CORY HILL’S UNSPOKEN SPONSORSHIP OF THE WA RACE WEEK
The realisation arrived for Cory and Llani Hill at the same time.
It was a week after this year’s Molokai Challenge, where Cory had claimed his third race crown, and the Hill family were now in Tahiti as guests of the ‘Te Aito Surfski’ event.
As is always the case with the French Polynesian paddling community, the Hill’s were welcomed with open arms, invited to stay and share meals in the homes of locals.
Now with three young boys, it was another memorable experience racing overseas.
And it lead to a clear conclusion.
“We just didn’t feel right taking from a community that would likely struggle more than our own,” Hill reflects.
“We’re so lucky to live a comfortable life in Australia, and that has helped allow us to have these incredible trips away.
We want to help share surfski paddling with people who may not otherwise get to experience it.
“Llani and I felt that we were taking something from the Tahitians, so we just thought we had to give something back.”
The result is being played out in Perth at the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week.
Hill, through his accounting firm CN Hill Accountants, has sponsored Mahana, a young Tahitian paddler, to come to Australia and experience the biggest week of racing in the world.
Mahana lined up in both of the Dr Benjamin Hewitt Sunset Surkski Series Races, and tomorrow, will cross from Rottnest Island for the very first time.
It’s an incredible act of generosity, but it isn’t the only one Hill has made to this week’s event.
Word had filtered around paddling circles months ago that Cory had quietly added to the prize money for both the men’s and women’s champions of the Doctor.
A shift in the spread of the enormous $180,000 prize pool saw the iconic race carry less cash reward than previous years, but Hill’s sponsorship of somewhere around $5,000 would ensure it remained the biggest pay day of the week.
When asked by The Paddler, Hill chose not to comment. Instead, he wanted to reiterate his gratitude for what ocean paddling has given to him.
“I see myself as being so lucky to be in the sport at the time I have been,” Hill says.
“I’ve taken so much from the sport. When the big prize money came to the major races, I am grateful to have been at the front of a lot of them.
“A lot of my clients are ocean paddlers, and that’s how i’ve attracted clients in the past.
“I love working with like-minded people, and if I do get a client or two out of sponsoring the event, then that’s fantastic. What a way to advertise to the community that has done so much for me.
“I see it as giving back to the sport that’s given so much to me.”
If all goes to plan for Hill, tomorrow, he’ll win some of that prize money back.
The Australian is shooting for a fifth Doctor victory, after finishing fourth in last year’s running.
He’s also out to defend his title in the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week overall point score.
That got off to the best-possible start last Saturday, winning the West Coast Downwinder for the fifth time in enjoyable downwind conditions.
“We’ve been talking about how underrated this West Coast Downwinder is as an international event,” he says.
“20 Beaches is the biggest race on the East Coast. Hong Kong is one of the biggest in the world. I’ve always put them on that pedestal of races you want to win.
“But the West Coast Downwinder has all of the people from 20 Beaches and the Dragon Run, but for some reason, it gets overlooked as one of those races that people speak about wanting to win.
“For me to have won it, it started my week on the right foot.
“But Tuesday and Thursday showed how competitive this week is. The Doctor is going to be so hard-fought. I hope I can end up at the front of it again.”