It was the Dubai Shamaal 2011 and it was the post event party at the Dubai International Marina. It was here that I met Chris Camilleri, Malta’s pre-eminent sprint kayaker, who saw a video of surfski paddling and realised that he just HAD to do this sport. It looked like the perfect paddling craft for his home. Knowing nothing about surfski, he entered the Dubai Shamaal – then the world’s biggest, most competitive surfski race – to experience it for himself. He left the event a changed paddler! After a wonderful evening at the prizegiving, we said our goodbyes. “Come to Malta” he said, “And teach us to surfski. We have the perfect conditions.” So off to Malta I went, 6 years ago to the day, 18 August 2015, and found some of the most amazing surfski paddling conditions, with stunning scenery, on an island with a rich history dating back to biblical times. Chris was right, Malta is the perfect surfski destination.
Q & A with Chris
Why is Malta perfect for Surfski? Malta’s weather conditions make it possible to kayak year round with lows of 15c in winter and highs of 35c in summer and water temperatures ranging between 13c at its lowest to 28c at its highest. Being a small island also makes it possible to go and paddle in sheltered/favourable areas in a relatively short time. To us, surfski is the most ideal craft to use in our seas because it offers the most versatility to deal with the constant waves and swell that we have. When it comes to downwind, the surfski shines above all other form of paddling craft and in Malta, there’s always a spot we can do this from.
What excites you about teaching surfski & paddling to the people of Malta? We started our club with the aim to develop into kayak flatwater sprints, however we were restricted to a 600m stretch and training in laps up and down the same bit. We realised over the years that this was not natural to our environmental conditions and we started to shift our focus to surfskis. With the development of more stable yet fast skis, we were then able to take complete beginners and get them take their first strokes, self rescue and even catch a wave over the course of a one day course. The process was so effortless, that our beginner age group ranged from 12 years old to 65 year olds. It was a natural transition to this discipline. It gives us a sense of pride to be able to teach people this sport in a safe manner and to watch them take off equipped with the right skills to handle our conditions in a safe way whilst having fun and maximising speed on the water!! What does it mean to you to be an accredited Surfski School? To us at the Surfski Shack, becoming an accredited MOCKE Surfski School is the result of years of passion which we have put in this sport. Becoming an accredited centre is a dream come true for us! We are always learning and adapting methods as we go, and we believe that surfski can be taught to anyone, if the approach is kept simple and practical. In a way we always covered the 5 skills of surfski paddling and becoming a MOCKE Surfski School consolidated our whole approach! We are truly honored to be able to teach the sport as an accredited Mocke Surfski School! Last question – Why would you encourage paddlers to visit Malta on a surfski holiday? Besides being an absolutely perfect surfski destination, we have invested in a number of surfskis, and also the ability to be mobile and to drop people off in one location and pick them up from another at the end of a downwind. But downwind is not the only reason why we encourage paddlers to come and visit the island. Getting in the miles in relatively warm water along the stunning scenery of our coastline gets very appealing especially for paddlers who live in regions where winters are long, cold and dark. For the history buffs, Malta also offers a very rich history spanning at least 7000 years. Paddlers can combine their paddling holidays along with cultural enrichment.