Two conquer the ocean to make U18 SA team
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.