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The Rock-itt : May 2012
If you were near Manly ferry wharf on Sunday, March 18, you’d have seen a stream of surf skis and sea kayaks racing into the beach, their paddlers jumping off and sprinting 150 metres along the sand to the wharf. They were taking part in the annual Bridge to Beach race, one of the major paddling events of the year in Sydney. It’s very popular – this year there were 420 entries, many of them doubles, covering both males and females and with age categories up to 60-plus. They landed on that narrow section of beach between the pool and Oceanworld, which became a scene of organised chaos. Volunteers grabbed abandoned craft as their owners dashed along the beach to the finish line and stacked them in rows several deep along the back of the sand. It was like dodgem cars, with paddlers weaving their way past people carrying boats 6 to 8 metres long. Great fun! An hour earlier paddlers had assembled at Blues Point, then meandered across Lavender Bay for the start under the Harbour Bridge. What a magnificent place to start a race! Competitors say it’s a real buzz, and like a washing machine when everyone starts thrashing through the water at once. Then down the harbour, around Bradleys Head, and on to Manly. A small chop did not bother paddlers, although rebound waves from Bradleys Head sent plenty spinning into the water, and a freshening southerly gave everyone a welcome push in the back over the final kilometres. The 11km event was won by Jeremy Cotter, well known surfing ironman and leading international surf ski racer, in 41 min 25 sec. Close behind him, in 42 min 3 sec, were Matt Blundell and Brett Greenwood, the first of the double skis. Then the double of Stuart Innes and Tony Hogbin in 42 min 49 sec in third place. Adventure racer Mel Pelly was the first woman on a single ski in 52 min 30 sec. Val Titov and Jo Dounias took out the female double in 49 min 40 sec and Angus and Narelle Urquhart the mixed double in 45 min 55 sec. The first stand-up board paddler was Jake Jensen in 59 min 26 sec, and Brad Hughes was first in the single outrigger in59min1sec. Average times provided by the organisers made interesting reading. For males on single skis they were Open 59.09, 40+ 58.52, 50+ 58.36, 60+ 1.03 .41 . For females it was Open 1.14 .57, 40+ 1.01.53, 50+ 1.13.10. In other words, the oldies averaged faster than the youngsters. Maybe it was a case of the older paddlers generally being pretty serious with their training and preparation, while some of the under 40s were recreational paddlers. Whatever, grey power had its day in the sun. For the record, the slowest time was 1 hr 56 min 46 sec. Bridge to Beach, one of Sydney’s most popular paddling races Winner Jeremy Cotter approaches the finish Volunteers collected craft abandoned by competitors and stacked them along the beach near Oceanworld Tony Hystek, Chairman of PaddleNSW and an avid racer, cruises in to the beach at Manly