Champion Surf Skier first back-to-back winner of Sportsperson of the Year Award

NZPA | Mon July 4th, 2016

Constable Rachel Clarke, an endurance competitor in the international surf ski world, is the first back-to-back winner of the New Zealand Police Association’s Sportsperson of the Year Award.

Last year, the 26-year-old from the North Shore took home the 2014 award. Police Association President Greg O’Connor presented Rachel with her 2015 award at the North Shore Policing Centre on Monday 4 July.

Mr O’Connor said, “The double win is in recognition of another year of great achievements on the international and national surf ski circuit.”

“Her hard work and personal sacrifice has earned her respect from her colleagues, fellow athletes, and the wider community – her achievements reflect positively on Police too,” he said. “The Police family all feel a bit of pride seeing one of our own achieving such success not just in NZ but internationally.”

Rachel Clarke

Rachel's results in the past year include:

  • NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour 26km (NZ champs and World Series race) – 1st
  • West Coast Downwinder (World Series race, Perth) – 1st
  • North American Surf Ski Champs 25km (World Series race) – 3rd
  • US Surf Ski Champs 23km (World Series race) – 3rd
  • ICF World Surf Ski Champs (Tahiti) – 3rd
  • Perth Doctor (World Series race) – 3rd

In May, Rachel competed in the 2016 Molokai to Oahu race in Hawaii (unofficially considered the world champs of surf ski) – a gruelling 53-kilometre event that she won in 2014. It took four hours and 33 minutes of effort then, so she was under no illusions about what to expect this year. Struggling in dead flat conditions, she still came home in second place after four hours and 34 minutes.

In April this year, she won the Queen of the Harbour race in Auckland, which is part of the 2016 World Surf Ski Series, coming in about 10 minutes ahead of current world champ and fellow New Zealander Teneale Hatton. It was a tough race, and Rachel said she really had to push through the pain barrier. But, as she has shown, that is her strength and one of the qualities that keeps her at the top of her game. This month she has her sights set on the next World Series race in Canada.

It is the same mental toughness and determination Rachel brings to the challenges of combining a top-level sporting career with her policing work. Most days, pretty much year round, she is either on the water, in the water or, in her role with road policing at the Auckland Harbour Bridge, over the water.

Her normal week looks like this: fulltime shift work, ocean paddling six times a week, two gym sessions, three runs and a recovery swim. She says it’s tough juggling work and training and trying not to overload herself.

Rachel’s successes are impressive considering she took up long-distance ocean paddling only five years ago. She was no stranger to water sports, however, and has been involved with surf lifesaving since she was 5, and took up paddling at 12. 

Growing up in Whangaparaoa, Rachel won several national titles in surf lifesaving, swimming and sprint kayaking. When she discovered ocean paddling, however, she realised it was the perfect discipline for her. “I’m not a sprinter; I like the endurance aspect of the long-distance races,” she says.

Rachel’s a focused competitor, but she also does it because she loves the sun, sea and surf lifestyle and it’s something she wants to share with others. She runs paddling clinics for beginners and those wanting to build on intermediate skills, helping to promote the sport within the community.

NZ Police Association Police Sportsperson of the Year Award

For more than 40 years, the Police Sportsperson of the Year Award has been presented to members of Police who have displayed outstanding sporting excellence. The Police Association has proudly sponsored the award since 2002. The award is administered by Police Sport.

Previous nominees and recipients include: Selica Winiata, Black Fern and NZ women's sevens player; Melissa Mae Ruru, NZ Volleyballer; Fiao’o Faamausili, world champion Black Fern; Sian Law, Commonwealth Games Wrestler; Jeff McGrath, Ironman/Triathlete; Grainne Scott, MVP NZ Lacrosse Team & Captain Canterbury Women’s Ice Hockey Team; Michelle Nunn, Captain of the NZ Women’s Wheel Chair Basketball Team - the Wheel Ferns; Cowboy Action Shooting World Champion Tracey Ball; NZ Black Cap cricketer Shane Bond; Atlantic Rowers Steve Westlake and Matt Goodman; Silver Fern Jenny-May Coffin; All Blacks Murray Pierce; John Gallagher and Blair Larsen; Kiwi rugby league star Sam Stewart; All White Roger Gray; Hockey internationals Shane Collins, Scott Anderson and Karen Smith; cricketer Sarah Illingworth; lawn bowler Phil Skoglund; triathlete Steve Farrell; athlete Andrew Collin; and martial artist Karen Vaughan. 

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