Take Dawid Mocke, add Oscar Chalupsky, throw them in a Fenn Mako Elite Double surfski. Add a healthy dollop of 30kt southeaster and set off from Millers Point. Watch the action and time to see if the pair can do the fastest Millers Run of all time.
That's where we're heading... (passing Roman Rock lighthouse - half way)
Recording the event
Professional photographer Jean Tresfon risked his cameras to take some awesome pics and Barry Bey-Leveld of Dive Action (www.diveaction.co.za) contributed his diving RIB, a great camera platform.
A couple of other paddlers did the Millers Run that day – we set off ten minutes before the double. It wasn’t record breaking conditions by any means – the runs were short and messy for the first couple of km. But the waves grew as we headed down towards the Roman Rock lighthouse and I was confident that Jean would capture some great images even if the record wasn’t broken.
What was the record? Dawid Mocke has been steadily attacking the 37min mark for a while now – and a few days previously had scored a 37:28 run on a classic day where the wind combined with big, smooth swells to produce almost ideal conditions. Here’s the GPS track for Dawid’s run – paddling a carbon Fenn Mako Elite.
To put this in perspective, fish & chips paddlers like me consider a Millers Run to be “good” if we crack 50min. My personal best in a single is 45:54. My fastest Millers Run ever (41:22) was achieved on 28 Dec, 2010 in a double, with a little help: Oscar Chalupsky was sitting in front!
Record Broken – in spite of a swim
Suffice to say that they did break the record – by ten seconds – with a time of 37:18. Given that the conditions were good but not ideal, and the fact that the two men had never previously paddled together, this was a fairly astounding achievement.
Heading towards the beach in Fish Hoek
Interview with Dawid Mocke
Explain the expression on your face in the first two pics!
Actually my smiles are all glee at this point. I remember that run distinctly as we actually didn't have to paddle for it at all. It felt like we just sort of floated onto it. What I'm really trying to say is, "Can you believe what just happened?"
What were your overall impressions of Oscar's technique? The slow cadence, the leaving of many of the runs, etc.
His paddling stroke is much slower than mine although I must add that I've consciously upped my cadence over the last two seasons for various reasons. Two years ago I would say our cadence was probably similar. One thing I did pick up though was how he uses his entire body rotation in his stroke despite the choppy conditions. I’m going to be working on this aspect of my own paddling.
Regarding leaving runs I think that this was more probably due to the length of the double and the short period swells early on in the run. The significant thing though is that we did not miss any big ones.
Comment on the conditions - you said at the time that it wasn't ideal for a record breaking run, especially on a double.
The first reason actually has nothing to do with the conditions but more about the combination. It's very rare to combine with someone in the first paddle together - so for us to be shooting at breaking records that day was ambitious.
Then, and it should show up in our GPS tracks, the second quarter of the run produced a slight wind shadow and nasty little side chop. In a single I certainly wouldn't have expected a record (although Nikki did do hers that night) let alone a double purely because most of the runs early on just could not fit a double on them no matter how you angled the boat. We slewed a number of times here.
Talk us through the swim... how quick was it to get back on.
Firstly, if you look at the pic you'll see we are going STRAIGHT down; I'm pretty much standing up! That was an unreal run. Oscar was completely under water and there was no preventing that swim. Getting back on felt like we hardly skipped a stroke, but if you look at the splits you'll see it was probably lost about 20 seconds real time. Translate that into the knock on delay of losing your rhythm etc. and I'd say we lost at least 45 seconds, if not a minute. In fact, I had my Garmin set on auto pause and the total time we had there was significantly faster than what we did, albeit 400m shorter than the normal run distance.
You are the world's leading surfski paddler at the moment: What, if anything, will you take from this paddle with Oscar to apply to your own downwind paddling?
Firstly you need to remember that Oscar has been winning races pretty much longer than I've been alive. I may be at the top end of the field, but to hop in the back of a double ski and go downwind with the best downwinder of all time is a flipping awesome opportunity.
So, with that in mind let's just say that there is always room for improvement I feel very motivated to get better at downwind paddling. At this point you should remember why I said earlier I didn't actually think we could get a record.
You and Jasper are the current SA doubles champions and you've won other classic downwind races together like the Dolphin Coast challenge. Do you think you could beat the Millers Run record with Jasper? When are you going to try it?!
Yes I do and I'll tell you why. Firstly, I can't even remember the last time I sat in the back of a double; probably 2003 and once only. Since then I've been in the front. So I'm not really used to it. Secondly, Jasper and I have been paddling together a long time and work very well together. For me to combine perfectly with Oscar first time would be almost impossible.
How do you rate the Millers Run against other downwind routes in the world - in Durban for example. Compare the conditions with Perth...
Most runs that I have done around the world have major distance and logistical issues regarding start and finish and matching the two. I would be very surprised if anyone could tell me that they were able to do 6 x 12km downwinds, from one point to another in one day. You can do that with the Millers Run.
If I compare only conditions I would have to say that Perth is by far the best place to experience awesome downwind. Warm, clear water; runs stacking up at least 5 or 6 lines at a time (meaning you can link 5 -6 runs no problem; and average speeds of well over 19km/h. To put the average speed into perspective, 18.9 gives you a Millers record and that is not something that happens even once a year!
For pure size and open ocean adrenalin (and pretty easy access to such conditions) you can't beat a run along the Durban coastline. The only run I've experienced that is comparable to what Durban gets consistently is the Makapo Run in Hawaii and the Mauritius run from Souilac to Le Morne. All of these runs however don't give you a high average speed as the swells are just so big you only catch some of them. But the overall experience of being out there is like "WOW".
Overall the Millers Run is by far the best downwind in the world for the following reasons:
- It works on 6 different wind directions! [Editor: when the wind blows from the north, we paddle the “reverse millers”.]
- has a very simple launch and fairly benign finish. [Editor: with all due respect to Dawid, for us mid-packers, getting out to Bakoven Rock from the ramp can be daunting – a 30kt crosswind combined with breaking swells is not for the faint hearted.]
- The wind blows consistently all year and I reckon not one week goes by that you could not do a Millers.
- Conditions can get absolutely massive but on the whole it’s quite safe as worst case scenario, if you stay with your ski, you'll hit land in under 2 hours;
- You are never more than 3kms from land and that only really for about 5 minutes.
- Lastly, it takes 15 minutes to get to the put in and the whole thing from start to shower take one and a half hours.
Overall, you have to admit – that’s hard to beat!
Jean Tresfon's Photo Gallery