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Hank's Year

World Surfski Series Champion - 2016

We caught up with Hank McGregor, the 2016 World Surfski Series Champion, for some comments. It was a fantastic year of racing, yielding amazing wins including the Molokai (Hawaii), the Mauritius Ocean Classic, Durban Downwind, The Doctor, Breizh,  The Dragon Run & The Cape Point Challenge. That equals an incredible seven wins out of seven races that he was able to attend on the World Surfski Series. Phenomenal!

Toughest physical surfski race and why?
I think the toughest physical surfski race could be any race and any distance as it depends on how hard you are willing to push yourself. If I had to name a race I did in 2016, I would say it was the Molokai.

Toughest mental surfski race in 2016 and why?
The toughest mental race for me this year was the Hong Kong Dragon Run as it was my first race on the New Epic V12 and I was unsure of how I would feel racing against such a quality field. I went through different stages where the ski felt foreign to me compared to the V14. This is where I had to keep positive and adapt to the new feel and not doubt myself. The Dragon Run Surfski course has 3 legs:

  • Into the wind, with side chop
  • A downwind section
  • A flat section with side on wind

I managed to turn first after the first leg with Cory Hill on my tail, we then had the 2nd downwind leg and Cory and I raced side by side the entire way as I was getting used to how the ski reacted on the runners. We then had the final flat leg with side wind of 5km. Cory and I were still neck & neck until the last km where I managed to open the taps & take the win. Afterwards I felt mentally tired more so than physical as I had been concentrating for so long and had a mental battle with myself to not doubt my new craft and keep positive.

Did you have any obstacles you had to overcome in 2016?
During the first half of the year I really struggled with sickness as I had picked up a virus from dirty river water that killed my immune system. At one stage I tried to cancel my Molokai trip as leading up to the race in the last 6 weeks I didn’t train for 3 weeks, the longest period being 16 days with no training, but I still went. After Molokai I managed to get right mid-July. With a diet change and Doctors advice and medication I became a new man, thankfully!

How do you feel to be World Surfski Series Champion?
I am really happy to have finally bagged that title as it’s always hard to juggle kayak racing season and rivers with Surfski but 2016 fortunately went my way.

Other than racing, are there any standout paddles you did in 2016?
I think every paddle in the Hawaiian islands are unreal but this year while touring with my wife in Hong Kong, we shared a special moment as we paddled in singles late in the evening and the back drop of Stanley and lights of Hong Kong at night were just amazing.

You travel the world paddling with many nationalities? Do you see the passion for the sport growing? What was one standout race for its beauty and paddlers you met?
Yes I have travelled a lot and I believe the sport is growing as I think the beginner paddlers of past have improved so much that now they can really truly enjoy the ocean and its playground and by doing this have encouraged others to follow and try our magic sport. This year I was taken aback how popular the Breizh Surfski race in France was, even though it was super chilly conditions. The downwind leg had to be the best for me of the year and the race organizers did a fantastic job of timing it right and using the best course available with 25 knots tail wind.

You have a big fan base, what is your message to your fans this year?
My message would be: “Never to sacrifice stability for so called Speed!” 

 

Rumor has it that you sometimes train on an EPIC V8? Is this true & why do you do this?
Ha Ha! How did you find that out? Yes I do, as it’s an awesome fun ski and very forgiving in big surf. Where I live, I launch at Tiffany’s Beach in Salt Rock, sometimes through 6 foot plus waves and the V8 pops really well and it is super stable.

What is one tip you can give any aspiring paddler who wants to race?
The one tip would be to really pick your races and know your capabilities without doubting yourself. There are lots of races that are forgiving and can be really enjoyable but don’t pitch up for a Molokai thinking it’s a 52 km downwind and it might end up being your worst nightmare if you haven’t put the hard yards of training in back at home.

What are your goals for 2017?
My goal would have to be to try and do the best I can at World Surfski Champs in Hong Kong.

Any shout outs to your friends, family, support base?
I would really like to thank my wife and family, training partners and friends, as well as my sponsors for the support I get.

When you look back at your paddling career so far, what stands out for you? Was there are pivotal moment that made you the athlete you are today?
That is a super tough question as I have had so many special moments while winning and losing races. Winning my first World Marathon Kayak title as a junior was something special as it set me up to truly believing in myself that I could become the best in the world one day.

Thanks Hank, you are the current World Surfski Champion and we wish you the best for 2017.