Giving back to the sport

2015-05-05 06:00

A young man is giving back to the sport that has given him so much.

Sean Rice (25) from Lakeside is a world champion paddleskier. With Paddle­Life he is putting back into the sport much more than he could ever get out of it.

“After winning the ICF Surfski World Championships in 2013, I thought I had reached a peak in my paddling. Boy, was I wrong,” he says.

“Last year was a fantastic year for me. I won most of the big international races overseas, including EuroChallenge Surfski Race in Spain, the US Surfski Championships in San Francisco, the Canadian Championships in Vancouver and the Hong Kong Dragon Run in November. I ended the year with a third place at The Doctor in Perth and a second place at the Cape Point Challenge in Cape Town. I was ecstatic with the year as the international field is tough and there is very tight competition between South ­Africa and Australia,” he says.

“Paddling has changed my life, it takes me to beautiful places, I feel at home in the ocean and love being fit and healthy. It is a great privilege that I can travel all around the world and share this with many people.”

Sean says PaddleLife is a team effort between him and his partner Emily McGrath (24), a Fish Hoek local and a UCT Honours graduate. She heads up the administration and organisational side of the PaddleLife world tour and he does all the coaching and paddling.

According to Sean, after he finished his Honours degree in Marketing, he decided it was too soon to “settle down” and find a real job.

“Emily had the same idea. We decided it was time to give back to the paddling world. We set up an international paddling movement called Paddle­Life. In the past, surfski paddling has been extremely competitive and the focus has been on racing and elite paddlers, which is great. But with the global trend of health improvements and lifestyle changes we want to change the idea of surfski paddling. It really is a sport anyone can do – all ages, all sizes and all fitness levels. The sport is unique in the sense that you can get coached by the best in the world,” he says.

“Paddle­Life had a fantastic start. We have been touring around Australia and New Zealand, sharing our enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport. The response from the international paddling community has been amazing so far and we expect it to carry on for the rest of the year. We are heading to 17 countries and 34 cities in the coming months, and plan to teach over 1000 paddlers by the end of the year. We will pretty much reach all corners of the globe.”

Sean says his fellow competitors think he is a bit crazy for wanting to race competitively while also travelling for PaddleLife. “I will be keeping up a training regime as best I can and I plan to be competitive at all the big races around the world. It is a challenge, but it is what keeps life interesting for me. I have competed in the first international race of the year in Auckland at the beginning of March. I managed to take the win convincingly.”

After that he raced in the Manly Wharf Bridge to Beach race in Sydney where he also won. “It was a fast 11 km paddle past the Sydney Opera House. The true test of the year will be the next ICF Surfski World Championships in Tahiti in October.

“The SA trials are being held at the end of April in Durban, where I will be competing. It is a true honour to get selected to race for your country,” he says.


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