Team Oceanpaddler

Dean Gardiner

Oceanpaddler owner and founder Dean Gardiner has been Australia’s most successful ocean paddler of the years. He is regarded as the best downwind paddler by his peers with his reputation backed up by outstanding results.

From his first Molokai Surf Ski race in 1999 Dean has taken part in almost every race since, winning the event 9 times and held the record for the race since 1994 until his good friend and Fenn paddler Cory Hill broke it in 2018. 

In 2002 Dean introduced ocean paddling to Australia through the hugely successful ocean racing series. The growth of the sport in Australia has largely been attributed to the hard work and financial investment that Dean has put into the sport.

Dean is regarded as one of the pioneers of ocean paddling and along with a couple of others are largely responsible the growth of the sport and where it is today.


History

Dean started paddling as a thirteen year old with some mates out of Floreat Surf Club in Western Australia. A lack of surf in the summer months and an abundance of downwind on Perth’s beaches made paddling an appropriate replacement for riding a surfboard.

“I was paddling pretty young but never really got into the competitive side till quite a few years later” Back then I was inspired by guys like Ken Vidler who had dominated Surf Ski and Ironman racing in the Surf Lifesaving events”.

Dean trained most of the time by himself and would paddle up wind from Floreat then catch the runs back nearly every afternoon.

In his late teens Dean started working as a professional fisherman in Australia’s North.

“These were interesting times as I was really enjoying the paddling and was just starting to get into the competitions, we all have to work at some point and fishing was what I wanted to do. Fortunately for me it kept me on the water and was predominantly winter months in the North and I would be back to paddle in Perth over the summer months. I kept myself pretty fit on the fishing boats with loads of surfing and running when we were back at port.”

By that time Dean had moved to the stronger City of Perth Surf Club and was really starting to perform in the Surf Lifesaving events. 

“I came back from a season in the North and was pretty fit and jumped straight on the ski at the start of summer. This was in my last year as a junior competitor and Kelvin Graham (who went on to win many Surf Lifesaving Titles and an Olympic Medal in the kayaks) was the guy to beat. It was great to have Kelvin around in those early days as he set the bar very high when it came to performance and kind of dragged a few of us along.”

The move to City Of Perth Surf Club was a good one for Dean as there were quite a few good role models to guide some of the younger competitors. There were no real solid training programs for ski paddlers around at the time so Dean came up with a way of converting swimming training to paddling.

“The move along the beach was a good one as I had guidance from guys like Greg Mickle and learnt to train under the tough swimming regime that Rick Turner had created. It was Ricks programs that in the future I would use as the base for my ski paddling training. Rick was awesome with 200, 400 and longer distance swimmers. Given that our races at the time were around two and a half to four minutes long, it made sense to train the same as a two and four hundred meter swimmer but on a ski.”

At this time the fishing industry was dying and new strategies had been implemented to replenish the diminished fish stocks. This meant that the work was drying up or was simply not profitable. It was time to move on.

Dean was working as a lifeguard through the summer months and still heading North for the winters basicly working for minimal pay as a skipper on the trawlers in Exmouth Gulf. 

“I loved working on the boats and the North West lifestyle, but it was taxing on the body and was unsustainable as any income was quickly soaked up in living expenses.”

In the late 80s Dean moved to East and to Manly Surf Club. Working as a Lifeguard and driving Charter Boats on Sydney Harbour provided an income and paddling with guys like Steve Wood, Greg Bennett, Tony Vieceli and Guy Leech gave him a competitive drive.

The Surf Lifesaving events at that time were great but he was more inspired by some of the longer events that were starting to become more prevalent around the World. A few years before Grant Kenny had won the Molokai event as a sixteen year old and news of events in South Africa, Tahiti and the US was starting to filter out.

“I competed in the SLSA events with some good results but it was the open water events that I felt I was getting drawn to. I think this may have stemmed from my days at sea on the fishing boats and feeling comfortable with the expanse and learning the small idiosyncrasies the ocean can present.”

In the late eighties Dean competed in his first Molokai event. He was hooked and has been to nearly everyone ever since. Dean won most of the Molokai events through the nineties breaking the record in 1994 then again in 1997. That record was held until 2018 when it was broken by Dean’s good mate Cory Hill and then in 2019 by another mate Hank Macgreggor.

Early nineties also saw the creation of the 20 Beaches race in Sydney. Dean won the first of these events just about every other race that was going at the time.

In 2004 Cape Town hosted the first ever ICF Surf Ski World Cup. Dean won this from Herman Chalupsky and Tim Jacobs in big seas.

“I was travelling a lot in the late 90s and early 2000s. There were quite a few events at that time in different countries and I loved going to those places and racing different people. “Some of those events still exist today but as is the nature of sports like ours it is very difficult to sustain events over an extended period of time.”

It was on one of these trips to South Africa that Dean met up with Keith Fenn. 

“I had never paddled the South African skis and was adamant that I never would.  I had total faith in Ray Burtons skis made in Australia and felt I would be giving something up if I moved to the “Saffa skis” even though I knew they were quicker.”

Around that time Ray Burton retired.

“I rolled up to a race in Knysna, SA, and my ski didn’t make it. Back then we used to fly with our skis. Keith gave me one of his to use and since then I have been paddling those craft.”

At the end of the trip Keith told Dean to hang onto the ski, he bought two more and put them on a plane in Cape Town hence the first import of ocean racing skis into Australia and the start of Oceanpaddler.

At the same time Dean forged a relationship with a major men’s magazine and the Australian Ocean Racing Series was formed.

“When I brought the three skis back I didn’t really know what I was going to do with them as there was no ocean racing series in Australia and the couple of distance events that did exist still required the use of SLSA skis. These skis were longer, lighter, thinner and a hell of a lot faster.”

 “So I started one.”

The first Australian Ocean Racing Series event (The Men’s Health Ocean Racing Series) was held at Balmoral Beach in 2002 with another seven races throughout the country that summer.

“We had pretty good support through Men’s Health magazine but it was a lot of work to set up and some events saw only 14 competitors turn up which was disappointing. There was no interest from Canoeing or SLSA in our events which was also disappointing.”

Dean can be proud of what exists today with a very solid National Series, most states have their own series and on any given weekend there is an event going on made up predominantly of ocean racing skis.

Oceanpaddler owner and founder Dean Gardiner has been Australia’s most successful ocean paddler over the years. He is regarded as one of the best downwind paddler by his peers with a reputation backed up by outstanding results.

From his first Molokai Surf Ski win in 1999, he has won the title 9 times and held the record which he set in 1994 until 2018 when it was broken by Fenn paddler and good friend Cory Hill. 

In 2002 Dean introduced ocean paddling to Australia through the hugely successful ocean racing series. The growth of the sport in Australia has largely been attributed to the hard work and financial investment that Dean has put into the sport.

Dean is regarded as one of the pioneers of ocean paddling and along with a couple of others are largely responsible the growth of the sport and where it is today.


Dean started paddling as a thirteen year old with some mates out of Floreat Surf Club in Western Australia. A lack of surf in the summer months and an abundance of downwind on Perth’s beaches made paddling an appropriate replacement for riding a surfboard.

“I was paddling pretty young but never really got into the competitive side till quite a few years later” Back then I was inspired by guys like Ken Vidler who had dominated Surf Ski and Ironman racing in the Surf Lifesaving events”.

Dean trained most of the time by himself and would paddle up wind from Floreat then catch the runs back nearly every afternoon.

In his late teens Dean started working as a professional fisherman in Australia’s North.

“These were interesting times as I was really enjoying the paddling and was just starting to get into the competitions, we all have to work at some point and fishing was what I wanted to do. Fortunately for me it kept me on the water and was predominantly winter months in the North and I would be back to paddle in Perth over the summer months. I kept myself pretty fit on the fishing boats with loads of surfing and running when we were back at port.”

By that time Dean had moved to the stronger City of Perth Surf Club and was really starting to perform in the Surf Lifesaving events. 

“I came back from a season in the North and was pretty fit and jumped straight on the ski at the start of summer. This was in my last year as a junior competitor and Kelvin Graham (who went on to win many Surf Lifesaving Titles and an Olympic Medal in the kayaks) was the guy to beat. It was great to have Kelvin around in those early days as he set the bar very high when it came to performance and kind of dragged a few of us along.”

The move to City Of Perth Surf Club was a good one for Dean as there were quite a few good role models to guide some of the younger competitors. There were no real solid training programs for ski paddlers around at the time so Dean came up with a way of converting swimming training to paddling.

“The move along the beach was a good one as I had guidance from guys like Greg Mickle and learnt to train under the tough swimming regime that Rick Turner had created. It was Ricks programs that in the future I would use as the base for my ski paddling training. Rick was awesome with 200, 400 and longer distance swimmers. Given that our races at the time were around two and a half to four minutes long, it made sense to train the same as a two and four hundred meter swimmer but on a ski.”

At this time the fishing industry was dying and new strategies had been implemented to replenish the diminished fish stocks. This meant that the work was drying up or was simply not profitable. It was time to move on.

Dean was working as a lifeguard through the summer months and still heading North for the winters basiclly working for minimal pay as a skipper on the trawlers in Exmouth Gulf. 

“I loved working on the boats and the North West lifestyle, but it was taxing on the body and was unsustainable as any income was quickly soaked up in living expenses.”

In the late 80s Dean moved to East and to Manly Surf Club. Working as a Lifeguard and driving Charter Boats on Sydney Harbour provided an income and paddling with guys like Steve Wood, Greg Bennett, Tony Vieceli and Guy Leech gave him a competitive drive.

The Surf Lifesaving events at that time were great but he was more inspired by some of the longer events that were starting to become more prevalent around the World. A few years before Grant Kenny had won the Molokai event as a sixteen year old and news of events in South Africa, Tahiti and the US was starting to filter out.

“I competed in the SLSA events with some good results but it was the open water events that I felt I was getting drawn to. I think this may have stemmed from my days at sea on the fishing boats and feeling comfortable with the expanse and learning the small idiosyncrasies the ocean can present.”

In the late eighties Dean competed in his first Molokai event. He was hooked and has been to nearly everyone ever since. Dean won most of the Molokai events through the nineties breaking the record in 1994 then again in 1997. That record was held until 2018 when it was broken by Dean’s good mate Cory Hill and then in 2019 by another mate Hank Macgreggor.

Early nineties also saw the creation of the 20 Beaches race in Sydney. Dean won the first of these events just about every other race that was going at the time.

In 2004 Cape Town hosted the first ever ICF Surf Ski World Cup. Dean won this from Herman Chalupsky and Tim Jacobs in big seas.

“I was travelling a lot in the late 90s and early 2000s. There were quite a few events at that time in different countries and I loved going to those places and racing different people. “Some of those events still exist today but as is the nature of sports like ours it is very difficult to sustain events over an extended period of time.”

It was on one of these trips to South Africa that Dean met up with Keith Fenn. 

“I had never paddled the South African skis and was adamant that I never would.  I had total faith in Ray Burtons skis made in Australia and felt I would be giving something up if I moved to the “Saffa skis” even though I knew they were quicker.”

Around that time Ray Burton retired.

“I rolled up to a race in Knysna, SA, and my ski didn’t make it. Back then we used to fly with our skis. Keith gave me one of his to use and since then I have been paddling those craft.”

At the end of the trip Keith told Dean to hang onto the ski, he bought two more and put them on a plane in Cape Town hence the first import of ocean racing skis into Australia and the start of Oceanpaddler.

At the same time Dean forged a relationship with a major men’s magazine and the Australian Ocean Racing Series was formed.

“When I brought the three skis back I didn’t really know what I was going to do with them as there was no ocean racing series in Australia and the couple of distance events that did exist still required the use of SLSA skis. These skis were longer, lighter, thinner and a hell of a lot faster.”

 “So I started one.”

The first Australian Ocean Racing Series event (The Men’s Health Ocean Racing Series) was held at Balmoral Beach in 2002 with another seven races throughout the country that summer.

“We had pretty good support through Men’s Health magazine but it was a lot of work to set up and some events saw only 14 competitors turn up which was disappointing. There was no interest from Canoeing or SLSA in our events which was also disappointing.”

Dean can be proud of what exists today with a very solid National Series, most states have their own series and on any given weekend there is an event going on made up predominantly of ocean racing skis.

Yanda Morison

Yanda has represented Australia at 2 Olympics Games, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 in the K4 Sprint Kayaking and numerous world championships. Following her retirement from Olympic competition Yanda turned to Ocean racing where her passion now lies.

Yanda is a Level 1 Kayak Coach and accredited Personal Trainer, specialising in technical coaching for all paddling disciplines.