A venture to South Africa

A trip to South Africa has been on the cards for a wee while now, training in Auckland, NZ is great don’t get me wrong but a lot of the time due to my shift work i’m training by myself or with my Partner, Sam so a lot of key sessions with a ‘group’ are minimal. I think personally one of my weaknesses in paddling is pushing to that next level in a group situation and realising I can push further and also learning when to relax on a wash and when to go! My Coach – Lee McGregor is based in Durban where he has a huge squad of paddlers (MAC’s squad) and I thought why not make a trip there this year! We decided that the end of March – beginning of April was a good time to make the trip. I would head over to SA for 3 weeks then back home and have a couple of weeks prior to NZ King and Queen of the Harbour and then a further month before heading to Hawaii for Molokai.

March 20th came around quickly and I was jetting off, 19hrs direct to Dubai with a quick stop over and then a further 8hrs to Durban I was rather jet lagged to say the least! I was greeted at Durban Airport by the lovely Jenna Ward who I met ocean racing around the world and lucky enough to be hosted by Jenna and her Family. That next day I was straight into the training – it was full on, training 3 times a day and living the dream (no work)!! It took me a couple of days to get rid of the jet lag and I definitely felt sluggish for those first 2 days but eventually started feeling ‘normal’ again. Most paddling sessions were done in the Blue Lagoon – a river that runs along the Durban Coast but believe me it is anything but blue! It was poo brown coloured and I learnt to keep my mouth closed as much as possible during sessions and I never actually realised how hard it is to do this! Training also consisted of 2 gym’s a week at the Prime High Performance Centre where Jenna’s gym coach Jaryd kindly allowed myself and Swedish Marathon paddler Emma Anderson to join Jenna at the gym. Adding to the weekly training were a couple of track and running sessions where I really felt the burn!

My first weekend in SA Jenna’s Family took us on an adventure to the HluHluwe Game Reserve. This was the one thing I wanted to tick off the list whilst in SA. It was a pretty amazing day where we drove around the Game park sighting 4 out of the Big 5 animals. The highlight was spotting 2 Lion’s having a sleep 1 metre from the road and literally being so close to the Lion’s I could almost give them a gentle pat!!!

During the end of week 2 in SA I picked up the infamous ‘Dusi belly’ where I was in bed for 14 hours straight vomitting, fever, headache, I was not in a good state but it thankfully it only lasted about 24hours as we were off on another adventure on Easter Friday! We headed to the Underberg where it’s famous for it’s river paddling and hiking. This one one of the most thrilling moments of my trip. Paddling down the Berg river, dodging rocks paddling down rapids, screaming at every moment I got, it was bloody awesome!

Monday came around quick and it was back to Durban for some more intense training! I was feeling like I was definitely making improvements and learning to be smarter in group situations. On Wednesday Jenna was heading to Port Elizabeth for the SA Lifesaving Nationals and I thought to myself why not go down too?! I quickly emailed SLSNZ to get clearance to compete at the South African Nationals, booked my flight and entered the Champs. We ventured to Port Elizabeth (a 1hr flight from Durban) and began racing the following day. It was great to test myself against the SA girl’s and it sure was fun! I unfortunately had no team events but made sure to compete in all the water events. At times where I wasn’t racing I went for a nice long aerobic paddle to keep the aerobic base fitness up. I had a awesome weekend coming away with 2 x 1st in the Ironwoman and Board race, a 2nd in the Ski (photo finish) and and 4th in the Surf Race. Following the Champs I headed back to Durban for a last couple of days training with the MAC’s squad!

Before I knew it, I’m heading home. It has been a great time here in SA and I have learnt a lot, not only about paddling but about myself and my mental strength aswell. A huge thank you to Jenna, Nigel and Fiona for hosting me you were amazing and I am so thankful for your hospitatilty, to Lee and the MAC’s squad for welcoming me and for the good times! I hope to be back in the near future! Last but not least a huge thank you to Herman Chalupsky for letting me borrow your Epic during my stay! And a huge thank you to my sponsors Epic Kayaks, Shaw and Partners Race Team, Vaikobi, Bennett Paddles, Maui Jim, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium and Orewa Massage Worx!

Now it’s time to adjust back to the NZ time zone and prepare for some big events in the coming weeks/months.

Until next time,

Happy Paddling