From greens to ripples

Enjoying a cup of coffee with a fellow Kings Beach Lifesaving Club member from the past, Nigel Harvey, we were joined by a local born and bred youngster who along with Nigel is very involved in St Francis Bay Paddling Club. The topic of conversation naturally flowed to lifesaving and then more specifically, paddling discussing some of the greats of lifesaving and paddling, some of whom Phill has had the privilege to paddle with over his years as probably St Francis Bay Paddling Club’s most accomplished paddler.

As a schoolboy paddling was certainly not even a ripple on his sporting future for playing off  a Plus Two golf handicap a future on amateur golf circuit if not a professional career would be a natural progression. Being a relatively small guy choosing golf over rugby at school at Nico Malan in Humansdorp was a no-brainer and certainly seemed to have decided his path in sport. Enrolling in the Golf Academy in Johannesburg after school seemed to further cement the future of this budding young golfer brought up on the greens of St Francis.

But life of is full of twists and turns and after practicing eight-eight hours a day at the academy a young  Phill Smith decided that was not the path he wanted to follow and returned to St Francis clear in his mind not to pursue a future in golf.

A sports minded youngster really has limited choices living in St Francis. Surfing is a choice as are swimming, running or paddling and so young Phil turned to swimming. Training with Haydn Holmes  at Haydn’s  swimming facility, Liquid Lines in Cape St Francis, one thing led to another and Haydn soon encouraged Phill to get involved in paddling. Phil has never looked back and made the transition from the greens of golf to the ripples of the canals and paddling is now his passion. Such is this passion that Phill now trains twice a day either swimming, paddling, running as well as attending Yoga classes twice a week.

Phill has excelled at his chosen sport thus far even boasting a win at an international event in Ireland partnering world surfski champion Dawid Mocke. Relating how he received a phone call from Mocke who was competing in Portugal at the time, Mocke asked him if he would like to join him in the Irish race. Phill didn’t need a second invitation and the rest is history.

Phill still has yet to win St Francis Bay’s major paddling event, The Pam Golding King of The Kromme and says unfortunately the date clashes with an event in Plettenberg Bay that he races in but he says he is going to make an effort to race the Kromme event this year.

Phill has raced most of the big challenges including th PE – East London on both a double ski (with Haydn) and on a single. Next on his race calendar is the Freedom Challenge in the Cape in April. He raced partnered Matt Boumann last year finishing third overall last year in spite of being disqualified in the first round for inadvertently wearing an illegal life jacket for the leg. His plans are to again partner Boumann but this time, take the honours.

Asked as to his future in paddling his answer was rather interesting. Whilst he would like to win a few races he would love to do some of the international events especially the Molokai in Hawaii, a race in which South Africans have excelled in over the years, none more so than the legendary Oscar Chalupsky

Asked what he sees in his paddling future …

Inspired by Lewis Pugh’s swimming the length of the English Channel last year, Phill says his ultimate desire is to paddle the length of the South African coastline. Now that is a challenge! He certainly is in the right place being surrounded by people who can assist him in achieving this goal. Stave Praetorious who skippered the boat that accompanied Pugh on his historic swim lives in Cape St Francis and with his experience in these matters would make an ideal person to skipper the accompanying boat. That said the SA coastline is somewhat more challenging than the English Channel and Phill’s ambitions would be sure to make headlines. All he needs is a sposnor …  any offers?

 Such an achievement would certainly put little ole St Francis firmly on the international map if an organization like Sky could be convinced to cover it as they did Pugh’s monumental achievement.

Nigel Harvey (l) with Phill Smith