The surf ironman season but a month away, Matt Poole has returned to California for one final endurance paddle fling, beginning his pre-season in style with the Paddle Pacific Games at a chilly Dana Point tomorrow.
It’s the Molokai2Oahu champion’s debut entry at the contest, Poole tempted back to Orange County after dominating Huntington Beach’s Watermen’s Festival last month, and out to re-establish himself as the world’s best prone paddler after battles with injury cost him his Molokai coveted crown.
It’s one day of racing with two events, a short course board through the surf that’s reminiscent of an ironman board race, and a 10km endurance paddle.
“The technical race in the afternoon is the one I’m most psyched on,” says Pooley, who spent today risking life and limb at infamous bodysurfing break The Wedge.
“That’s more skills-based, through the waves and back - effectively like an ironman board race, going out through the surf. And the forecast is showing there’s gonna be a pretty good swell. A good wave on. And in the afternoon it’ll be low tide at Dana Point and should be pretty fun.”
As for the distance race in the morning, it’s but a fifth of the Molokai contest’s length, an event Poole finished third in back in July despite a leg infection, two hospital visits prior and being physically ill.
“It’s nowhere near as far as Molokai, which is super good,” he says with a laugh.
“Since my last trip to the States and getting back to Aus, I’ve been focusing on ironman training and getting back into the groove of things. I haven’t been covering too much distance, so I don’t think I’d last 32 miles again! But this shorter distance, I should be able to get away with - especially with it being a more skills than endurance based.”
Better yet, he hasn't seen the inside of a hospital this visit - so far.
“The legs are all good, and I’m relatively injury-free now, which is good for me!” he continues. “Just so you know, I’m touching wood as I say that. Haha. But I’m fresh and been paddling a heap in the area. I feel good.”
The weekend will conclude with stand-up paddle events, something Pooley admits he has no interest in even considering.
“Zero interest in that. Zilch. Nothing,” he says.
“I’m too tall and uncoordinated for that. I’d rather lay down and grind it out with my arms. Just spin ’em.”