The famed ‘Fremantle Doctor’, a strong consistent wind that hits southern Western Australia every afternoon over summer, was the catalyst for West Oz Downwind Week, a cluster of five downwind Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and paddle sport events held in the space of a week.
West Oz Downwind Week begins on Saturday (26 November) with the 26km open water downwind race from Rottnest Island’s Thompson Bay to Sorrento Beach.
Named after the famous afternoon seabreeze, The Doctor is one of the highlights in the Aussie paddling calendar, attracting approximately 400 paddlers in surf skis, SUP and outrigger canoes.
Newly crowned world marathon SUP champion Michael Booth will compete in The Doctor on a surf ski and one week later, compete in the Stand Up Surf Shop King of the Cut on a SUP.
Last week, Booth won the 2016 Fiji ISA World SUP Championship, a 17km marathon race from Cloudbreak to Musket Cove in Fiji.
Olympic Gold Medallist and Women’s National Marathon SUP Champion Belinda Stowell-Brett will compete on a SUP at ‘The Doctor’ and also at the King of the Cut.
Among elite surf ski competitors contesting The Doctor are household names including Olympic Kayak Gold Medallists Ken Wallace and Clint Robinson who will race alongside former Ironman Champion Grant Kenny and current World Ocean Paddling Champion Cory Hill.
Event founder and Perth-born paddle competitor Dean Gardiner said that The Doctor has attracted competitors from New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai as well as hundreds of interstate and local competitors who have a range of abilities.
“What’s fantastic about this sport is that the weekend warrior gets to start on the same line as the world’s best, not many sports offer that,” 51-year-old Gardiner said.
“On all of these craft you actually surf the chop and the guys the skis can reach speeds over twenty kilometres per hour during the race.”
Opening event for West Oz Downwind Week, The Doctor is the biggest and most competitive race of this style in the world.
The headline event for West Oz Downwind Week, the Stand Up Surf Shop King of the Cut, will be held on 3 December (or Sunday 4 December, two-day window for optimal conditions).
Arguably the most prestigious event in Australia, the Stand Up Surf Shop King of the Cut has a total prize pool of $17,350, making it the largest prize purse for an SUP event in the country.
King of the Cut will attract about 130 top local, interstate and international SUP competitors including Booth and other high profile professionals, such as 7-time Champion Surf Lifesaving Ironwoman Karla Gilbert OAM and Olympic Gold Medallist and Women’s National Marathon SUP Champion Belinda Stowell-Brett.