Each year the good people from Makai Paddlers, based in Ulladulla on the NSW South Coast, run an ocean race along their stretch of pristine coastline.
It's built up from humble beginnings 5 years ago, to probably the most polished and fun ocean race, both from the perspective of the seamless organisation & the race course itself, inevitably downwind, from one picturesque seaside fishing town to another.
They make it a weekend so they can pick the eyes out of the weather, because they're locals they know when it should start, and maybe it was a fluke but this year they even had us starting over the Sussex Inlet bar on a swift flood tide, which took the chance of a surf trashing out of the equation.
I decided to make a camping weekend of it & took Nic & the kids down to stay at the sponsor's accommodation, the Big 4 Holiday park at Burril Lake. It's one of my favourite little hamlets, being the venue many moons gone, for our annual post-uni week of celebration. What I can remember of them anyway....!
|My Dolls Point buddy Daniel|
The briefing was short & clear, there were eleven safety boats out on the course as well as two helicopters, which was pretty damn cool. We were given high-vis vests to wear, which made for a striking lineup as we drifted down the inlet for the race start.
The race headed south east on a quartering sea, with about 20 knots and barely any swell. When we reached the turn can, only really a few degrees of adjustment to head south, conditions lined us up nearly plumb to the finish line at Ulladulla Harbour.
The next 90 minutes whistled past in a blur of runners and troughs, wind blowing the tops off the waves, about as good as it gets. I was paddling the Fenn Elite S, a ski that really I don't have much right to be paddling in a long ocean race like this, but it looked after me and showed me a few glimpses of what these sleek machines can deliver.
Damo & his mate on the Thundercat loomed up beside me a few times, usually to shout out 'yyeeeeewwww' as I hooked into a runner, always reassuring to see the support boats out there on the big blue especially as you start to tire. Hopefully the the short video above captures a bit of the action on the sea, bloody hell it was good fun.
All too soon the finish loomed on the sand inside the harbour, & we all then adjourned to the Boardwalk Cafe for some extremely cold beer and swapped tall tales of the race.
The entire experience was brilliant, for me a lovely weekend away with the family at a place I love, a well run, challenging and friendly race, with a good party to wind it up. An added bonus at the presentation was my eldest daughter Kiri meeting current World Surfski champ Teneale Hatton, who was very generous with her time & made Kiri's weekend. Great for young girls to see such inspiring role models I reckon.
If you're looking for a great surfski experience and willing to do the work you need to do to successfully run a course like this, you couldn't imagine a better weekend.
Well done to the Makai folks for putting such a great show, see you next year.