Sprint Finish at European Champs...

Thursday, 11 October 2018 14:00 | Written by 
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The men's start at the 2018 European Surfski Championships in Spain The men's start at the 2018 European Surfski Championships in Spain

In a desperate all-out, red-lining sprint, the two paddlers put everything they had into the last 300m to the finish.  50m to go and Noé Pelizza surged forward, …but the nose of his black surfski ramped up the back of the next wave and he slowed – just as Esteban Medina, nose down, accelerated onto the run behind him…

European Ocean Racing Championships

Hosted at the Club Náutico de Villajoyosa the event was run by the European Canoeing Association ICF-style, with each country allowed three competitors in the open events, with Junior and U23 paddlers also taking part.  Unqualified competitors were allowed in the races, but were made to start on the beach, 20m behind the seeded paddlers (a cause of some controversy given that it put the unseeded paddlers completely out of contention).

Conditions were perfect for the race, a moderate southwesterly raising enough bump for a genuine downwind, while not being too much for the less experienced campaigners.

The course comprised five distinct sections:

  • 1km straight offshore into the wind to a turning buoy
  • 8km technical downwind to Benidorm Island with the wind blowing over the paddlers’ right shoulders
  • 10.4km with wind and waves directly behind to Punta Bombarda
  • 2km in flat, sheltered water behind the cliffs and…
  • A final 500m flat out in strengthening wind and small waves.


Some 180 paddlers from ten European countries took part.

Sprint Start

Sprinting off the beach, Hector Henot (FRA) and Gordan Harbrecht (GER) rounded the bouy in first and second with Esteban Medina (ESP) in third position.

Medina reveled in the side-on conditions and lead the way to Benidorm Island.  “This was the best section for me,” said Medina.

But two U23 French paddlers, Noé Pelizza and Hector Henot, close behind, surged past as the race headed directly downwind. 

Fighting back, Esteban overtook Henot again and focused on maintaining contact with the Pelizza, conserving energy for the final stretch: 2.5km on the flat to the finish at the Altea marina.

Rounding the spectacular cliffs at Punta Bombarda, Pelizza was still ahead, with Medina next to Henot.  Medina was only too aware of the hard charging Gordan Harbrecht, whom he knew would be very fast on the flatter water.

Sprint Finish

Unwilling to allow the German too close, Medina accelerated and moved alongside Pelizza, and the two men sprinted side by side for the final 300m to the finish. 

final dice

Medina (Carbonology) and Pelizza (Think) sprint for the finish

First Medina, then Pelizza surged forward…  until on the very last wave, Pelizza’s nose went up as he stalled on the wave; Esteban timed it perfectly and surged through to take the win by 30cm…  What a finish.

“It was a crazy race,” said Medina.  “A crazy, crazy close finish!

“I prefer an easier race,” he laughed.  “I managed to catch the last wave while Noé stalled off it and I was only 30cm in front.

“The German and French guys are stronger than me on the flat water, so it was a great result for me,” he added.

Team Coach

Medina gave a shout out to the Spanish team coach, Sara Martí who had suggested that the team not take part in the Irish Coast Paddling Championships or the Dutch Coast Race.  “It worked!” said Medina. 

Women’s Race

“I really have to learn how to start!” said Angie Le Roux (FRA).  “I think I put too much pressure on myself; it was a lifesaving start and as I jumped in, I fell off the other side of the boat!”

Notwithstanding her start, Le Roux rounded the buoy in fifth position in a strong women’s field; her downwind skills then came to the fore and she quickly caught the race leader, Judit Vergés (ESP). 

“The first downwind section was side-on and very technical,” said Le Roux. 

angie going downwind

Angie Le Roux rides a wave, Benidorm in the background

The two women diced, trading wave for wave.  “I couldn’t get past her,” said Le Roux.  “I wasn’t feeling very confident and had to force myself to focus on what I was doing.”

But as the waves increased in size, Le Roux started to relax.  “I was feeling better and started playing with the waves, enjoying what I was doing.”

By the time they reached Benidorm Island, Le Roux had moved into the lead and in the clean runs down to Punta Bombarda, she paddled away from the rest of the field.

Worried that the other women would be stronger on the sheltered section after Punta Bombarda, Le Roux said she “paddled as hard as I could.  I was so worried to see Judit or Amaia passing me on the flat!

“The last section was very physical,” Le Roux said. “A perfect race!”

“So many girls”

“It was so pleasant to race with so many girls,” said Le Roux.  “We were 33 out of about 100 paddlers…  1/3 of the field, incredible!

“Earlier this year I wanted to stop training/paddling/racing because being alone year after year is difficult to handle,” she added.  “But at the same time, I knew I couldn’t stop because we have the world champs in France next year.

“This win is really something for me…  hard work pays, so I’m happy – but I know I still have so much to work on!”

Day Two: Masters and Mixed Doubles

On Sunday, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction and a Masters race was run from Villajoyosa to El Campello. 

A light northeaster increased in strength during the race, providing a mellow downwind for the paddlers.

Michael Dobler (GER) won the men’s race with Emma Levemyr (SWE) taking the women’s title.

Twenty-six mixed doubles took part in an “unofficial” race; David Szlatcha/Lea Caurant (FRA) took the win.

Summary Results

(Click here for the full results)


  1. Angie Le Roux (FRA) 1:36:53
  2. Judit Vergés Xifra (ESP) 1:38:13
  3. Amaia Osaba Olaberri (ESP) 1:42:55


  1. Esteban Medina Ojeda (ESP) 1:25:37
  2. [Noé Pelizza (FRA) 1:25:39] (U23 Winner)
  3. Gordan Harbrecht (GER) 1:25:45
  4. David Szlatcha (FRA) 1:25:54

U23 Women

  1. Lisa Gras (FRA) 1:46:46
  2. Marie-Sainte Laury (FRA) 1:46:52
  3. Lucia Serrralta Ferrer (ESP) 1:51:54

U23 Men

  1. Noé Pelizza (FRA) 1:25:39
  2. Hector Henot (FRA) 1:26:02
  3. Pierre Vilella (FRA) 1:28:01

Junior Women

  1. Anouk Strohmann (FRA) 1:48:00
  2. Paula Ruiz Arruti (ESP) 1:57:14
  3. Karolina Paluoudov (CZE) 1:57:28

Junior Men

  1. Jourge Enriquez Gutieriez (ESP) 1:29:29
  2. Nathanle Nestour (FRA) 1:33:28
  3. Bernardo Pereira (POR) 1:33:50

Masters – Day 2


  1. Emma Levemyr 1:25:05


  1. Michael Dobler (GER) 1:14:34
  2. Mekel Lauzrika Jauregi (ESP) 1:15:39
  3. Michael Odvarko (CZE) 1:16:29

Mixed Doubles

  1. David Szlatcha/Lea Caurant (FRA) 1:10:30
  2. Nicolas Lambert/Lisa Gras (FRA) 1:11:05
  3. Maria Begoña Lazcano Gumerans/Daniel Sachez Viloria (ESP) 1:11:13


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