Olympic kayaker Mike Dawson is bracing for a wild couple of days as he waits to compete in an extreme race in North Carolina, on the southern fringes of the superstorm battering the east coast of the United States.
The 26-year-old paddler is due to paddle the Green Race in Asheville this weekend but his preparations have been thrown awry by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, which combined with a cold-weather system and turned into a 1600km hybrid battering eight states.
"Sandy is a huge storm - it's blowing hard, the temperature has dropped to just above zero and snow is beginning to flurry down outside," Dawson said today from Asheville. It's going to make the final few days of preparation interesting, and if the weather is like this on race day, it's going to be very cold in the gorge."
Dawson made the semifinals of the K1 whitewater slalom at the London Olympics and is one of the world's best extreme kayakers - true to form, he's hoping the wild weather actually has a positive spin.
"We've spent the last few days waiting for the rain to come, hoping that we might be able to get out and explore some of the rain-fed whitewater in North Carolina! But it's pretty amazing to be here at the moment, on the fringe of this weather system. It just shows how truly awesome Mother Nature is and why we've got to respect her so much."
Other Kiwis racing the Green include Rotorua's Louise Urwin, although Otaki's Louise Jull broke her shoulder in an paddling accident two weeks ago while training for the race and is sitting it out.
Dawson is a past winner of the Green Race, capturing the title in 2010, and comes in with decent form, finishing third in the Sickline world championships in Austria three weeks ago, an event won by Rotorua's Sam Sutton.
Dawson also collected the Russell Fork River race on the weekend, the traditional precursor to the Green.
"It was good to come back to the Russell Fork for another event here and it was a wicked way to warm up for the Green and see how we sit against the other guys. We hadn't paddled here much so it's nerve wracking at the top, not really knowing where we're going. The Green will be another story - we've spent two weeks learning the lines out there and we're fired up to take it to the local boys."