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 We later learnt that he had withdrawn in the gruelling cold.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!