Duel in the Sun - EuroChallenge 2010

Thursday, 29 April 2010 09:09 | Written by 
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Villajoyosa, Spain: Two of South Africa’s brightest young prospects are here with the ambition to take out the EuroChallenge title – and each other.

Sean Rice v Tom Schilperoort

Sean Rice (L) and Tom Schilperoort - setting the tone for the race!

Sean Rice (20) and Tom Schilperoort (22), both from Fish Hoek, South Africa, are professional surfski paddlers – part of a small but growing number of athletes who make their living from the sport.

Tom Schilperoort

Schilperoort just graduated with a BTech in Industrial Design.  “It’s a great course,” he said, “because it’s so wide-ranging – and ideally suited to contract work.”

Currently sponsored by Epic Kayaks, Schilperoort has been paddling a V10 for the last couple of months.  “I’m fairly big,” he said, “and prefer the volume in the V10 to the V12.  The V10 is a proven design that has won plenty of big races.  I think the jury is still out on the V12.”

On his return from Spain, Schilperoort will be moving to Durban for a couple of months to follow the Discovery Sunglass Hut Winter Surfski Series.  While he’s there he’ll be training with Oscar Chalupsky – in some of the best downwind conditions in the world.

“It’ll be great to be racing against a different crowd too,” he added.

Schilperoort’s goal is to be at as many of the international races as possible in 2010; he’s hoping to tour the USA in August (The NY Mayor’s Cup; US Surfski Champs in San Francisco and the Chicago Shoreline Marathon take place on consecutive weekends in August).

His goal for the EuroChallenge race?  To be on the podium to win some cash towards his US tour.  And will he beat Sean Rice?  “I hope so!” he grinned.  “We haven’t had a proper go at each other since Dubai last year.”  (Sean Rice came tenth in that race with Tom two places further back.)

Sean Rice

Last year’s EuroChallenge saw the debut of Sean Rice’s international career.  It was his first overseas race – and his first in a Think surfski.  His extraordinary third place result cemented his sponsorship deal and he’s had an excellent first year for Think – his crowning achievement last year being a win at the gruelling NY Mayor’s Cup.

“This year is different,” Rice said.  “Last year it was all new and I had no expectations.  This year I have to prove that I can race in the top ten in the world.”

His preparation for EuroChallenge has included plenty of time on flat water.  “And the boat is ideally suited for the conditions.”  But his downwind paddling has also improved dramatically in the last year – to his delight, he recently beat his mentor Pete Cole on the popular 12km downwind Millers Run in Cape Town.

Peter Cole has played a major role in the Rice’s rise to prominence in South African surfski paddling.  “It’s all about having someone on your back telling you ‘there’s a possibility’ the whole time,” said Rice.  “And apart from the encouragement, it’s also the fact that Pete gets up at 5 o’clock every morning to lead the training group.  He’s been amazing.”

Rice is studying for a degree in marketing – but is deeply involved in paddling on a day to day basis.  In his position as club manager for the Peninsula Canoe Club in Cape Town, he’s been at the forefront of development paddling – and is also involved in a recent initiative to get school and varsity students involved in surfski paddling.  “We’ve been focussing on the girls,” he laughed.  “Get the girls involved and the guys follow!”

And as for EuroChallenge?

His goal is to win – and if not a first place, then he’s determined to get on the podium.  “Apart from anything else, Think has been really great and I’d like to get a good result for Daryl.”

“I’ve got mixed emotions about Matt and Hank not being here,” he said (although there’s a remote possibility that Bouman might still make it, Hank McGregor has been fighting his suspension from paddling after an altercation during a river race.  McGregor’s successful appeal saw his suspension reduced and he’ll be racing in Durban on 16 May.)

“As for the Europeans – we’ve been hearing a lot about how they’ll be good in the flat conditions, but the sea is still the sea and there will be bumps no matter how strong the wind is.”

European Challenge?

There are some strong names here - Busto Fernandes (Spain), ten time world marathon champion; Eirik Veraas Larson (Norway), three time Olympic Medallist; Ivan Lawler (UK), six time World Marathon Champion among them.

How do they feel about the race, and their prospects for beating the young Saffas?  Stay tuned!

Internationals at EuroChallenge 2010

Busto Fernandes, Nikki and Dawid Mocke, Eirik Veraas Larsen and Michele Eray

The Race

The race is a 25km loop, taking the paddlers north from Villajoyosa to Benidorm and back again. See www.eurochallenge.es for more information.

It’s scheduled to start at 11h00 on Saturday and Surfski.info will be reporting live from theescort boats.  (The GPS Tracking units sadly arrived in South Africa too late to get them back to Spain in time for the race, thanks to the Icelandic ash plume..)

With over 230 entries so far from 15 countries, the start is likely to be spectacular - and two national TV stations will be here to record it.

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