The end of the Pili Pili era

The end of the Pili Pili era

(Feedback by Gary Van Rooyen)

Thursday’s forecast predicted epic KITING weather for the SUP race day!!

The paddling die-hards tightened their tie-down straps and left home. They were off to the well-known Breede River Lodge hosting the “Pili Pili Whale of a Race” in Witsand. They had an old score to settle, and the race was only a part of it.

The paddlers all knew it would be windy from the start, but they turned up on race day with their heads in the game.

Due to the priority of safety first, and with no NSRI boat on duty, it was agreed that there would be no crossing over the river mouth. This area can be tricky with the current going out & the swell to work through, let alone during a strong wind.

The race was shortened to around 5km out of the regular 7km, which was a bit disappointing to the regulars, but it made sense when they had to start in the harbour due to the wind factor. No one  could stand in a straight line outside the harbour!

Finding a line

The course involved a paddle with the wind upstream to a buoy about 100m away. Paddlers went around the buoy and back into the wind for about 3,5km, all the way down to a sand spit.

There was lots of falling and jostling – trying to find the best line with the current going out and the wind coming towards you was no easy task. There was also about a two foot wave mid-river, so it was best to steer clear or stay to the side of that.

Some paddlers got off to a great start, but others had lots of falls. Tarryn King broke away quickly from the ladies’ group. In the men’s department, it was our Junior Sprint Champion Cameron Tripney who darted off, leaving all in his wake – making it difficult for the other guys to catch up,  so the lineup held fast with a slight shift mid-race.

Eventually it was Cameron Tripney who took it home, with a lovely downwind from the sand spit all the way home –  a very easy run. Tom King came in second, Miggie really showed up well, coming in third place!

The two prone paddlers did exceptionally well too, with Jadon coming in 3rd overall in the men’s section, and Cailin earning second place overall in the ladies’ division – impressive work! According to Jadon, the event really lived up to its name of being at the “Xtreme Sport Centre!”

The first lady of SUP was Tarryn King, followed later by Evette Terblanche. Some really nice prizes went to Candace who spent a bit of time on her knees, but hats off to some of the girls like Lynne and Gaby too – it was a tough day but they did incredibly well. Charles too!

Sadly this was the last race – the owners have sold the restaurant, and we hope they can host another race in their new location.

This news, however, did not mar a great weekend, with the highlight being the continuation of a traditional post-race beer pong rivalry. The “wild horses,” Gary and Candace, almost reached the finals, but were unable to topple the unbeatable duo and owners of Pili Pili – Neels and Craig – who have won for 8 years running! This game is serious business, as surely as were the sore heads on Sunday morning!

So is this the end of an era? We hope not, and we are confident that the beer pong champions will find a new venue and a new race to continue the legacy! The SUP addicts will be there, still trying to settle that beer pong score!

Downwind Mavericks race day

Downwind Mavericks race day

In the middle of June, when paddlers have grown weary of the Cape’s windless winter days, the banter on the local chat group can quickly escalate into a very interesting plot.

 

A restless Young Gun, ever eager for more paddling, passes a glib comment to the SUP master of old about catching him on a downwind. A quick uptake, and a challenge is set in motion.

Out of this banter grew our race! The experienced Mavericks would race against the Young Guns, in the renowned southeaster downwind territory of Miller’s Run – an 11km paddle that can have a few challenges if the wind demons are not in the right kind of mood for the day. It can be a workout, or a whirlwind!

The race date was set, the entries logged in and the wind began to whisper that morning of exciting things to come. Our race director gave us a good-to-go signal, warning that it would be an honest paddle, as the ocean and wind were in a bit of a docile state compared to regular downwind conditions.

The busy slipway at the start

Thanks to the local paddler’s taxi service, Miller’s taxi, our racers had a lift all the way to the venue, but as with any event, you never know what’s in store on the day. The slipway at the start was abuzz with a fair amount of traffic, and the fishermen were working the sea with gusto and lining the route the paddlers needed to take. Alongside that were some casual paddlers, also taking advantage of a great day and “milder” conditions to notch some more downwind miles on to their paddling belts! Vinny later commented that our racers displayed the best organisation he had ever seen amongst the slipway chaos.

Paddlers ready, set…. and go!

A few of the intermediate paddlers were set off first, as well as some brave watermen trying out their first downwind race and first time on a race board – what absolute sports they were – and they made it all the way, albeit tired at the end.

The Mavericks were selected and given a special leader’s rash vest to wear and the Young Guns and mere mortal paddlers had to do their best to keep up as part of the second pack to leave. 

We must give hearty applause to the prone paddlers. The Miller’s downwind on a milder day is already a slog on a SUP, especially when compared to the double-bladed power of the surfskis. Completing 11km on a purely hand-paddled craft while bending on your knees or lying on your stomach – well, that’s just another level of seamanship altogether! We salute our two prone paddling guys, and hope that the junior ladies-in-training will soon be the young guns chasing you mavericks!

 

Pick up your ski & go again

Young gun lineup at the finish

Our prone paddler finishing strong       

So, back to the challenge that set the stage – what was the outcome?

Well, the SUP master reigned after all, but only just. The Young Gun was very close behind him, in fact, just under 3 minutes behind! Watch out for the next race – we might have to crown a new Maverick!

The SUP Master retains his title! 

The Young gun is ready for more! 

Join us on 12th November as we embark on part 2 of the Downwind Mavericks Series.

Details on our SUPSA CALENDAR soon! 

ICF 2022 SUP – FINALS DAY: All aboard for the final trip on day four

ICF 2022 SUP – FINALS DAY: All aboard for the final trip on day four

The dawning of the final day brings with it the crescendo of pain and pleasure, a hint of nostalgia, and farewell to friends both old and new.

Above all, it must be crowned with a great desire to return home for rest and refreshment from the superhuman efforts of the paddlers over the last few days.

The South African fans eagerly awaited this day, as Cameron Tripney was up for the B final of the Junior boys’ technical race! This was only made possible after some serious consideration the night before – his exhausted mind and body versus the motivational messages from his devoted fans and family! He would go!

Launching comfortably into the race, Cameron then kicked up the power levels and pulled away with his superb sprinter’s pace. He set about holding first position comfortably all along, despite the commentators’ concerns that his nearest rival might find a gap. Cameron gave him no reason to do so. He cruised through the course, swept past the buoys with no resistance, and hammered for the beach. His final sprint was a comfortable one, knowing he had it well in the bag! What a great and memorable paddling journey he has had at World Champs. A truly inspiring young man that all have grown to know and love!

A fantastic surprise came along at the end of the day – our boys came second overall for the distance race! What a lovely way to honour their endurance in those extreme conditions.

The athletes from South Africa have been reflecting on their journey to Poland and what it is like to compete at an international level:

 

Elmari Renecle, Team Captain shows the positive outcome of all that she experienced at Worlds:

My second World Championship done and dusted.  Although I didn’t get the results I was hoping for in the sprints, I felt strong in the Technical race & know that I have what it takes to do really well. It was a great learning curve for me and the most important lesson I will take away with me, is that you have to race the board that you train on.  Also, for me personally, it’s better to  focus on the disciplines that you are the strongest at, then you stand a better chance to do well.  I really enjoyed the experience and had fun and now I have some new goals to work towards.

Evette Terblanche, paddling in a category with others younger than her age:

I had the best time on the water today. Even though cut off early on in the race, I beat people less than half my age. A shot at the semis would have been amazing, but it was not meant to be. I saw some really bad sportsmanship and also the other end, some 50+ lady making everyone dance on the start line.

What have I learnt? Compete, compete hard, give your all and celebrate your rivals at the finish line. Happy and content, I can’t wait to compete in my own age group again. Our community is growing every year, from Austria, Germany, Greece, Ukraine, Slovenia, England, Sweden. Too many to mention!!!  Connor Baxter, Fiona Wylde, Michael Booth and the entire Starboard team, came running towards us, with open arms. Wow!! Bart de Swardt watched our junior races with keen interest. We were so honoured. Mega marathon sup legend!!!

Murray James, our paddler from warmer waters:

Amazing first experience of international racing. In SA we simply don’t get to compete and experience racing at this level.

Lots to learn and take away from the trip.

Board selection is vital, having the right board for the conditions.

Training for the worst case scenario conditions that the venue can have is super important.

Cameron Tripney, on his first and last international as a junior:

•Was great to meet everyone especially the top world class paddlers I looked up to since I was young.

• Poland is an amazing country so different from others but extremely unique.

• Won a gold medal in sprints which still doesn’t feel real, can’t believe it happened, but put in many hours of training for this.

• Was a special ending to my junior paddling career on the international scene, excited to take on the open men next year.

Steve Tripney, the now infamous father of Cameron and donator of hamstring strands, also summed up his overall experience as a supporter:

A long journey, but our arrival at the hotel made a great first impression, meeting the efficient and genuine Polish people.

The hype around the event and Cameron’s gold medal was massive, as was the incredible treatment received from Starboard. The long distance race was a disappointment for the boys and in fact all who expected flat water, but the choice of open ocean in the bad weather was questionable, seeing as so many people were unable to finish the race. The technical race was a hard and disappointing one, but a lesson learnt in lifting oneself up overnight, when Cameron came back to win his final in the second fastest time overall for the day!

All in all, a fantastic experience, but the organisation was not as great as it seemed last year, with too many boards on top of each other at starts, and many false starts in sprints and technical races that were not penalised. The good side –  we are looking forward to the party at the end!

Anja Burger, Team Manager:

I am incredibly proud of the SA team who competed against the world’s best for the last 5 days. We can celebrate that SA is on the SUP world map. It was a stressful but incredible week in the SUP worlds for SA.

 

We will say goodbye with this beautiful image from Poland, a reminder of why we paddle. 

ICF 2022 SUP – TECHNICAL RACES: Buoy turns and muscles burn on day three

ICF 2022 SUP – TECHNICAL RACES: Buoy turns and muscles burn on day three

The lingering cold weather on day three did nothing to stop the pressure and pace set by the technical race heats!

The cold weather had abated, but only to a small degree. The sea was calmer than the day before, but not perfect. Grey sky was still the keeper of the day, and the paddlers on the beach were working tirelessly at keeping their muscles warm. Another day, another lesson in the sporting life – working with the pressure of prevailing conditions.

From the start there was a fast and furious pace in and between the heats, with one race going off while another was still finishing. Supporters really had to keep their wits about them to remember which athlete went out in which race number.

The technical race tests a paddler’s speed and skills in a short space and time. 

First up was Murray James in the Men’s 40+ age group. It was hard to see how he did as the cameramen focused on the top 3 for most of the race, and before it was even over the next heat was ready to go. He ended up in 5th place, in at time of 7:52:12 for the 1000m course. As only the first 4 were pushed through, he did not make the semi-finals.

In the 50+ Women’s technical race, Elmari Renecle got off to a good start, but due to a few falls, landed in 4th place which she held comfortably until the end, “strolling” up onto the beach to take her place in the semis. Elmari finished in a time of 7:46:59 (39:85 off of the winning time).

As the Juniors got under way, the next up in the first heat was Cameron Tripney. He launched out and took a great lead, but at a point almost midway, the second position paddler tried to make a run for first spot, but it did not last long. Cam took his own back on the home stretch, coming in strong in a time of 5:27:97, ahead of the competition by 10:52.

In heat nine, Migael Terblanche took off for his technical race. The pressure was on from the start, and he held a good position in the front pack until a fall reduced him to the back. Another fall later on sadly reduced his energies and headway, but he finished in a strong 5th place. His time was 6:23:47 – a mere 57:95 off the winner’s efforts of 5:25:51.

Evette’s technical race was also a loaded field. She held her own very well, to finish at 5th position in a time of 7:04:28 against the winner’s time of 5:30:64 and sadly did not make it through to the semi-finals.

Slowing down the Semis to focus on the racers

The pace between the races abated a little in the Semi-finals, allowing us to focus on one race and one paddler that we were supporting at that time.

Elmari again got off to a fantastic start, but sadly the three falls she had over the duration of the course set her back into 4th place. Her finishing time was 7:33:40, just 1:03:46 off the winner’s time of 6:29:94. This was sadly just not enough to proceed to the finals, but what a good performance she delivered nonetheless.

Cameron’s semi-final third place was achieved in a time of 5:05:04, just 2:92 off the winning time of 5:02:12. The Junior boys are truly a strong bunch, but Cameron held out well. A buoy turn taken a bit wide gave his opponent the inside lane and he took off. We could see Cameron was tired towards the end of this race, but he still managed to push with all he had, right up to the beach sprint. He kept the supporters screaming and just missed the 2nd place by a very short distance. We will see him in the final B race tomorrow.

Well done to all of our athletes. The courses have taken their toll and you have withstood the pressure. You have been fantastic ambassadors for our sport and for our country.

ICF 2022 SUP – DISTANCE: Weathering the storm on day two

ICF 2022 SUP – DISTANCE: Weathering the storm on day two

A sombre grey sky and a fierce wind reset the clocks on day two of the ICF World SUP Champs, causing the organisers to twice amend the start times just to wait out the gusts!

It was not necessarily third time lucky for paddlers at the overloaded start lines as the distance races kicked into action. The mass starts were stacked, despite having been broken down into two larger categories:

Open and Masters 40+

Juniors and Masters 50+

The rules for distance racing are serious – no drafting is allowed between men and women, or even between those of different age groups. In this round, you fight a personal battle with the wind and the waves against time and the power of your mind! You have to keep focused, keep hydrated, keep your balance, and keep pushing your limits – all at the same time! And today – another demon came to haunt the paddlers – foul weather!

The distance race is a tribute to physical and mental tenacity.

Murray James, followed shortly by Evette Terblanche, were both in the first category of paddlers on the start line. Despite the delays, the weather had not abated as hoped, and it was anyone’s guess as to how to paddle 16km in the choppy swells with the wind and the rain in full beast mode!

The tracking system, as it was discovered, only covered the Open athletes, so we had no idea of what had happened to Murray. We later learnt that he had withdrawn in the gruelling cold. We were grateful to watch Evette’s progress through the course. At times her tiny icon would spin and lose track – unusual for this very seasoned downwind paddler – but it gave us a small hint of what she had to endure.

She later gave us this feedback.

“I am hard core, but my body could not possibly do more than 2 laps. That was the worst conditions I have ever been in. The downwind section was fun though. Hypothermia plus plus. Poor Murray was blue.” 

16km under those circumstances was beyond the mere mortals! It seemed that only those who frequent the professional  SUP circuits managed to dig deeper than the norm and use an uncanny strength to finish. Elmari Renecle took her own sage advice and decided to save her paddling strength for another day and discipline.

The Inflatables – a different “board” game altogether! 

A short while later our boys, Cameron Tripney and Migael Terblanche started to prepare for the Junior race. The thought of completing the 8km distance on inflatables in the raging waves was unnerving all the supporters – especially the mamas! We were grateful to hear that the distance required only 2 laps, as by this time rain had covered the course, destroyed any decent camera angle options and generally drenched the paddling community to the bone with a dose of the northern chills! The poor commentators were at a loss for words, and spent much energy in search of solutions, but with no joy. We settled for watching the horizon, as in the sailing days of old, waiting for a glimpse of our beloveds, and united in the common cause of making sure they got home alive!

The commentators strained to read numbers on the bibs, spectators helped to identify the paddlers they knew, and after a day of mental turmoil, waiting and freezing, the 2022 Long Distance SUP World Champions were crowned. This time the podiums were not to behold the South African flag, but we will uphold our paddlers for their endeavours! Cameron finished in 7th place, and Migael in position 23! Truly commendable, boys!

All we have for them is utter respect – for going out in the chaos and weathering the storms – for keeping on as long as was humanly possible, and for also giving us a reminder of why we need SUP training and races in our life – to grow tenacity, perseverance and the ability to handle whatever the day throws at you!

Here’s looking at you kids! 

ICF 2022 SUP – SPRINTS: Fireworks on day one

ICF 2022 SUP – SPRINTS: Fireworks on day one

The South Africans have stamped their presence on Poland’s ICF World SUP championship with a blazing start in the sprint arena and a good few wins to take the paddling world by surprise!

Our first athlete in the Men’s 40+ lineup today was Murray James. We were impressed at his solid start to international racing. He paddled really well, just missing a spot into the quarter finals. Murray’s time was 1:09:37 (the winning time was 56:74)

Migael Terblanche was our first Junior boy to take the lineup and gave a powerful display of raw power, to win his first heat in 58:07 (by 01:23).

Cameron Tripney stepped up next to confirm the arrival of the South African Junior forces. He annihilated all in his first heat, winning in a time of 52:61 (by 05:36 over the nearest competitor).

Our Open Women’s competitor, Evette Terblanche, just missed a spot through to the quarter finals by taking 7th place in her first heat (she was 13:32 off of the winning time of 1:02:29).

Our team captain, Elmari Renecle entered the Women’s 50+ division, and went on to start with a magnificent win in her first heat. Her time was 1:08:98 (winning by 00:05).

The Quarter and Semi Final rounds 

After a short break the first quarter finals were up – and both our boys featured in the same heat. They did not disappoint the adoring fans back home, Cameron won the race in a time of 53:58, with Migael powering behind him into 2nd place in a time of 58:05 (a difference of 04:47). The support groups online were going crazy and not a stitch of work got done at this point in the morning.

The lunch break was short and sweet, moving us on to the greatly anticipated semi-finals. The quick turnaround at lunchtime did not help the camera crews, and sadly resulted in only single camera footage for the first few races. It was hard to see Elmari’s race finish as the camera angle just missed the line, but she ended up with a 5th place and a time of 1:08:41, only 1:23 off the winner’s time of 1:07:18!

Cameron cruised to a quarter final win of 51:64 (beating his nearest rival by 00.26). The pressure was starting to mount.

Migael faced his quarter final, which was heavily loaded with some very seasoned paddlers, yet he finished with a truly respectable 7th place in a time of 1:01:24 (The winner hit 57:21)!

 

Hearts pounding all the way to the Finals

Unknown to the local supporters, Elmari had protested her results. We had not seen on screen, but there was interference (skew paddling out of lanes) by a nearby paddler. A great justice was done – the protest was upheld, and we were happy to hear she was through to the final! She had to do a running sprint just before her actual race too, as they only advised her at the last minute that she was in! We are so proud of her 8th place result of 1:09:62 (she was behind the winning time of 1:04:48 by only 5:14!)

The crowning race of the day was our Junior Boy Cameron’s final. Here he set about finishing off his utter domination of the field in a mind-boggling time of 50:25, keeping ahead of the ever-increasing powerful field of boys by a healthy margin of 1.72. There was a stream of joy from the South African family, friends and fellow paddlers to salute this youngster as he achieved a goal he has worked on for the last few years, overcoming so much to GET HIS GOLD!

To all our athletes today – you did us more than proud. We could not have hoped for a better launch to your World Champs entries for all of you. You have been showing your mettle in the international field with stellar results! We salute you!