Under 23 racer Gene Prato took full advantage of all his opportunities to notch up his first win in the Bay Union Open Ocean Challenge surfski series on Sunday, holding off a dogged Bailey De Fondaumiere in the final stages of the 12km race.
The 22 year old from Virginia timed his charge well, knowing understanding that the absence of Hank McGregor to surfski races abroad and several other big names racing the KZN Marathon Champs in Pietermaritzburg meant that he could aim for a podium finish instead of his consistent top five finishes in the series.
Prato (Carbonology/Ocean Riders Academy) shadowed Wade Krieger on the outward bound leg to the turncan off the Bluff, before he broke away in the downwind leg with De Fondaumiere.
“I managed to catch a few good run which gave me a lead, and tried to keep that gap. Whenever I eased up Bailey (De Fondaumiere) would come back at me so I just had to keep up the pace all the way,” said Prato.
“Even though I realise that some of the top guys were not there, I am really stoked to take the win in the Geriatskis Open Ocean Challenge,” he added.
“We have been consistently in the top five, so today was a chance to target the podium,” concurred De Fondaumiere.
Krieger, who with Steve Woods and Herman Chalupsky, chose deeper lines on the return leg, wrapped up the last spot on the podium.
With most of the usually competitive elite women’s field away racing at the regional marathon champs, Michelle Burn (Fenn Kayaks), who raced the K1 marathon champs the day before, cruised to victory in the women’s race.
It was another successful outing for the flourishing development team that is being backed by the Durban Underwater Club and its sponsors.
Mhlengi Mngadi raced to his best result of the series to date, finishing third in the 6km short course that was staged within Durban Bay for safety reasons, and was the first single home, with fellow development team member Ayanda Dube making it a red letter day for the group by finishing third single.
The ten youngsters, aged between 13 and 23 and all hailing from Umgababa where they get paddling guidance from Swehele Ndlovu, joined the DUC programme after the first Open Ocean Surfski Challenge in 2015, and since then they have progressed rapidly.
After a series of nine intensive surfski lessons they were cleared top take part in the first two races of the
Mngadi came fifth in the first short course race of the Open Ocean Surfski Series and Ayanda Dube 10th. In the second race, Mngadi came 3rd, Dube 6th and Ntuthuko Bhalisa 10th.
Recently Bongani Hlope, the Ward 26 councillor for the Point took time out to chat with the group and encourage them to persevere with their surfski training.
Image: Gene Prato sprints to the beach to win the Geriatskis Open Ocean Challenge Surfski Challenge the third leg of the Bay Union Open Ocean Surfski Challenge series. (Lynne Hauptfleisch)
The final race in the series is the Geriatskis Open Ocean Challenge, starting at DUC at 9am next Sunday,30 July.
Bay Union Open Ocean Challenge Series
Summary of Results – Geriatskisl Open Ocean Challenge
1 Gene Prato 0:57:38.54
2 Bailey De Fondaumiere 0:58:15.46
3 Shaun Burgin/Donna Winter 0:58:35.26
1 Michelle Burn 1:09:58.26
2 Viv Bullock 1:15:49.42
3 Thea Van Der Westhuizen 1:30:17.12
1 Jessica Erasmus/Jordan Clauson 30:25,64
2 Thomas Lovemore/Tayla Wakeling 33:17,44
3 Mhlengi Mngadi 33:56,81
1 Nick Ross 40:24,81
2 Jeanne Grace 51:36,46
3 Karisa Grace 1:18:00,00