Saturday, 18 August 2012 15:53 | Written by  Joe Glickman
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Heading out at the start of the official unofficial 2012 Chicago Shoreline Marathon Heading out at the start of the official unofficial 2012 Chicago Shoreline Marathon Credits: Richard Hodgkins

Soon after landing in O'Hare the evening before the Chicago Shoreline Marathon, I heard the news: 35 knot NW winds + 8-to-12 foot seas + five fisherman swept off a pier = No race!

Official Unofficial Race

I considered flying straight back to New York. A week before at the U.S. Surf Ski Champs in San Francisco, my race had ended before it started when I dumped in the shore break and messed up my paddle. But while I waited in a foul mood for my baggage, I spoke with race director Tim Flentye. Although the Chicago Park District had shut down his race, Tim said he was going to ferry a bunch of the boys north so that we could do a 20-mile downwind paddle, finishing on a private beach away from prying eyes. Sort of an official unofficial race, featuring the international guys and a few out-of-towners deemed capable of negotiating the agitated Lake. Tim was gutted that his race had literally been blown off the water but he remained philosophical. "The guys had always hoped for a true downwind and now we'll be able to give it to them." Prize money would be handed out, he said, and, well, it was still a race - only on the QT and with 9/10th of the field missing.


As the waves pounded the beach outside the lake-side apartment I shared with a gang of four, my Nervous Nellie meter was ratcheted up a few Nellies when Dawid Mocke, who happens to be on the short list of the world's best ski paddlers, told me his brother Jasper, Sean Rice and Michael Booth each took a swim during a training paddle that morning. For someone who'd recently gotten drilled in three-foot shore break, this wasn't comforting.

11 Starters

On Saturday morning 11 of us toed the line: the Mocke Brothers, Sean the Prawn; Michael "My Hair is Cyclonic" Booth; Holland's Joep (pronounced Ya-OP) van Bakel, Dorian Wolters, who'd driven from Columbus, Ohio, Florida's Reid Hyle, Michigan’s Rob Hartman, local Mark Anich, Eric Mims, who'd driven the Epic trailer up from Charleston, SC, and yours truly.

At a quiet suburban beach in Lake Bluff, Tim held his right arm aloft, shouted GO! and off we went. Said Dawid: "Given the circumstances, it was interesting getting in the zone for the race; however, there was dough at stake and of course with the top three finishers from the U.S. champs the week before, there was no way that it was going to be a simple float on a lake."

Different, but good

The conditions were far tamer than the day before but there were runs galore with larger bumps rolling over our left shoulder. "The runs were pretty good," Dawid said, "but on a freshwater lake catching 'em is much different because the water is denser and heavier."

CSM 2012

Jasper Mocke cruises past some gnarly rebound

Sean Rice

Sean Rice came 3rd behind the Mocke brothers

Michael Booth

Aussie junior Michael Booth came 4th

CSM 2012


CSM 2012

Mocke v Mocke

While 11 individual dramas unfolded Saturday morning, the one that interested me most occurred between the Mocke brothers. At the Perth Doctor in January, Jasper edged Dawid; in Mauritius this June, Dawid prevailed; but in San Francisco one week earlier Jasper was nipping on his heels, finishing 44 seconds back. For most of the first 15 miles of the Chicago race, Dawid enjoyed a 200 meter cushion. With the stadium at Northwestern University drawing near, Jasper, who'd been engaged in a heated, long-winded conversation with himself, changed his tactics. "I decided to visualize catching Daw instead of thinking about being caught myself. I paddled hard but told myself that I was going easy. I realized that I had to take the win and not wait for it!"

Jasper Mocke

Jasper Mocke

Roughly five miles from the finish, Jasper clicked into "a great rhythm" and found himself on Dawid's tail where he sat for two kilometers. With about 5km to go, Jasper sprinted onto a run, went past and "just caught as many runs as I could from there to the finish."

His winning time of two hours and five minutes was roughly 40 seconds ahead of the five-time US Surf Ski Champ, with fellow Capetonian Sean Rice three minutes back. Booth was fourth [2:14], followed by Joep [2:17]. Carrying on their tussle from their two previous races -- Blackburn and U.S. Ski Champs -- Dorian Wolters [2:18] was half-a-boat ahead of Reid Hyle, followed by Rob Hartman, Mark Anich, me, and Eric Mims.

Race… or not-a-race?

So was it a race or not a race? Driving to the start,  it felt as if we were getting dropped off to do a long downwind paddle. I didn't have that foreboding feeling that usually precedes copious amounts of self-inflicted pain. And yet we lined up with a sense of urgency and paddled off at a pace that only a serious caffeine addict could call casual.

But being in the company of such a decorated mob, I saw next to no one for most of the two-plus hours I toiled on this vast inland sea -- not even a motorboat. I pushed hard enough to get blisters under my calluses and I got knackered enough to swim three times. I didn't really race but I didn't not race. But in the end, how hard I went or how any of us fared seemed secondary to the feeling that settled on our private paddling party.

The Mocke boys slugged it out from start to finish, as did Dorian and Reid, but the rest of us chased runners on our own in an endless cycle of competence, frustration, fatigue and, at times, despair. And when it was all over and Tim shouted out the results above the din of the waves crashing into the break wall below, all assembled appeared as contented as kids who'd snuck into a fantastic gym where we enjoyed a full-court pick-up game complete with a scoreboard, refs and refreshments. All that was missing was the crowd and angst.

Joe Glickman

Joe Glickman


Joe is a regular contributor to this website and has seen his work published in other lesser media outlets (like the New York Times, Canoe and Kayak Magazine, Outdoor Magazine et al).

He's also written a book or two, the latest of which is Fearless - the story of Freya Hoffmeister's circumnavigation of Australia.

On 15 Dec, 2009, Freya Hoffmeister completed her 332 day, 13,790km paddle around the big island...  She overcame weather, sharks, sea snakes, currents, salt water crocodiles and the scepticism of the surfski community in doing so!

Joe Glickman's book, Fearless, tells the story of the expedition - as only Joe can.  By turns humorous and inciteful, it's a great yarn about an extraordinary adventure - and an extraordinary person.  Strongly recommended.

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