DANIELLE McKENZIE’S MINDSET AS HER WORLD TOUR REACHES MAIN EVENT
Danielle McKenzie’s campaign to reclaim the ICF Ocean Racing World Championship has been far from conventional.
The New Zealand star has been on the road for the past five weeks, racing in events across her two sports in different locations around the world.
It could be cause for concern, yet on on race day, with the 2022 Championships to take place in a matter of hours, she feels at ease.
“If anything, I am going in a bit more relaxed,” she says.
“I haven’t had a whole lot of time to think about surfski racing.
“In terms of preparation, it’s a bit hard to tell as I’ve obviously been getting some sprint racing in. That should help for getting off the line quickly.
“I don’t think the race is too long, so if the wind is blowing, it should be a fast run… I’m hoping so, anyway.”
McKenzie could’ve been forgiven for wanting to take a rest, having ticked off four major surf sport events on her current tour.
It’s a heavy workload, but when asked whether it risked being too heavy, she answered before The Paddler even finished the question.
“Nah, I love it,” she laughs. “I think I get better with racing, and we haven’t had a whole lot of it over the last few months before this.
“That’s why I chose to do Malaysia and then travel on from there… it didn’t make sense for me to go back home.”
Whack The Wave didn’t present much in the way of tight racing for McKenzie – in fact, she finished the five-straight days of racing in a total time of 7 hours, 15 minutes and 26 seconds.
That was more an hour and a half ahead of second place.
But the event gave her a huge shot of confidence.
“For me, it was about five days of paddling in a hot country, tough conditions and somewhere new,” she says.
“There’s no better training than that kind of racing.
“Mentally I came out of it a lot stronger, and physically I did too, for sure. They were tough days.”
Without female rivals to race-off against, McKenzie took on the men.
Each day her wave would start five minutes before them, but after paddling the first half of the race on her own, they would form a group.
In the first few days, she was left behind. But by the final day, she actually broke clear.
“I saw Dawid [Mocke] stopping a couple of times, I wasn’t sure if he was eating or drinking, but I thought, ‘stuff it, I have to catch him.’
“We were on a little wave together coming in to the finish and he said, ‘Oh Dani, I’ve had it’ and I didn’t say anything but thought, ‘yep, I’ve got you,’” she laughs.
She was unable to compete in the European Championships like she had hoped, but the training still placed her in good stead before returning to the ironman arena at the World Surf Lifesaving Titles.
Representing New Zealand, she raced a huge program that produced plenty of medals, including gold in the open women’s ski race.
But the main event of her tour was always the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships – and reclaiming the crown she was unable to defend in 2021.
McKenzie admits the race presents somewhat of an unknown, as its the first time the world’s best female athletes have squared off since the COVID pandemic began.
Those who know her well believe Danielle is in the best form of her career.
But ahead of the race, she stopped short of agreeing.
“It’s hard to know, because I haven’t raced a full international field in so long,” she responds.
“Ana [Swetish] and I had a great race at The Gorge but there was only the two of us.
“It’s hard to tell, but after Malaysia I got a huge amount of confidence and also motivation to continue training hard until Worlds. So we’ll see.”