A day out with surfski champ Dawid Mocké

Posted on 8 April 2019

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being in sync with a wave, as the barrel curls into a break and you move with it, propelled by a slick surfski. It’s a rush for anyone who enjoys the ocean. Getaway journalists Tara Osborne and Gabrielle Jacobs spent a Friday morning learning how to paddle surfskis with elite athlete and four-time World Surfski Series Champion (2009-2012), Dawid Mocké.

Image supplied

Not just a paddler, but a motivated entrepreneur, Dawid took Gabby and Tara out on the water to show them the ropes at the Mocké Surfski School in Fish Hoek. Dawid has represented South Africa in surf lifesaving, so they knew they were in safe hands.

Believing Fish Hoek to be the ‘best family beach’, Dawid opened the school for water-lovers just like himself. When you go on holiday, it’s not all about the sightseeing, he feels, and wanted to start up Mocké to offer holiday-makers some adventure, with the coastal, seaside environment being not only relaxing, but offering some thrills on the water as well.

The surf was medium, just right for beginners, and the water cold yet inviting. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and as it merged with the emerald ocean, they headed out. But, how to catch a wave?

Watch the swell closely and pick your wave carefully, says Dawid. ‘It’s extremely important that you pick the wave you want and not the other way around.’ You need some muscle power here to paddle hard and get your speed up faster than the wave itself. 

Image: Gabrielle Jacobs

The surfski is designed and streamlined for gliding quickly on the waves, with its lightweight body and long pointed bow and stern (unlike kayaks and canoes) making it favourable for lifesaving as both Dawid and Nick Notten, a world surfski silver medalist and voluntary lifesaver, know. The ski has two pedals situated by your feet, connected to a rudder used for steering. When riding the wave, Dawid advises to push down on the pedals simultaneously to guide you along. It can be an addictive sensation.

Image: Tara Osborne

Tara didn’t get very far on her first attempt, as she lost her balance and bailed into the first approaching wave. Gabby’s experience was much the same, but she got some help from champion Nick who kept the stern of her Fenn surfski steady. Not that either of them caught more than one wave, and not for lack of trying; like many things in life, surfski is all about balance.

To balance on a surfski, make sure before heading out that your pedals are adjusted in such a way that the backs of your knees are slightly elevated in the vessel. Your knees control your stability in a surfski, so keep them strong. Falling out of your ski is a given, and will happen countless times, especially for a beginner. The light weight and design make it unstable but super quick once you’ve got it. If you’re struggling to stay balanced, keep your legs out on either side of the ski until you feel you can manage the motion.

Dawid demonstrates how to get back on your surfski. Image: Terrence Ward

Should you lose balance and fall over in less shallow water, don’t panic. ‘It’s like getting out of a swimming pool,’ he says. With your arms, push down on the surfski to propel yourself up, with your upper body suspended above the ski. Then swivel around, so that your bottom lands back in your seat, and ‘Robert is your mother’s brother,’ says the quirky Dawid.

Keep your hands on the grips of the paddle, and keep your arms and hands high and above your head when you paddle for maximum effect. Backward strokes push water behind you, and so you alternate sides, paddling with the left arm and right. Don’t overextend your stroke by letting the paddle get too far behind you.

Some other tips for paddling a surfski include always being aware of your surroundings and wearing a life jacket at all times.

A knackered but happy Gabby and Tara. Image: Terrence Ward

For Tara and Gabby, the best part of the day was having a chance to go out in the two-person surfski with Dawid and Nick. What a difference it made with them in charge – and the Getaway girls whizzed through the water and never toppled over once with these seasoned pros.

After washing the salt and sand off, in true Fish Hoek tradition they went in search of some good old fish and chips.

To have some fun on the water, join the Saturday morning workshops in Fish Hoek with Dawid:

Mocké Surfski School at the Fish Hoek Beach Sports Club

3 Peter Creese Way, Fish Hoek, Cape Town

+27217824311, [email protected]


Featured images by Tara Osborne, Gabrielle Jacobs and Terrence Ward

yoast-primary - 1012429
tcat - Adventures
tcat_slug - adventures
tcat2 - Adventures
tcat2_slug - adventures
tcat_final -