He’s the in-form paddler of Australia’s surfski scene, but Jackson Collins has chosen not to contest his country’s biggest event – the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week.

After stepping away from the sport six months ago to focus on sprint kayaking, Collins made a victorious return on Saturday by winning the Old Woman Ocean Paddle on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast ahead of Tom Norton and Cory Hill.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

It’s an impressive result, but still not enough to reverse his decision to skip the $260,000 week of downwind racing.

“Yeah it was really hard because I love that race,” Collins explained to The Paddler.

“Stefano [Pirrello] and the team at Allwave really wanted me to do it and I feel like i’m the only one not doing it.

“But we’re getting close to the Olympic trials and I want to have a big year in the kayak. I don’t want to spend too much time away from home and away from training.

“It’s a great event and it’s a good week, but for where i’m currently at, and with what I want to achieve, it was the best decision to make.”

Jackson Collins leading the pack during the Ocean Woman Ocean Paddle. PHOTOGRAPH: © Old Woman Ocean Paddle.

The 23 year-old didn’t know what to expect arriving at the Old Woman race after such a long break. But he knew it would be tough.

Organisers made a race-day decision to scrap the 18 kilometre out-and-back course due to visibility concerns.

Instead, the field of around 100 paddlers battled it out over a 12 kilometre three-lap circuit, fanned by moderate south-westerly winds that, due to the angle of the coast, was essentially a crosswind.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

The race was a war of attrition.

After the first lap, only Jackson Collins, Cory Hill, Tom Norton, Mackenzie Hynard, Cory Taylor and Valentin Henot remained at the front.

By lap three, it was Collins, Hill and Hynard.

But a gutsy surge from Norton brought him back into the race, and ultimately onto the podium.

Collins (50:26) winning out in a sprint finish ahead of Norton (50:32) and Hill (50:41).

To view the full results of the Old Woman Ocean Paddle, click here.

“This is the first year i’ve spent a lot of time in the kayak and nothing else,” Collins says.

“Getting back in the ocean felt more strange than before… I really enjoy being in the ocean and I love the tough racing.

“It felt nice to be back at an Australian Ocean Racing Series event… I know all of the guys there and it’s a comfortable environment for me to be in. I don’t feel out of place.”

THE TOP THREE: Tom Norton (left), Jackson Collins (centre) and Cory Hill (right). PHOTOGRAPH: © Old Woman Ocean Paddle.

It’s a surprising admission given the success Collins has struck since entering the world of sprint kayaking.

This international season, he raced both the K2 and K4 500 at various regattas, while also claiming gold in the Mixed K2 500 with Aly Bull at the ICF World Championships.

GALLERY: Aly Bull and Jackson Collins winning gold in the Mixed K2 500 at the ICF World Championships.

Yet Collins admits he still feels like an outsider at flatwater regattas.

And in truth, he’s happy about it.

“I don’t like to say i’m just a kayaker – it’s definitely my priority – but I still really love paddling my ocean ski.”

“The personalities that just do kayaking are very full-on and don’t tend to dip their toe in anything else.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

It’s a direction his career is now heading, but Collins still harbours big ambitions on the ocean ski circuit – beginning with the ICF World Championships in October.

In a rarity, the Allwave paddler is actually giving it his full attention.

“I’m putting a lot more focus on that race and i’ll be training specifically for that,” he says.

“It’s only four weeks away. The intensity I can put into that event isn’t going to impact my kayaking season because it’s all over by mid-October.

“I don’t put a whole lot of pressure on it, but it’s something I get to enjoy, use to get fit and feel competitive and practice racing hard.

“It’s not like kayaking where I go to bed a week before losing sleep, getting nervous by the thought of it.

“With ocean skis, I get nervous on the day of a race but once i’m there, I think to myself, ‘You may as well have a crack, do your best and see how you go.’”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

That’s not to say Collins is relaxed about the result he walks away with.

Boasting an undefeated ocean ski record in 2022, he’s chasing gold in Portugal.

“I think I can go there and win it if I execute well and get the next three weeks right.” Collins says.

“I haven’t got a lot of runway to get fit and get some volume in… but i’m in a unique position because I have a really big base of kayaking under me.

“I’ve done enough ocean ski racing to know what it feels like to be ready, and although I haven’t raced an ocean ski World Championships before, I have enough experience around racing to handle that.”

“It all comes down to whether i’m fit enough or not. If I can do that, it will come right down to the wire.”