Russell thrives in stunning Durban conditions
Durban – Against a picture-perfect Durban summer’s evening backdrop, Nicole Russell outshone a richly talented women’s field to claim the spoils in Friday evening’s Bay Union Surfski Challenge, her fourth race win of the 2016 Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series.
Russell continued her sublime run of form as she edged out fellow elite women’s racers and Fenn Kayaks team mates Kyeta Purchase (Euro Steel) and Jenna Ward – who enjoyed a titanic tussle of their own that produced yet another sprint for the line – while Carbonology/Pink Lady’s Hayley Nixon finished fourth.
“The paddling talent amongst Durban’s ladies at the moment is just unbelievable and it makes for such exciting racing week in and week out!” exclaimed Russell.
“Every time you line up for a race, you know you have to give it you all and you just cannot afford to make any mistakes because the other girls will punish you for it straight away.
“It’s also great because a lot of us are training together and so it’s great to see everyone’s hard work paying off,” she added.
With a decent surf zone to overcome before being rewarded with sublime runs in Durban’s bay, Russell started cautiously, her mistakes in the surf in recent races lingering on her mind.
“There was a bit of surf to deal with at the start and finish, which I was a bit worried about having had a couple of swims recently,” chuckled Russell. “Fortunately I managed to get out cleanly though!”
“Most of us girls were all together for the first stretch before I managed to get away a bit after we went around the second can and that’s when I just put my head down and went for it!
“There were some awesome runs out there, which also gave us a little bit of a chance to rest briefly as well, which was great!
“I looked to just work the runs as best I could and it was great to be able to come home first.”
The ding-dong nature of each leg thus far of the Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series appears to have brought the best out of Russell, who is currently preparing for a big challenge during this year’s World Surfski Series.
“I’m really happy with my form at the moment; I’ve been training really hard and it’s great to see that paying off so nicely.
“You can’t take winning for granted though because all the other girls are just so strong!
“I’m very happy with how things are going though, especially ahead of the World Surfski Series,” explained Russell.
In the men’s race, Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ Hank McGregor bagged his second win on the bounce as he surged home ahead of Wade Krieger (Herbalife) and a resurgent Grant van der Walt.
The doubles clash saw Zoog Haynes and Linton Hope clinch the spoils once more, charging home ahead of Jason Tucker and Brett Bartho, who in turn narrowly edged out winning mixed double crew Jason Ekstrand and Kerry Segal.
Luke Criticos claimed a rare win over Bailey de Fondaumiere in the junior boys’ category while Purchase’s effort at the sharp end of the women’s race saw her clinch the junior girls’ win as well.
The 4km short course race went the way of Keaton Riddle with Malcolm Pitt and Max Maunier winning the doubles race.
Next week’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon from Thursday, 18 to Saturday, 20 February sees a change from the Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series’ regular Friday evening slot with the Lettie Paddle Surfski Challenge instead taking place at 17h30 on Tuesday, 16 February at Marine SLC, Addington Beach.
Images: Kevin Sawyer/ Gameplan Media