RACING TO RESUME IN AUSTRALIA THIS WEEKEND
It’s the most competitive race that you’ve never heard of.
On Saturday morning, just after the sun rises over the Gold Coast, surfski competition will resume in Australia after shutting down through the height of COVID-19.
There won’t be any fanfare and the numbers won’t be huge either – organisers are expecting around 60 paddlers to take part.
But some of those names on the starters list are among the sport’s most recognisable.
“Cory [Hill], Macca [Hynard] and Tommy [Norton] are all taking part,” explains Gold Coast Ocean Paddler’s president Jeremy Cotter.
“Then you’ve got Kenny Wallace, Tom Green, Jean Van der Westhuyzen as well as guys like Brucey Taylor and Josh and Nathan Meyer.”
It’s an all-star cast for what is one of – if not the – first official race held anywhere in the world since the coronavirus pandemic struck.
“Val [Henot, French representative paddler] tried to tell me there’s a race in Sweden, but I said ‘nah, that doesn’t count,’” Cotter laughs.
“Everybody is keen as mustard for this, it’s going to be good.”
This is the regular standard of performance that the club enjoys at its monthly handicap race, which is able to return under the state’s relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
Running anywhere between 12 and 15 kilometres, held on any number of courses out of Currumbin Creek, it’s proving to be the perfect training ground for the local paddling community.
And not just for the elite.
“For our club members, it’s so good they can turn up and see these guys in action every month and interact with them.
“I think that’s why the culture in the ocean skis is pretty good up here, everyone mixes.
“To think you can turn up and paddle with Kenny Wallace, who has an Olympic gold medal, and then there’s a guy next to him who has just got into paddling, is really cool.
“He [Ken] will tell you how to get your technique right and things like that too, I think it’s great.
“It definitely lures more people in.”
Cotter is a champion paddler himself, having won three 20 Beaches titles and four Australian championships among a long list of international achievements throughout his decorated career.
But now his focus has shifted towards coaching.
His Currumbin squad is packed with big names and is only continuing to grow – particularly during COVID-19.
“Everyone has been going for it and everyone has been really consistent,” he says.
“Even the kayakers like Kenny, Tom and Jean have pretty much come to every session and have just been going for it.
“It’s really red-line stuff when you’re paddling with them – that’s all I ever do – but everyone has been competitive in a really good, friendly way.”
He believes it’s bringing out everyone’s best, highlighting the form of world champion Danielle McKenzie.
“I’ve never seen a girl paddle that fast in my life and i’ve paddled with all of them,” he admits.
“She is unbelievably impressive.”
It’s that same friendly rivalry at training that underpins the Gold Coast Ocean Paddler’s monthly club race as well.
“It’s good to see the competitiveness out of it, but more so the friendship involved,” he says.
“People are always making little comments and jokes, which I think is great.”
Attracting paddlers with its atmosphere, rather than prizes.
“They might get a pat on the back,” he laughs.
“If they’re lucky.”
For more information on the race head, click here: https://www.webscorer.com/register?raceid=215177