Sean Rice and Hayley Nixon delivered a double victory for the touring South African paddling team by winning the men’s and women’s titles at the prestigious Nelo Summer Challenge surfski race in Portugal in Friday afternoon.
In a race totally dominated by South Africans paddlers, Rice was locked in a duel with compatriots Hank McGregor, brothers Dawid and Jasper Mocké, his own brother Kenny and Nicky Notten for much of the 19km race from Viana do Castelo to Ofir’s beach in Esposende.
Because he lost his GPS tracker overboard, Sean Rice’s charge went largely unnoticed by the audience following the race at the finish venue and the huge global following watching the live streaming, until he snuck into the beach finish ahead of a strong finishing McGregor.
Rice (Think Kayaks) won his world championship title at the same event a few years back and revelled in the windy conditions and mild ocean swell on the coastal route.
McGregor (Euro Steel/Fenn) finished a close second with Nick Notten taking the last spot on the podium from Kenny Rice.
The women’s race was totally dominated by the reigning world champion Hayley Nixon from Durban.
She hit the front front the start and gradually opened up a massive five hundred metres to win the title with ease, to go with her impressive win on her maiden Molokai Challenge crossing earlier in the year.
Kiwi Tenealle Hatton was second, South Africa’s Olympic sprinter Bridgitte Hartley was third, just ahead of ex-pat Michele Eray, racing out of the USA nowadays.
With South African paddlers filling the podiums in man y of the age groups, the Iberian outing is a good morale booster as many of the paddlers head for the flatwater marathon world championships a few hundred kilometres away next weekend.