ARB Surf Ski World Cup 2006 Rob's Race Report

Sunday, 09 July 2006 21:14 | Written by 
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Image2nd July 2006 dawned a beautiful day - for the beach!  Not for what was supposed to be a 30km downwind run for the Surf Ski World Cup...  There was very little swell, and no wind at all.

The race was run from Westbrook Beach to a buoy off the Umhlanga Rocks lighthouse and then across the bay to the Bay of Plenty Beach on the Durban beachfront.  The distance as measured by my GPS was 31.4km.


Wet Start

The start procedure for doubles and singles was identical: the skis launched in their own time through the surf and assembled off the beach to the north of the start line.  With some five minutes to go, the marshals (on rubber ducks) started herding the skis towards the line, giving them time to form up in a straight line.

The scene at Westbrook

To make sure that neither end of the line could give any advantage, a buoy had been placed some 500m in front of the start line round which everyone had to go before choosing their line towards the lighthouse at Umhlanga Rocks

Doubles Start

Westbrook Beach slopes steeply to the sea and the shore break can be extremely challenging; on race day it wasn't big so much as powerful.  The waves were rearing up and dumping onto the beach, with a surging backwash into the sea.

The backline...

The doubles race started thirty minutes before the singles - and we were treated to the sight of the doubles skis trying to get out through the beach break.  It was like watching a herd of nervous lemmings about to leap over the brink...  on the appearance of a lull in the sets, a group would take the plunge, running down to the water, leaping on and paddling frantically to get out before the next dumper crashed onto the sand. 

Some skis lost their rear paddlers...

Some of them didn't make it - and at least two skis lost their rear paddlers, arriving behind the backline to find themselves alone, their crewmen still floundering in the surf.

Some of them didn't make it... This single ski ended up in two pieces

Singles Start

Finally they were away and the single skis were summoned forward to assemble in the holding pens.

After an unfortunate event the day before that left me ski-less, I had been lent a brand new Red7 Surf 70 for the race.  The ski felt robust (18kg) and that at any rate gave me confidence as I watched the waves

I had been lent a brand new Red7 Surf 70

There were two breaks - shore break and backline and it was a matter of waiting for the lulls between sets (which were fortunately quite long). 

...two breaks, a shore break and the backline

I lined up alongside a nervous DeAnne Hemmens (hell, I was stressing too) and we launched together.  The next wave reared up in front of me and for a moment I thought I was going to be sucked backwards over the falls...  I wasn't though and we were lucky with the backline, paddling over a flat sea to the start.

DeAnne Hemmens (L) and Rob Mousley launch through the shore break

Flat Water Race

It was obvious that the race was going to be a solid grind on flat water, with no wind to give any assistance. 

The halfway point was the Umhlanga Rocks lighthouse and as we approached the buoy that had been laid there, I felt myself hitting the wall: my speed and heart rate dropped together and I fell off my group.

(This was also where Dawid Mocke, who had broken away from the pack at the start, was caught by Hank McGregor.)

I paused long enough to gulp some energy gel - I had taped three sachets to the ski - and found that this helped me to recover remarkably.  I'd never used gel before in a race and had experimented with it during long training paddles leading up to the race, finding that it really does work. 

Thanks to the gel, I found I was able to latch onto another group, taking my turns at pulling and even sprinting forward twice to catch groups in front.


I finally ran out of energy just before the finish and lost a couple of places on the way into the Bay of Plenty beach. 

But I was happy with my result - considering the difficulties of training in the Cape winter and the fact that I was on a new ski that I'd never paddled before, I was satisfied.  I came 111th out of 172 finishers in 2:43:42, a B-grade time against the best paddlers in the world!

Hank McGregor powers to the finish

Hank McGregor won the race in 2:11:58, beating Dawid Mocke by nearly a minute.  Nikki Mocke won the women's race in 2:25:04, coming 20th overall and beating Donia Kamstra by over seven minutes.

Thoughts on the Race

It was unfortunate that on the day there was no wind and no waves to lend interest to the paddle itself.  As Dean Gardiner remarked, it's downwind paddling that makes the difference between surf ski and any other kind of paddling. 

Perhaps next time the organisers could give themselves some leeway by allowing the flexibility of running the race on either of the two days depending on the weather.

Having said that though, the organisation of the race was impeccable from the briefing to the handling of the wet-start to the prize giving - it all seemed to run with the clockwork precision that can only result from massive behind-the-scenes efforts. 

Well done NSSC!

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