Durban – KZN’s 2014 summer surfski season got underway on Friday 10 January when close on three hundred enthusiastic paddlers tackled the tricky conditions of the Borland Surfski Challenge presented by Marriott, race one of the popular Varsity College Marine Surfski Series, with regular series top performers Hank McGregor and Michelle Burn laying down the early marker for their fellow title hopefuls when they claimed the men’s and women’s races respectively.
A break in the recent large surf conditions had participants excited shortly before the start of the encounter however as the race’s start time drew nearer a testing break developed and saw many thrown from their skis both on their way out at the start or coming back in through the surf at the finish.
The challenging conditions however were far from enough to dampen the spirits of both those in the water and on the beach and there were smiles aplenty on the beach afterwards, the return of Durban’s surfski season visibly welcomed by all.
McGregor (Fenn/MacSquad Elite), unchallenged at the front of the field due to a few of his nearest rivals absent from the first week’s line-up, surged into the lead from the get go and from then on it was all about hunting down the doubles who had started a few minutes earlier rather than worrying about his chasing rivals.
“It was pretty testing out there tonight,” explained the Canoe Marathon World Champion afterwards.
“Once I got ahead I was definitely out there trying to hunt down the leading doubles, especially with my dad being at the front of that race!” he chuckled.
“Obviously it would have been nice to have had the rest of the top guys here but I’ve got the N3TC Drak Challenge next weekend and won’t be able to paddle the series’ second race so it was nice to get win number one under the belt right away.”
With the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon just around the corner, the ever hardworking Mark Mulder made his intentions for the iconic three day race clear to all as he blitzed his way to an impressive second place.
“Some guys were away and I think some of the other guys are still building their fitness after the festive season but I’ve been working really, really hard ahead of Dusi so I’m chuffed with the result,” a humble Mulder explained afterwards.
Series organiser and Team Jeep/Varsity College athlete Barry Lewin wiped away a few layers of festive rust en route to his third place overall whilst a welcome return to competitive paddling saw Darryl Bartho (Fenn) claim fourth.
Like McGregor, Burn (Team Jeep) too was unchallenged at the front of the women’s race and cantered to a comfortable victory to open her account with Lauren Felgate and Julie Cornelius rounding out the women’s podium.
“Since the Cape Town Downwind (in mid-December) I haven’t really been in the ski much. I’ve just been trying to rest up ahead of the new season so it was great to be back in the ski and to win the first race is always nice,” said Burn.
“Hopefully all the girls are available in a couple of weeks’ time and we can really have a good few races throughout the series but a little easier start first up was probably just what I needed to get back into things,” she added with a small sigh of relief.
Despite their age seeing them placed firmly in the masters age group, the evergreen pair of Lee McGregor and Allan Hold were simply unstoppable at the front of the doubles race, despite the best efforts of under-23 brothers Calvin and Byron McKie.
A largely novice-filled short course field was led home by lifesaving sensation Paul van Achterbergh in the singles section with Mark Lewin and Thule’s Jamie Owen claiming the doubles category.
All participants of the series opener also received an extra special treat upon their registration as series title sponsors Varsity College handed out 300 free rash vests whilst countless lucky draw prizes were warmly received afterwards.
Friday 17 January sees the action continue with the Billy the Bums Surfski Challenge, race two of the Varsity College Marine Surfski Series at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach at 17h30. More information can be found at www.marineseries.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – BORLAND SURFSKI CHALLENGE PRESENTED BY MARRIOTT
RACE ONE OF THE VARSITY COLLEGE MARINE SURFSKI SERIES
1.Hank McGregor 35.13
2.Mark Mulder 38.05
3.Barry Lewin 38.25
1.Michelle Burn 41.56
2.Lauren Felgate 49.16
3.Julie Cornelius 49.22
1.Jordan Clauson 41.43
2.Brett Wilken 45.03
1.Brett Wilken 44.55
2.Luke Criticos 46.52
3.Rory McNeill 48.37
1.Lee McGregor/Allan Hold 37.08
2.Calvin McKie/Byron McKie 38.06
3.Jean Luc Mauvis/Jabin Lyons 38.45
1.Ryan Atkins/Louisa van Staden 41.12
2.Paul Scruby/Angela Scruby 41.53
3.Derek Hauptfleisch/Lynne Hauptfleisch 44.21
1.Paul van Achterbergh 22.10
1.Mark Lewin/Jamie Owen 22.09