US Surfski Champs: Masterful Mocke Dominates

Sunday, 05 August 2012 12:38 | Written by 
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Dawid Mocke and Simon van Gysen charge for the $1,000 Fenn Hotspot Dawid Mocke and Simon van Gysen charge for the $1,000 Fenn Hotspot Credits: John Dye and Dave Kelly

As they raced under the Golden Gate Bridge, Dawid Mocke and Simon van Gysen were neck and neck, charging towards the Fenn Hotspot and its $1,000 reward.  The last time they’d raced, in Spain, van Gysen had pulled away and won.

Spills, thrills and a false start

“Hats off to the race organisers,” said Mocke after the race.  “The new start venue at Rodeo Beach was clearly a logistical challenge but it makes it a proper honest surfski race.”

With its steeply plunging beach and consequent dumping shore-break, the venue presented a challenge to some of the paddlers who’d never made a beach launch and inevitably there were some casualties including Joe Glickman who broke his paddle in the surf. 

Rental Car Admin

Admin at the start: a certain Dutch paddler seems to have locked his kit - and his keys - in his hire car!

Race Briefing


Race Briefing

Shore break action

The shore-break presented a challenge to some of the local paddlers


Jennifer Maxfield-Boucher uploaded this video showing conditions at the start

The start line was positioned offshore between two marker buoys some 120m apart.  Perhaps it was the cramped conditions, but first start wasn’t fair and the paddlers were recalled to try again.

Headwind and slop

The second start was deemed fair and the paddlers blasted off, spray flying as they headed straight out to sea to the first turning buoy 1km offshore.

As they reached the buoy, a bunch had already formed with the world’s #1 and #2 paddlers Dawid Mocke and Jeremy Cotter leading.  Not far back were Sean Rice, Jasper Mocke, Simon van Gysen, Aussies Cory Hill, Michael Booth, Hayden Smith and the two top European paddlers Joep van Bakel (Netherlands) and Dani Sanchez Viloria (Spain).

At this stage the (frigid 10C) wind was blowing 15-20kt westerly, the swell was running at about 3ft and there were a few whitecaps about…  Mostly though, it was just messy, sloppy water and a few of the local back-markers, deciding that it was uncomfortably rough, turned back. 

They were joined by a disconsolate Nicole Russell who’d lost a rudder line and had to retire.  The South African had been favorite to win, having dominated the local winter series in Durban.

Race course

The innovative new course - maximum downwind

Crosswind and then into the bay

The front group flew down the 2km cross-wind leg, past the notorious “potato patch” and round the 1 mile navigation buoy at Pt. Bonita.

Dawid Mocke’s game plan was to stay out in the center of the channel to take advantage of the incoming current.  “But I knew that if I let Simon [van Gysen] take his own line, I could be in trouble,” he said after the race.  “Fortunately Simon came out to my line so I could just focus on catching the runs.”

The rest of the bunch split up: Sean Rice, now lying fifth took an aggressive inshore line; Cotter and Jasper Mocke lying 3rd and 4th respectively compromised, paddling a line to the left of the channel.

Flattened by the incoming tide, the sea still offered some assistance to the paddlers who were linking 1, 2, 3 waves at time, ever working, never resting. 

Sprint to the hotspot

By the time they reached the Golden Gate Bridge, Dawid Mocke and van Gysen were side-by-side, stretching out for the $1,000 hotspot awaiting them at Fort Baker.

Mocke seemed to dig in and accelerated, passing the hotspot 2 lengths ahead of van Gysen.

Approaching the hotspot

Dawid Mocke and Simon van Gysen approach the hotspot

Mocke takes the hotspot


Dawid Mocke takes the $1,000 Fenn hotspot

“I guess I just had more motivation than Simon,” laughed Dawid.  “I have a big nappy bill at home and that $1,000 would be really useful.”

By now Jasper Mocke had moved ahead of Cotter, with Rice in rounding the hotspot in fifth position.

Angel Island and Tankers

Once again the bunch spread, each paddler taking the line he thought would make best advantage of the currents in the bay.  Dawid Mocke, followed van Gysen headed out on a more southerly line; Rice, once again chose a northerly route. 

Mocke and van Gysen head out

Leaving Fort Baker, Mocke and van Gysen head towards Angel Island

Mocke now started to increase his lead over van Gysen, working the runs.  The waves were offering slightly more by this point and the paddlers were able to take the occasional rest as they surfed towards Angel Island.

“This was the crucial section of the race,” said Mocke.  “I got the line to Angel Island just right and I think won the race right there.”

Required to round a navigation buoy on the tip of Angel Island, the paddlers’ lines came together and it was obvious that the race was still very much on for second position.  Jasper Mocke had caught up to within 50m of van Gysen; Cotter was another 30m back with Sean Rice only a few lengths off the pace.

Then a massive vessel crossed in front of Dawid Mocke.  “I think the guys caught up,” he said, “as I crossed the swirly flat water behind the ship.”  But the loss of rhythm didn’t last long and a tiring van Gysen couldn’t capitalize.

Dawid Mocke and the tanker

Dawid Mocke and the tanker

Dying wind and waves

With the finish at Berkeley in sight, Mocke focused on linking runs.  Sean Rice charged, grinding down first Cotter, then van Gysen, and finally Jasper Mocke, who in the meantime had moved into second place.

Fish Hoek 1, 2, 3, 4!

And in the end it was Dawid Mocke across the line in 1:39:37 who took his fifth US Surfski Champs title.  His Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club teammates took the next three places, with only 78 seconds between first and fourth.


US Surfski Champs

At the finish L to R, Jasper Mocke, Simon van Gysen, Jeremy Cotter and Sean Rice

Jeremy Cotter, who’d taken a very wide line down to Berkeley, arrived in fifth position in 1:41:34.

Just under four minutes later, Michael Booth crossed the line, cementing his position as top junior paddler in the OWS rankings.

Joep van Bakel (Netherlands) was the first European paddler across the line in 8th place overall; Dani Sanchez Viloria was next European, making into a highly creditable tenth place overall.

First US paddler (and 11th overall) was Gabe Newton, his South African training camp clearly paying off.  Greg Barton arrived 13th overall, beaten (by another US paddler) for only the second time in the event.

In the absence of Nicole Russell, Kristin Podolak won the women’s race in a time of 2:12:58.

Kristin Podolak

Kristin Podolak

On to Chicago

Next weekend is the Chicago Shoreline Marathon - and in what has become almost a traditional tour for the South Africans, Dawid Mocke, Jasper Mocke and Sean Rice, will be taking part.  They'll be joined by Zsolt Szadovski, Joep van Bakel, Michael Booth, Dorian Wolter and Chicago local Rob Hartman in what promises to be one of the strongest fields yet...

For more info, see:

Oceanpaddler World Series

Dawid Mocke’s win boosts him further into the lead, well set to take the title at the end of the year.

The next race in the series is the Nelo Summer Challenge in Porto, Portugal on 1 September.




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