The Epic Interview - Mat Rowlands
First paddling memories - Who got your started?
I started paddling with my local surf life-saving club. When I was in Rhoose Nippers, my father used to take me paddling on a double spec ski. At the time, he was SLSA Wales Team Manager, and I was encouraged to paddle as we travelled around the UK with him for different competitions. This continued through junior age groups, where I started competing.
What was your first boat?
My first ocean ski was a second-hand Fenn; I soon found a passion for ocean ski racing and worked with Epic Kayaks to find the best boat for me. I now paddle an Epic V12 or V11, depending on the conditions.
Which clubs do you paddle with?
I compete for Llantwit Major Surf Life Saving Club for Lifeguard events. Although, most of my training is with Cardiff Bay Kayak Club, whom I represent in sprint and marathon kayak races. I enjoy racing all kayak and ski disciplines to develop my Ocean Ski paddling.
Cardiff Bay Kayak Club is a small community which have a good social aspect. I try to coach younger club paddlers and encourage them to try ocean ski. Our club is based right on the coast with two rivers to paddle on, making it perfect flat water and downwind paddling all year round.
Favourite boat and why?
My favourite boat is my Epic V12 in Elite construction. It is perfect for surfing downwind, and once you start surfing, the V12 makes it easy to link runs and get some consistently high speeds. The Elite carbon construction is a super stiff V12, and this stiffness makes it easy to punch through chop and messy conditions. The V12 is a long boat at 6.4m and weighing around 10kg it is an ideal boat for racing in flat water too – which can be the case in the UK.
What you love most about paddling OR why do you paddle?
The best thing about paddling is challenging myself in the elements. I like pushing myself in bigger surf and higher winds to see how fast I can paddle and how long I can surf runs. Downwind paddling is about using technique to read the waves and get the most out of the boat and myself.
What’s the least enjoyable bit OR most challenging part of paddling?
The worst part about paddling is the British weather. You can watch the forecast all week and plan the perfect route – but it usually changes. The best solution I have found so far is to wait for the wind to hit - drop everything and go for a paddle!
Best paddling experience / memory
For me, the best part about Ocean Ski paddling is getting to travel all around the world to race. I have been lucky enough to race in France, Portugal, Lanzarote, South Africa and Australia. I had a great time at the World Championships in France in 2019, the race did not have the best conditions, but the best paddlers in the world were there to race against and have a few beers with after.
Best location for paddling and why you like it so much
The best race conditions I have had were in Lanzarote, it was a race with three stages, each approximately 10km long, the wind blew for all three stages, and you spent more time surfing than paddling.
For training, there is an excellent downwind route I have locally from Llantwit Major to Barry; if the wind blows around 20km/h I can usually paddle consistent 3.20min/km which is a lot of fun.
What’s your paddling ambition for this year / next 5 or 10 years?
This year’s ambitions will depend on what races are available as we come out of the lockdown. I would love to get to an international event – they help inspire me to get up and go training on the wettest and darkest mornings. Overall, I hope to compete in all the UK races. We have a few young paddlers at the club; I hope my passion for Ocean Ski will rub off. It will be good to see them at the finish line of a few races this year.
As for the next couple of seasons, I would like to keep pushing my way into the GB Ocean Ski team and represent the country at the next World Championships. Ultimately, as long as I keep training and enjoying my paddling, I will be happy.