It wasn’t until he was back in the car after Saturday’s race win in Coffs Harbour, beginning the long, exhausted drive home to the Gold Coast, that Mackenzie Hynard turned to his girlfriend Skye with a realisation.

“I’ve missed the feeling of being fit and i’ve missed the feeling of racing well,” he recalled to The Paddler.

“I don’t think there’s any other feeling like having a hard race and coming out on top. You just feel on top of the world and nothing can get you down in that moment.

“It’s an addictive feeling and I definitely want to stay there.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

The fourth round of Australian Outriggers’ national downwind series isn’t the most prestigious event on the calendar.

There were only around 20 double-bladed athletes on the line for the surfski starting wave.

But for Hynard, it was as important as any victory he’s claimed in his career.

The 27 year-old didn’t train for five months over summer as he managed the national Summer of Surf lifesaving series.

On the weekend, he outlasted some of the best paddlers in the world, emerging from a final one kilometre drag-race ahead of Tom Norton and two-time World Champion Cory Hill, with European heavyweight Valentin Henot not far behind.

“It feels like it’s been a long time coming, in a way,” Hynard says. “And also special for the fact that I did take so much time off.”

“It’s good to know that the things I am doing are actually working.

“That’s the hardest thing – the belief. At training, I was getting smoked and was down on myself… but that’s all it is, a mindset. It’s all about belief.”

FOUR BROKEN MEN: Mackenzie Hynard (left), Tom Norton (centre), Valentin Henot (far right) and Cory Hill (front).

The Gold Coast quartet made the trip south in search of a hit-out ahead of October’s ICF World Championships.

And they certainly found one.

The 25 kilometre race began in the protected waters of the Coffs Harbour marina, with an opening sprint taking the field through the heads and into a 15 knot southerly.

The four big names were joined by Christopher Boult, before splitting onto their own lines for the dice up the coast.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Norton and Hill lead the charge, with Hynard finding himself alongside Henot at the 16 kilometre mark, some 200 metres behind the leaders.

After linking a few runs together, Hynard says he found some breathing room over the Frenchman and was making ground on the front-runners.

That hunt ended when the trio came back together, rounding a final turning boat with six kilometres left in the race.

Not that Macca, co-host of The Paddler’s Pod, was thrilled about it.

“I thought, ‘I can’t do a dog-fight today. I am wrecked.’ 

“My arms were blowing up and my legs were shaking. We were going f****** hard.”

It was Hill who went first, trying to gap his mates on the now protected, rolling runs into the finish.

Although, with 800 metres to go, Hynard surprised everyone – especially himself.

“I was with Tom and managed to drop him and reach Cory’s tail, before getting to his wash, and I thought, ‘I’ve got this,” he says.

“Cory actually looked at me and said, ‘Good work.’ I didn’t realise anyone else was hurting as much as me.”

PODIUM PLACE-GETTERS: Norton (left), Hynard (centre) and Hill (right).

Hynard isn’t getting carried away with the result.

In fact, he’s relatively unmoved by it.

Instead, it’s the way he performed that has given him satisfaction and the valuable race experience that came with it, ahead of a blockbuster finish to the year.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“It would be great if we were having this conversation after Worlds or The Doctor where it was the end of the road, but it’s certainly not the end of the road,” he says.

“I feel like I have timed it pretty well, and as much as I would like to be further along in the journey, I know there’s still six weeks to go [until the World Championships].

“How far along can I get and how quick can I get there? That’s the question and only time will tell.