Durban – Recently crowned Flatwater Marathon World Champion Hank McGregor tops the list of countless surfski enthusiasts excitedly preparing for Friday 18 October’s opening leg of the recently relaunched Illovo Suncoast Wall and Back Surfski Series – one of the region’s grandfathers of surfski paddling.
Hosted by Durban beachfront-based surf lifesaving club Suncoast Pirates, the six-legged series had new life breathed into it recently and its return to Durban’s surfski calendar has the region’s ocean paddling fraternity abuzz with excitement.
“The Wall and Back series is a fantastic string of races and I’m really excited to see it back on the calendar!” enthused McGregor, one of a handful of Durban’s world class surfski stars expected to battle it out for top honours over the next six weeks of racing.
“I loved taking part in the series as a youngster with my father and I clearly remember everyone getting a shirt with ‘Sub-34 minute’, ‘Sub-36 minute’, etc. on it afterwards!” he recalled fondly.
With races to take place on Friday evenings, McGregor believes they are the ideal opportunity to enjoy some time on Durban’s warm waters and the perfect way to kick start the weekend.
“Weekday races are always really well supported in Durban and to be able to head down to the beach and have a good paddle with everyone else on Friday evening is fantastic and really helps kick start the weekend early!” said McGregor.
The rewarding, yet sometimes slightly challenging, Wall and Back course sees participants head out through the surf in front of Pirates clubhouse at Battery Beach, turn south and paddle to Durban’s harbour wall before turning around and making their way back to Pirates to complete the 8km challenge.
“It’s always a really good, fun course because often there is a bit of a wave at Pirates which keeps things nice and interesting and then, once you’re out, it all depends on which way the wind is blowing as to whether you will have to paddle into or with the wind on the way home when the racing really starts!”
The appeal of the short, sharp nature of the races, races being held on Friday evenings and the series’ history, together with the generous support of title sponsors sugar giants Illovo Sugar, has Suncoast Pirates Club Chairman Anton Fouché confident this year’s revival of the fondly remembered competition will see the Illovo Suncoast Wall and Back Surfski Series restored to its former glory.
“The series didn’t take place last year for the first time in many years so we really are very excited to have it back on the calendar and are really keen to try take the series to new heights with very similar numbers taking part in the races that the series used to enjoy some years ago,” said Fouché.
“We are also very excited to have Illovo on board this year. They really have come to the party in a massive way which is something we are very grateful for.
“The Wall and Back Surfski Series is one of the oldest series in the world, from what we understand, so it is very exciting to revive things this year and I’m sure we’re in for a great six weeks of surfski paddling!” he added.
Race one of the 2013 Illovo Suncoast Wall and Back Surfski Series takes place at 17h15 on Friday 18 October at Suncoast Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club at Battery Beach, Durban. Entry fee is R60 per paddler and more information can be found at www.wallandback.co.za