can hide when it’s 10km…

"I think (defending champion) Tim Jacobs is the guy to beat, but Kenny Wallace (took the hotspot last year and came second) will also need watching.

"It’s going to be nice racing against the top K1 paddlers, but ocean skills will play a part so you don’t have to worry about those guys too much – this is an ocean race!"


And that’s just the men.

This race has the most women ever (I’m pretty sure) in a surfski race anywhere in the world…

Tragically Michele Eray (SA) who’s totally dominated surfski paddling around the world this year has had to withdraw with an injury, but 26 other women will be racing including plenty with surfski experience such as Aussies Naomi Flood, Jo Bridgen-Jones, Hannah Davis and Alana Nichols (all of whom have just qualified for the London Olympics and so are super-fit).  Jenna Hawkey (UK surfski champ) will also be pushing the front pack.

With any luck, the event will show some of the European women who don’t have such a background in surfskis just what an outrageously fun sport it is.

(For the total line-up of 177 registered entries, see:

Sunday Knock-Out

Nelo Summer Challenge

Last year’s winner, ace South African surf lifesaver Jasper Mocke is back to compete in the event, which takes the form of a set of knockout sprints out and back through the surf.

For more info:

Organisation and Logistics

"They've organised this awesome hotel, all the paddlers are staying together," said Mocke. "So we're all together at mealtimes sharing war stories etc.

"The race venue is only a couple of hundred metres away  - the beach is all pimped up with gazebos and chairs.  All the skis are there.  There’s a shuttle arranged twice a day, it’s very much like Mauritius.

"This race is a bit short but the venue, conditions, attitude and organization definitely are world class and I look forward to a longer (Ocean Paddler) world series event being held here."

Next up – Race of Champions

Next weekend sees many of the paddlers move down the coast to the Race of Champions in Portimão

For more information, check out the event website:

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