Ke’ale Dorries is not waiting for the things to change in the world and “the stoke continues with training”, she says. After battling injuries, the Blackfish Team Rider had a great start to the SUP racing season with strong performance and podiums bagged at the 12 Towers Ocean Race and the Scotss Head Paddle Games, taking the top women’s spot for the QLD qualifiers and securing her place to compete at the APP World Tour. TotalSUP caught up with Ke’ale on the eve of a new lockdown in Australia to chat about her life revolving around watersports and the future of SUP.
Photo: Sophie A E Hedberg
Hi Ke’ale, massive congratulations on a great start to the SUP racing season. How have you been holding up through the COVID-19 pandemic?
Thank you! It’s definitely been hard the last eighteen months with the uncertainty of sports in Australia and internationally. I had big plans for 2020, moved those plans to 2021 but now I’ve decided to focus on my mental and physical health rather than waiting for things to change in a world where we don’t really know what’s going to happen! I am very lucky to live near the ocean, still be able to work and live my normal day to day routine.
Photo: Simon “Swilly” Williams
What’s your take on the pro SUP scene today? Surfing has finally made its Olympics debut… Do you think SUP will go that way too?
I’ve been SUPing since I was around ten, eleven years years old, now being twenty three, I’ve seen first-hand how much stand-up paddleboarding has grown in Australia (which some would argue is still slow compared to some parts of the world like the USA or Europe!)
I think it’s a massive step in the ocean sports world to have surfing included in the Olympics. I believe this has paved the way for other ocean sports, and I would love to see SUP involved in some aspect. I think SUP sprint racing would be an easy addition with already having kayak, C1 and other canoe sprints. Ultimately, I would love to see SUP tech racing and even SUP surfing. But to start, sprints would be massive!
Could you tell us more about yourself?
When I was ten, eleven years old there was a surfing competition happening at my local break, Currumbin Alley on the Gold Coast. On the creek side of the beach, there was a local business running paddleboard hire (the legends, Angie and Paul Jackson!) Although I hated it on my first go, my parents loved it and we became friends with Angie and Jacko and joined in on their training squad.
It was a seamless transition for me, I had competed in Surf Life Saving and Outrigger Canoe Paddling since I was a grom, so moving up to stand-up paddleboarding gave me the opportunity to excel in another ocean sport!
Other than SUP, I work with my sponsors DEEP Ocean Boards (Waterman Store Australia) in the surf sports industry and run my own social media management business as well as running SUP lessons and clinics tailored to women!
View this post on Instagram
Could you tell us more about your collaboration with Blackfish Paddles and joining the Blackfish Team?
I was lucky enough to join the Blackfish Paddles team the same time I joined the DEEP Ocean Boards Team. I had just come off a double racing win at the Australian SUP Titles back in 2019 and was honored with the support I receive from Blackfish Paddles. I’ve been mates with Lincoln Dews since I started stand-up paddleboarding and have always admired his determination, drive and passion for SUP and am stoked to be working with him and the rest of the Blackfish Team!
What are your Blackfish Paddles of choice?
I love the whole line of Blackfish Paddles and here are my set ups:
Ocean Racing + Long distance – Blackfish Salish 460
With the extra scoop and smaller size in the blade of the Salish 460, I’m enhancing the length of each stroke taken to allow myself a more comfortable long distance paddle, and more forgiving recovery.
Technical Racing + Sprints + Short Distance – Blackfish Viento 520
The perfect all round paddle if you can only have one. I prefer to use the Blackfish Viento in shorter distances, the lightweight paddle features a twin ‘power pocket’ on the blade allowing me to have not only a solid catch, but a fast release meaning my stroke rating can stay higher for longer.
SUP Surfing + SUP Foiling – Blackfish Andaman 520 (as a backup Nootka 520)
The Blackfish Andaman is a hybrid design between the original tear-drop shape we all know, and the high aspect design we all love. I’m confident this is a perfect blade for SUP surfing pros. The lightweight design makes for easy paddle changing manoeuvres and the hybrid blade design allows me to rely on the paddle for support in big turns and fast release to set up for the next turn!
Could you share your top SUP spots on the Gold Coast?
I’m not one of those surfers that sticks to one sport their whole life. The Gold Coast is an amazing city for surfing. We have some of the best point breaks in the world which excel in South-East Swell (Currumbin Alley, Snapper Rocks, Kirra Point and Burleigh Heads) but we also have some amazing beach breaks which have been solidified with the help of an artificial reef (Palm Beach beach break).
On those North winds that blow out the southern beaches, I’ll head up to Southport Spit ‘The Spit’ where my partner runs her family-owned surf school. The Spit is between a rock wall (a boating channel on the other side) and a sand-pumping jetty. The swell here is a mix of a beach break and a point break depending on swell size and winds.
The best part about the Gold Coast, is that northern New South Wales is literally RIGHT THERE! A quick hop cross the border and you’re met with some amazing beaches (sure, a little more sharky than the Gold Coast but still pristine beaches).
View this post on Instagram
As a Pro-SUP athlete, what would you say to the next generation of paddlers entering the SUP racing scene?
HAVE FUN! We do this sport not just because we’re good at it, but because we LOVE IT and the Ocean! Cheer on your fellow athletes, have a laugh when you fall off an easy wave, make friends for life and love the sport we do. People ask me what I do for fun other than paddling? Well, I PADDLE! Whether it’s a 10km session, a paddle up the creek with your friends, or trying something new like SUP Yoga, paddling isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.
What’s in the pipeline for 2021?
We were lucky enough to get in some amazing SUP Comps in 2021 here in Australia such as; 12 Towers Ocean Paddle Festival, Port Stephens SUP Challenge, Scotts Head Paddle Games and heaps more. The goal for 2021 is to get to as many Australian races as possible, club rounds and social paddles. I’m hoping our Australian Titles still runs later in the year.
If that doesn’t happen, the stoke continues with training for next year, surfing as much as possible, and learning new skills and new disciplines such as surfing.
Photo: Australian Paddle Surfer
Thank you very much for your time Ke’ale and good luck with the rest of the season!
To find out more about Blackfish Paddles and their progressive, refined, handcrafted designs, visit www.blackfishpaddles.com
*All images courtesy of Ke’ale Dorries