It’s a decision he wishes he never had to make, but Nick Notten is no longer headed to Australia. PHOTOGRAPH: © Kerryn Fenn


The thought has been in Nick Notten’s mind for the past six months, but it wasn’t until the last available moment that he was finally able to act on it.

The 2021 World Champion has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week just hours before he was due to fly to Australia.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

The South African has struggled with fatigue since falling sick in April, but it was only when doctors received the results of his blood test on Monday afternoon that they were able to shed light on the mystery illness that has plagued his season.

“My GP said to me, here’s the results. You have a positive reading for Epstein-Barr Virus, which gives you the glandular fever variant.” Notten recalls.

“The rest of my blood results indicated I also have some markers of viral fatigue, and he recommended I seriously considered backing off and not doing anything for the rest of the year… which I took to heart.

“It’s tough. Obviously I have been waiting such a long time for this race, sort of the last three years to get these international events back. It’s such a shame to miss it.”

Notten racing Cory Hill up the beach at the finish of the 2022 ICF World Championships. PHOTOGRAPH: © Photo Duarte.

Notten enjoyed a breakout year of racing in 2021, claiming the ICF World Championship, the prestigious Pete Marlin and iconic Cape Point Challenge.

2022, however, has been tough.

He finished 10th in his surfski World Championship defence, before returning home to South Africa for a sixth at the Pete Marlin.

Notten also competed at the canoe marathon World Championships in the K2 race with partner Andy Birkett – who won this year’s K1 crown – but didn’t finish.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Those results were noticeably below his usual standard of performance.

And while he remained typically upbeat throughout them, he admits to feeling a sense of relief when finally finding out what was behind them.

“Initially, you have this feeling of vindication. Like, I’m not crazy,” he laughs.

“That’s quite cool to know I’m not making this up, that there is something measurable that has changed. “But immediately after that I was like, ‘Oh shit. There is something that’s wrong.’”

“You start to doubt yourself very quickly when it comes to fatigue. It’s something you deal with often when you’re training but it’s hard to differentiate what i’ve felt from the normal effects of training.”

“Part of me is relieved there’s no back-tracking now… but there is also a lot of sadness for all of the experiences I’ll miss on what would have been an incredible trip.

“I do feel like a weight has been lifted, though.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

The 26 year-old is quick to point out his gratitude to his sponsors, Oceanpaddler and Shaw and Partners for their understanding of his last-minute decision.

“Up until that point, I was um’ing and ah’ing because the blood results took longer to get back than I thought, and I still had people I needed to consult,” he says.

“There were so many moving pieces, like, ‘Am I crazy for missing this opportunity?’

“Part of me kept pushing the decision down the road. I thought I could keep seeing how I feel tomorrow. 

“This morning, three hours before my flight I gave Earl Evans (Shaw and Partners co-CEO) a call and told him I wouldn’t be able to make the race week and told him the situation.

“He was very, very good about it, like everyone has been. There has been a lot of support which is nice.”

GALLERY: Notten on his way to a second-place finish at the 2019 Shaw and Partners Doctor. PHOTOGRAPH: © John O’Sullivan.

As hard as the decision to cancel his Australian trip was, Nick is now preparing for an even tougher assignment – resting.

Doctor’s orders will also see him lay low over the summer months, but already, the fire is burning to return stronger than ever next season.

“Sport history shows a trend when athletes step away from active competition, they bounce back stronger,” he says.

“Part of that is being able to step back from competition, focus on recovery and training, and then return with an extra eagerness.

“With my performances in 2021 and also the end of 2019, I was very happy with how I was going.

“I would like to replicate that and get back some of the titles I have lost this previous year. I definitely will be moving forward and really trying to pursue as many of those as I can, with a renewed sense of urgency.”

“Part of my issue this year was being sick – whether or not that was specifically for every race or just some races, and to what degree, is uncertain.

“But at least that’s something I can definitely solve and get a leg-up on, in terms of improving my performance next year.”