The world’s best ironmen and ironwomen will go head-to-head against surfski’s leading paddlers at the WA Race Week, creating a depth of competition the sport has never seen before.

In an extraordinary extension of the $200,000 format, Shaw and Partners will stage a $20,000 invitation-only ironperson race featuring the top five men and women from the Nutri-Grain series, as well as a host of wildcards.

And among the star-studded field will be Shannon Eckstein, who is coming out of retirement for the one-off race.

“When I told him about this and said, ‘why don’t you do it?’ he just said, ‘I’m in.’ Didn’t even flinch,” Earl Evans revealed.

“Shannon is the all-time greatest.

“He’s not coming out of retirement to break any records, but he sees it as a great opportunity to put on an exhibition, go around with some of the current best.

“It shows what a great athlete he is, what a gentlemen he is and what a sport he is.”

The ironperson event will be staged on the Wednesday afternoon, November 25 – the middle of the WA Race Week – and incorporate a nipper’s clinic.

Local wildcard trials will also be held that morning to give Perth-based athletes an opportunity to take part, while a six kilometre downwind board race will be held on the Monday afternoon.

It’s an initiative that will be sure to get surfski’s top paddlers talking.

A condition of entry into the ironperson event is that athletes must also race the entire WA Race week schedule, pitting a host of the best surf lifesavers and downwind paddlers against each other for the first time.

Yesterday Evans revealed to The Paddler that he’s willing to fund the quarantine period of the fastest international paddlers, creating a mouth-watering showdown across the week.

“They’re naturally such incredible waterpeople,” Evans says. “It just adds that excitement.”

“They’re the ultimate athletes in terms of fitness, and I think they can really take it to people who are traditionally very good paddlers.

“If I was an iron person and had a window to go and compete in an ocean ski event with prize money and prestige, why would I not want to have a crack at that?

“It’s just logical the pros would want to be involved in both.”

Booth Training

Last year the professional ironperson series clashed with the WA Race Week, so a number of athletes couldn’t take part in the entire event.

Danielle McKenzie flew across to win The Doctor, while Kendrick Louis finished seventh in the men’s event. Ali Day finished fourth in the 2019 Molokai Challenge.

Evans says it’s a cross-over showdown that makes sense.

“I’m ecstatic there’s a bit of a blend,” he says.

“You cannot take away from surf lifesaving, it’s a phenomenal organisation. But ocean ski paddling is just a wonderful compliment.

“For people to be able to mix that that calibre of athlete all week and pick their brains, ask them questions and have a coffee with them, it’s phenomenal. Just bloody exciting.

“And I think the racing is going to be a lot tighter than we’ve ever seen.”

Organisers have now revealed the full format of the WA Race Week.

Like last year it will encompass five events, beginning with the West Coast Downwind on November 21 and finishing with The Doctor on November 28.

A cumulative point score will be held for the week, boasting $100,000 in prize money.