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Late call pays off for Cohen

Thursday 25 November 2010 | Published in Regional

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Until four weeks ago, OC1 champion Todd Cohen didn’t know he’d be paddling in this year’s Vaka Eiva festival.

But when Crown Beach Kings teammate Chris Maynard rallied him and some other paddling buddies together last month to form a makeshift Vaka Eiva crew, Cohen promptly upped his training regime.

For a month he was awake at 5am, paddling for an hour before work – Cohen is a carpenter by trade – and again after work. He’d do a bit of swimming and stand-up paddling as cross-training, but otherwise he was putting in the hard yards on the single-man canoe.

During Vaka Eiva three years ago, he took third in the OC1 race. He missed the single-man races in 2008, but in 2009 again placed third. This year, he pulled ahead of Reuben Dearlove (who took first in his division but second overall) for the win.

Cohen said that during races, he’s always “focused on focusing” – always thinking about technique and rhythm, keeping his mind trained on what he’s doing and how he’s doing it.

“You don’t look back – you just assume everyone’s right behind you,” he said. “I didn’t turn around (on Saturday).”

He said that this year, he’s got a new race plan – which must be more effective, considering he swept the race in a victory that made his extensive training “worth it”, he said.

“My old race plan was to hang behind, be in the pack with the leaders and then surge but I’ve scrapped that. I did a race three weeks ago and I beat Chris (Maynard) and Trav (Travis Grant) who were going pretty good and pretty fit and I had a different race plan, which was just to go hard from start to finish.”

Cohen, 36, has been paddling V6 for almost nine years, and picked up OC1 paddling six years ago. Before he got into oe vaka, he had no watersports background. A friend introduced him to the sport, and after a year on the sidelines he was itching to get into the canoe.

“I spent one season spectating and realised it’s not a spectator sport – you’ve got to be doing it to appreciate it,” Cohen said.

He joined Mooloolaba Outrigger Canoe Club, and a few years later got into single-man training and racing, just to improve his paddling technique.

Of OC1, he said: “It’s an honest way to gauge how efficient you are (as a paddler) – as opposed to being a cog, or part of a machine. You learn more about the ocean – you’re forced to learn – and that benefits you in the six-man”.

As he started training harder and getting more familiar with the winner’s podium, he started to invest more time in OC1 training than V6 training.

V6 training is less flexible, he said, whereas paddling alone means you can train on your own time.

Cohen lives on the Sunshine Coast in Southeast Queensland – in his backyard is a flatwater canal linking his house to the open ocean. He also has two flatmates who paddle, so he’s got a bit of motivation to keep up the training regimen, for which his motto is simply: “Just go as hard as you can”.

He does the four-day Hamilton Island regatta every year and has raced in the Moloka’i V6 but names Vaka Eiva as his favourite outrigger event.

Before the Crown Beach Kings had even assembled a full crew, he had his sights set on coming to Raro for Vaka Eiva.

“I thought, I don’t care if we’ve got six or seven – we’re coming,” he said.

The Crown Beach Kings – Aussie paddlers with local Tupuna Amo and Hawaii-based Cook Islander Tapa Worthington, so labelled on account of a Crown Beach sponsorship – paddle around Rarotonga on Friday, and they’re in it to win it.