Mocke/Notten and Nixon/Lawrie Win Inaugural Freedom Paddle

Friday, 27 April 2018 18:38 | Written by 
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Jasper Mocke and Nicholas Notten lead the pack at the start of the 2018 Bamboo Warehouse Freedom Paddle Jasper Mocke and Nicholas Notten lead the pack at the start of the 2018 Bamboo Warehouse Freedom Paddle

A challenging 29km surfski race in front one of the most beautiful cities in the world, around one of the most iconic islands in the world, on a holiday dedicated to the liberation of South Africa...  What a way to celebrate!  

 Bamboo Warehouse Freedom Paddle

When Robin Tindell kicked off the planning for the race, he never expected the support, either from sponsors or from the paddlers that eventually resulted in nearly 200 competitors taking to the water.  The idea was simple: race around Robben Island, the location where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison, on Freedom Day, the public holiday when South Africans celebrate the dawning of a new era.

Robin is a professional marketer, so it wasn't surprising when the social media buzz started and, really, it wasn't surprising when Bamboo Warehouse CEO Graham Solomon, himself a legendary paddler, stepped up as title sponsor.  Bamboo Warehouse lent a distinctly green feel to the event; the medals were made of bamboo, and plastic bags were banned; paddlers were requested to bring their own bags to briefing to collect the "goodie bag" items...

Course and Conditions

The course was an out and back - anticlockwise around Robben Island, avoiding weed and kelp beds on the east side, rocks on the north end and the reefs on the west side.  Aim for the stadium on the way home and appreciate the stunning beauty of Signal Hill and Table Mountain in the background.

For once the weather forecasters had it dead right; the key component being a light northerly wind, strengthening during the morning.  What they didn't forecast was the swell: enough of a northwesterly bump to provide some interest on the way out, some massive breakers on the west side of the island, and runs to work on the way back.

The race broke new ground in safety too, with all crews using the SafeTRX Fleet system - which enabled the organisers (and spectators) to follow the race in real time on a big screen at race HQ.


Click here for more information on SafeTRX Flotilla

Stellar Field

The front end of the race was packed with some the best (and best known) paddlers on the planet; Hank McGregor, Dawid Mocke, Jasper Mocke, Matt Bouman, Hayley Nixon and Sabina Lawrie amoung them, but the crew of Jasper Mocke and Nicholas Notten were the local favorites and the team to beat.

Joining the paddlers from all over South Africa, was a team from Nambia (or "Nambia" as it's now know thanks to a certain fatuous American comedy figure), led by John Woolf for whom the trip was something of a home-coming; his father was based at the SA Navy base SAS Robbeneiland in the 1950s (before it became notorious as the prison) and he lived the first five years of his childhood there.

Fast and Furious

Half way to the island, Mocke/Notten (Cape Town) and Bouman/Smith (Durban) broke away from the pack, heading out fast into the swell and the cool breeze. 

Bouman Smith

Bouman/Smith break away with Mocke/Notten in hot pursuit

The two boats were well ahead as they raced past the Sea Challenger wreck on the north end of the island.


Mocke/Notten pass the Sea Challenger Wreck - testament to the dangers of the breakers on the north end of the island

Meanwhile, Mocke's older brother Dawid, paddling with Jono Niemann had struck trouble; attempting to dislodge some weed that had wrapped itself around their rudder, they instead dislodged themselves; a quick remount, but their race was over. 

Avoiding both the kelp and the massive breakers, the leaders headed, with the wind and waves, back to the city. "As we came around the back of the island, we managed to link a couple of runs and open up a gap," said Mocke.  "We thought the last 12km back from the island was going to be a one-on-one race with Matt, and we settled into a rhythm and opened up a gap."

Mocke Notten

Mocke/Notten, paddles down, surfing the runs back to the finish

But another Durban crew, Tyron Maher and Clint Cook showed extreme downwind class, working their way through the field to hunt down the Cape duo.  "They FLEW through the field," said Mocke, "and came right up to us, making the last two km a tight dice.

"I'm so stoked to have won the first Freedom Paddle," he added.  "Especially on this day that means so much to our nation.  This is a race that is going to become a classic in the surfski calendar."

Women's Race

In the women's race, reining ICF Ocean Racing World Champion Hayley Nixon, teamed up with ICF Ocean Racing under 18 World Champion Sabina Lawrie, completely dominated...  "It was magnificent," said Nixon.  "From the perfect weather conditons, to the significance of paddling around Robben Island on Freedom, it was just magic.  World class!"

In the single surfski race, Barry Lewin cruised to victory while Bianca Beavitt not only won the women's race, but finished second overall.

Bianca Beavitt

Bianca Beavitt won the women's single ski race and came second overall

Safety System Vindicated

Cape Paddler Rob Moody's race ended unexpectedly.  "My family has been down with a virus over the last few days," he said, "but I was feeling 100% and was having a great race."  Until he reached the far side of the island when he suddenly felt as though he'd been hit with a brick.  "I went from fine to hardly being able to take a stroke, within minutes," he said.  

He hit the emergency button on the SafeTRX app, NSRI was notified and 15min later he was in the rescue boat being ferried in to the finish.  His Strava post says it all: "SafeTRX works and the NSRI are legends".

Race Future Assured

At prize-giving Bamboo Warehouse CEO Graham Solomon announced that his company would be sponsoring a R100,000 first prize for the 2019 event.  

"Today has far exceeded our expectations and it's obvious that we have something truly special in this race.  Bamboo Warehouse is delighted to be the title sponsors, and we hope that the prizemoney on offer for next year will bring in the internationals to help us celebrate this unique event."

Click here for the race website

Click here for the race Facebook page


Summary Results

(Click here for the full results)


  1. Jasper Mocke/Nicky Notten
  2. Clint Cook/Tyron Maher
  3. Matt Bouman/Phillip Smith

mens podium

L-R: Phillip Smith/Matt Bouman, Nicholas Notten/Jasper Mocke, Clint Cook/Tyron Maher


  1. Hayley Nixon/Sabina Lawrie
  2. Nikki Mocké/Kim van Gysen
  3. Wilma Deyzel/Louisa van Staaden

Womens Podium

L-R: Wilma Deysel/Louisa van Staaden, Sabina Lawrie/Hayley Nixon, Nikki Mocke/Kim van Gysen

Single Ski

  1. Barry Lewin
  2. Bianca Beavitt (1st women single)
  3. Richard Lowe


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