The History of the Icon Classic

– by Mark Ressel.

The Icon Classic has been running since 2010 and fortunately has only had to be moved once. In year one there were 27 single skis on the line and the event proved to be a real success! That was the year the icon Classic video film (above) was produced and has since proven to be a great advert for the race*.


Icon Classic Creation

The icon Classic was a brainchild of mine in the summer of 2009. It wouldn’t be fair not to mention Colin ‘Biggles’ Smith at this point. This well-known accomplished paddler always helps me drink copious amounts of coffee and tea whilst coming up with new ideas of how ski paddling can be grown in the UK. This time was no exception!

We had been paddling the North Devon Coastline for years and knew it would be an amazing setting for a race. Unless you see it from the water, you wouldn’t realise how stunning the North Devon Coastline is. It also has some of the highest cliffs in the British Isles. After discussing all the challenges, Biggles agreed that it was definitely a good idea and I should crack on with making it happen and so the Icon Classic was born – thanks Biggles 🙂

But let’s go back a bit…


The first British Long Distance Ski Series

Having competed in the 2007 Dubai Shammal, I got a flavour of what long distance paddling was really about – lightweight ocean skis, 200 competitors on the start line and going downwind for over 10km! Up until then, my experience had consisted of 18kg skis, possibly 10 paddlers in the British Open category on a 5km triangular course x 3 laps. The Shammal was an amazing experience and made me realise that downwind paddling on fast lightweight boats was the way forward!

So in 2007 I decided to set up the Long Distance Ski Series.This consisted of five races: the Tarka Ski Challenge, Hayle Kayak Race, Portreath Ski Race, Goldcoast Ski Race and the Cardiff Bay Ski Race. These events were all circuit type courses, using ‘spec skis’.

Since then we have seen two considerable changes, which are the use of long distance ocean skis and the inclusion of ‘down wind’ type courses. The British Series is now organised by a voluntary panel of 6 paddlers who look after what is still a small sport, but growing each year. These 6 people (plus the help of others) help develop the sport by organising events, setting race criteria, managing Facebook and a website (GB Ocean Ski Paddling and ), developing the rule book and acting as a referee panel if needed. The British Series is still run under the banner of Surf Life Saving GB and is the governing body of the sport. Currently, the British Ocean Ski Series consists of five events; the Icon Classic, Oceansports Paddlefest, Branscombe Chyne Ski Race, Weymouth to Lulworth Cove and Looe Ski Race.

The categories are open men and ladies, open double and masters men over 40. You may be wondering why there aren’t more categories? As the sport develops and numbers increase this will happen. The next most likely category is masters men over 50. With regards to younger categories, the voluntary panel thought it best to leave Surf Life Saving GB to develop this age group as they already have a coaching system in place.

Icon Classic Race posters since 2011…

The Icon Classic Community

Without the help of many volunteers, this event would not be possible! When mentioning people there is always a fear that you might miss someone out! Never the less, I’m going to try! When it comes to event preparation and admin, the three fondly known ‘Icon ladies’, Tracey, Ann and Charmaine are second to none! Even after five years they still love helping out (I think :-). Thanks to them, I know that event locations, entry information and event coordination is all sorted. Just to expand on that a little, this involves:

– Communication with local businesses and the councils
– Placing event posters in the community
– Arranging refreshments for spectators and paddlers
– Looking after all entries and preparing info on the day
–Recording finish positions and times
–Ensuring everyone gets their correct meal in the evening!

That still sells everyone short, but gives you an idea!

Then there is event safety cover provided by Saunton Sands Surf Life Saving Club. If this safety cover were provided on a commercial basis, the event wouldn’t happen. For the 2014 event, they provided:

– 5 crewed IRB’s (inshore rescue boats)
–3 headland spotters
– 4 drivers that make a 40 mile round trip with trailers for IRB support

In all, a minimum of 17 people volunteering their time to ensure the highest of standards for safety cover. In recognition of this, any funds raised from the event go to Saunton Sands Surf Life Saving Club.

I am also very fortunate that my old PE teacher, better known as ‘Cooky’ is a keen waterman and has always been involved with surfing and Woolacombe Surf Life Saving Club. From the outset, Cooky could see the attraction of the Icon Classic and has been the event referee from the start. This means that as soon as I finish the race briefing, Cooky takes over.

I also need to mention Parkins Estates who own Woolacombe Beach and Combe Martin Parish Council who allow us to finish on their beach. Without their co-operation and keenness to see the event happen, the Icon Classic race as we know it wouldn’t happen.

Last, but not least, I need to mention my parents for providing the end of race ‘treat’. I don’t think there is another ski race in the world that provides fresh jam, cream and homemade scones at the end of a race. Maybe not a nutritionist guru recommendation, but they seem to go down very well :-).

So, now you have a flavour of the Icon Classic: a real community event, made possible by great community spirit! If you haven’t taken part before, maybe you’ll be tempted, and we’ll see you on the start line this year.

To enter this year’s race on 11 July 2015, click/touch on the button here.


*Big thanks to Ingrid Kvale, her colleagues as well as Dogle Design for the professional broadcast quality production in the making of the awesome 2010 Icon Classic DVD!

Pin It

» Icon Racing » The History of the Icon...
On 7th May 2015
, ,

Comments are closed.