She knows the timing isn’t ideal, but Danielle McKenzie believes her decision to join Epic a week out from the $265,000 Shaw and Partners WA Race Week has the potential to kickstart immediate success.

The New Zealand star and 2019 World Champion had dominated the racing circuit for years on her Fenn, but insists now was the right time to make a move.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“It’s really exciting,” McKenzie says. “It’s no secret that I’ve been looking for a change for a little while and I’m really stoked that I’ve chosen Epic.

“I’ve been blown away by the support and messages I’ve received since the switch and I know it will help carry me a long way.

“Honestly, it is such a tricky time to be changing skis, but I don’t think there is a good time. There’s no big ‘down-time’ gap in the year.

“It doesn’t really worry me though. I’ve had a couple of paddles in good downwind conditions this week and I’m really happy with how I feel and can’t wait to head to Western Australia next week.”

McKenzie is quick to point out her decision to join Epic wasn’t based on any discontent with Fenn.

“Don’t get me wrong, I really liked the Fenn Spark and the Elite S as skis, so I didn’t switch because I didn’t like the ski,” she says.

“Really, I just switched because a needed a change and a fresh start. 

“I think there’s two really great skis for me at Epic in the V11 and V12 that can take my paddling even further.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

That change began several months ago when McKenzie and sponsor Shaw and Partners parted ways.

All Shaw and Partners-supported athletes are on Fenn surfskis – a by-product of the brand’s relationship with Oceanpaddler and Dean Gardiner, who brings the boats into Australia.

The split didn’t force McKenzie’s exit from Fenn, although she decided it was the best step for her paddling moving forward. 

Not that it was an easy conclusion to reach.

“Dean [Gardiner] was the one who helped me get into the sport by lending me skis for local races and introducing me to contacts overseas.

“I’m obviously so grateful for that support, and then once I started getting some results, Earl and Shaw and Partners brought me onto the race team.

“We were so lucky to be supported by Shaw and Partners, particularly through COVID when we did no racing at all.

“I really enjoyed that time and all of the experiences, but I just got to a point where I wanted to get back to the enjoyment behind why I began paddling in the first place.”

“At the end of the day, the direction it was heading just wasn’t for me.”

The realisation saw McKenzie embark on a lengthy process to determine her new home.

“I had a good crack at trying a lot of skis and I’m really thankful to everyone who let me use their skis,” she says.

“For me, it was just about getting to know what I was paddling. I had never paddled anything else, so I needed to learn what designs worked best for me.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

There had been suggestions in the paddling community that she received big offers from several manufacturers, lead by NELO.

McKenzie told The Paddler that she didn’t get that far, saying her first – and foremost – consideration was how she felt in the ski.

That lead her to Epic, and now, the V11 for the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week, as she fights to defend her title.

“I would like another week of training, but that’s not going to happen,” she says.

“Knowing that I’ve been a few good, solid weeks, I’m really happy.

“I honestly believe that as the WA Race Week goes on I will feel better and better. Come the Doctor, we’re going to have a lot of fun… as long as there’s runs.”