Brandon van der Walt took full advantage of the stormy weather and depleted field to snatch a sentimental victory in race five of the Illovo Suncoast Wall and Back surfski series, as he packs his bags and prepares to relocate from Durban to Cape Town.
“This was the perfect way to sign off from Durban,” said a clearly elated former junior marathon world champion. “I am so stoked to grab a win here in my last race in Durban.”
“I have become something of a bridesmaid at the surfski series dices,” he added. “I think I have got more fourth places than Hank (McGregor) has got firsts, so this feels really sweet. I can really leave with a smile on my face!”
Van der Walt is relocating to Cape Town to take up a teaching post at a school in Bergvliet, and will join the world-class surfski community in the Western Cape with his new housemate and surfski world champion Sean Rice.
Racing into a strong southerly gale, Van der Walt found himself tagging along with the leading double ski crew of Anton Fouche and Derek Hauptfleisch as they battled into the storm towards the turncan just off the harbour wall.
“At the turn I got a small gap and put in a hard five minute interval which set me up nicely, and I managed to stay there to claim the win,” said Van der Walt, who had taken a back seat after the demanding Hansa Fish River canoe marathon to rest and concentrate on his exams.
Oliver Burn grabbed the second place, with visiting Australian Josh Kippen securing the last spot on the podium.
Burn’s wife Michelle Burn wrapped up a hat-trick of wins in women’s division of the popular Friday evening series with a tenacious comeback after an incident-fraught start to the race.
She had to bail off her ski after getting caught in traffic during the start, which was complicated by a strong mid-break wave.
“One of the guys skis came flying towards me in the surf and I had to jump off,” said Michelle Burn. “It was my first swim of the series and I then had to grind into the wind to try and catch Jenna Ward, which I managed to do about a kilometer after the first turncan.”
Her impressive form was underscored by the manner in which she steadily pulled away from the male paddlers around her.
“Conditions weren’t that easy, with a strong headwind, and then small chicken runs on the way back, but I feel happy with my form,” she said.
With wins from all three races that she has entered in the series, she will be forced to watch the final and deciding leg of the series next week from a distance, as commitments elsewhere will prevent her from racing a fourth race and deny her a chance at winning the series, which will be decided on the best four results from each paddler.
“That really sucks!” said the likeable Toti prodigy. “But it will make the final leg pretty exciting between paddlers like Jenna Ward and Nicky Russell.”
The heavy winds and warm rain made for testing conditions for the field that was smaller than usual and devoid of several stars paddlers who had travelled to Hong Kong for the Dragon Run and the Pete Marlin Memorial in East London this weekend.
The final race of the 2013 Illovo Suncoast Wall and Back Surfski Series takes place on Friday 22 November at 17h30 at Pirates SLC at Battery Beach. More information can be found at www.wallandback.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
RACE FIVE OF THE ILLOVO SUNCOAST WALL AND BACK SURFSKI SERIES
1..Brandon van der Walt 35:22
2.Oliver Burn 35.42
3.Josh Kippen (Aus) 36:16
4.Gene Prato 36:20
5.Irvine Dixon 37:20
1.Michelle Burn 40:19
2.Jenna Ward 44:43
1.Gene Prato 36.20
2.Calvin McKie 38:44
1.Simon Grout 42:20
1.Lee McGregor 37:43
1.Andrew Neal/Konrad Karcz 36:03
2.Anton Fouche/Derek Hauptfleisch 36:25
3.Wayne Ashford/Dwayne Powell 38:10
1. Anton Fouche/Derek Hauptfleisch 36:25
1. Butch Murray/Julie Cornelius 41:50