The Shaw and Partners Australian Ocean Racing Series is bracing for its biggest year to date. PHOTOGRAPH: © John O’Sullivan.


Dean Gardiner has spent enough time paddling and competing all over the globe to know when there is something in the water.

And the downwind legend believes that when the international racing calendar returns to normal in 2022, after two heavily disrupted seasons, there will be change at the top.

“There’s definitely been an emergence of new talent,” Gardiner says.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“We saw that at the 20 Beaches. Jackson [Collins] and Cory [Hill] were at the front battling it out, but there was a bunch of new paddlers right there with them… and that was only the New South Wales paddlers.

“There’s a whole range of paddlers across the country who are at that standard and can be at the front.

“I think it’s fantastic and I think we will see a new style of racing.”

“The races are still dictated by what the ocean is presenting… you still have to be able to use the conditions.

“When you throw in all of the international paddlers, you’ve got a really full front end of the field.”

The potential new wave will begin in Australia this weekend with Sydney’s iconic Bridge to Beach – the first race of the Shaw and Partners Australian Ocean Racing Series.

The Shaw and Partners Australian Ocean Racing Series will begin with the fast and furious Bridge to Beach.

​Due to COVID border restrictions around Australia, the series wasn’t held in 2020 and 2021.

But with Western Australia on the verge of allowing the return of travelers – the last Australian state to do so – Gardiner has cause for comfort.

“I’m very, very confident we’ll see the whole series out this year… unless some other exotic disease pops up,” the Series Director jokes.

“I’m just excited for the people who have supported it. Obviously, Shaw and Partners and all of our brands and paddlers who have supported this sport and hung with us over the hiatus.”

“We’re all very, very keen to see it move forward.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

The world’s richest surfski series has unveiled a 16-race schedule, totaling $350,000 in prize money.

In a major change, The Chucky will now be held in March, moving from its traditional place in spring.

The Gold Coast Classic, Queensland’s biggest surfski race, is not included in this year’s series. But the state has received an additional race in The Old Woman Ocean Ski Race to be held on the Sunshine Coast in September.

After a successful launch last year, the Shaw and Partners Forster Race Weekend will return on April 22 and 23.

The series will use a new ‘star system’ to calculate its series point score; the details of which you can read by clicking here.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“I think this works the best compared to previous systems because it’s the most flexible.

“If guys want to really work it, they can. They can go to South Australia and Tasmania and try and get a win in a lower star event and up their point-score.

“A West Australian only needs to travel once, so if you do the Doctor Week you’ve essentially clocked up enough, which means an international paddler can come out at the start of November and acquire enough points to win the series.

“We’re rewarding the ones who want to support the series and who do the best.”

The AORS is also set to see more elite surf lifesaving competitors than ever before, as more and more athletes pursue the international opportunities that downwind paddling presents.

“I do feel like there’s a buzz,” Gardiner says.

“The events complement each other perfectly. If you look at the way the top guys and girls went in the Open ski finals at Aussies last year, the medalists were athletes who do a lot of ocean races.

“I like the fact that the surf clubs have a following. If you get a couple of people from different surf clubs, they will share it with their mates if they enjoy the event.

“It opens the sport up to a bigger network of people.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Entries are still open for the Bridge to Beach on Sunday, traditionally one of the most-participated events in the country.

“It’s the perfect event to kick off this series.” Gardiner says.

“For the top paddlers, it’s an intense race… a very, very intense race.

“And for the punters who are doing it for the challenge, where else can you paddle in such a beautiful part of the world?

“It’s a win-win for everyone.”