Pioneering the way | Dawid Mocke

TPM Wow it is amazing to be sitting down with a legend of the sport – how did it all begin?
DM At the end of 2001, I heard about an International race that they were running from Hout Bay to Camps Bay. It was called the king of the harbour and it was being organised by Nigel Reynolds, to mirror a race that Dean Gardiner was organising by the same name. Nigel had arranged sponsorship money and got the top paddlers to come over; Dean (Gardiner), Lewis, Hank and Lee (McGregor), Oscar and Herman (Chalupsky). I was just a kid at the time and I thought that it sounded amazing. I borrowed a ski from Ant Pearse and he was highly incensed because I pulled off all his race stickers. Only later on did I realise what value race stickers had (sorry!)
I did this race and I loved it – I absolutely loved it. That is when I decided that I wanted to paddle competitively.
After that, I discovered open ocean racing thanks to a person called Billy Harker. In my mind before Billy opened up the series to anyone who has a surfski there wasn’t an open surfski race except for the Molokai. The fact that Billy started running a series in the mid-nineties where anyone could enter sparked something. That move was mirrored by Dean Gardiner in Australia but I would pin it on Billy for starting the ball rolling. They were joined by a guy called Rob Mousley who started Suddenly there was this interest from people that were starting to paddle and wanting to know more and Rob was happy to point them in the right direction.
From 2002, I started competing in Billy’s series more regularly and that is where it started for me. From the time that I decided to pursue surfsking, I knew that I wanted other people to try it and that is why I started the surfski school. So I quit my job at a software company and started the surfski school. Then I basically started hunting for races to do so that I could ‘earn’ prize money from the races.

TPM First international race
DM My first international race was in 2004, when I went to a race called King of the Harbour in Auckland. Basically what I did is I researched all the international races that one could do and then I phoned the race organisers and asked them what the prize money was.
It was a very easy calculation; how much was the prize money – plane ticket, and if I made any money, hey presto, I was a professional athlete.

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