Newly crowned surfski world champion Kenny Rice made sure his name was on the entry list for the Dis-Chem Pete Marlin surfski classic on 5 and 6 November, and while he tries to shrug off any added pressure from his world title, the Capetonian is quietly determined to go one better than his second place finish last year.
Rice hit the global headlines earlier this month when he upstaged a stellar field to win the ICF Ocean Racing men’s singles title in Portugal in tough, mild choppy ocean conditions, edging past icon Hank McGregor, the same paddler he came past to claim the runner-up berth at last year’s Border classic.
Last year Rice was following the ding-dong duel between eventual winner and then world champ Nicky Notten and Hank McGregor, before McGregor got caught and dumped by a big wave a Kwelera Point within sight of the finish at Yellow Sands, leaving the door open for Rice to grab the second place.
“I am excited to try and improve on last year’s second place though I am trying not to see it as any extra pressure,” said Rice. “It is one of those races where everyone is within seconds of each other so if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t deny anything.”
“It would be an awesome race to have on the CV, especially the singles race,” he added. “The doubles on the Sunday is brutal, probably more brutal than the singles!”
After enduring a gruelling return trip from Europe Rice says he will be part of a strong Orca squad travelling up from Cape Town for the popular annual surfski downwind carnival in East London.
Having spent weeks in East London on a training camp before his departure to Europe, Rice says the coastal Eastern Cape Town feels like a second home.
“I am much more familiar with the area after Nicky (Notten) and I spent time training there with Andy (Birkett) and the Fenns a couple of weeks before the worlds.
“The whole East London culture is so helpful and accommodating, and we were on the receiving end of that, so I am really looking forward to heading back there in November,” said Rice.
“Our Orca squad is very motivated and we are all going up for the event, bar a few juniors that have matric finals,” said Rice.
“It is a fantastic weekend for our group because we always stay together and it is a good bonding opportunity for the juniors and the seniors,” he said.
“We have all done the hard yards, which I think we proved at the world champs, so we will be going up there looking to try and replicate some of those results and have a lot of fun!”
“I am really looking forward to it,” he added. “Charl and Bernice and the organizing crew put on a great weekend and the East London people are so welcoming.
“It’s a weekend that we spend catching up with friends, racing hard and having a lot of fun,” said Rice.