Durban – With surfski paddling riding the crest of a wave during the Winter Surfski Series, a big field of tough paddlers will set off from Scottburgh’s main beach shortly after sunrise on Saturday morning for the annual 46km Scottburgh to Brighton surfski marathon.
Billed by many surfski paddlers and lifesavers as one of the ultimate ocean paddling challenges, the race includes a compulsory beach stop at Amanzimtoti, roughly halfway through the paddle to the finish at Brighton Beach on Durban’s Bluff.
Designated a single ski championship event, the race has attracted many of the regions elite surfski racers, including Gene Prato, Bevan Manson, Jason Eckstrand, Hamish Lovemore and Jean Luc Mauvis, while a significant number of paddlers have travelled from beyond the boundaries of the province to contest the prestigious title.
East London Under 23 racer Josh Fenn, who hit the headlines winning the national double ski title with Hank McGregor in Durban in April will be a serious threat to the title, while Cape challengers include Ian Black and Paul Marais join a number of upcountry based paddling stars on the startline.
In the women’s field Jenna Nisbet will square up to Nix Birkett and seasoned downwinder Sharon Armstrong.
But the most talked about entry is hidden in the field of doubles, where national champ and multiple marathon world champion Hank McGregor has entered with his wife Pippa.
Both are in great form, Hank McGregor having won the recent winter series title and Pippa coming off the back of a string of podium finishes in the women’s division.
They will find themselves against strong crews like series pacesetters Carl Folscher and Shane Millward, and the female crew of ex world champion Hayley Nixon and Hillary Bruss, creating an fascinating race-within-a-race.
The critical deciding factor in the days racing is the weather, and with a sizeable field including a significant number of Scottburgh to Brighton novices, the race organisers will breathe a sigh of relief to see predictions for a favourable moderate South-Westerly wind and manageable surf conditions, ahead of the cold front due to hit the region hard on Sunday.
With the annual sardine run in full swing at present, the deep sea trip from Scottburgh to Durban normally rewards paddlers with sighting of dolphins and massive schools of feeding game fish and seabirds
The event organisers and the series hosts have stressed that participants will need to be fully Cobid-19 protocol compliant and will ensure that every aspect of the event confirms to the prevailing Level 3 lockdown regulations.
More information can be found at www.wintersurfskiseries.co.za