Introducing Ashton Reiser

Author -  Karen Simpson

We find out more about the North Shore paddler, who secured four gold medals at the recent National Championships.

Introducing Ashton Reiser

We find out more about the North Shore paddler, who secured four gold medals at the recent National Championships.

Ashton Reiser 1.jpeg

We find out more about the North Shore paddler who secured four gold medals at the recent National Championships.

Modest sporting beginnings

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Ashton moved with his family to live in Auckland’s North Shore at the age of nine. An enthusiast sportsman he tried football, cricket, hockey and water polo but never excelled.“I always played sport socially but I never made a school or a rep team,” he explains. “I remember as an intermediate student I was sat with the kids in the corner of the class as a non-qualifier for AIMS Games – it was pretty gutting.”

Kayak Journey

Shortly after arriving in New Zealand, Ashton’s father was keen for his only son to learn his beach skill basics. Ashton joined the Mairangi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club and quickly embraced both the sport and its community. Keen to improve his surf ski paddling he joined the North Shore Kayak Club at the age of 15, however he was no overnight success.

“I struggled for the first six months but I was really fortunate to have Gavin Elmiger as coach,” insists Ashton. “He was hugely supportive. Gavin is so passionate and energetic who dreams big and explained to me all the places in the world I could travel as an international kayaker.”

One step forward, one step back

At his first competitive outing in a kayak, Ashton clinched victory in the U16 K1 500m at the 2014 Blue Lake 1 regatta in Rotorua.

“That was the first wow moment when I first thought, ‘if I take the sport seriously, I could go really far’,” he explains.

However, no quicker had he gained a foothold in the sport than he took a step back in his development following a 10-month bout of glandular fever. Struggling with the illness he finished “out the back” at the 2015 New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships and adds of the illness: “It really knocked me back. “It was really tough. Some days I was even falling asleep in the school classroom.”

International breakthrough

Thankfully, the former Westlake Boys High School student made a full recovery. He returned to full training in September 2015 and made a strong impact at 2016 nationals, placing fourth in the K1 1000m and earning his first New Zealand berth at the GP II regatta in Australia.

Finishing fifth in the K1 1000m and second in the K4 1000m he has fond memories of his international debut.

“It was probably one of my best ever regattas of my career,” he explains. “It was amazing. It had been my dream for so long and what I had been working towards since I started kayaking. I was so proud to have achieved my goals and to be given the chance to represent my country.”

World Junior debut

Later that year the then teenager qualified to compete at the Junior World Championships in Belarus. Racing in the K2 1000m - alongside Zach Ferkins - the pair made the semi-finals and finished 24th overall.

The five-week long whole trip proved a knowledge-building experience for the North Shore paddler.

“We learned so much,” he recalls. “How to deal with different people in both a training and racing environment. And also how to focus on yourself and not become too preoccupied with how big or fast the European guys are.”

The Ashton and Karl show

After moving out of the relatively sheltered world of U18 kayaking in 2017 he stepped up to racing in the open and U23 division. Ashton admits “it was quite challenge” but he did achieve eye-catching success by securing the national open K2 200m title alongside clubmate Karl McMurtrie at the national championships.

The victory – the first of a hat-trick of national K2 200m successes the pair enjoyed - gave the Aucklander a huge confidence boost and he has a simply explanation as to why the dynamic works so well.

“We are chilled and have a lot of fun in the boat and we don’t look too hard at the stats,” he explains. “Karl has got incredible skills in the K2, he has a lot of power and is probably the strongest guy in NZ kayaking.”

Elite squad

In January 2018 Ashton committed to joining the elite men’s NZ team based at Lake Karapiro under the coaching of Fred Loyer but it was no easy decision. Unfunded at the time and having just started his studies at the University of Auckland, he nonetheless took a gamble in the hope of achieving his dreams and packed his bags for Cambridge.

Within a month of arriving, Ashton secured his first national K1 medals – bronze in the 200m and silver in the 500m – a performance which quickly convinced him he had made the right decision.

“We have so much support down here I really started to build some momentum,” explains Ashton, who is studying an ecology degree at the University of Waikato.

“I have made great gains in terms of my technique, fitness and strength and so much of that is down to Fred. It is great to paddle on a 20km lake with a group of athletes all working towards the same goal.”

The awesome foursome

Last year he competed at the World U23 Championships in Bulgaria as part of the K4 500m crew, which finished fourth in the B Final. It was a solid performance by the quartet and it proved a huge learning experience for the 20-year-old paddler.

“It was a huge shock to be included in the trial let alone the (K4) boat and I had to learn everything from scratch,” he admits. “There was a lot of pressure on me to lift my level, but I learned so much from the other guys (Kurtis Imrie, Max Brown and Taris Harker).”

National glory

Training six days a week at Lake Karapiro, Ashton more recently excelled at the New Zealand Championships by securing hat-trick of 200m golds (K1, K2 and K4), the former his first national K1 title, as well as K4 500m gold with the North Shore team. Ashton also showed his versatility by finishing fourth and narrowly missing a medal in the K1 500m.

“I couldn’t be happier with nationals,” he explains. “It was definitely the best week I could have hoped for. It was the first time I made all three K1 finals and winning the K1 200m title was a huge achievement.”

World Cup opportunity

Believing his main strengths are his ability to withstand a huge amount of lactic acid and an ability to deliver when it counts, Ashton has been given a huge boost after winning selection for the ICF World Cups in Poznan (May 23-26) and Duisburg (May 31-June 2) as well as the World U23 Championships in Pitesti, Romania in August.

“I’m really surprised and excited (to win selection for World Cups), it is a huge break and it will be critical for experience,” he says. “I’m happy to be given this chance to race with the open elites, which will hopefully help lift our standards.

“As for the U23s, we will hope to make as many A Finals as possible.”

Lisa influence

The enthusiastic leader of the men’s kayak NZ social media presence, Ashton, who also works two days a week at an orchard by Lake Karapiro, has little doubt the inspirational role double Olympic champion Lisa Carrington has played in his career.

“I remember first speaking to Lisa at a surf lifesaving event before I got involved in kayaking,” he recalls. “She was keen for more people to be involved (in canoe sprint) and she is such a mentor for me. Lisa is always humble and she proves you can achieve what you want if you work hard enough and are sufficiently motivated.”


Introducing Ashton Reiser

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