Working on Weaknesses – Mauritius 2018 with Roz Barber

After returning home from the Mauritius Ocean Classic last year feeling like I hadn’t achieved what I had planned, but also wanting to see more of the beautiful island, going back this year was never in doubt.

Post event last year I had a debrief, which covered my training for 2017 and what needed addressing to make 2018 more successful. Nothing beats having a fantastic coach who knows your strengths and weaknesses, and is honest with you. After that meeting I left with homework to make a plan, assess and take on board everything we discussed. Not only were my thoughts in the mix, so were the things that Ben had told me I had done well and poorly.......newest thing, don’t silently add extra to what he knows I’m doing!

Fast forward to mid-February and my focused training started. This year’s two major differences were that I would be on the water coaching, this (in my mind) was not training, so the challenge would be to manage my body to both train and run sessions. The second major difference was that I wouldn't be doing the volume of km’s as I did last year (something I had done without anyone knowing, that had coach unimpressed).

My 2018 focus has been skills. Paddling for less than 5 years means I have a lot to learn, combine that with a fear of being under water if I come out and I have a lot of work to do!  Second focus has been to stay healthy and uninjured, third focus technique!!

There were no real surprises with what I had in store for the next 16 weeks. My base fitness was ok, and as it turns out when coaching some of the focus is on technique, perfect! The part I didn’t like was being told to go to Clifton, play in the surf, catch waves, paddle under the cliffs of Deslac point, play in Frederick Henry Bay (FHB) – I was totally intimidated by this area.

My first 3 trips out there were solo. My first 3 trips out there had me heading to the beach trying to work out a valid excuse for not doing what was an important part of this year’s training. Nothing came up that was greater than the feeling that I was going to let down both myself and my boat off the roof each week, with a racing heart...each of those weeks I did my sessions and loved them!

Sometimes I get asked how I fit my training in. When I think about how to answer that question it’s pretty simple. My life is so full, that I rely on my routine! My training sessions are predominantly with Next Level Kayaking’s Moving Targets group, sessions that are run outside usual business hours. The paddling sessions that I run are also outside my work hours at Find Your Feet. I have a home gym and on Saturday’s FHB was in my diary! I missed 3 sessions on Saturday’s, one due to a race, the other 2 as I was unwell.  So I guess I fit all my training in due to setting myself a huge goal, being committed to it and staying consistent.

It’s interesting looking back at my Instagram posts about the Saturday sessions.  I have to acknowledge the Moving Targets guys that very consistently joined me. They are much faster, stronger paddlers, but still turned up to keep me company. We went regardless of the conditions, never really getting a great downwind day, but getting plenty of challenging paddling done. Our regular paddle of 18km to 20km mostly hugging cliffs, so lots of rebound! I remember the first day, I thought I was watching dolphins in the distance, but soon worked out that I was about to paddle through a section of the biggest messiest rebound that I had ever encountered......OMG!!

My last two sessions at FHB were solo. I thought about changing my session, not paddling south of Deslacs, but with light winds and the swell being under 2m, I promised myself that I would stick to the plan. This paddle proved to be the one that gave me the boost in confidence that this year at Mauritius I will get outside the reef, in a single ski. (editors note - competitors at the 2017 Mauritius Ocean Classic were confronted by solid Indian Ocean storm swell in the lead-up to the race) Leaving Cremorne and heading south you are very committed due to a massive lack of places to land should things go wrong. Continue paddling south of Clifton Beach and you are even more committed. You are in the Southern Ocean!

When I got to the 11km point, looking at Betsy Island, I stopped. Going solo this day proved to be a blessing. I was quite emotional as I sat for a few minutes, feeling very small, rising up and down on the swell. 3 months earlier there was not a chance that I would have paddled past Deslacs, let alone made it a couple of km south of Clifton. Sitting there I had a silent thank you to everyone who helped me get there. I picked up my paddle to head back for home and it was like the weather fairies had been watching me, as the wind picked up a little and I had a fast paddle back to the cliffs – what a hoot!

My preparation this year has had me do some of the biggest, windiest downwinders in my short paddling life (though none from 6 weeks out, our wind has mostly disappeared). I’ve paddled between rocky outcrops and cliffs, paddled a ski under the Totem Pole and Candlestick on the Tasman Peninsula, spent more time than I ever thought possible loving Frederick Henry Bay. And between all those challenges and fun outings I’ve done speed sessions, threshold sessions and time trials. Add to that the sessions that I have coached, knowing that everything I have felt while being well outside my comfort zone this year, is exactly what some of the paddlers I have been helping are experiencing.

So 2 weeks out from being in the Mauritian warmth I am writing this during a typical Tasmanian southerly that I won’t play in as I’m on the tail end of a virus that got me...the apparent temperature outside is 2 degrees! This time last year I had no idea what I was getting into. This year I have a fair idea of what to expect, I know that Hein has a Carbonology Boost on the island for me, which is as close to my Epic V8 Pro as I can get at this event, and I am confident I have done as much as I can to be better prepared.

Life is amazing, it is full of opportunities if you look for them, and if we want to make something happen we can! Though it is much easier when you are surrounded by amazing people. From this point on my training is complete and I will do my best to achieve the goal set for this complete the ‘Wildsiders’ race at the Mauritius Ocean Classic.

At this point I need to say thank you to a few people who have got me to this point fit, uninjured and confident:

My coach and friend Ben Maynard. Without Ben and ‘Next Level Kayaking’ I would certainly not be the paddler I am. Thank you for pushing me but also keeping things achievable.  

Hanny and Graham, who I work for at ‘Find Your Feet’, the most amazing couple to work for and with, who have a great team to spend days with and allow the flexibility for me to train.

Anne Harry, whose massage and advice has kept me uninjured this year. We worked out a plan and it has succeeded!

The Moving Targets guys who have pushed me on the water, especially in FHB.  I know some of you joined me when it wasn’t necessarily ideal for you.

My family and friends who support me. One day I might slow down!

Roz (

If there is magic on
this planet, it is
contained in water.

Loren Eiseley