Mother Nature rinses, washes & spins brave Wall and Back race four paddlers
Durban – A small yet determined field of brave ocean racers tackled the testing conditions Mother Nature served up for Friday evening’s fourth race of the six-leg 2016 Illovo Suncoast Pirates Wall and Back Surfski Series at Suncoast Pirates Lifesaving Club on Durban’s beachfront.
With the vast majority of KwaZulu-Natal’s elite racers and socially competitive stalwarts having made the pilgrimage down to the Eastern Cape for the weekend’s 2016 South African Surfski Championships at the Pete Marlin Surfski Race, the door was opened for some of the province’s hardy-annuals to claim a rare podium finish.
While names such as Hank McGregor, Matt Bouman, Luke Nisbet, Barry Lewin, Steve Woods and co. are synonymous with the sharp end of competitive surfski contests in and around Durban, the likes of Matt Carlisle, Alan Hold, Lance Howarth, Lee Muir and Malcolm Pitt remain regular age group and doubles contenders but seldom enjoy a share of the limelight.
Not on Friday evening though. Instead KZN’s cluster of wise men of the sport took up the challenge wholeheartedly, eager to enjoy the unusual opportunity to lead proceedings outright as well as taking on the challenge of the renowned Suncoast Pirates surf.
In the end, Carlisle charged home to clinch the individual line honours while a dramatic final few hundred metres – which included swims for both contenders – eventually saw Hold and his teammate Geoff Thompson narrowly edge out Howarth and Muir in a foot race up the beach to the finish line.
“I actually have no idea when I last won a race individually really; it’s been a good few years at least,” laughed Carlisle.
“It was quite a challenge getting out through the big surf and then once you got out there, it was actually quite a slog going into the headwind down to the harbour wall.
“Once we turned though there was at least a little bit of assistance, which was quite fun on the way back,” he added after heading home ahead of second and third place finishers, Brad Pearce and Pitt.
Three extraordinarily brave souls – Savannah van Rooyen, Siobhan Sharp and Thea van der Westhuizen – received much praise upon the race’s completion as the three lone ladies took on and successfully conquered the daunting task.
While Van Rooyen and Sharp combined in the doubles division and their effort from the backline to the finish line was deemed the ‘Wave of the Day’ by many onlookers, Van der Westhuizen was the first individual female home and, in the process, narrowly missed out on becoming the only paddler in the field to successfully make it to shore without falling out in the troublesome surf.
“Massive surf is typical for Pirates but fortunately Pirates is my club so I train here all the time with our coaches Luke Nisbet and the Sergeant,” said Van der Westhuizen.
“While I was going out, all I could hear in the back of my mind were their voices saying ‘First get through the shorebreak and then wait in the midbreak until you’ve got a chance to go’.
“Then on the way back in I had another voice ringing in my head – Dawid Mocké’s – saying ‘When in doubt, legs out!’.
“It was great fun though and I nearly managed to make it all the way to the beach without swimming until the little sandbank right at the end just caught me, which then meant I had a good working over as I swam to shore,” she laughed.
Next week’s penultimate race of the six-race 2016 Illovo Suncoast Pirates Wall and Back Surfski Series takes place on Friday, 11 November at 17h30 and with the absence of some of the sport’s big names again due to the Dragon Run surfski race in Hong Kong, Carlisle, Van der Westhuyzen and co. will be licking their lips at the possibility of again challenging for their share of the spoils.
1.Savannah van Rooyen/Siobhan Sharp 46.53
Images: Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media