EuroChallenge Update...

Friday, 30 April 2010 07:45 | Written by 
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One day to go until the 2010 EuroChallenge; Club Nautic in Villa Joyosa is packed with athletes preparing their skis and venturing out onto the sea.

Michele Eray EuroChallenge 2010

Michele Eray - and her new Nelo ski


I paddled out to Benidorm Island yesterday with Chloe Bunnett (ex South African, now living in the UK).  There was a light breeze to cool us, but it offered no help to paddlers looking for a downwind push on the course.

But, however, there were small bumps to be found both on the leg out to the island and on the way back.  In the race the paddlers will have to be alert to catch them, and will have to guard against exhausting themselves in the effort.  If the sea conditions are the same as for our paddle, they’d be wise to keep left initially on their return from Benidorm Island, so as to set themselves up on a good line to the finish.

A factor that will play a role too is swarm of escort boats that, if it’s anything like last year, will leave the sea criss-crossed with wake waves that will also offer some assistance to nimble paddlers.

The WindGuru forecast says that there will be almost no wind tomorrow...

Weather forecast

Windguru forecast

The race is scheduled to start at 11h00 and can only be delayed as late as 12h00 due to TV deadlines.


Two of the ski manufacturers had stands set up yesterday.  I took the Think Legend out for a paddle on Wednesday (beautiful finish, comfortable cockpit, light and responsive) and have arranged a go in the Nelo ski today.

Think Kayaks

Daryl Remmler - setting up the rudder on one of the Think skis

Daryl Remmler (owner and CEO of Think Kayaks) is here to support his local distributor and to cheer Sean Rice and the rest of the Think paddlers on (and to do the race himself).  “Surfski is booming almost everywhere,” he said.  “For example I was recently in Sydney where we did some early morning paddles – on the water at 06h00.  What astounded me was that we met three or four other groups on the water, all with around ten paddlers, all up at that time of day training”.

Hemnique Silva, Nelo

Hemnique Silva - the man responsible for building the Nelo skis

I spoke to Hemnique Silva, the man responsible for producing the Nelo skis.  Nelo are currently producing about 35 skis a month but will be ramping up production in a facility that will focus purely on ski manufacture.  “The design of the two skis is fixed for this year, but we know what we want to do to improve them in future,” he said.  Their next project is to design a ski for beginners.  “It’ll be 3-4cm wider than the current skis.”

He showed me the innovative (in ski design at any rate) foot-plate angle adjustment.  A new footplate will allow adjustment of height (off the cockpit floor) as well.  They also offer both half height and full height footplates.

Footplate angle adjustment

Nelo footplate angle adjuster

The skis are made in two layups – weighing 9kg or (for rivers) 11kg.


Jose Ramalho (Portugal)

Jose Ramalho is one of Nelo’s stable of paddlers.  A top marathon paddler (3rd in the last marathon worlds), he’s been paddling long distance skis since “one month before Dubai”.  He trains with Andre Santos (Nelo CEO) – and said that the ski has opened up new possibilities for marathon training.  Where he lives there is only a short section of river but the ski enables them to venture out onto the ocean.

Jose Ramalho

Jose Ramalho

Asked about his goals for this race he laughed.  “To have fun!  And to do better than in Dubai.

“It’s very technical on the sea,” he added.  “So it’s difficult for us.  But we are learning.”

Eirik Veraas Larsen

The multiple Olympic medallist (Gold & Bronze in Athens 2004; Silver in Beijing 2009) is also “here to have fun”.

Larsen is not certain yet whether he intends competing in London.  “I wouldn’t say that I’m tired of sprinting,” he said, “but I’m not paddling at the moment and I’ll make a decision at the end of the year.

“The training for surfski is not the same,” he explained.  “You train at a high level of course, and on race day you’re focussed, but the rest of the time you have fun, meet the guys.  It’s not 3 sessions a day 365 days of the year like it is with sprint!”

His goal for the race tomorrow?  To be “closer to the winner than to the first of the girls across the line!”

Click here to follow Eirik Veraas Larsen on Twitter.

Busto to compete on a Sea Kayak

In an interesting turn of events, Manuel Busto Fernandez announced that, depending on the conditions, he intends paddling a Nelo Vanquish sea kayak in the race instead of the Nelo ski.  If the sea is as confused and bumpy as it has been the last couple of days, then he’ll paddle the kayak; if it’s significantly flatter, he’ll be back on the ski.

Michele Eray

I spotted South African ace woman paddler Michele Eray in the boat park.  She was waxing the footplate and cockpit of her brand new Nelo ski, before taking it out for a light training session with Aussies Hayden Smith and Peter O’Higgins who are over from Dubai.  

Yep – Michele Eray is now part of Team Nelo, after having paddled for Epic.  Part of the attraction, she explained, was the small-volume Nelo ski.

“For me,” she said, “the cockpit is so much more comfortable – the bump between bucket and footwell is lower, so my calves are not lifted off the cockpit floor – like they are with every other surfski on the market.

“The feel of the ski is the closest to my canoe that I’ve come across.  I love it.”

Michele’s closest competition is likely to come from fellow South African Nikki Mocke, although the forecast conditions favour the defending champion.

(Hayden Smith runs the Dubai Surfski and Kayak Club and reported that their coaching sessions are currently over-subscribed, limited to 50 paddlers at each session.)

EuroChallenge 2010

Sean Rice (SA), Pete O'Higgins (Aus) and Hayden Smith (Aus)

Live commentary

Don't forget to come back for the live commentary tomorrow, starting at around 10h00.

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For more on the race, see:

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