Current national S1 champ Nikki Russell clinched her third consecutive victory in the women’s category of the 2014 Illovo Suncoast Wall and Back Surfski Series on Friday evening, putting her in prime position to clinch this year’s series title while five time Marathon World Champ Hank McGregor claimed the overall race spoils in his maiden appear at this year’s series.
Russell has enjoyed a great run of form of late and has been relentless in her drive for this year’s women’s Wall and Back series honours despite emphasizing that her primary focus is just to have fun out on the ocean.
“I’m just loving my paddling at the moment!” said Russell. “I’m super stoked to have won these three races in a row but just enjoying being out there is so awesome.”
“I had a great start and managed to string together a couple of runs which meant I was able to break away quite early.
“Once I went around the can at the [harbour] wall then I just put my head down and ground my way to the finish as best I could,” she added.
Russell was somewhat of a surprise entry for the race after announcing last week that she would not be on the start line due to her participation in the four day Da’Real Richards Bay to Durban race which finished at Suncoast Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club on Saturday.
“The day before the Richards Bay to Durban race started I wasn’t feeling too great and so my coach, Lee McGregor and I just decided that it wouldn’t be all that clever to put my body under that sort of strain, especially with me trying to build towards the Pete Marlin in East London next weekend.Russell eventually cruised to a comfortable victory over second place Jenna Ward, in stark contrast to the battle that had unfolded at the front of the men’s race a little earlier.
Team Jeep/Epic Kayaks’ McGregor had enjoyed a hard-fought three-way tussle with Varsity College/Epic Kayaks’ grant van der Walt and Epic Kayaks’ Matt Bouman throughout the eight kilometer clash.
With just under the final kilometer to go McGregor made his definitive surge, opening up enough of a gap that saw him round the final buoy first and head to the finish line a wave ahead of the chasing duo.
“For the past little while I’ve been working towards Marathon Worlds, the Fish and then more recently a couple of international surfski races so it’s was great to come back down and take part in my first local ski race in quite some time,” said McGregor.
Having welcomed his first child, Thorsten into the world just a few weeks ago, McGregor has found the going a bit tougher as far as spending time in the boat goes but still has some big assignments on the horizon for the near future.
“I’m a father now, not a racer. The whole racing thing is for the youngsters!” he chuckled afterwards.
“Next weekend is Pete Marlin which should be a pretty good race and then I’m off to Hong Kong the following weekend for the Dragon Run which I know plenty of guys are going to so that should also be quite a tough event.”
With McGregor sealing the win, becoming the third new victor the men’s race has crowned in the opening three encounters of the 2014 series, the spotlight was turned to Van der Walt and Bouman’s battle for second.
Having opted for different race tactics in the closing stages of the battle before arriving at the shoreline together it was Van der Walt who eventually clinched second place, narrowly edging out Bouman in a sprint up the beach.
“Hank and I had stayed a bit deeper over the final couple hundred meters while Matt cut in quite early,” explained Van der Walt. “As we started turning in I saw Matt change his mind and turn back out towards which meant as we neared the last buoy, he and I were side by side and so it was then just a footrace up the beach.”
The doubles category’s spoils went to veterans Gary Brummer and Craig Stuart while Jordan Clauson was the first junior across the line.
Race four of the six-leg Illovo Suncoast Wall and Back Surfski Series takes place on Friday 14 November at 17h30 at Suncoast Pirates, Battery Beach.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – ILLOVO SUNCOAST WALL AND BACK SURFSKI SERIES
1.Hank McGregor 32.37
2.Grant van der Walt 32.44
3.Matt Bouman 32.45
1.Nicole Russell 38.17
2.Jenna Ward 40.02
3.Lara Edward (U18) 55.37
1.Jordan Clauson 37.39
2.Brett Wilken 38.44
3.Bailey de Fondaumiere 38.52
1.Lara Edward 55.37
1.Gary Brummer/Craig Stuart 36.36
2.Wayne Ashford/Duncan Nisbet 37.11
3.Russell Sadler/Carmel Billson (Mixed) 38.40
1.Russell Sadler/Carmel Billson 38.40
2.Skye Prato/Louisa van Staden 39.59
Images: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media