Gale-force Photo Shoot

Wednesday, 24 February 2010 09:06 | Written by  Jean Tresfon
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Wind Speed SMS from Cape Point! Wind Speed SMS from Cape Point!

Cape Town, South Africa: It’s a fact that Cape Town is a windy place and the summer southeaster is often regarded with extreme disfavour by the general populace!  But for the growing number of downwind surfski junkies and any number of kite-boarding enthusiasts, the wind is their very raison d’être.

The SMS report showing the wind strength at Cape Point on Monday (pic: Steve Benjamin).

On Monday the Cape Doctor was very definitely in attendance. The wind station at Cape Point was reporting an average wind speed of 45 knots (83kph) gusting to 64 knots (119kph). The wind inside False Bay would be a bit less strong, but still pretty hectic conditions all round. For most paddlers this is just too much, but for a select few these conditions just yell “Millers run time!”


The crew gathers for the briefing (Pic: Steve Benjamin).

Photo Shoot D-Day

Monday was also D-Day for a downwind photo shoot by sports photographer Owen Middleton. The pictures were required for the forthcoming surfski book being written by Kevin Brunette together with current world surfski champion Dawid Mocke and his wife Nikki Mocke.

Kevin called Nikki to ask if it was still ok to do the shoot or if the conditions were too hectic. “Dawid has just finished his first Miller’s Run,” Nikki replied.  “Of course it’s on for this afternoon!”

Millers Run!

Tom (white top) and Dawid (orange top) set off as skipper Jean Tresfon watches (Pic: Steve Benjamin).

Dawid and Nikki were the main focus for the shoot, but Tom Schilperoort and Spanish visitor Danny Sanchez Vilora were there as “extras” for the pics.  [Editor: Danny has been spending the last few weeks training with Dawid Mocke – and will have some great war-stories to tell when he goes home.  Apart from his downwind paddling, his English has been improving all the time and he’s become famous for his comment after Dawid took out to Cape Point in the biggest swell conditions this year.  When asked what he thought, he said, in heavily accented English, “I fear for my life…!”]

Rob Mousley hitched a ride to Millers Point as well, but set off ahead of the glamorous modelling crowd (demonstrating his remount ability when he was taken out by a breaking wave on the way to Bakoven Rock).

After a short briefing and a few setup photos it was time to get on the water. The support boat arrived at Bakoven Rock at the same time as the paddlers and it was all systems go. The bay was a maelstrom of white water and wind driven spray, and the paddlers were loving it. For the first half of the session the support boat rode next to the paddlers and Owen concentrated on the side-on single and group shots. The paddlers flew downwind and the boat had to gun it to keep ahead of them.

Roman Rock Lighthouse

Danny & Nikki follow Tom & Dawid towards Roman Rock (Pic: Steve Benjamin).

In no time at all Roman Rock lighthouse was looming closer and closer and it was time for some action shots. The swells were a fair size and together with the strong wind the waters around the lighthouse were just a mess of waves, seaspray and white foam. The support boat held station as close as possible to the lighthouse as the paddlers took turns to shoot the gap between the lighthouse and the boat. On her turn Nikki was obviously feeling the adrenaline as she yelled, “I’ve got children you know!”

Danny Sanchez Vilora

Spanish paddler Danny Sanchez Vilora enters the spin cycle (Pic: Steve Benjamin).

"Lighthouse shot… take five!"

The lighthouse shoot required several retakes to capture the perfect shot and each time the paddlers had to circle back into the wind, paddle back up about a hundred metres and make another pass. A truly astounding level of competence was evidenced as they laughed and joked amongst themselves each time they were required to repeat the exercise, showing no discomfort at all as they turned and paddled into the wild conditions.


Owen snaps Tom & Dawid catching runs (Pic: Steve Benjamin).

Then it was onwards towards Fish Hoek and the plan was to capture some shots of the paddlers from behind. Dawid and Tom paddled side beside down some serious runs with the support boat barely two metres behind the skis, following them down the runs! If they felt any apprehension at the boat being so close behind them they certainly never showed it.

Dawid Mocke and Tom Schilperoord

Dawid & Tom race past the support boat (Pic: Steve Benjamin).

Remounts and Rafting

Once into Fish Hoek bay it was time for some remounting and rafting technique shots. Nikki showed some interesting cabaret talent as she demonstrated the side-saddle entry, and the husband and wife team showed their talent as they even managed to catch a run or two while rafting.

Wet ride home

The ride home was a little wet! (Pic: Steve Benjamin)

The support boat crew and photographer had a long wet ride back to Millers Point slipway into the wind and waves, and eventually the wet and bedraggled mob emerged from the boat for a hard earned beer at the Southern Right. (Images supplied courtesy of support crew member Steve Benjamin).

To see the official results from the shoot you’ll just have to buy the book!  

[Editor: I'm told the book will be available sometime in the next two-three months... Can't wait!]

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