It speaks volumes about Dawid Mocke’s character – and ability – that he has claimed one of his career’s most gruelling victories at 45 years of age.

And the South African legend has vowed to do all he can to keep challenging for titles, after outlasting his younger rivals to be crowned the inaugural champion of Malaysia’s first major surfski event, the five-day ‘Whack the Wave’.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“I’m at the later stages of my racing career, so the wins are fewer and further between. I’ll definitely take it,” he told The Paddler.

“I’ve got a few guys ahead of me who have shown it’s possible. Look at Oscar [Chalupsky], who won Molokai at 49. 

“It might not be as regular, and the competition is definitely a lot stronger – you only need to check out Australia to see how competitive it’s getting – but it was good to take this win, even if the field wasn’t that deep.

“I’ll take the inaugural win and know next year it’s probably going to be different.”

Whack the Wave certainly made an immediate splash.

The event was contested over five consecutive days of stage racing, starting at roughly 12 kilometres in length and gradually building to 20 kilometres on the final day.

Organisers enlisted Oscar Chalupsky as its race director and offered a huge prize pool, with each stage offering in the vicinity of $1,000 AUD and the overall title $5,000.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

But the devil was in the details.

At this time of year, Malaysia’s Pahang region rarely offers downwind conditions and bears intense heat.

On top of that, athletes weren’t racing in their usual skis. Instead, they had to paddle 22 kilogram NELO boats.

At the end of it all, Mocke emerged victorious in a total time of 6 hours, 47 minutes and 5 seconds, exactly one minute clear of Australian 25 year-old Kent Jenkinson and 10 minutes ahead of former Under 23 World Champion, Australia’s Mackenzie Hynard.

Danielle McKenzie blitzed the women’s field to win in a total time of 7 hours 15 minutes and 26 seconds – most of which was paddled on her own.

“To become the inaugural winner is really satisfying and very pleasing,” Mocke says.

“Macca has been in incredible form of late, so I knew it would be tough… and Kent paddled incredibly well. I would love to see him do more surfski races because he brought everything to the table.”

Dawid Mocke leading Kent Jenkinson during Stage 5. PHOTOGRAPH: © Whack The Wave.

Mocke pointed towards a familiarity with heavy surfskis as an advantage that helped drive his win.

“In the back of my mind I thought I might have a shot at this because i’m used to paddling those boats often while i’m coaching.”

But there were no shortcuts on a course like this.

It’s clear he had put in the work for Whack The Wave. And despite more than two decades of doing the same for races around the globe, it’s something he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“In terms of getting older as an athlete, there’s no reason you shouldn’t carry on racing,” he says.

“You just need to manage two things – your time for recovery, so you don’t get injured… and also your level of motivation, because you have so much more on your plate that can take away from your focus.”

“If you can balance those things out properly, there’s no reason you can’t float from one year to the next. 

Dawid has drawn inspiration from athletes of other sports who are doing the same.

“If i’m going to get philosophical about it, this generation of 40 year olds, and even 50 year olds, is the first real generation that has been raised with a hyper-focus on sports and fitness,” he explains.

“I don’t think it’s surprising that there are people competing so well into their late 40’s and 50’s across all sports, because the studies on sport and performance really began in the 1970’s and 80’s and were perfected in the 90’s when all of these athletes were in their teens.

“Obviously high-impact sports are at a disadvantage as you get older, but in a sport like surfski, there’s no reason you shouldn’t carry on.”

Given Mocke’s racing experience, his judgement of Whack the Wave should carry some weight.

“It was some of the best organisation i’ve seen, honestly,” he declares.  “In all of my 22 years of doing races.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Just as impressive, the enthusiasm of the locals who took part. 

“I was blown away by the number of people on the startline,” Mocke says.

“These guys were rolling up to the startline in plastic, sit-on-top kayaks and banging out 10 kilometres on these things… others were paddling in these 1960-style K1’s with no rudders, and just going for it. 

“They were starting the race flat-out like it was an Olympic final. Everyone was so keen. The hunger was there for sure, and the enthusiasm.

GALLERY: Click across to see some of Malaysia’s emerging surfski paddlers racing hard at Whack The Wave. PHOTOGRAPHS: © Garett Reid & Whack The Wave.

“For me, that was the standout. Every day they just put on a show. The community was thriving and that was a great part about the event.

“Watch this space. I think against all expectations, the Asian region is where we might see the next surfski boom.”

“People are so enthusiastic here and it feels like exercise in general is blowing up here. Everyone is getting into all kinds of sports.

“It’s a sleeping giant. There’s so much water around here, and from a paddling point of view, it’s the perfect sport for this part of the world.”