Cory Hill and Jemma Smith Win West Coast Downwinder

Saturday, 19 November 2022 13:01 | Written by  Ingrid Roepers
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L-R: Michael Booth, Tom Norton, Cory Hill, Riley Fitzsimmons, Hank McGregor L-R: Michael Booth, Tom Norton, Cory Hill, Riley Fitzsimmons, Hank McGregor

Gold Coast paddler, Cory Hill, took first scalp in the five-event ocean ski racing series, the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week, winning the inaugural race today, the 24km Fenn West Coast Downwinder from Fremantle, just south of Perth, to Sorrento Beach.

In fine conditions with a 16 knot SSW wind courtesy of the famed Fremantle Doctor, the start off Port Beach was intense with the top paddlers in a terse battle to make the first break.   But it was 33-year-old Hill – the 4-times DOCTOR champ who relishes the Perth conditions – who was able to shake the field at around the 8km mark, with arch nemesis Tom Norton in close pursuit.    Hill though was masterful, able to pull a gap on Norton in the final stages to cross the line in 1h23.06 with Norton 39 seconds behind.  

“I made a conscious effort to paddle a bit further out to avoid the melee and to take advantage of the westerly pushing us back in.  It was tactical decision, that paid off.  It’s a great way to start the week,” said Hill.

Third was Australia’s Olympic sprint canoeist, Riley Fitzsimmons who showed he can mix it with the endurance competitors, finishing in 1h23.58 second.  It was a clean podium sweep for the powerful Northcliffe club from the Gold Coast, with Hill, Norton and Fitzsimmons all racing under the maroon and white colours.

South African veteran, 44-year-old Hank McGregor was the first international home in fourth (1h24.35), and Perth’s Michael Booth rounding out the top five.  (1h24.44s).



Women's Race

In women’s racing, ICF World Champion, Jemma Smith from the NSW Central Coast, continued her brilliant form, winning the 24km haul up the Perth coastline, finishing in 1:35.18.

2022 Australian surf ski title holder and defending Doctor champ, Danielle McKenzie, was 2nd (1h35.46), while South African paddlers Michelle Burn and Melanie van Niekerk took third and fourth, and the Gold Coast’s Hannah Sculley was fifth.

“Focussing on paddling is really paying off.    I’ve decided this year to just be a paddler, and not train to be a swimmer and a boardie as well!   I’m doing a one to two paddling sessions a day on the water, so it’s nice that I am being rewarded for my effort.

“It was a great race.  We were quite close for most of the journey, but I had a good line in the closing stages, was lucky to get a few good runners to make sure I got home in first,” said Smith.

WC downwinder women

Over 300 paddlers contested today’s first event of the series, staking first claim on the Shaw and Partners crown and the $265 000 prize money.  

The field now faces two 11 km races on Tuesday and Thursday at 5pm, the Dr Ben Hewitt Sunset Surfski Series, from Fremantle to City of Perth beach.  Friday morning sees The Dash for Cash on Sorrento Beach, a 250 m dash from the cans to the beach; before close to 600 paddlers confront the week’s finale, the DOCTOR from Rottnest Island to Sorrento next Saturday. 


  1.   Cory Hill (Aust )                                           1:23.06
  2.   Tom Norton (Aust)                                       1:23.45
  3.   Riley Fitzsimmons  (Aust)                           1:23.58
  4.   Hank McGregor (Sth Africa)                      1:24.35
  5.   Michael Booth (Aust )                                 1:24.44


  1. Jemma Smith (Aust)                       1:35.18
  2. Danielle McKenzie (NZ)                 1:35.46
  3. Michelle Burn (Sth Africa)            1:37.30
  4. Melanie Van Niekerk (Sth Africa)               1:38.31
  5. Hannah Sculley (Aust)                                   1:38.47

Link to all Race Results


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