Nic Notten – a world champ in canoe

Nicholas Notten

Capetonian Nicholas Notten is the world champion after coming out tops at the Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships that were held in Lanzarote, Spain, earlier this month.

Michelle Burn ensured a double gold for South Africa by winning the women’s race.

The world championships drew more than 250 competitors across multiple divisions from juniors up to masters from over 20 countries.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) Ocean Racing World Championships is an annual international race for long-distance surfskis, or sea kayaks, where all the competitors race in one event for the world title. The format is a 27km point-to-point race.

The 25-year-old Notten is a student at UCT doing his Master of Science in Medicine degree by dissertation.

“At some point I started doing junior, surf, lifesaving, which led me to senior lifesaving,” Notten said. In turn, being a surf lifesaver led him to competitive sea kayaking. “In surf lifesaving there are various races in the different lifesaving crafts, one of which is the surfski. This is similar to the ocean racing kayaking.”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was not possible for international competitions to take place during the past 18 months. The recent world championship was the first large international race since November 2019.

This year the ICF teamed up with the Lanzarote kayak and surfski clubs to hold this event.

“The preparation was a little bit on and off unfortunately because of the Covid crisis, and us South Africans not knowing if we would be able to make it [to Lanzarote],” Notten said. “I just kept my head down. I was very optimistic and, in the end, it worked out for us.”

The South African team, which normally has 30 or more members, consisted of only eight competitors. This was due mainly to pandemic-related reasons such as travel restrictions.

“The conditions we had for the race were a 1.8m swell with a 20-knot wind,” Notten said. “For the race I maintained an average speed of 3:21 minutes per kilometre, finishing almost a minute ahead of the second-placed paddler.”

Notten is currently in Germany, having been travelling within Europe since the world championships.

The UCT student believes that holding this and other competitions is critical for the development and survival of all sports at all levels, be it school, university, national and international level. “I am just very happy that we were able to hold a high-profile race in these times. It is a massive win for the sport,” Notten said.