As a young kayaker, Geoff Mould used to dream of competing at the Olympic Games.
“My goal was to get into the New Zealand team but I was never good enough even though I was training 25km a day, every day. I spent a lot of time really giving it my best shot but eventually I realised, hey I’ve actually got to work. I haven’t got time to train as much as I need to.”
The 56 year-old Te Puke builder has no regrets about switching focus and is now excited to be coming full circle and renewing his passion for the sport. He’s currently making his presence known on the National Masters kayaking circuit and has his eye firmly on competing in the 10th World Masters Games in Kansai, Japan, in 2021.
“It’s like I’m getting another chance from the other end,” Geoff laughs.
One of his kayaking heroes, Alan Thompson who won gold in the K1 1000 at the LA Olympics in 1984, is now his coach.
“It turns out I’ve been paddling for over 20 years with the wrong technique. I saw Alan at last year’s nationals and I said ‘bro, I need some help’. So I’ve had a year’s coaching from him and have improved significantly. I’m loving the changes.”
Geoff’s dad started his son off in the sport when he was just six years-old. “He had this old wooden canvas canoe and we spent a lot of time paddling down the Rangitikei River when I was a kid.”
At Massey University, Geoff began to compete in triathlons which featured a kayaking leg instead of a swim and began to do well on the national scene.
“Like any young guy I thought I was useless at everything in terms of athletics but when I started to train, I started to go quite well and it was very encouraging. It was good for the self-esteem. It was never about winning because I never won, but I came reasonably well placed and I just loved working out on the water and my love for flat-water racing grew from there.”
Geoff moved to Gisborne in the 1980s where he first met local kayaking stars and Olympians Alan Thomspon and Grant Bramwell. With their encouragement, he got involved in K1 flat water racing and began to train hard every day.
While his initial dream didn’t pan out, Geoff’s grateful to have reconnected with Alan all these years later.
“Alan has great coaching skills and is very generous about passing on his knowledge to me.
“It turns out I was doing seven or eight things wrong. I wasn’t driving with my legs at all. If you watch Lisa Carrington racing, her leg drive is incredible. Your leg drive locks your whole core and brings your upper body and back into the equation. I was using my arms and shoulders too much and didn’t have enough back and body twist,” Geoff explains.
Kayaking is all about having a nice long rhythmical technique, being relaxed and catching plenty of water, he says. “Your back muscles are the strongest muscle group in your body so having the technique is everything. If you watch any race in the Olympics, it’s poetry in motion and it’s a beautiful rhythm.”
In February this year, Geoff competed in the National Masters Championship and came away with 4th and 5th placings and two personal bests in the 1000m and 5000m events.
“I was obviously competing in the Masters class but it was amazing to watch the young guns race, including my coach’s son who took out the 1000m NZ title again for the second year in a row.”
Geoff’s time in his 1000m race was 4:40sec. “Just to give you an idea, two years ago when I raced at the World Masters Games in Auckland, I made the final of the 1000m and my time for that event at this year’s nationals was 40 seconds quicker. All of that is just through better technique.”
Gaining skills and endorphins
He currently trains almost every day in an “ideal” man-made lake behind Pak n Save, Papamoa, alternating between sprint work to build endurance, and drills to improve his paddling technique.
“I always do a 5000m time trial on a Wednesday and last night I bet my old time by 45 seconds. It’s easy when you’re training under the stop watch to rush your stroke but it’s actually about slowing it down, being more relaxed and catching more water.
“It’s a buzz. It can get addictive because you feel stronger and you’re producing endorphins after a good work out.”
Geoff acknowledges he’s lost some of his natural sprint ability compared to his younger days, but believes his endurance is better than ever.
“My coach said give me another year and I could be dangerous; I could be getting somewhere.”
He’s currently training for an upcoming 10,000m series and plans to compete in the sprint series at the Blue Lake (Tikitapu) in Rotorua later this year before tacking the Nationals again next February.
The World Masters Games are also on the horizon, and Geoff is hoping to compete in Japan alongside his best paddling mate from the Coromandel.
“I’ve got nothing to prove in a kayak, I’m just loving it. My ego and my self-worth isn’t tied up in this but I’m loving the journey and I’m loving the improvements. It’s not about ‘hey I’m going to beat you’, it’s about staying humble and just being blessed with the increases that are happening.”