Surfski paddlers are relishing the prospect of racing in classic KwaZulu-Natal winter conditions when the four race Bay Union Open Ocean Surfski Challenge gets under way this weekend.
The races all start and finish at DUC, offering generally mild surf conditions around Vetch’ Reef, making the race accessible to less experienced paddlers.
The series aims to take full advantage of the prevailing weather conditions, and if there are runs in the ocean, courses will be set up to exploit these, traversing Durban Bay and the Bluff coastline south of the harbour.
Each race consists of a short course of 6 km and a long course of 12km, with the entry fee kept to a modest R50. The series is open to Stand Up Paddleboarders as well.
With Durban being home to many of the world’s best surfski paddlers, the competition for the prize money will be fierce, particularly as some of the sports superstars will be away on international duty at surfski races in Europe, Canada and America for some of the series races.
For the first race on 9 July, the field looks set to include the potent likes of Hank McGregor, Matt Bouman and Bailey De Fondaumiere, while the ladies field will be just as impressive with entries anticipated from new SA S1 champion Michelle Burn, Nikki Russell and Jenna Ward.
The series goes out of its way to treat male and female contenders equally, and has equal prize money for men and women.
The series uses the thriving community of surfski paddlers who call themselves the Geriatskis , and who base themselves at DUC, as a springboard. The Geriatskis have weekly paddle-outs from DUC on the weekend and have also clubbed together to collectively sponsor half of the series races.
The series organisers go to a great deal of trouble to ensure that prizes cascade down to all classes, and that backmarkers stand a good chance to win prizes as well.
Bay Union Open Ocean Challenge Series
Race 1 9 July Bay Union Open Ocean Challenge
Race 2 6 July Citadel Open Ocean Challenge
Race 3 23 July GERIATSKIS Open Ocean Challenge
Race 4 30 July GERIATSKIS Open Ocean Challenge