The Durban surfski fraternity will once again be treated to a spectacle when the coutnry’s best surfski stars battle it out over the 10-leg FNB Surfski Series as world leaders and beginners alike take to the warm Indian Ocean waters from this Friday until March in one of the most popular series on the East Coast.
The Durban surfski scene has been dominated over the years by two of the world’s leading paddlers – Hank McGregor and Matt Bouman. The two have built up an impressive rivalry that has seen the pair trade series titles, although in recent years McGregor has been the dominant force and will be back to defend the title he won in 2016.
McGregor, who recently took home the overall honours in the World Surfski Series, is in top racing form and will return to the familiar waters of KwaZulu-Natal with his eyes on another overall title at the 2017 FNB Surfski Series.
“I think last year was my seventh title at the series so it really is a series that I enjoy and have done for years,” Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ McGregor mentioned.
“Barry (Lewin) always puts on such a great event and through the ten weeks it becomes tradition for my family so we feel a bit lost with what to do on a Friday night when the series is over!
“I’m really looking forward to another tough series against not only some of the best surfski paddlers in KZN, but in the world too.”
McGregor’s long standing battle with Bouman goes back to well before their professional paddling days and he knows that not only Bouman will pose a threat to his title chase.
“Matthew and I have been racing each other since we were about eight years old so we know each other pretty well.
“The likes of Wade Krieger will also be a tough competitor and I am sure that there are going to be some youngsters looking to make an impact on the series,” he added.
The FNB Surfski Series has become a stalwart event in Durban during the early months of the year and with resolutions being made McGregor feels that this adds to the series’ appeal.
“It’s a great way to get back into the swing of things after a good break over the festive season.
“People are looking for events to get themselves back into shape and with a fairly forgiving course it’s an ideal way for people to get into surfski racing.
“I am looking forward to another competitive year of racing and with my river season training in full swing it will be nice to get into a surfski once in a while,” McGregor added.
The women’s series is set to be one of the most competitive yet with the depth of women’s surfski paddling in KZN growing substantially in the past few years. Hayley Nixon, who won the women’s World Surfski Series title in 2016, is one of those hoping to take top honours this year.
“I love being involved in the FNB Surfski Series as it was probably the first series that I ever did in a surfski,” the Euro Steel/Carbonology star mentioned.
“Each week it is always such a great way to start the weekend and this year I am expecting the battle for the women’s title to be really tough!
“There are girls coming across from river racing and with the likes of Bridgitte (Hartley) also getting into a surfski means that there are so many girls with different strengths. It makes the racing really competitive and each week will be just as tough.”
The FNB Surfski Challenge, Race One of the 2017 FNB Surfski Series, takes place at 17h30 on Friday, 6 January at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club, Addington Beach.