The 2014 surfski season is set to get underway this weekend when the Borland Surfski Challenge presented by Marriott, race one of the hugely popular and widely anticipated Varsity College Marine Surfski Series, takes place at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach on Friday 10 January with hundreds of paddlers expected to take to Durban’s waters.
With many of KwaZulu-Natal’s paddling fraternity having spent the majority of the past few months on the river, the new year signals a welcome return for some to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean as the ten-leg series’ action gets underway.
Series defending champion Hank McGregor (Fenn/MacSquad Elite), McGregor’s regular doubles partner and rival Grant van der Walt (Epic Kayaks/Varsity College) and Umhlanga powerhouse Matt Bouman (Epic Kayaks) are once again expected to dominate proceedings at the front of the men’s field.
They however may well be challenged at times by the likes of Barry Lewin (Team Jeep/Varsity College), Adam Nisbet, Oliver Burn, whilst the welcome return of Brett and Daryl Bartho will add further spice to the mix.
Youngsters Gene Prato, Calvin McKie and Travis and Tyler Wilson will also look to stake their claim amongst their senior rivals having progressed up from juniors into the Under 23 category.
Michelle Burn (Team Jeep) will once again be the one to catch in the women’s field as she looks to add yet another series title to her ever increasing list of paddling achievements.
Whilst the action at the front of the field is expected to be fierce, many an intriguing battle is guaranteed to unfold further back in the field as surfski enthusiasts from throughout the province look to kick their weekend off in ideal fashion.
“The Varsity College Marine Surfski Series has continued to grow year on year and we are really proud of what the series has become in recent years,” said series coordinator Barry Lewin.
“We are really looking forward to another hugely successful year in 2014 and have again looked at trying to cater for paddlers of all ages, genders and abilities as well as their families and friends on the beach.
“This year we will once again offer prizes throughout the various age categories, lucky draw prizes for all who compete and as well as the first three hundred entrants receiving an awesome paddling rash vest compliments of Varsity College.
“There will also be the hugely popular jumping castle up at the club for the little ones after the race plus the launch of free body boarding lessons for the kids during the surfski races is another exciting element for those not quite willing or ready to give paddling a go,” he added.
Another first for the series will join forces with the Lettie Paddle campaign which seeks to raise funds for and create awareness of cancer and has already struck a chord with the local paddling community after Danica Bartho paddled from Richards Bay to Durban late last year.
The 2014 edition of the series is the fifth year running that the Marine Surfski Series has enjoyed the unwavering backing of title sponsors Varsity College and the relationship is one the tertiary education giant values immensely.
“We are delighted to be involved in the Varsity College Marine Surfski Series again this year,” said Varsity College’s National Sport and Social Manager, Carole Adam. “At Varsity College we are passionate about promoting an outdoors-based and active lifestyle and so our relationship with the Marine Surfski Series is one we treasure.”
“It has be hugely encouraging to see the growth the series has enjoyed in recent years, not only from a paddlers participation perspective but the number of friends, families and young children who now line the beach and enjoy the various other activities on offer or just contribute to the fantastic vibe of each race is also testament to the success of the series and is something we look forward to seeing grow even further in 2014,” she added.
The ten race series culminates in the Varsity College SA Schools Surfski Challenge which will once again see the cream of the country’s surfski talent go head to head for the prestigious title as well as a bursary into Varsity College’s Sport Life programme.
Paddlers can choose to take part in either the 8km long or 4km short course events with racing getting underway at 17h30 each week. Weekly registration opens at 16h30 at Marine SLC with organisers also offering a once-off Thursday registration on 9 January from 16h30-19h00 in order to cope with the large numbers expected for Friday 10 January’s opening race.