WOW what an incredible few days of paddling. I’m typing with one eye shut, feeling a little knackered! Here’s the run down of an epic few days…
Thursday – OC with Mitcho & the boyz!
Waterman & legend Jamie Mitchell was on a whistle stop tour of the UK organised by Steve ‘Westy’ West. Westy invited myself & Ryan James up to Hayling to meet the big man Mitcho & get out on the OC1’s for a little float. What a perfect day, super sunny afternoon, light southerly wind, we got the boardies on & Mitcho wrapped up (bless him he was feeling the cold of the UK)
We cruised out & picked a line straight out to see & ground out 5km’s into the wind reaching an outer bank off Hayling & the Witterings. We all re-grouped & stopped to chew the fat. This to me is what paddling is ALL about. Miles out to sea, sun on your back, with you best mates & your canoe… you don’t need anything else. There’s a peace & tranquillity out there bobbing about, that only an ocean paddler will know… DAMN I love being on the outrigger! After chatting & talking stories, Mitcho took a few vids and we headed back downwind… it was small but there were a few bumps to be found, so much fun. We got back to shore & basked in the late afternoon sun, talking, laughing, Mitcho sharing the funniest story I’ve heard involving a blanket… if you ever meet him; get him to tell you the tale, we were all in tears! the perfect end to a perfect avo was finished with beers & burgers.
Saturday – Battle of the Thames 10 miler
BOTT set the new benchmark for UK race’s with well over 100 competitors set to grind out 10 miles on the Thames. Jamie was coming along with Supracer.com’s bossman Chris Parker to show us UK boys what serious racing is all about. Everyone & anyone was present, there was definitely an air of competitiveness around at registration. Pretty much to schedule we all lined up ready for the start. With a fairly complex start procedure I think a few people were caught napping… the horn went & it was absolute mayhem!
I was fortunate to be not too far off the start line & got a good line to clear water. Looking at the photos I even took the lead for a short period (not bad on a 12’6!)
I heard a few splashes and knew a few of the contenders could have just taken a dunking but didn’t dare look back. Fairly quickly the 14’s started to overtake. I drafted the leader Paul Simmonds for a while but just couldn’t stick on him, I dropped back & into the draft of Mitcho & Mark Slater, but again could only hold it for a short while… next to pass was Sup Racers Chris Parker… it felt like I was stood still & I couldn’t even get tucked in behind him!
Getting closer to the first turn mark Ryan passed me, and then my worst nightmare, James Hardy came alongside with Ollie Shillston (the only 12’6 contender in the running so far) drafting behind him. I knew I had to join the train, this was exactly what happened at head of The Dart. Poor James being made to be the workhorse 🙂 We made the first turn & headed back up stream. Ollie made a very uncharacteristic mistake & fell, he literally bounced back onto his board but it was enough time for me to sneak past. I was shouting at James to put the hammer down to try & break away but Ollie was straight back on the train. The second lap I could tell James was fading. Itching to step up the pace I pulled out & past & took the lead. I tried a few bursts to loose Ollie but he stuck to me like sh*t to a blanket (Mitcho???) ha ha.
I decided to push a good pace, no resting, lets see what we could maintain for the second half. Pete Kosinski (on a 14) slowly caught Ollie & I. I took a quick decision to jump on his tail. I pulled a board or two on Ollie & hoped this was my chance to get clear. Pete set a pretty hard pace, I lasted about half a lap (1.5miles) but this late into the race struggled to match the speed of the 14ft boards.
I dropped off & Ollie pushed hard to get back on my draft. I knew he’d worked hard to get back on so thought I’d empty the tank on the last up river section & see what we both had left for the finish.
I could tell what Ollie was thinking & spotted him looking to pass a couple of times leading up to the last buoy turn. I tactically pushed hard & stopped him getting by, but knew as soon as we made the last turn it would be hell for leather to the finish… I wasn’t wrong… We turned & literally smashed it… Ollie pulled wide & we went head to head back down to the finish line. We battled it out but before too long my time taking the lead took it’s toll & Ollie got a board length on me. I dug deep and put me head down, I could hear the cheers from the finish line but he had just enough to keep me at bay. A blinding finish, gutted I lost the lead but second place to a paddler like Ollie and such a close finish was still quite an achievement and we were only 6 minutes behind the winner Jamie Mitchell & we were on 12’6’s!
It’s great to do a proper solid distance race. It’s so tactical, so challenging, I love it!
Saturday night – The Pig!
Post race presentations we raced back to Bournemouth to get a good feed in. I took Westy, Mitcho, Chris, Ryan & all our parters to a local restaurant for a feasting extravaganza… “Nose to tail of a pig” at The Larder House. It was a great choice, we were all ravenous. After pre-drinks & some rather tasty starters the main event came out… They had to set a separate table to house the biggest serving plate I have EVER seen. As you’ll see in the pictures it really was nose to tail… the head, ribs, offal / organs, hocks & tail. Chef Paul talked us through the cuts, stripped it all & served up with stacks of seasonal veg.
Mitcho & Chris were totally astounded, stacks of photos were taken. As a little one off Chef brought us out a bit of brain to try too, we all had a go & surprisingly it was quite nice! Drinking and stories continued long into the night, it’s so good to listen to well travelled people.
Sunday – Mitcho Clinic & Movie Premier
A slightly sleepy start to the day, I rolled out of bed to find Jamie already up & cooking everyone breakfast! AWESOME! We headed over to the beautiful Sandbanks Peninsula for a technical clinic run by Jamie & Westy. We got stuck into the detail, talking nutrition, race strategy, training sessions and paddle technique. To end off the session Jamie took some short videos of all of us in the group paddling in order to critique & feedback. We ALL had lots of work to do. The session was a brilliant insight into the life & training of an elite athlete. There is no doubt that none of Jamie’s amazing achievements have been down to luck. He is calculated, intelligent and prepared for everything he undertakes.
The evening quickly came around – the event of the night was a UK premier of Jamies Movie – Decade of Dominance at a local bar. The night was hosted by local SUP club BaySUP which I’m involved with running. We had a great turnout with around 50 people coming to see the movie. After a few drinks & a bit of chinwagging the movie was kicked off. I’ve seen it before having bought one of the first one’s for sale but it was epic to watch again.
The movie is a total inspiration to me as a waterman & ocean lover. Jamie’s dedication, passion and determination shines through as he & some of the World’s best waterman (Kelly Slater / Rob Machado / Jerry Lopez…to name a few) sing his praises. Post movie we had an action packed raffle open to everyone who attended. With some epic prizes donated by BaySUP, Steve West, Jamie & Quickblade UK Jamie drew the lucky numbers in true Aussie style… It seemed almost everyone went away with something which was brilliant and created a huge buzz to end off the night.
The come down & summary of events…
WOW what a weekend… I went into work Monday for a rest! Such an epic weekend of paddling, and HUGE for SUP in the UK. It was an absolute honour to meet, race, train & spend time with Jamie, The guys is a legend but a totally down to earth guy. To get that insight into such high level preparation and training was invaluable for my own personal development in the sport & paddling / life as a whole.
Some massive thanks must go out to Jamie for coming over, Steve West for organising the tour, the other BaySUP boys for helping sort an AWESOME movie night, Brad from Quickblade UK for first class prizes & support, Chris from SUPRacer for getting the results & report out so quick, BIC for getting me a brilliant board, Chi for keeping my hydrated with coconut water and for everyone who came along to all the events across the weekend.
Tomorrow I pack my bags to get involved in the unofficial European SUP Tour, first stop The SUP Race Cup (St Tropez) then onto The Lost Mills (Germany). It’s going to be one hell of a trip!