Mount Maunganui paddleboarder Danny Hart could hardly be more satisfied with his results at the recent International Surfing Association (ISA) World Stand Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championship in China but wonders what might have been if he hadn't hit a reef in the 5km technical race, and then had a horrendous experience with lost water bottles in the distance race.
"My intention was to win, but to get third at my first ISA event, wow, I was absolutely stoked, over the moon."
Originally, Hart was down to compete in just two events – the technical race prone and the team relay. The relay team also placed third in the competition, held between November 24 and December 2.
But the withdrawal of a teammate meant he went out in the 18km distance prone race as well – and in the gruelling endurance event which runs for over two hours he placed a creditable fifth, racing without water.
Hart, who paddles on his knees with both arms making simultaneous strokes, found the course for his specialist event more technical than usual with more sharp turns.
"You also had a reef to deal with and you had to negotiate a surf break on every lap. We did four laps of the 1.3km circuit. You had to negotiate the shore break coming home, run around the turn flag then go out through the surf break again. Then with all the tight turns and the reef, it was quite a challenge."
Hart actually led for the first three laps of the technical race.
"My coaches had told me not to lead, not to do all the work at the front but even though I sat back on my heels and asked the other guys to come forward, no one would help me out. Obviously, I was new to the block and no one knew who I was and let me do all the work."
He admits that brought on some fatigue and he made some mistakes.
"On the final lap I hit the reef. If I had stayed on the wave, I would have been in contention for the top two placings. But I just got back on the board, gritted my teeth and pushed myself back into third position. Coming around the final can I was about half a board length off second place but I played it just strategically incorrect and tried to go by myself instead of manoeuvring myself on the wash."
In the distance race, Hart had a major mishap right at the start and proceeded to break every rule of endurance sport. He competed without water.
"My coach and support crew went absolutely ballistic when I dropped both my water bottles. When I put my board in the water, the cradles holding the bottles snapped and all I could do was sit there and watch the bottles go past not realising what had happened."
The story gets worse.
"It wasn't till about 10 minutes later that I thought, my water bottles have gone. I've got nothing. The support crew are waving on the beach after the first lap to come in and get more water, but I thought to myself if I stop now it'll take extra time to get water and I'll lose touch with the front pack. It was my decision to keep going without water."
He knows it was crazy, and dangerous.
"I had no feeling in my legs whatsoever at the end, very weak, very faint. You almost want to throw up."
Somehow, he held on for fifth in the nine-strong field. His time of 2 hours, 13 minutes and 5 seconds was just under four minutes behind the winner Hunter Pfueger of the United States.
Hart's final event was the team relay. He led off for the New Zealand team, followed by Tara Hope as the women's SUP, Devon Halligan doing the women's prone leg and Trevor Tunnington coming home on the men's SUP. New Zealand took the bronze medal behind Australia and the USA.
Now that he's had a taste of international success, Danny Hart is more enthusiastic than ever to win the world title next year, although the venue for the 2019 SUP and paddleboard worlds hasn't yet been determined by the International Surfing Association (ISA).
For now, he's looking ahead to a summer of patrols on Main Beach at the Mount and training for the lifesaving nationals in both New Zealand and Australian in March.
"It's surprising how many people have been at the beach this early in the summer. Patrolling is one of those things that comes with the sport. We're the only sport where you do volunteer stuff before you compete - but it's not bad when you get to spend the day at the beach."