On Thursday 20th September, the newly established GB Surfski team travelled to Dublin for the inaugural Irish Coast Paddling Championships.
We drove in the Epic Kayaks van with a fully laden trailer and arrived in Ireland bang on our tight schedule thanks to Team Manager, Jim Taylor-Ross’, driving. We were kindly hosted by Mick Doyle of Epic Kayaks Ireland and it was great to get tips from surfski legends Jasper and Dawid Mocke, also staying at Mick’s.
The next day we travelled up to the race centre and took the train that ran along the coastline giving us a view of the course. On return we went for a shake down paddle from the race centre at Dun Laoghiere. The day ended with the race briefing were we meet up with the large community of GB paddlers that had made it across.
The race attracted a large quality field with top paddlers lured from as far as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa by the £55,000 prize fund spread across the classes.
However, one thing organisers can’t pay to arrange is the weather: race day bought a light breeze and flat conditions. This meant a completely different race plan – downwind skills now obsolete, wash hanging would take precedence.
The start was a short run to the water but a steeply shelving beach meant mounting the ski was difficult. Getting in too early would result in a broken rudder but leaving it too late would mean a swim and wasted time. Alice’s years of experience in the breakers of Portreath meant she got away quickly, even in a top international women’s field.
Doubles were next with Francis and Dougal competing followed by Lewis in the men’s single field. The racing was hot from the off with a £2000 hot spot prize for the first boat around the turn buoy, about 1km off the beach. From the turn, we paddled across Bray Head and a large bay, aiming for Dalkey Island. It was mentally tough to keep up with the blistering pace set by the leaders whilst being able to see full well the distance yet to be covered.
As we neared Dalkey island, waves appeared, and groups split up for a final 5km to the finish, with some people opting for an inside line through the passage and others cutting close the rocky outcrops of the island. The 1km flatwater slog inside the harbour wall was a fitting end to a tough race for all.
An impressive BBQ dinner put on by the race organisers in the Royal St George Yacht Club preceded prize giving and an opportunity for socialising in the bar. After an unlikely night sleeping in a gazebo on top of the harbour wall we took the opportunity for a downwind to end our trip the next morning. We decided to paddle the race course in reverse and were rewarded with the best waves of the trip and 20km of sunshine. We then went straight to ferry port and home.
A massive thank you to Mick Doyle for hosting the team and to Jim Taylor-Ross, Epic kayaks UK for organising, sponsoring and taking us on this trip.
Lewis Kirton: 12th Senior Male
Rebecca Newson: 6th Senior Female
Alice Bray: 2nd U23 Female
Francis Huntingford/Dougal Glaisher: 5th Senior Male Doubles