Mauritius Ocean Classic

Words: Barry Lewin ǀ Photos: Rob Mousley/


The Mauritius Ocean Classic is now in its fifth year and well established as a must-do race in the Ocean Paddler World Surf Ski Series. It also stands out because of the amazing conditions the trade winds provide along the southern coast of this amazing island in the winter months.


Well, it can’t really be called winter with the air temperature in the high 20s and the crystal clean water not far off, but it's the phenomenal downwind paddling that the 100-strong field from all over the world are after.
After spending a week at the Tamassa Resort, which houses the paddling festival run by Lux Sports, one can almost feel that this race is more a paddling celebration to cap off a truly memorable experience of learning from the sport’s champions.


Arriving to a warm welcome of fresh salt air and your surfski on the lawn in front of your glorious hotel room, the mood is set; you are there to paddle and the organisers have thought of everything possible to make your stay an enjoyable one. I have done many trips to other parts of the world where the logistics of getting on the water to paddle can end up being a nightmare, but this is in far contrast and the easiest paddling trip anyone could ever do.


Taking place between 24 and 29 June 2013, the activities kicked off sharply with clinics by the World Series Champion Dawid Mocke, from the Surfski School in South Africa.


The clinics got more advanced as the week progressed, and everyone had the opportunity to spend some quality time with other legends of the sport, such as Dean Gardner (9-time Molokai Champion), who gave a downwind clinic. There was also a fantastic technique clinic with Oscar Chalupsky (12-time Molokai Champion) to round out the week. And who better to learn from than the best?


Each day, the paddlers would also set off from Tamassa, paddling through the reef and out into the open ocean. This is where all surfski paddlers' dreams come true as there is an amazing downwind to the south eastern tip of Mauritius and the infamous ‘le Morne’ pass. Known as the best spot of the island, if your skill level is up to it, you had the choice of either surfing a wave down the point or skirting the waves in the channel before warming down in the protection of the lagoon, next to Lux Resort. As you stepped on shore, there was a delicious lunch waiting for you, as well as some staff who whisked your ski away to rinse it off before strapping it to the trailer, ready to be delivered back to the hotel. What more could you ask for?


Outside of the surfski activities, there was plenty to do with many enjoying all the island of Mauritius had to offer, including snorkelling, glass bottom boat rides, dolphin diving and surfing, which all made for a water-sport filled holiday!


Sporty Anderson Memorial Challenge


The racing kicked off on the Thursday with the Sporty Anderson Memorial Challenge. Here, the top-seeded paddlers were paired off with back-of-the-field paddlers in a team format. It was a perfect way for people to meet and get to know each other before the main race, a couple of days later.


Race day


Race day on Saturday came around within a blink of an eye. Arriving at the start, at Sancho, there were plenty of nerves amongst the field as the consistent trade winds had deserted the island all of a sudden. As a result of this, the race was delayed by half an hour, but luckily the wind picked up to the smiles of everyone who lined up in the protection of the bay. The top 20 were seeded in the front row, between two marker buoys, making for one of the fairest starts the international scene has seen, with all the top contenders in the front bunch heading out to sea in the first kilometre.


The pace was frantic as the paddlers rounded the first point and headed out into the open ocean swell. Pushing the pace early on led to a front group of five being formed and consisted of Dawid Mocke (defending Champion), his brother Jasper Mocke (runner up to Dawid in the 2012 World Series), Hank McGregor (2-time winner of this race), Matthew Bouman, and myself. Dawid and Hank were the first to make a move, surfing the open ocean run on a more inshore line and edging ahead. Hank unfortunately lost some time when weeds got caught in his rudder, allowing Dawid to take a comfortable win and make it three in a row for the humble family man from Cape Town.


The next four places were extremely close, with Hank, Jasper, Matthew, and me coming through the reef at Le Morne within a 100m of each other. But in the end, the next two podium spots were taken by Hank, who managed to make a final dramatic sprint for the finish, with Jasper hot on his heels. Next in was Matthew in fourth, and myself in fifth. The race hasn’t seen such a close finish in a couple of years, making it all the more exciting for the competitors and spectators alike.


With the first accredited ICF Surfski World Champs taking place in Vila do Conde, Portugal, between 12 and 14 of July, these positions are hopefully an ominous sign of things to come, with our SA paddlers filling the nine top spots on the day and showing the depth of talent we have.


In the Ladies race, the Mocke family kept up their winning streak with Dawid’s wife, Nikki Mocke, winning in fine form and placing an amazing fifteenth overall in the men’s field. This is quite an achievement for this mother of two to beat the defending Champion Ruth Highman from Australia, who came second, and Samantha Murray from South Africa, in third.


The war stories of the day were shared around a beach bonfire at Tamassa, while traditional dancers made sure the crowds were kept entertained. I am not sure if I was more scared of being pulled up to join the dancing girls or the big waves at le Morne.


Mauritius will forever be etched in my memory as a surfski paddler's perfect playground. I will be back in 2014 and hope to get my fix of the warm water and great downwind for many more years to come. Will we be seeing you there next year?