Colwyn Bay Blast Report

Thanks to Gaven Mumberson for the report on the Colwyn Bay Blast. Not a series event this year, but definitely looks like a fun time was had by all.


Colwyn Bay Blast, 4th June 2016

Sun, Skis & World Champs: North Wales Event Attracts UK-Wide Competitors


Simon E Price

Last weekend saw an exciting and growing sporting event take place off the golden shoreline of Colwyn Bay. The ‘Colwyn Bay Blast’ is the brainchild of two surf ski enthusiasts, Rik Pethig and Martin Tonge, and is set on the newly developed golden sea front of old Colwyn Bay, which nestles comfortably between Llandudno and the Prestatyn coastline of north Wales.

Eager competitors of all ages and abilities met in breathless heat on the 4th June this year. Paddlers from as far afield as Oban in Scotland, to Cornwall in southern England, made the long journey to what is only the second surf ski event to be held in this particular part of north Wales. This year’s event saw the likes of the UK’s female surf ski champ Lizelle Kemp, Colin Cartwright of the GB wildwater team, Ian Tordoff and James Mayers, both former GB wildwater competitors, and Gilbert Spear, recent winner at the Lismore kayak event in Oban, Scotland.

In a pleasant, unplanned twist, this year’s event also saw former surf ski World Champion, Sean Rice, in attendance. Sean was fresh from the prestigious Molokai competition, which had been held in the azure waters of Hawaii a week previously. Placing 2nd at Molokai, Sean combined a short holiday in north Wales, with his girlfriend Emily, with holding a surfski paddling coaching clinic at the race venue, providing invaluable information and tips on how to improve stroke and paddling prowess. With a calm and polite demeanor, Sean is a fine ambassador for the sport, and his expert tuition, held on the beach and subsequently in the water, made it one sunny day to remember.


The Colwyn Bay Blast, an event tailored more specifically towards surf skis, is the brainchild of two friends, Rik Pethig and Martin Tonge. Rik lives within five minutes of the Colwyn Bay sea front, whilst Martin, who hails from near Manchester, has paddled these waters for a number of years. Meeting at a surf ski event in the Wirrel a few years previously, it was a mutual decision to stage an event for this niche water sport off the north Wales coast. Their first attempt attracted 11 competitors, but this year saw a three fold increase in the number of participants, including UK and former World Champions of the sport – not bad for an event still in its infancy.

“I could see that the north Wales coastline had loads of potential to attract surf skiers more or less when I first started,” says Rik. “North Wales has very clean waters and some excellent beaches, and with the splendor of the mountains at your back whilst you paddle, both Martin and I thought it would be great to hold an event here.”

Martin agrees. “A fantastic event this year, seeing a big leap in the number of people making the effort to come to north Wales. It’s great for Porth Erias to showcase real Surf Ski talent. It’s putting Colwyn Bay on the map, that’s for sure!”


With hot golden sand warming the feet of the eager competitors, the Colwyn Bay Blast is a 15 km race from the shore, marked out in a triangular route. Competitors have striking views of the forest of gigantic wind turbines that dominate the horizon of the Prestatyn coastline, before turning towards shore and making their long way back to the mountainous Welsh landscape. Conditions were slightly tough going, with a gentle 0.5-meter swell and north east wind belaying the heat of the day. All the competitors ran up the shore, exhausted but exhilarated by their respective efforts. In an event that requires extreme levels of fitness and ability, it is hard to single out any one competitor, but Maggie Dixon may just qualify for special mention. She placed 1st in the female race, in her first ever surf ski event- quite the accomplishment given the talent that had entered.


Sean Rice agreed to participate at the race, allowing for a six-minute head start. With the other competitors reduced to colorful dots on the horizon, Sean had his work cut out with the strong westerly wind that was playing on the water that day. But if anyone thought that narrowly missing 1st place at the Molokai race the previous week had dampened his enthusiasm for the colder waters of the UK, they would have been wrong, as Sean completed the course some three minutes ahead of the closest competitor. He wasn’t a World Champ for nothing…

Its plainly obvious to anyone observing this sport that surf skiing is gaining popularity in the colder parts of the world, attracting sponsors and attention from popular brands of boats and surf ski apparel. The Colwyn Bay Blast, like the competitors who travel the length and breadth of the UK to enter such competitions, is brought together by the sheer love of the sport, an enthusiasm that clearly transcends the temperature of the water. Two avid supporters of the scene were there to lend their weight and support to the event this year, in the irresistibly enthusiastic forms of Gaven Mumberson of Nordic Kayaks and Micky McDonald of Think Kayaks Europe. Their drive and passion to elevate surf skiing to ever increasing numbers of people, irrespective of age and ability, was infectious, with Micky competing in the event and Gaven assisting Martin with the start and finish logistics.


Rik and Martin both know the importance of attracting such sponsors. “Whilst we both work hard to get an event like this together, we know it would be impossible to succeed if it wasn’t for the help and assistance of our sponsors,” says Rik. “I would like to thank both Micky McDonald of Think, and Gaven Mumberson of Nordic Kayaks for all their help with this years event, as well as Baltic Life Jackets and Funky Pants for their generous gifts and prizes.”

Martin agrees. “I’d also like to give special mention to the Colwyn Bay authorities, and the recently developed Colwyn Bay Sports Centre. They’ve all played hugely important roles in getting this event off the ground, and we hope that we will continue to work with them for our future events.”


Winners on the day were as follows:

Surf Ski Men

1st Sean Rice 1:17:58

2nd Willem Prinsloo 1:20:31

3rd James Mayers 1:20:36

Surf Ski Women

1st Maggie Nixon 1:34:18

2nd Lizelle Kemp 1:39:58

3rd Sally Ozanne 1:48:39


1st Ben Beachall 1:14:51

2nd Karl Brandon 1:15:36

3rd Janek Dubicki 1:27:59

SUP Women

1st Lucy Pearce (completed the Surf Ski Course alone!) 2:57.36


1st Mark Peters 1:55:14

Sea Kayak

1st Andy Rowley 1:47:19

Simon Price

Tel: +447706 089258



The Season Begins!

Quick, just a few days left until the early entry discount closes for Looe, the first event of this year’s GB Oceanski Series!

There’s some warm spring weather just around the corner – hopefully – so what better a way to spend it than surfing your way along the beautiful coastline of south Cornwall? Just make sure that you remember a handheld orange smoke flare (compulsory for this year), your leash, buoyancy aid and to get out there and make sure you’re happy remounting the boat you are going to race.

From there the season moves on to Bournemouth for Surfski Show and Doubles Championship on the 14-15th May. A great opportunity to try out some new boats, meet some fellow paddlers and test your mettle at paddling in time!
The Old Harry Race – also in Dorset – is the second race of the Series, on the 11th June. Taking the fleet from Studland all the way around Hengistbury Head and on to Christcurch.

July 2nd sees the fleet converge on Oceansports’ HQ for Glenn Eldridge’s excellent Paddlefest event. This is a great event for first time ski paddlers with course racing in stunning Carbis Bay, St Ives, though this year we may see things made a bit more challenging.

Then it’s on to the real bruiser of the year – The Icon Classic. Survive the launch and your reward is Morte Point, get past that and there are more ‘interesting’ waves at Bull Point. After that it’s just the pumping tides of the Bristol Channel and a final flatwater sprint into Coombe Martin. What could be easier…

At present we are waiting on confirmation of a further series event. However there are also plenty of other events now welcoming skis – so have a look at the Events page.

Ultimate Fleet

Our nascent racing division for skis at the shorter and more stable end of the fleet now has a new name (feedback was that Cruiser was too laid back) courtesy of Ivan Lawler at Ultimate Kayaks. Ivan has kindly sponsored some end of season prizes for the top 3.

The division encompasses any ski with a length to beam ratio of 11 or below, which is intended to encompass the majority of entry level boats. Results will be extracted from the overall results to keep things simple (and to allow you to start with and then glide past those who’ve picked a boat too tippy for the conditions…).

See you on the beach!

GB Ocean Ski Series 2016 – It’s almost here…

With just two months left before the start of the first race of the GB Ocean Ski Series dates for five of the events are now up on the GB Oceanski calendar page, with one more to be confirmed.

The season again kicks off at Looe and, with Andy Parritt’s usual superb organisation, it will be another great event. The course takes in a circumnavigation of Looe Island (don’t cut it too close, the rocks are hard…and sharp) and a flatwater section into the Looe River with a surfing finish into beautiful Millendreath beach. Entries are now open for Looe, so get in early to make the most of the discounted price – after the 9th April the entry fee increases by 20%, and entries on the day are +40%. So make Andy’s and your own life easier and get on the start list now!

The other event details are being finalised and the entry pages will be available in the coming weeks. Branksome Chine SLSC will again be putting on the Surfski Show in May, alongside the Doubles Championship, allowing you to test paddle a whole range of shiny bits of carbon, or choose your first ski! Make sure to also check out the many other events that welcome skis around the country: Wales and Scotland are looking like they’re going to have another year of increasing participation and some great racing!

One of the safety changes for this year’s series is that a handheld smoke flare will now be compulsory. A couple of options can be found below:

Pains Wessex Orange Handsmoke

Pains Wessex Day & Night Distress Signal Flare

Something also worth looking at, both for racing and training, is the Safetrx phone app. This is the same as that being promoted by South Africa’s version of the RNLI. It is being made available for free in the UK by the RYA if you register on their website. The app has two modes, with the simplest tracking your position and sending data ashore at 1km intervals (or 5 minutes if stopped). If you need assistance then a one-touch button on your phone’s screen will send all the positional and indentification data direct to the rescue services. For more information see here.

Also this year, there will be a bit more for those at the back of the fleet to race for. We’ll be trialling a ‘Cruiser’ division (though we all know those at the back are trying just as hard as those at the front…any suggestions for names on a postcard), with an additional set of results and end-of-season prizes for those skis a little shorter and wider than the racing snakes.

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The division takes a maximum length/beam ratio of 11 as the cut off. It is a simplistic performance measure, but encompasses most of the entry level skis presently available. If necessary the criteria can be adjusted for the 2017 season. To make this possible the entry form now includes a drop-down to select the ski make and model – but don’t worry, you’re still free to change skis if you fancy paddling something faster on the day – just let the organisers know. If you think your ski design qualifies but has been missed out, then contact us through the website.

It’s also important to state that this is separate from the early/slow starts offered at some races – if you want to start in the slow fleet with a ‘fast’ boat then you’re still welcome to.

So that’s where we stand as the evenings start to brighten and a winter of slogging along flatwater in the dark can come to an end. Hopefully 2016 is going to be a bumper year for the series, with so many people getting into ski paddling in 2015. See you on the water!

2016 dates for the diary

The first event dates are starting to trickle in.  At present for the series events we have Looe booked in for the 14th April and the Icon Classic on the 16th July.  More details will be added as I receive the information from organisers.

There are also 2016 dates for those in the vicinity of North Wales, with the Mawddach Marathon on the 25-26th June and the Hilbre Island race on the 3rd July.

For those wanting to go a bit further, the Ocean to Sea race in Cork is on the 4th June, while the German Seamasters race is on the 7th May.

Keep checking back to the calendar for more dates and details.


At Season’s End

The end of the season saw highs – sunshine, wind and a great entry for the Poole Bay race – and lows, with the cancellation of the Doubles Championships due to lack of entries.

Mark Ressel continued his dominance with another win over the Open fleet at the Poole Bay race, to take first place for the season (Scoob, come back and give him a hard time…). Outside the GB Series, he also polished off the Oban Sea Kayak Race, leading home a top 10 largely made up of skis.  Gus England snapped up second in the Open fleet with a consistent single figure scoreline.

In the Masters fleet Simon Garbett finished with an even more perfect scoreline of bullets, discarding a 4th place from the shallow waters of the Looe River.  Nick East was always close behind, recording 5,2,2,2,2.

The Women’s fleet saw six entrants, but all attending only one race each.  Jess Hanafin taking the overall season by dint of having recorded a first in the final race.

It was also women at the top of the Doubles fleet,  Katie Fielder and Keia Wardman proving that persistence pays, recording finishes in four of the five races, which gave them the overall number one spot.  Not to mention their completion of the Celtic Crossing from the Scillies to Sennen (along with a few others…) – persistence definitely pays!

Just after the end of the series, the Poole Harbour Race also attracted a large entry of skis, which looks like a good sign for the future.

So that’s the competition over for this year (unless you’re heading to Tahiti…or Holland), but plenty of waves still to catch, with the first of the big autumn low pressures spooling up in the Atlantic as I type this.

Happy paddling 🙂

One Series Race Left!

Well that’s the Icon done and dusted, and an epic day it was.

Looking ahead there are some paddlers sitting pretty at the head of the leaderboards, but there’s still plenty to play for as we head towards the final series event of the season.

In the Doubles, Katie and Keia are now uncatchable, but Mark Ressel could still be knocked off the top spot for the Open Men fleet. In the Masters will perpetual bridesmaid (!) Nick East be able to get ahead of Simon Garbett? In the Open Women fleet, with no entrants for the Icon, positions remain the same. However, with all four women within a single point, it really is anyone’s race.

Entries are now open for the Poole Bay race, so get clicking!

Poole Bay Entry

And don’t forget the Doubles Championship in September…

Doubles Championship Entry

St Ives Paddlefest entries now open!

The Old Harry race is only a few days away and the weather is looking great with sunshine and south westerly breezes.  At the close of entries last night, 35 paddlers were taking on the challenge, again with strong fleets of Epic and Fenn skis and a good representation of boats from other manufacturers.

It’s also now only a few weeks until the the St Ives Paddlefest weekend, on the 27th June. This is race 3 of the GB Ocean Ski Series, so get your entries in early and look forward to a great circuit race from beautiful Carbis Bay.  Glenn also has an extra racing challenge for everyone this year, with the Fenn 500 Super Sprints, after the main ski race. This will be in supplied Fenn LS Skis and entry is included in the entry fee of the main race.

More information and entry can be found here:

Colwyn Bay Surfski Challenge Race

On Saturday May 30th, it all came together. Surfski paddling enthusiasm, the sun, an awesome venue and the gods contributing with wind and waves.

The inaugural Colwyn Bay Surfski Challenge took place at Colwyn Bay public beach, right next to the newly completed sports centre. This amazing location is the result of local minds ranging from local government to local residents saying “ wow we are blessed with some extraordinary natural splendour, lets share it with the world”

The result is a truly amazing piece of coastline. It is definitely a “bucket list “ location to visit. Whilst you are out having an adrenaline filled downwind paddle, the rest of the family has a huge clean, sandy beach to throw a towel on and read a book, make sand castles or go for a swim in the shoreline waters. Refreshments are all within a leisurely strolls distance.

Paddlers came from far and wide to claim the honour of setting the courses first time record. From Scotland down to Bristol.

The race also attracted it’s first international paddler, from Holland, Nico van Riemdyt.

Nico stated after the race “ thank you very much for a great race. It was well worth the trip. I will return next year with many more paddlers from Holland. We shall also try to break the course record. “

The race was also very ably supported by various surfski dealers and boat manufacturers who brought boats along for paddlers and the general public to try out and talk about.

Colwyn Bay 2015_01_2015-06-02

Nordic Kayaks, THINK kayaks, Fyne Boat Kits and Knysna Racing kayaks. All the dealers contributed very generously to the prizes on offer.

The race attracted the attention of a varied group of paddlers from enthusiasts wanting to increase their “time on the water “ to very experienced elite level paddlers.

A couple of previous world champions in various other paddling disciplines were present. Surfski paddling is growing at a rapid pace as the word spreads about how is fun and low impact it is.

Surfski paddling communities are now to be found throughout the UK. From Scotland to Colwyn Bay, through to St Ives in Cornwall.

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At 12:03 the horn sounded and the race started. 13.5 km of open water that delivered the menu of various wind and wave conditions that make surfski paddlers get out and paddle, day after day and week after week.

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The first paddler home was Nigel Jones, in a time of 1:03.56. This is the time to beat next year.

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The prize giving had an especially appreciated nice extra touch. The tireless organisers, Martin & Rik arranged a barbeque complete with a few cool drinks. It was great way for all the paddlers and guests to wind down,socialise and share a great days experiences.

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The Colwyn Bay race is a great event for all classes of paddlers. It delivers the two key elements that paddlers pray for. Waves and downwind paddling. Additionally you have a good chance to paddle with the very friendly local dolphins and seals.

Apart from the Open class, this is a great course for juniors, ladies and veterans to paddle. Fun, fast and very safe. Definitely a race to attend to get the T shirt for.

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Finally a very big thank you to the local council for supporting this event, by allowing access to the beach area and free parking to competitors and to the local water sports centre staff who provided exemplary safety cover with their boats.

Colwyn Bay surf ski paddlers look forward to hosting the race again next year, indeed for many years to come.

1     Nigel Jones            1:03:56         Stellar SES
2     James Mayer’s       1:05:02         Zedtech
3     R.Elliot/S.Derham  1:06:11         Genius double
4     Ian Tordoff             1:06:37         Zedtech
5     Chris Chorley         1:19:39         Vajda
6     James Wingfield     1:19:40        Think evo 2
7     Jeff Parker              1:22:29        Rockpool Taran
8     Rik Pethig               1:26:11        Stellar SEI
9     Nico van Riesdyk    1:26:31       Think ace
10   Glen Parry              1:27:44        Fenn XT
11   Malcolm Stubbs      1:28:06        Epic V6