Canadian Surfski Championships

on Sep 29 in Downwind, Ion, Kenny Rice, mackenzie hynard, Sean Rice, Skis, Stew O'Regan, Team Think, Tenleale Hatton, Uncategorized, Uno Max by

Cam and Stew 640 x 360Sitting around after training in April, myself and paddling buddy Cam Cox flicked through the surfski calendar to find a race which would keep us training and motivated over Winter. Working around other commitments, and when we were free, the stars aligned to see us line up an assault on the Canadian Surfski Championships. I had never been to Canada, so the opportunity to travel and visit the spiritual home of Think Kayak had me pumped to get over there. I had seen videos and heard tales of the awesome downwind conditions at Squamish, an hour north of Vancouver. Hearing that the location was one of the kite boarding capitals of North America, I know these Canadian dudes were onto something.

 

On a tight schedule, I flew into Vancouver 2 days ahead of the race, and headed straight to Squamish. It’s a small, picturesque town, where the race organisers had arranged a nice hotel for racers to bed down. I buzzed Daryl Remmler, the Think Kayak HQ genius, and he said he was sending up our skis that afternoon. A quick glance at the local weather charts showed some howling wind was about to kick in, so we headed to the race start location to await our skis. It’s not every day that you have your ski delivered to you by three world champions, but our Team Think paddlers Sean and Kenny Rice, along with Teneale Hatton and Mackenzie Hynard rolled into the car park with our race craft. After a quick yarn they headed off sight seeing and we jumped on the water to paddle the course. My ski of choice was the Uno Max Elite, the same ski I paddle every day in Sydney.  Cam decided on the Ion in Elite construction. At this stage the wind was blowing hard, the hardest it had been all week according to the guys, and it didn’t take long to get some serious surfing going. I was really surprised at how good the runs were. Normally wind generated waves tend to be quite close together and surfing them on long 6.4mt skis can sometimes be a bit a little tricky. But not here, the gaps between the waves were quite big and the surfing was brilliant. We flew down the course and had an awesome paddle. The scenery just adds to the experience, it’s simply stunning, and add to that the craziest water colour. Once we got back to Squamish, we were lucky enough to hook up with state side paddle, Carter Johnson, who brought our skis back to the hotel on his massive trailer. It was great to get a feel for the course and blow some cobwebs out after long flights. We were all set then for a big dinner at a local pub, the Howe Sound Brewrey. Awsome steak and their own range of beers, well worth a hit out if you’re in town. It was great to hook up with a few more paddlers for dinner including Jasper Mocke, Carter Johnson and Ryan Paroz. For several years I’ve been speaking by email or over social media to a fellow surfski frother, Westley Echols. It was a fantastic surprise to meet Westley over dinner, with his lovely wife Betsy. I can confirm that Westley is probably an even bigger surfski nut in real life, he just loves the sport. It was a really fun dinner talking all things paddling.

 

Race eve and we had a really quick float in the morning to ensure all was good with our skis, paddles and equipment. Then the day was spent sight seeing up in Whistler. This is one seriously fun place to visit. I was really surprised to hear that the area now makes more money during Summer from the mountain bike industry than it does during Winter from skiing and snowboarding. Mind you, when you get up there and see how many people are hurtling down mountains on bikes, it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. All the chair lifts are open, so we went right to the top to check out the amazing views. I can confirm that coming back down mountains on chair lifts isn’t a very nice experience for those a little wary of heights!

Whistler

 

 

After lunch, we headed back towards Squamish. A late call was made to play a quick 9 holes of golf at a local course, and we were greeted with a fantastic course with more beautiful scenery. The place was like a postcard.

 

Golf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race morning arrived, and it was up to race registration. Hooking up with Team Think, the guys were all amped to race. The charts weren’t showing huge wind, but definitely some assistance. After a small bite to eat, we headed to the race start. As international travellers to the race, we were made feel very special by been given yellow race stickers. This granted us a spot on the front line for the race start. This really was a great initiative, and one which could be replicated elsewhere to try make starts more organised and cleaner. A quick roll call by race organiser Bob Putnam of Deep Cove Kayak, then a list of dos and don’ts, and we were ready for the race start. A short walk down to the water to get a warm up done and check out the line to the hot spot.

 

Stickers

 

The hotspot was situated about 750m from the shoreline, straight out. At this stage the winds had come up much higher than predicted, so it was going to be a hard slog against the side chop to start, but the line off the buoy was going to put us in a great position to attack the runs straight down the valley. Bob got us all away very cleanly, and it was a battle between Sean Rice and Jasper Mocke for the cash at the Think Kayak hot spot, with Sean winning the dough. Teneale Hatton was the first girl around the hot spot, so she added to her prize purse too. Once you were around the right hand turn, the runs started lining up beautifully. And they just got better as you went further down the valley. I could hear guys all around howling as they linked run after run, it was a heap of fun out there. After about 13km, the course takes a bit of a right hand turn, and this is where you needed to have a plan in place to attack the last 10km. A wide line make some more runs available, but was longer. A straight or inside line meant almost no runs until the last 1500m, but a shorter line home. As we approached Squamish, the volume of kite boarders increased dramatically, so you needed to be on guard for any stray boards. Once you entered the finishing canal, it was a 1km dash to the finish line, this lined with massive logs. There was a fantastic smell of freshly cut timber, and it really did look like a scene from TV and exactly what you imagined a big river in Canada would look like. The finish had lots of excited spectators cheering everyone home, and added to the really cool atmosphere of the race. Sean Rice got up for the win, with Michael Booth coming home strong to take second place from Jasper Mocke. In addition to Sean, Mackenzie Hynard came fourth and Kenny Rice sixth. Local paddler Wes Hammer was eighth and I finished tenth. I think that is the best representation of Uno Maxes we’ve had in the top 10 of a world series event and was a huge buzz for everyone behind Think Kayak. In addition, Teneale won the ladies race showing that the Uno Max isn’t just a ski for the guys. Well done to Cam Cox too, who finished strongly on his Ion to take eleventh spot overall.

 

Sean Podium

 

Teneale

Prize giving was conducted just across the road from the finish line in the local town park, where we were treated to some great food and a nice cold beer. It was a nice hang out with all the paddlers, with lots of stories of hooking runs and fast splits. Unfortunately we had to head off early to catch a flight, but by the sounds of it, the after party was good fun too.

The race video is well worth a look too.

https://vimeo.com/134644938

 

A big shout out to Daryl at Think Kayak for sorting us with great skis as always. It’s so reassuring to know we can rock up at an event and have a ski which feels exactly like what we paddle at home. Thanks to Bob and his team for a truly unique race experience and their impeccable organisation. Carter Johnson, a massive thanks for looking after our skis on your trailer around Squamish. I can’t wait to get back to Squamish and have another crack at this great race next year.

 

Stew

 

Stewart O’Regan

Think Kayak Australia

Mob:     0404 236 638
Web:     www.thinkkayak.com.au
Skype:  stewieor