First stop Portugal……….
For the past two years Nelo have hosted the World Surfski Champs in 2013 and then the following year the European Champs in 2014, so this year Nelo brings back the Summer Challenge in a new venue and new race course. Andre, Marisa and their team really make sure that whether you are a paddler or partner of a paddler you will definitely come away from this race with great experiences.
So right from the start we are picked up from the airport and taken to the hotel. An awesome new venue with the hotel right on the beach. We arrived late on Tuesday night so didn’t really get to see the complete set up until the morning. The dinning room overlooks the beach, which is also the finish of the race. A big grass area right next to the hotel has racks for all our ski’s and a big tent with bean bags, water coolers, red bull and the all important WIFI. We might say it every year but this year you have cracked it, this is the best venue by far. The hotel has friendly and helpful staff and not to forget great food.
The race itself was 100% downwind…..as in 100% downwind. From the beach where we start on we can see the apartment towers that are next to the finish at the hotel and it is a direct line no turning buoys. The wind was steadily picking up and Andre delayed the start slightly to make the most of the better conditions. Another great idea was the start, Andre announced that all paddlers must get behind the line as the start would be soon……then when everyone was behind the line he just sounded the horn, no count down which equaled no false start. It was the cleanest and most fairest start I have seen in a while.
So off we went and as we got out of the shelter of the small harbour the wind and the runners started. It wasn’t big but it was fun, I was paddling my Carbonology Sport Pulse, which is a slightly smaller ski, and was great in those conditions.. The wind did fade away which was a real shame as I was having so much fun, after the wind faded it was a tough race to the finish. I was very happy to grab the final podium place behind Michele Eray and Maggie Hogan, both great paddlers and it was awesome so share the podium with you two.
All in all a great race, but really the whole experience is great. Put this on your list of races for next year, as every year gets better…..even though I have no idea how they can better it. Big thanks to Andre, Marisa and the team at Nelo.
Next stop Spain……….
So after the Nelo Summer Challenge we caught a flight to Valencia for some touring. A good solid day in Valencia checking out as much as we could, and really getting the feel for this vibrant city which has a lot of history.
The Spanish Champs were to be held in Cartegena, which is just a bit further south of La Manga. So we hired a car in Valencia and drove down south towards Cartegena. We arrived late afternoon, so did a little bit of exploring…..mainly just trying to find the hotel and some food :). The next day we walked down towards the port where the race venue is on the way we passed parts of the city that dates back to Roman times so it was a beautiful amble to the port. The way they have incorporated the old stone walls into modern flats and restaurants is a great way to preserve the history. We had a wonderful tapas lunch in the heart of the city and then went to check out the race venue at Real Club de Regatas de Cartagena. Where Alex and the team there made us feel so welcome, he showed us around the club which has a great restaurant and very long swimming pool, he told us that we must make ourselves at home and if we need anything just ask reception. So we had to have a dip in the pool to cool off before we did some more exploring.
With 400 entrants in the Spanish Champs ranging from U/14 to the veterans it looked like a big task to get everything done in time, the U/23, senior and veterans Male and Female’s course was a 17.5km downwind. The first time the Spanish Champs would be a downwind. It was from a beach called Portman back to the Port of Cartegena. The wind was certainly up on race day, and the organisers were bold enough to let us go and tackle the conditions. Which was awesome as it wasn’t to big. Now I had just received my new Carbonology Sport Pulse, thanks to Hein and Jason as this ski is awesome. The start was on a very steep beach, not wanting to damage my rudder or my new ski I ran in very deep before jumping on…but my start went well. Then it was a cross wind to the buoy, which was about 1km out, and then we turned downwind. The wind, swell and runs were great. Unfortunately about 3-4km from the finish you have to turn towards the port and the wind gets sheltered a bit, but the swell and moving water is still there, with some great rebounds off the long harbour wall. Turning into the harbour itself we were faced with a tough headwind. This course threw up every kind of condition you can think of, including finishing next to the biggest working cruise liner, Anthem of the Seas. Again I was pleased with my race as I won the Spanish Champs, with my CS team mate Esteban Medina winning the mens race. Thanks to Amaia Olaberri for a great race, you pushed me right to the end, its been great racing with you this season. Also well done to Raquel Bota who came in third.
Thanks to everyone who made our two week paddling and travelling trip so great, the hospitality shown in Portugal and Spain from the different organisations and clubs has been overwhelming. To Sean from PaddleLife who has kept me motivated and on track while training on my own in the Canary Islands. Also I’m privileged to be apart of Club Amigos Del Piraguismo, the guys and girls here are so enthusiastic and there are definitely future champions in this club.
Final stop back home to Tenerife……..
As always a shout out to my sponsors Carbonology Sport, Knysna Racing, LivingSea and Kudu Kayaks.
Check out the video from the Spanish Championships.