Interview Cory Hill double champion du Monde sur Elite S

Hello Cory

We are very happy to have your feelings about this new fantastic season you did.

First, can you introduce yourself briefly ?

I am Cory Hill from the Gold Coast in Australia. I work as an accountant Monday through Friday at Gold Coast Bakeries and I love my job. In my spare time I get out in the ocean on my Fenn S and have been lucky enough to find a good mix of work and play.

Where does your nickname come from 🙂 ?

I got the nickname “Chill” as my name is Cory Hill, therefore, C Hill makes chill. In saying that there are people that believe it is due to my attitude about racing and life in general. I don’t like to make too much of a fuss and like to be calm or chilled. I think this works well in a racing sense as if you are really emotional about something there is a lot riding on it. For instance, if my life was to win and I wasn’t winning, it would be hard to look at the other positive things in my life in a positive way as I had just lost a race. It doesn’t mean I am not ecstatic when I do have a win, it just means I would have not been overly disappointed if I lost. There is a lot more to life than just paddling.

Can you tell us how you arrive on the Elite S ?

I was in Sydney driving with Dean Gardiner around three to four years ago now and he says “I have this ski that I think would be perfect for someone like yourself”. I had a paddle on it and really enjoyed it. I had always heard about how good Fenn’s were in downwind conditions but had never been on one. About two months later I had changed over and haven’t looked back. Since the day I started racing on Fenn I have only been off the podium once.

What are your feelings about the Elite S ?

As for the Fenn S, it was my first international race on it at Molokai the year I won. That was also my first ever international win ever. From there I have not been off the podium except one race on the Gold Coast and the Molokai race when I hit the rocks. The boat is fantastic (FENNtastic). I have won two world titles, two Doctors and many other races around the world and Australia on this boat. I have a lot of pride sitting in my Fenn and representing such a lovely family. Really is an awesome feeling. The ski feels as though it reads the swell better than I do also. It starts to follow the runners and then you just follow the boat. Really is a cool experience being in the Fenn S.

What is your main motivation to do surfski ?

There are lots of things that I would like to achieve in sport. That is probably the number one motivation. I now have two Doctor titles, two World Championships, one Molokai but there is a lot more that I want to do. I have never been to Canada. I would like to be the first Australian to win in Mauritius.

Another motivator is the health perspective. I sit in an office majority of the day and it would be too easy to just drink coffee, eat cake and lose myself in the computer screen. Surfski keeps me sane. There is no better place in the world than being way out to sea chasing the swell and wind.

How do you do to be so cool before a race ?

When I get to a race I still feel the nerves and just want to start. The thought that goes through my mind is “there is nothing more you can do now”. It is hard not to keep stretching or hydrating or thinking “when should I warm up” but at the end of the day I am training most days after sitting in an office chair for 8 hours so when I turn up to a race I am feeling better than that. The other thing is I am often excited to be there. Not everyone has the opportunity that I do to have this great work/life/sport balance so I try to take it in as much as I can and be grateful. One day I may not be able to. Who knows what lies around the corner.

I remember in Tahiti : everybody paddled on the race course before the D day and you you were paddling on the other side of the island and you played football.

This relates to the prior question. There is not much more you can do to get better the day before a race. Better to be relaxed and doing what you normally would than to overthink things and stress your body out before the race. (and I do like football). I cannot emphasise enough that having fun is the key to success.

You tell you have a  new job, does it change something on your preparation ?

I went from being a tax accountant to a company accountant for Gold Coast Bakeries. I have always been fortunate enough to have bosses that let me chase my dreams and actually encourage it. The great thing about my new job is I have the flexibility to work around the normal 9-5. If I have a race coming up I can sometimes negotiate working the weekend before or the weekend after. It is a good feeling to share some of my success with the people that help me. The Marrable family is a huge part of my success in this past year.

What is your secret ?

My secret is to be happy with where you are at in life. There is no point being angry at being 52nd in the world if that is your best. I have been fortunate enough to have the ability to train really hard recently and that is how I got to where I am this year. Who knows what 2018 will hold? I may fall back or I may get a little better. The thing with racing is it also matters how much better the rest of the field gets. Perhaps I will stay stagnant and the field will surpass me. You have to take the wins where you can as they can be few and far between at times.

What are your strengths ?
Having a well rounded lifestyle and the support I have around me. Sponsors, work, family. They are all in my corner helping me get to where I would like to be come race day.

What advice could you give to young people who start?

Get in and challenge yourself in every condition. Race as much as you can and make training hurt. The pain of a session lasts a couple of hours. The pain of disappointment lasts a lot longer.

For Hong Kong now :

How do you feel just before the race ?

I was really nervous but I think there was a lot more talk about the South African contingent. Jeremy, Mackenzie and I got forgotten about. That allowed me to hide in the dark, relax and put my best race together.

How did you prepare for this race ?

I prepared much the same as any race. Once race week is here you just back off the pace and try make yourself feel fresh. Hydrate as much as possible the week of the race and enjoy Hong Kong. I try to take it as a holiday. I stayed with an amazing family who made me feel so welcome and they took me to the nice restaurants to make it as much like home as possible.

Did you had a race plan before the start ?

A couple of weeks before Hong Kong we had a race with 1km out to a turn and then into the downwind. I was able to break away into the wind so I thought I may be able to replicate this in Hong Kong and try hang on til the end.

If so, have you been able to follow it ?

As it turns out I was able to do this and make my break before the 9 pins which is 7km into the race. From there I hung on til the Kissing Whales when Hank and Kenny were right next to me but on the inside. I was having nightmares of the last couple of times being passed in this last section but luckily this year I was able to hang onto my lead and defend my World Title.

You took the lead before the Hotspot to never leave it.

Did you know that you were leading all the time ?

I thought I was. When we came around the Kissing Whales I thought they may have had a better line but I am happy with where I put myself. I got that advice from Andrew Landman a couple of days beforehand. Go wider where the swell is larger when the wind is up.

At the end we saw you taking a look at Hank who was coming back to you, how did you react, what happened in your head ?

It has happened a lot before so I was actually thinking “oh no, not again”. But I wasn’t going to give it up easily or without a fight. You have to remember that you were able to put a gap into someone initially so you can do it again. So it was head down and don’t miss a stroke or run for the final couple of km’s.

During the race do you manage to stay focused all the time or you can dream sometimes ?

I can be a bit of a dreamer and in the past this has hindered my result. It is something I have focused on in the recent times and it has helped me come through with some victories. Previously I would get near the end of a race, be fatigued and let the mind wonder. This often meant I would get pipped at the post. It has been a good thing to learn to focus for a full race. I think that also comes with maturity as a person and athlete. Being young you want to be in the lime light from the gun but as you get older you realise that it is better to be in the lime light at the end.

You have managed to keep the cap of world champion since Tahiti.

What will motivate you to come to France in 2019 to keep it ?

The hunger to be the best I can be. I would love to leave the sport with a bit of a legacy. I think having two world championships under my belt is huge but you look at the Oscars and the Deans of our sport who have done much much more. I am not saying I want 10 but I would like to be the best I can be for some time to come. The other motivation is the love for the sport and the ocean. It makes it easy when training is considered fun. Although it hurts it is a good hurt. I hope to get to France in the same form as I did in Tahiti, Hong Kong or better. I am not going to give it up that easy.

I let you conclude…

Thank you for the questions. Sometimes it is nice to know people are generally interested in my thoughts as an athlete. Watch this space for 2018. It is going to be a big year.

Ok, many thanks for the time you take to reply to this interview.

Crédit photos : Graham Daniel