This weekend I achieved a personal goal that I have been chasing for a number of years. I won my first Senior South African Surfski title! After a huge training block it was a fantastic feelling for me but It was also a very important weekend because it was to be the first EVER selection trial to choose a team to represent South Africa at the first EVER official World Surfski Championships in Portugal in July. A truely historic stepping stone for the sport and this was more than enough motivation to get all the top South African Surfski Paddlers out there. You had to be in it to win it.
The race was held in East London, one of South Africas best Surfski destinations. Warm water and normally cooking downwind conditions! This year Mother Nature had other ideas. This year she was going to make us all suffer. All the weather sites predicted a little more than a fart’s worth of wind over much of the weekend. Sunday late afternoon looked the best but many people were booked to travel home by then. Obviously the idea is to use the best downwind conditions to stage the singles day of racing and then have the Doubles race on the alternate day. This sounds simple but after much debate and arguments amongst certain figures in the sport it was decided to race the singles on the Saturday and the doubles on the Sunday.
Saturday dawned and the race start was pushed out to 2pm to try wait for any wind that might come through. I’ve have never been much of a fan of afternoon racing but it does mean you don’t have to be shy at the breakfast table which I always appreciate. The morning was spent trying to take up time with many cups of Coffee, playing rock paper scissors and of course joking amongst the crew. Finally 2pm came and it was business time. The race was to be a 22km race from Yellow sands beach back to Nahoon beach. The conditions were trying with a light tail wind and what I was told “mega currents”! The area had experienced flooding rains the week prior. All this water had exploded river mouths and the sea was still full of debris. The excess water flow had also switched the local currents around. The locals I had spoken to prior to racing had all been talking of a serious head current close to shore. I was told “Stay out Sean, stay out!” Simple enough I thought.
I had a decent start through the surf line and slotted nicely onto the back of the lead bunch. 3 km of into the wind paddling and we turned for home. Hank, Matt Bouman, Van De Walt brothers and a number of others all turned and immediately heading inshore! WHAT?? NOT part of my plan!
I stayed with them for about 500m. My head was saying just relax and go with it “You’ll have slip the whole way” but for some reason my gut said go deep. I looked back made eye contact with Tom Schilperoot. Somehow I just knew he was thinking the same thing and with that we both nodded and swung left. GAME ON!
I angled out praying I had not just shot myself. I could hear the Chirps from the beach… “Sean what the flip were you thinking?” “You just stuffed up a simple race!” Tom fell off my wave soon afterwards and then I was alone. Over the next lonely 16km I had many conversations in my head. Pushing the doubt out and rather trying to think good things. I was racing my Garmin. Just like in training. I was averaging 16.5km/hr. I figured 1 hour time trial. Just like at home!
With 3km to go I started heading in. At that time I was about 1.5km out to sea. I spotted a lonely paddler who was out there to watch us. As I went past he shouted. “Hey bru what’s the rush! You chowing them” a look back confirmed Hank and Grant were about 600m back and all I had to do was hold on tight.
I crossed the line with my hands in the air and bang it was over. Big smiles!
The cherry on the top was being able to watch my brother Kenny Rice cross the line and claim the Junior title.
I now head off to Spain to race the Euro Challenge. I finished 2nd last year so hope to go 1 better! The race is a 2 day race with the best day being a 20km downwind and the other day a 20km circuit race.
See you on the water!
1st Sean Rice 1:25:52
2nd Hank McGregor 1:27:32
3rd Grant Van Der Walt 1:28:16
4th Matt Bouman
5th Richard “Chopper” Von Wildeman
6th Brandon Van Der Walt
7th Tom Schilperoot
8th Barry Lewin
9th Bevan Manson
10th Ivan Kruger
1st Michelle Eder
2nd Nikki Mocke
3rd Nikki Russell