IN THE BOAT with: THE PADDLER
Surfski paddling is humanity in its purest form.
Man versus nature. Battling the ocean to harness its raw, unbridled power and manoeuvring it to your advantage. Whether it’s paddling downwind in a lake, or taking on the rolling swells of the open ocean, the water is always your number one competitor – first and foremost.
The significance of this almost spiritual tussle can, at times, be overlooked within our community. It’s a strikingly unique experience. My affinity with paddling began in Australian surf lifesaving – explosive and unpredictable crash-style racing. I’ve laboured against the technical pursuit of sprint kayaking, and the tactical nous of marathons. But I always come back to the surfski. Even in a depth of field with 500 athletes like The Doctor, all dicing back-and-forth, never more than seconds away from your nearest rival, it’s astounding how isolated you can sometimes feel.
It’s just you and the ocean. The ultimate leveller.
And the ultimate friend, too. Regardless of life’s issues, it’s always there waiting. Nothing clears my mind like paddling. You may not speak, and there may be no words to hear, but I’ve always found that nothing brings me clarity like time in the boat. The shock that the first splash of spray brings flying over the nose, or the rush of dropping down a run, back pressed against the ski, feeling like you’re taking flight – everything else just seems to fade away. The world around you goes on hold while the ocean – a natural therapist – takes command.
These are the experiences that bind our community together. The paddling family. It’s a pursuit that doesn’t discriminate. Age, gender, ability … None of that matters when it’s just you and the water. Something that I believe deserves to be celebrated more widely.
I grew up in the water. Hours spent surfing with friends or paddling a nipper board in-and-out of the break, over and over again. Surfski came as a natural progression. My dad began when I was young and I always felt destined to follow suit, counting down the years until I could join in. It was an unquestioned path. I smile thinking back to that time now – I had no idea how much surfski would shape my life.
I’m thankful to have represented my country Australia on multiple occasions, racing at the sport’s highest level in corners of the world I never even dreamed of visiting. The breath-taking beauty of Tahiti’s outer islands, the searing heat that accompanies The Nile and the historical journey that comes winding downriver through the towns of central Europe. It’s unfathomable to recognise how the path to all of these experiences, and so, so many others, all began by trying to keep my hands up, and my exit wide of my elbow, while learning in the Swansea Channel south of Newcastle.
The fulfilment of these experiences aren’t unique to me. In fact, i’m certain every single paddler can share equally profound and life-shaping insights from their time on the water – and that’s something that strikes a chord with me. In the same way that I knew I was going to be a paddler, I always knew that I was going to become a journalist. And through a career in television, print and radio, I’ve come to value the power of sharing those stories. Of storytelling. By doing so, we help others to realise they’re not alone, strengthening the bond between us all – the cornerstone of mankind. And for our surfski community, connection to each other as paddlers is undoubtedly our greatest strength.
That’s what has lead us here – The Paddler. A new wave of coverage. A long-held dream to combine my two passions in life for the betterment of our beloved sport. We’ll be bringing you the latest news that matters to you – race reports, event information and all of the off-water happenings. Live on our website now you’ll find pieces on why the sport in Australia has never looked brighter – despite COVID-19 – as well as Hayley Nixon’s incredible news and what it means for her career. We’ll be presenting a depth of coverage that has long been afforded to other sports all around the globe. Now it’s our turn.
But The Paddler goes far beyond news. The world’s best and most recognisable paddlers will be opening up like never before, providing insights into their lives and the paddling experiences that have lead them to where they are today. Rising stars and established veterans. 2019 finished as one of two-time world champion Cory Hill’s most successful years, but now he’s opening on the struggle that almost saw it derailed – and it’s one plenty of you can relate to – while Danielle McKenzie looks back on her whirlwind ride to the top of the sport.
There’s other projects on the way, too. One of the sport’s most affable paddlers, Macca Hynard, will be joining me for for our regular podcast, The Paddler Pod, where we dissect all of the latest talking points from around the paddling world.
I’m incredibly grateful for the support already shown by surfski’s leading names, and the confidence they gave me to take this leap. We speak different languages, and lead dramatically different lives, but we all share the same thing: an unrelenting love of paddling – and we know you do too.
If you want to join us on this journey, be sure to follow our website, Facebook and Instagram pages so you don’t miss a thing. That’s ‘thepaddler.news’ across all mediums.
For now, we hope you enjoy the articles and insights that we have to share. It’s not an easy time for anyone, but while life is seemingly on hold, we hope we can provide you with that sense of community that only surfski paddling can. There’s plenty more on the way.
The Paddler founder.