An interview with U23 Men's World Surfski Champion Kenny Rice

By Dave Colley | 5 Minute Read

PH has a natural affinity with paddling. Our own Jonny Tye won 2 Silver medals at the Marathon World Championships in Singapore back in 2011 and Andy has been no stranger to a surfski since knee injuries hampered his triathlon career. He's raced a number of races including the 125 mile Devises to Westminster canoe race and the Coast to Coast race in New Zealand.

So it should be no surprise that some of the world's best paddlers have Precision Hydration in their bottles and bladder packs. This was evident at the Surfski World Championships in Hong Kong back in late November 2017. Jasper Mocke won a bronze medal in the Men's race, with former World Champ Sean Rice just missing out on the medals. Michele Eray placed 10th in a very competitive Women's field.

Kenny Rice - Sean's younger brother - led the Men's race at one point and ended up bagging the U23 Men's World Title. We caught up with him last week to get some insight into what it takes to become a World Champion paddler...


So, Kenny, how is it having a World Champion for an older brother? Does that help inspire you to new levels?

Well regardless of the title, having Sean as a brother has been incredible, he really is a unique individual in how inspired, driven and dedicated he is. His dedication is addictive and he really squeezes the best out of anyone who he surrounds himself with.

But yes, him being a World Champion is very inspiring and has really helped me realise that even though I lack the talent he has pouring out his ears, there’s so much room for me to push myself to my limits and achieve things I never dreamt possible, like winning my own U23 World title!


Nice. Ok, where's your favourite place to train then?

There's no place like home (here in Fish Hoek, SA)...obviously I enjoy being abroad but the comfort and routine of having squads/mates to train with everyday, whether it be on a Millers Run at 6am or a 5min Bungee/Ball session on the vlei, is awesome and really is the catalyst to setting up a good training block.

That being said I'm always open to new places and am sure there are other places suitable but until then - it's home!


Kenny rice U23 surfski world champion 


I know Andy and Jonny will agree with you on Fish Hoek being a great place to train!

So, what does a typical training week look like for you in the months before a major race like the World Champs back in November?

Being a fairly chunky guy, I have only just realised the importance of running this year, so I try to get in as many 45 min runs as I possibly can in the week.

To compliment that I will do Interval sessions on the flat water, sometimes with a resistance band and then Ocean paddles which are usually a 2 hour+ session and a long downwind paddle.

When there’s an opportunity we always try fit a good downwind in around these sessions to keep the fun factor up!


Sweet. Any training/race tips for Andy and Jonny? They’re thinking about racing the Cape Point Challenge themselves this weekend...

Don't slack on the distance preparation!

Do at least 3 x 3 hour+ paddles in your build up.

Be sure to be super comfortable in the boat and not question what the other person is doing! Not questioning your partner is really useful in such a long race, where emotions can run high when you are very tired or in stressful situations.


What is it like paddling (and surfing) in Cape Town with all of the sharks you hear about in the waters there? Have you ever seen any?

 I'll be perfectly honest and say that I almost NEVER think about it, unless I’m by myself and have time to let my mind wonder a bit....

I think you just need to be relaxed with the fact that you are on their turf and if you end up seeing one it's actually a privilege to see how graceful and powerful they are. Saying that, I've seen a handful, but the last time I saw one was probably over a year ago!


Kenny rice U23 surfski world champion kayaker 


Crazy! How do you stay hydrated during a race then Kenny?

I use the PH’s H2Pro effervescent low-cal tablets which I disolve into water. I try to stay well hydrated with the 500s in the days building up to the event and I then 'preload' before the event itself with the 1500s. I will have the 1000s in the boat during my longer races.

A lot of people slack with hydration in the days prior to the event and then focus on it on the day before but the damage is already done so I try stay very aware of what I am drinking in the week or so before.


And, how do you fuel your race?

Based on what I’ve seen, our races are definitely less complex with regards to ‘race fuel’ compared to triathlons etc.

Most athletes would race on just an energy drink and maybe a gel or energy bar at some stage during the race because it’s so difficult to stop and take things on because you come to a complete stop! 

I usually try get in my fuel before I start and rely on my fat stores to get me to the finish (which I have plenty of!).

With the start of the Cape Point Challenge being so early, I really struggle to eat anything before but I try to force an egg or two down.

Other than that I just try to stay hydrated after the first 45 mins or so by just sipping frequently. Once we are about 2 hours in, I’ll start to think more about an energy gel or energy bar depending on what I have used in the build up. In more desperate times I always have an emergency chocolate bar in my PFD to help motivate me.


Kenny rice surfski world championship 


What's the one bit of kit/ gear you couldn't go without?

Whenever we paddle in Cape Town it is generally pretty windy, and if it isn’t windy then theres always a slight chill in the water, so my most commonly used item would be a wind breaker top. I have 3 of them and I use one 99% of the time I paddle.

No matter the temperature it always keeps the water off your chest and can be a huge warming factor if it’s an absolutely freezing winter downwind!


Do you listen to music when paddling? What do you listen to?

I don’t usually listen to music whilst paddling but while in the US this year I purchased a water proof speaker and it has been joining me on several long paddles since. 

I have no clue about music genres but I do enjoy normal pop music and some old school late 90s/early 2000s style punk or alt rock. Anything floats my boat really!


What races are left on your bucket list?

My main dreams and goals have already been met by going to yet another Surfski World Champs and having the opportunity to line up next to the big guns and legends of the sport.

I’d like to do the Liffey Descent, the Sella Descent and the Molokai and the downwind races in that area at some point…


The guys are always mentioning doing the Liffey, maybe we can get a Team PH crew down there one year soon. Thanks Kenny and congrats on an epic race in Hong Kong.

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