Since its inception in 2014, the FNB Durban Downwind has been one of the sought after titles to win on the East Coast and 2017 will be even more significant after being announced as the host of the South African Singles Surfski Championships over the weekend of 24-25 June.
The race is held during a two day window to allow the organisers to give South Africa’s surfski royalty the best possible conditions to do battle. Durban Downwind 2017 is expected to have more than just South Africa’s best, but some of the world’s best surfski paddlers on the start line.
Defending FNB Durban Downwind champion Hank McGregor will be one of the paddlers fighting it out for a spot on the podium against what is predicted to be another star-studded showdown between the country’s surfski heavy weights.
“It’s a massive race as it is both the national championships but it is also our world championship trials,” Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ McGregor said.
“I go out there to win every race that I paddle and to win a national title is always special. If I win I am guaranteed a spot in the national team for the world champs which is a huge bonus.
“With these new selection rules, making the surfski team is just as difficult as making the marathon team with only the top two being selected!
“We have some of the best surfski paddlers in the world which makes it even more difficult!”
McGregor is hoping that conditions will be good for the race and the two-day window will provide paddlers with the optimal conditions, however McGregor is wary of what can happen in the surf at La Mercy, should the race finish there.
“I lost the national championship when I came off in the surf at La Mercy in 2014, it can be very unforgiving.
“We always want the best possible conditions for such a big race with the best paddlers in the country on the start line.
“I’ve taken a bit of a break since Molokai but I will get back into it quickly with a massive block of racing ahead of me.
“It starts with Durban Downwind then I’m off to Mauritius, Portugal, America and Canada for races so it is a really busy time for me!”
The threat to the KZN dominance at the FNB Durban Downwind will be a strong one with the provinces premier ocean paddlers set to take on a large Western Cape contingent including Jasper Mocké, his brother Dawid, Ian Black, Kenny Rice, Mark Keeling, Stu Maclaren, Pete Cole and in the ladies Kirsten Flanagan, in what will be an epic showdown for national honours.
“There is a big group of elite paddlers heading up to Durban from the Cape,” Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling’s Jasper Mocké mentioned.
“We are lucky that the course hasn’t changed for the FNB Durban Downwind which means we have been able to become quite familiar with it although there will always be a few nuances that the local guys will know.”
Mocké has had a bit of time off since his return from Hawaii and although he feels he might not be in the best possible shape he is motivated to claim the prestigious national title.
“Although I might not be in the best shape possible I still think that I am fit and strong enough to win.
“There is so much hanging on the race and with about five or six guys that could potentially win the race has taken on a whole new intensity,” he added.
For Western Cape’s Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling’s Jasper Mocké the FNB Durban Downwind will provide him with a great opportunity to take home the South African National Singles Surfski Championship title over the weekend of 24-25 June (Anthony Grote)