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FNB Durban Downwind – 5th

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in Racing

I am super stoked that I finally have the opportunity to participate as a paddler in the FNB Durban Downwind. As the race organizer I have been unable to take part the last few years.

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When I conceptualized the FN Durban Downwind, I wanted to create an event that would feed two of my great passions:

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My passion for Downwind

I really love the element of flexibility that we have incorporated into the ethos of the event. The FNB Durban Downwind has a two-day window period to ensure that the paddlers are afforded the opportunity to compete in the best possible conditions. This is one of the only events, which form part of the World Series, where we have the opportunity to exercise this element of freedom to ensure that, of the two-day period, the paddlers compete on the best possible day.

The ‘down-winders’ of Durban come out in their numbers to take part in the FNB Durban Downwind to embrace the spectacular conditions that the KZN coast has to offer

We all love downwind paddling and this event strives to deliver exactly that, “awesome downwind”.

My passion for Durban

I am a born and bred “Durbanite”.

Durban has year-round warm water currents and is renowned for its wild oceans, making it possibly one of the most exciting and challenging places in the world to paddle. With its diverse sphere of sporting activities, Durban can safely be regarded as the place where “watermen” are born.

I wanted to bring international level racing to my hometown and last year, in 2015, the event found itself on the map of the Surfski World Series.

Having the opportunity to take part in the event, as a paddler, with all the other paddlers who share in this passion for downwind paddling is truly something special.
The Race

Our Durban paddlers as expected, dominated the line up for the 2016 race. We did however have a spiced-up mix of paddlers from Gauteng, who competed in the event and used the floor-space as the Gauteng Canoe Union (GCU) doubles champs, as well as some paddlers from the Eastern Cape, and some even further, all the way from Australia. A superb mix of paddlers to provide for some competitive racing.

The wind forecast for the weekend wasn’t great, but we tried our best to get the paddlers into some bumps. This meant a late Sunday afternoon start to make the most of what was on offer, about 10 knots of NE wind. The back line start kicked off without any issues and the field spread straight away.

I chose to pick my own course on a wider line than the other top paddlers and soon I was all on my own. It felt very lonely not having another boat in sight. This suited my fine though as I was banking on two things 1. I race better chasing the ocean rather than other paddlers, 2. I knew the coastline well and that I was straight on course for the finish.

The runs were very small but there was still a push. I never once put my paddle down, but was always chasing something. This kept my mind active and so much focus was needed to keep the boat on a bump.

I never saw another boat until 3km to go to the finish. Km after km I focused on one bump at a time, making sure I was using the sea to the best of its potential.

Hank McGregor had got away early in the race and stormed to his first win in the event, one he has wanted since his close miss in 2014. Hank was followed by Matthew Bouman, with Mark Anderson the last position on the podium.

My outside line meant I spent a little too much time out in the current, which allowed Mark Anderson and Gene Prato get through on my inside. Gene’s 4th place is testimony to his hard work and fitness. I managed to sneak past Luke Nesbit in the last km for a solid 5th place.

The top 10 was filled with class paddlers and a number of stand-outs performaces.

6th Luke Nesbit
7th Bailey De Fondaumiere – this is one hell of a paddle for this talented junior in a class Durban field. This kid is working so hard and has come so far since I travelled with him to worlds last year.
8th Jason Ekstrand
9th Steve Woods
10th Wade Krieger

In the ladies there was a titanic battle going on between Nicole Russell and Hayley Nixon, with the lead going back and forth between them during the race. Nicole proved to strong on a shallower line to take the win by just 30sec. Ladies paddling in Durban is certainly world class and it is exciting to see the sport producing such amazing local athletes.

I wouldn’t be able to organize such a cool event without the help of a great team. Thanks to all, you know who you are. You all allowed me the freedom to take part as a paddler, as well as put the event on.

A special mention to my super second, my amazing fiancé Carly. Carly really got behind me for this event, diving in to help wherever she could, to make the event and my race a success. I love you miss Carly and I am lucky to have you as the backbone of my support system.

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A big thanks to my good mate Wade Krieger, who has been lending me his spare ski. I don’t have a boat right now and it has been great to have a decent boat under me the last couple of weeks, thanks Wade.

Next up is the Mauritius Ocean Classic, another of my favorite events for the year, not to be missed. I am lucky enough to be taking Carly with me to share in this year’s experience. Off to the Islands we go.

Women’s talent storm hits FNB Durban Downwind

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Defending champion Michelle Burn is excited to see how the 2016 FNB Durban Downwind women’s race unfolds this weekend as KwaZulu-Natal’s renowned quintet of female paddling talent go head to head for the World Surfski Series title race’s women’s title.

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After organisers confirmed on Thursday morning that the event will take place from 13h00 on Sunday, 26 June, Burn is set to be joined on the start line of the 26km clash from La Mercy Beach to Marine Surf Lifesaving Club by fellow elite racers Nicole Russell, Hayley Nixon, Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase.

The five’s pedigree speaks for itself with all having bagged race crowns and podium finishes on both the surfski and marathon racing circuit throughout the past eighteen months.

For Amanzimtoti’s Burn though, this weekend’s clash represents a different challenge to many of her previous paddling tasks, with the veteran surfski competitor expecting to have the best seat in the house from which to view the title race unfold rather than competing for victory herself.

“My focus has shifted a little and I was looking forward to giving the recent Ironman 70.3 in Durban a bit of a go so I haven’t really paddled competitively since November,” explains Burn.

“A silly knee injury I picked up a couple of months ago sadly ruled me out of Ironman though, so when I couldn’t ride I thought I might as well paddle and that’s when I decided to do the Durban Downwind.

“Unfortunately I then picked up a really rare virus and was really ‘man down’ for the last little while, so I really am not in great shape at all at the moment,” the highly decorated surfski competitor chuckles somewhat bewilderedly.

While her recent health troubles, together with forecasts of little wind to help push her along on race day, see the 30 year-old Fenn Kayaks athlete heading into Sunday’s race with a conservative personal outlook.

Burn is however confident a storm of action is set to unfold in front of her as the in-form Russell, Ward and Purchase (all Fenn Kayaks) as well as Nixon (Carbonology Sport) give it their all.

“Hayley (Nixon) is very powerful and will be super strong, especially if its flat while Nikki (Russell) is probably the most consistent of the four across all conditions and her win at the SA Marathon Champs recently showed she has what it takes in flat condition too.

“Jenna (Ward) and Kyeta (Purchase) are obviously incredible paddlers as well and I’m sure they’ll be right up there this weekend but I think Hayley and Nikki go into the race as slight favourites.

“If for some reason the wind gods do bless us with some wind on Sunday then perhaps my years of experience and technical skill will mean I stand a bit of a chance but if there’s not much wind and it is flat, like is expected to be, then I think I’ll just be watching from behind as the others battle it out ahead of me.”

While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.

Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.

Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close at midday on Friday, 24 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC from 17h00-19h00 on the same day while the 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place Sunday, 26 June. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

Livesaving Competition to Celebrate Durban’s Everyday Heroes

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in Uncategorized

Durban’s North Beach is set to host the second instalment of Red Bull Beach Patrol on 10 July which will see some of South Africa’s best surf lifesavers fight it out over varying disciplines for a chance at the title.

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Durban (South Africa) – Every year eThekwini sees in excess of 1.5 million visitors, most making their way to its shores to revel in the city’s sub-tropical climate and warm waters. This makes for challenging times for Durban’s Lifeguard Force who need to remain fit and alert to ensure the visitors safety in its waters – their proficiency being what stands between life and death. 2016 sees the return of Red Bull Beach Patrol, an event created to honour these everyday heroes who put their own lives on the line to save those of others.

The event consists of three disciplines before the finale; swim, paddleboard and surfski. Racers will have to complete all three in order to compete in the last part of the competition, which will incorporate all three aspects as well as a run down the pier – testing endurance and overall fitness.

Any person can enter to compete against some of the top lifesavers in the country, however the one condition is that you have to complete all three of the qualifying rounds in order to compete in the finale.

“I have grown up on the beaches of Durban and have got a long history of lifesaving and being involved with life saving,” Sportive Director for Red Bull Beach Patrol Barry Lewin said.

“The event offers something completely different and the North Pier on Durban’s beachfront will provide the perfect location for the event,” Lewin commented. “we are going to give the best life savers in the country the best possible platform to showcase their talents.”

Lewin hopes that the racing will draw the people of Durban to the event that incorporates the iconic North Pier.

“The event follows an upside down U shape around the North Pier which gives spectators the chance to view the action from the pier – making the pier the ideal spectator vantage point for the event. People will be able to support their heroes from a fantastic spot on the pier,” he added.

To enter or for more information, head to www.redbull.co.za/beachpatrol. Entries close on 8 July 2016.

Aussie Anderson adds FNB Durban Downwind to South African safari

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Top Australian surfski ace Mark Anderson is sizing up this weekend’s FNB Durban Downwind surfski race, determined to make the most of the weather conditions that will define the character of the 26km challenge while at the same time enjoying the company of the local surfski community that has made it easy for him to be a regular visitor to South African shores.

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Having last raced back in April at the King of the Habour race in New Zealand, the 38 year-old flyer from Narrabeen, Sydney will look to this weekend’s clash to reignite his competitive spark before he takes on important assignments in Mauritius and Portugal in the coming weeks.

A lack of racing recently and little indication of strong winds blowing this weekend, Anderson has set himself some conservative goals for this weekend.

However, a sixth place effort at last year’s FNB Durban Downwind – behind fellow Australian, Michael Booth and a powerful South African quartet – proves the Fenn Kayaks/Oceanpaddler athlete has what it takes to mix it up at the front and should forecasts improve, may well be a factor again in 2016.

“There doesn’t seem like there will be much wind on the weekend unfortunately but it is what it is, its just one of those uncontrollables that you can’t get too concerned about.

“I’ll get the whip out and give it a crack but I need all the help I can get so if it’s flat then it’ll be hard to match the pace of guys like Hank (McGregor) and company.

“Having not raced since New Zealand, I have absolutely no idea how I’ll go this weekend, especially given the expected conditions. Either way though, it will be good get some miles in the arms before Mauritius and Portugal!”

Having jetted in on Tuesday, 14 June and only departing for Mauritius on Wednesday after this weekend’s clash, Anderson has made a point of making the most of his time in SA, both on and off the water.

“I first came to South Africa in 2008 to race but it was just so easy to make friends that I was back again in 2009 and 2010 before taking a bit of a break and then returning again last year and again now,” explains Anderson.

“I arrived last Tuesday, everything lined up perfectly for me for the Scottburgh to Brighton race on Thursday, I went for a paddle on Monday, did a downwind from DUC to Umhlanga on Tuesday evening and I’ll paddle again today (Wednesday), so its been good!

“I also always try and do some stuff outside Durban while I’m here – last year I went up Sani Pass, in 2010n I spent a few days in Cape Town – and so it was absolutely amazing to head up the North Coast and spend two nights at the Zululand Rhino Reserve this time.

“My friends are why I’m here really; the race is just an excuse to come back and is just a sideshow,” he laughs.

While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.

Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.

Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close on Wednesday, 22 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC on Friday, 24 June from 17h00-19h00.

The 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place on 25 or 26 June, the final race date and venue will be announced on the series’ Facebook page on Thursday, 23 June. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

McGregor seeks maiden FNB Durban Downwind crown

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – The FNB Durban Downwind is one of the very few paddling titles in South Africa to have eluded Hank McGregor, something the six-time Canoe Marathon World Champion is eager to rectify when this year’s edition of the World Surfski Series title event takes place on either Saturday or Sunday this weekend.

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“The Durban Downwind is a race I’d love to win for sure,” confirms McGregor. “It’s going to be pretty tough though; at this stage conditions look like it’s going to be pretty flat plus a lot of the local guys are in really good shape at the moment.”

“Guys like Matt Bouman and Wade Krieger are both very fit while Steve Woods and Luke Nisbet also showed at Thursday’s Scottburgh to Brighton that they’ve got the miles in them too.

“A local youngster or two may just put their hand up on the day as well and I hear there will also be one or two Aussies (Mark Anderson) on the line, which will add another element to the mix as well.”

Organisers and competitors alike continue to keep a close eye on weather forecasts as they try to best prepare for the weekend’s likely conditions with current predictions suggesting there will be a healthy breeze blowing during the latter part of the week, however there appears to be little wind expected this weekend until Sunday afternoon.

“At this stage it looks like it might be a bit of a slog before having to deal with a bit of swell at the end but it doesn’t matter too much what conditions are like on the day really, if you’ve got the right mindset then you’ll adapt accordingly.

“Anything can happen when it comes to the weather; a buster Westerly could suddenly come through and it could be great downwind conditions or current predictions could be correct and it will be a tough, flat paddle from start to finish – who knows?

“Local knowledge will help a bit if the wind does end up blowing and then current and lines become a factor but if it’s a hard slog, then it comes down to who is the fittest guy on the day!” said Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ McGregor.

In 2014 – his only appearance at the race previously – McGregor looked well set to clinch the event’s inaugural title as he led from start to 100 metres from the finish.

A stumbling at the final hurdle – getting through the colossal surf shortly before the finish line on the at La Mercy beach – however proved his undoing and handed Jasper Mocké (Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks) the win instead.

“2014 will definitely be playing on my mind as I prepare this week,” admits McGregor, who trains from his Salt Rock home base. “It can be flat and you’re in the lead the whole way but not even that can guarantee you a win as you could take a swim at the finish.”

“There is a bit of swell around at the moment so if there is some surf at the finish again this weekend then to be safe you’ll need to have enough of a lead that you don’t have to take a chance and can afford to take your time and go in on the back of a wave or wait on the sand bank for the set to go through.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how the weather pans out over the next couple of days and then try to plan accordingly.”

The organisers aim to stage the race in the best available downwind conditions and, as such, a two day window period has been set aside with a final decision on the race date, start time and 26km course – either Marine SLC to La Mercy or vice versa – to be made on Thursday morning.

While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.

Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.

Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close on Wednesday, 22 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC on Friday, 24 June from 17h00-19h00.

The 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place on 25 or 26 June, the final race date and venue will be announced on the series’ Facebook page on Thursday, 23 June. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

World class FNB Durban Downwind battle looms

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Some the best surfski racers in the world will converge on Durban on the weekend of 25 and 26 June for the 2016 FNB Durban Downwind, setting the stage for another world class duel as the World Surfski Series title event draws top elite ocean racers to Durban idyllic wintery conditions for the 26km clash.

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With a two day window period and course flexibility, organisers hope to provide participants with the best possible downwind conditions to enjoy between Marine Surf Lifesaving Club (SLC) at Addington beach and La Mercy, or vice versa depending on the wind direction.

Having had two out-of-town winners – Jasper Mocké (Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks) from Fish Hoek, Western Cape in 2014 and Australia’s Michael Booth last year – since its inception two years ago, the richly talented crop of Durban based paddlers will be eager to see the crown remain in the host city this time around.

With six time Canoe Marathon World Champion, Hank McGregor (Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks), McGregor’s regular local rival, Matt Bouman (Epic Kayaks) and rapidly improving lifesaving convert, Wade Krieger (Epic Kayaks/Falcon World Travel) all from KZN shores, the local challenge is set to be a strong one.

The event has however also enjoyed a prominent presence of classy, experienced surfski paddlers from the Western Cape in the past with the likes of Mocké’s brother, Dawid (Fenn Kayaks/Mocké Paddling), Sean Rice (Think Kayak), Kenny Rice (Think Kayak) and junior flyer Mark Keeling having all claimed top ten finishes previously, setting up another tough task for KZN’s racing snakes should they hope to reign supreme.

It remains to be seen if international contenders such as defending champion Booth and fellow Australian and 2014 Durban Downwind sixth place finisher, Mark Anderson will make the trip out to South Africa for this year’s mouth-watering match-up.

While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.

Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.

Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close on Wednesday, 22 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC on Friday, 24 June from 17h00-19h00.

The 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place on 25 or 26 June, the final race date and venue will be announced on the series’ Facebook page on Thursday, 23 June. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

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