Busy weekend abroad for SA paddlers

With the winter months taking hold in South Africa, many local paddlers have shifted their focus to international waters and this past weekend saw surfski paddlers shining in Hawaii while two sprinters were in action in Hungary.

The stand-out performances from the South African paddlers came at the Maui Jim Molokai Challenge where it was a South African-dominated podium with three of the top five places going to South Africans.

Taking the overall win was Sean Rice, who nudged out current World Surfski Series Champion Hank McGregor with Australian Cory Hill taking third. Jasper Mocké finished fourth with another Australian, Clint Robinson, taking fifth.

Think Kayaks’ Rice lined up against a formidable field but it was more than just a strong lineup that made the win special.

“This has to be one of my most special wins that’s for sure!” he beamed.

“The Molokai is always really tough, but this year it had an extra sting. There was very little wind, but enough movement in the water to split everyone up from the very early stages.

“That, combined with the heat and a big south swell, made it hard to get across the channel. The last hour felt like an eternity!

“I’m very happy to finally win the Molokai, but doing it while racing the best guys makes it extra special for me. I’ve wanted this result for a long time!”

Rice’s year does not get any easier with a number of races all over the world, including the all-important ICF Surfski World Championships in November.

“I still have a long year of racing ahead, there are races in Portugal and North America that I will be focused on in July and then of course the Surfski World Championships in Hong Kong later this year.

“I’m also going back to my roots with some sprinting at the Sprint World Champs in August,” he explained.

In Europe this past weekend, the second ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup took place in Szeged, Hungary, and this saw two South African sprinters, Esti van Tonder and Chrisjan Coetzee take on the world’s best.

Van Tonder and Coetzee both took part in the same events as in the first World Cup in Portugal: the 200m K1 and 500m K1 for Van Tonder; and the 200m K1 for Coetzee. At that World Cup in Montemor-0-Velho, Van Tonder qualified for the A Final in 500m K1 event while Coetzee won his 200m K1 B Final.

Unfortunately the pair could not replicate that form in Hungary with the best result being a seventh in the 200m K1 C-Final for Van Tonder.

“These last two weeks have been bitter sweet for me,” Van Tonder mentioned.

“I feel like I’ve learned what I wanted to in terms of my race plan and the areas I will be focussing leading up to World Champs in August.

“But, on the other hand, I also feel like I lost out a bit at the second World Cup with my results not being what I wanted them to be.”