Teen surf­ski stars off to Hong Kong

Two con­quer the ocean to make U18 SA team

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THE re­cent South African Surf­ski Cham­pi­onships held in Dur­ban saw lo­cal surf­ski tal­ents, Zara Wood and Joshua Fenn se­lected to rep­re­sent South Africa at the World Surf­ski Cham­pi­onships in Hong Kong later this year.

At just 15 years old, Wood is one of two girls se­lected for the Un­der 18 South African team.

De­spite be­ing un­able to com­pete at the South African Surf­ski Cham­pi­onships this year, ow­ing to rough and dan­ger­ous con­di­tions, Wood’s past achieve­ments se­cured her spot on the na­tional team.

All be­fore turn­ing 15, Wood achieved sec­ond place at the SA Surf­ski Champs in the U18 divi­sion last year, as well as seven podium po­si­tions in the U16 divi­sion and third over­all on the vic­trix lodo­rum for the Sprint Cham­pi­onship at the SA Schools Ca­noe Sprint Cham­pi­onship this year.

“My 2017 SA Champs ex­pe­ri­ence was not that great as I could not pad­dle the race, the con­di­tions were very bad with ten foot-plus waves.

“None­the­less, it was great watch­ing the top pad­dlers in the coun­try com­pete in those con­di­tions,” Wood said.

“I love be­ing out in the ocean and it is such a huge hon­our to rep­re­sent my coun­try. I am filled with joy as I never imag­ined com­plet­ing this goal at such a young age. This will be my first World Champs and I’m su­per ner­vous to race so I’m train­ing su­per hard to achieve the best results I pos­si­bly can,” she said.

Surf­ski is both a men­tally and phys­i­cally chal­leng­ing sport, which of­ten re­quires pad­dlers to face an un­for­giv­ing sea.

“You can truly see the power of the ocean. Catch­ing runs and reach­ing speeds of 30km/h cre­ates such an adren­a­line-fu­elled rush,” Fenn said.

Through rough con­di­tions and 10-foot waves at the SA Cham­pi­onships, Fenn pad­dled out and went on to win the na­tional U18 surf­ski ti­tle, se­cur­ing his spot on the South African U18 team.

“I started show­ing an in­ter­est in the sport at a young age af­ter watch­ing my fa­ther race. My dad man­u­fac­tures FENN ski’s and he is the rea­son why I started surf­ski pad­dling.

“I feel hon­oured to be rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try at the World Cham­pi­onships in Hong Kong. It will be such a great ex­pe­ri­ence to be able to race against the best in the world and to meet new peo­ple,” Fenn said.

Plac­ing sec­ond in the U16 Surf­ski event was Joshua’s brother, Matthew, who hopes to fol­low in his brother’s foot­steps and win the U18 South African ti­tle in the fu­ture.

“The race started at Le Mercy in Dur­ban with huge waves re­sult­ing in 19 surf­skis be­ing dam­aged, bro­ken or with­draw­ing from the race. I man­aged to get out through the surf and the con­di­tions were good with a 30km north-east­erly wind. It was a long but en­joy­able pad­dle,” Matthew said.

Wood’s brother, Wil­liam Wood, placed third in the U18 Surf­ski event, not too far be­hind Joshua.

“I didn’t have the great­est lead up to this race, but I got my head right just in time and didn’t put any pres­sure on my­self. I just de­cided that I would go as hard as I could,” said Wil­liam, who started surf­ski at 13 years of age.

“It is a very tax­ing sport, you have to be very aware of your sur­round­ings and you have to be phys­i­cally ready for the chal­lenge,” Wil­liam said.

Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED

WAVE WAR­RIOR: In rough con­di­tions and 10-foot waves at the South African Cham­pi­onships, Joshua Fenn pad­dled out and went on to win the South African U18 Surf­ski ti­tle, se­cur­ing his spot in the South African U18 team

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