Thanks to support from the Western Region Development Council (WRDC), which wants to encourage women to take part in more sporting activities and events, the HCT Madinat Zayed and Ruwais Colleges are celebrating a faculty member’s participation in an international event.
Western Region female faculty member Thea Vander recently competed in the EuroChallenge Surfski competition in Valencia, Spain.
“The Canoe Federation of Spain invited me to represent the United Arab Emirates during this race. The UAE’s flag was proudly hoisted amongst over 20 other countries represented,” Thea said after her return.
“I came 5th in the open women’s category and 4th in the women’s senior category (ages 23-40). I am really happy with my time, since I’m improving each time I paddle.”
The Eurochallenge is one of the biggest Surfski races in Europe which attracts International paddlers from all over the world. This race forms part of the Ocean Paddler’s World Series, where paddlers compete to gain the status of World Champion.
In Spain, Thea had the opportunity to interact with world champion Dawid Mocke from South Africa, the current world champion. He was wearing an “Al Gharbia Watersports Festival 2011” paddling vest during one training session. He got it from his brother, Jasper Mocke, who is currently regarded with his brother as one of the top paddlers in the world.
With the commitment of the Western Region Development Council to develop watersports in Al Gharbia, Jasper was invited to the Watersports Festival in Mirfa during 2011. He gave several Surfski demo paddles to the local people and used the evenings to attend the events on the beach and also participated in several races.
At the event Thea met up with Spanish flat water Kayak sprinter, Albert Corominas, who came to the Watersports Festival in 2012. He is aiming to qualify for the Kayak World Championships later this year.
He had the opportunity to meet several of our students and experience their hospitality. It was a first time Albert had seen a camel. He participated in the swimming and Surfski events. He left saying that he will definitely come to the festival again next year.
WRDC are doing a lot to develop watersports as is clear from its commitment to the annual Al Gharbia Watersports Festival. Thea was pleased to be part of a drive to bring more women into sporting events like the festival in Al Mirfa.
She feels that women don’t get the same recognition as men, and many races award higher prizes for men than women. But she also feels she embodies the possibilities for women to take part if they are supported and encouraged.
In 2009 Thea attended the festival for the first time as a spectator, not being physically fit enough to participate in surfski activities. In 2010, she tried paddling 9km and came last. In 2011, she tried again and achieved 2nd position in the 20 km surfski event. In 2012, she won the women’s category with a great time.
Not only did she observe how the event grew, but also experienced how the students developed through incorporating their learning activities with various organizational duties at the event.
Thea’s next challenge is to support her students through their end of year course work and exams. She will find time to “Paddle for the Planet”, a charity event to raise money for marine conservation, but is considering heading off for some competition paddling in Mauritius, Norway or San Francisco during the summer break.
Learn more about the Eurochallenge here: http://eurochallenge.es/index.html
Learn more about the Ocean Paddler World Series here: http://www.surfski.info/races/aus-nz/item/1378-2012-oceanpaddler-world-series-made-simple.html