13 December 2017
Monstrous challenge for multisporter Clark
Sam Clark knows all about hurting himself but freely admits this weekend’s Dexion Mount Monster may just take him into a new realm of pain.
The Whakatane multisport star - who won his second Coast to Coast title in fearless style earlier this year - has added an intriguing element to New Zealand’s biggest surf lifesaving endurance race.
While the 5km beach run along the Mount Maunganui coast, the spectacular 1500m swim leg which includes a jump off Moturiki Island's blowhole and the 12km ski leg to Omanu and back hold no fears for Clark, he’s conscious of his inexperience with the final 6km board paddle bringing him home.
“I can see three out of the four disciplines going pretty well,” the 27-year-old mused. “I’ve been doing a lot of swimming over the past six months, focusing on ironman, so I know I’ll be handy in that respect. I’ve done a lot of running over the years too and I’ve been paddling since I was about 10; the only thing I haven’t done too much of is the board paddling. I’ve been out twice and my shoulders feel like they’re going to explode - I’ll just go hell-for-leather and hopefully the first three disciplines will help me get a decent result.”
His chances of a decent result have received a boost, however, with the absence of any previous winners in the individual ranks. Top New Zealand ironmen and previous champions Cory Taylor, Max Beattie and Ben Cochrane, along with 2016 winner Australian Luke Cuff, are all involved with the third round of the Ocean6 series in North Wollongong this weekend, as is two-time female winner Danielle McKenzie. Piha’s Kirsty Wannan, the only other female Monster winner, is racing in a team this year.
It’s left a void which is expected to be filled by the next generation of surf athletes - Papamoa’s Scott Cowdrey, Mount pair Hamish Miller and Declan Dempster and wily campaigners Sam Shergold and Ollie Puddick are all expected to put their hand up this time around. Former Olympic swimmer and kayaker Steve Ferguson is also in sharp form; ironically - like Clark - he’s using the event to build towards February’s Coast to Coast.
The women’s field has been given a late boost with newly-crowned world surf ski series champion Rachel Clarke entering, hours after claiming the title in Australia over the weekend.
In all, 75 individuals, 216 teams and 30 juniors will take part, which is another record field for the event which hasn’t stopped growing since it started.
Sam Clark’s entry, meanwhile, may open doors for a broader field for the already-iconic event, which will celebrate its fifth running this weekend with the introduction of the Mini Monster race for under-14 athletes.
Despite being only part way through his lifeguard award, Clark has been given dispensation to race by organisers, who assessed his surf skills and may look to open entries up further in future years to find the most talented all-round waterman around.
“The Monster’s always been something I’ve looked at and thought ‘man, I’d love to get around to doing that’”, Clark said. “There’s been a bit of a resurgence of people going out and paddling in the ocean because - let’s face it - it’s just a hell of a lot of fun and is pretty appealing to a lot of multisporters. Surf lifesaving’s super-cool because there are so many competitions out there and so many opportunities to travel to competition too.”
Having recently won the Rodney Coast Challenge in Auckland, Clark is confident both his Coast to Coast and Ironman ambitions are on track, as he steels himself for another big year in 2018.
“I’ve got to do an awful lot of paddling over summer and if it means I get to do a chunk of it on the ocean preparing for this race, it’ll mean that it keeps my training varied and a little more interesting. It’s whatever you can do to keep yourself focused.”
The Mini Monster starts at 9am on Saturday, with the main Mount Monster starting with individuals at 10am and teams in a wave at 10.10am.
Previous Mount Monster winners:
2016: Luke Cuff (Australia), Danielle McKenzie (NZ)
2015: Ben Cochrane (NZ), Kirsty Wannan (NZ)
2014: Max Beattie (NZ), Kirsty Wannan (NZ)
2013: Cory Taylor (NZ), Danielle McKenzie (NZ)
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