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FNB Durban Downwind thriller crowns new champions

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Jasper Mocké hit a triple jackpot in Durban on Saturday afternoon, winning a thrilling dice with Hank McGregor to win the FNB Durban Downwind, and with it he took the SA Single Surfski crown as well as a place in the national team to the ICF Surfski World Champs in Hong Kong later in the year.

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The Capetonian rounded off a tactically astute race that saw him opt for a deep water line with his older brother Dawid and Kenny Rice, while McGregor led the local charge closer inshore, hoping to set a straight line course in the steady North Easterly wind.

McGregor floundered in the surf coming in and had to beach earlier than expected and run to the finish line along the beach while Mocké (Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling) nailed the line in and carefully picked his way through the tricky surf at the finish.

McGregor (Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks) cantered home in second and sealed the other senior men’s slot in the World Champs team, with Dawid Mocké rounding out the podium with an end sprint with Kenny Rice.

“It is such an honour to win the national title against a field like this,” said Jasper Mocké at the finish.

“A week ago when we knew it was going to be an East my brother and I decided that we would go deep, and when we get into a zone racing each other I know we are going fast. I never even thought about the guys on the inside.”

“With about ten kays to go, off Moses Mabhida, I was feeling good, and I decided to set my sights on Addington. I felt that the runs were lining up where I wanted to go and I could surf right into the finish,” he said.

Mocké added that he hadn’t been aware of where defending champ Hank McGregor was until the dying minutes of the race.

“About two kays to go I saw that red cap pop up and I knew I had to race my buddy to the finish. I was happy where I was. I could see Hank running with his ski on the beach and that’s just awkward,” he added.

After winning the SA K1 River title on the Pink Lady Drakenstein race last weekend Jasper Mocké joins a very small group of athletes to hold a river marathon and surfski national title in the same season.

The women’s title race proved to be just as enthralling as Michelle Burn (Fenn Kayaks) needed all her accumulated downwind experience to stave off the challenge from the reigning Surfski World Series champ Hayley Nixon (Euro Steel/Carbonology), with Nikki Russell completing the women’s podium.

“Just after Umhlanga I decided to go deeper, so I waited for Hayley (Nixon) and Nikki (Russell) to go past and I went out to sea. I did notice that Hayley decided to follow me.”

“About six kays from the finish I started to feel tired, but I just put my head down and tried to milk the last few runs into the finish. I wasn’t actually sure that I had won it when I got to the beach,” she added.

The race started with a backline start at La Mercy, where the huge surf made life very difficult for the paddlers trying to get out to the start line.

Nineteen paddlers were forced to withdraw, most of them after breaking their skis in the crunching backline break, including the pedigree likes of Dusi champ Andy Birkett.

Jenna Ward was another casualty of the angry surf, dubbed “No Mercy” by Hank McGregor. Her new ski was damaged and she was forced to swim it ashore. After repairing it with duct tape she got a fellow male paddler to paddle it out through the surf while she took a ride in a rubber duck and rejoined the rest of the field for the deep water start.
“It’s fantastic to see the unbelievable turnout of the competing paddlers and spectators enjoying the incredible experience of taking part in this competition,” said Michael Honeywell, FNB Business Regional Head KZN Coastal.

“Congratulations to all the paddlers for displaying breathtaking and adrenaline packed performances and the supporters who made the event even more electrifying,” he added.

Many of the elite paddlers will now turn their attention to international events in Mauritius, Portugal, Canada and the USA in the coming weeks, while the local seasons shifts to the popular Open Ocean Surfski Challenge series based at Durban Underwater Club, starting on 9 July.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
FNB DURBAN DOWNWIND
Overall
1 Jasper Mocké 1:29:18.54
2 Hank McGregor 1:29:19.13
3 Dawid Mocké 1:29:55.32
4 Kenneth Rice 1:29:55.99 (U23)
5 Hynard Mackenzie (AUS) 1:31:36.76 (U23)
6 Matthew Bouman 1:31:46.62
7 Kyle Friedenstein 1:31:49.92
8 Zoog Haynes/Lance Howarth 1:32:48.69
9 Stuart Maclaren 1:33:54.56
10 Mark Keeling 1:34:16.64 (U23)
11 Gene Prato 1:34:17.62 (U23)
12 Mark Anderson (AUS) 1:34:19.38
13 Grant Van Der Walt 1:34:36.30
14 Steve Woods 1:34:43.13
15 Bailey De Fondaumiere 1:34:59.55 (U23)
16 Bevan Manson 1:35:16.58
17 Ian Black 1:35:32.40
18 Joshua Fenn 1:36:49.35 (U18)
19 Luke Nisbet 1:36:50.37
20 Tyron Maher 1:36:51.31 (U23)

Double ski
1 Zoog Haynes/Lance Howarth 1:32:48.69
2 Donna Winter/Shaun Burgin 1:37:18.48
3 Bruce Wenke/Justin Wenke 1:42:56.54

Women.
1 Michelle Burn 1:42:58.20
2 Hayley Nixon 1:44:05.68
3 Nikki Russell 1:45:07.59
4 Kyeta Purchase 1:49:13.37 (U23)
5 Bridgitte Hartley 1:54:10.89

More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

Early surprise as Hartley takes first win at FNB Surfski Series

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – With hundreds of excited paddlers lining the Addington Beach for the first race of the 2017 FNB Surfski Series on Friday, the race produced a big surprise as former Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley beat off the tough ladies competition to claim a maiden win at race one while stalwart Hank McGregor took the honours in the men’s race.

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Paddlers were greeted to some tame conditions as long course, short course and stand-up paddle boarders took some time to work out the rust and Christmas pudding on Friday, however the racing at the sharp end of the field was as tough as ever with paddlers jostling for an early advantage.

Hartley and race favourite and Euro Steel team mate Hayley Nixon spent a lot of the race together however when the paddlers turned into the wind for the final time Hartley came into her own and managed to get ahead all the way to the finish line.

“Tonight was really fun and I was really excited to race with so many other paddlers and against some strong ladies,” Hartley mentioned.

“I really didn’t know what to expect so I was fairly cautious at the start of the race but I managed to catch Hayley just before the first buoy.”

Hartley was going to have her work cut out for her against an experienced paddler like Nixon but she believed that if she turned for home with Nixon she had a chance of winning.

“I tried to interval as much as I could into the wind and we had so much fun trying to catch some runs with the wind!

“It was so much fun and I am really excited that I managed to get a win at the first race of the series,” she added.

The ladies field was rounded out by Euro Steel/Carbonology’s Hayley Nixon in second, who finished 44 seconds behind Hartley, and young Euro Steel/Fenn Kayaks’ star Kyeta Purchase, who came home in third a further two minutes behind Nixon.

Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ Hank McGregor managed to pick up where he left off in 2016 with another win at the FNB Surfski Challenge as he eyes an impressive eighth FNB Surfski Series title. McGregor was in a class of his own as he dominated the entire field to win the race by 38 seconds over long-time rival Matt Bouman with Wade Krieger coming home in third.

Clinton Cook and Hamish Lovemore finished second overall in the race just behind McGregor and managed to just pip the pair of Jason Ekstrand and Richard Lowe to the win.

Emanuel Zaloumis was the best placed junior when he finished tenth overall just two seconds ahead of Hamish Mackenzie with Sabine Lawrie being the best placed junior girl.

The short course was dominated by Matthew Maroun who took the overall honours over Shane Maguire in second and Jasper Gaylard in third.

The SUP category was a tough race with Nick Park-Ross taking the race one honours ahead of Brandon Read in second and Robbie de Billot in third. The ladies category was won by Charlotte Anderson ahead of Lande Williamson and Danica Bartho in second and third respectively.

The The Funky Pants Surfski Challenge, Race Two of the 2017 FNB Surfski Series, takes place at 17h30 on Friday, 13 January at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club, Addington Beach. More information can be found at www.marineseries.co.za.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS – FNB SURFSKI CHALLENGE
RACE ONE OF THE 2017 FNB SURFSKI SERIES

LONG COURSE
1.Hank McGregor 32:46
2.Matt Bouman 33:14
3.Wade Krieger 34:20
4.Grant van der Walt 34:21
5.Bailey de Fondaumiere 35:32
6.Gene Prato 35:37
7.Lee McGregor 35:39
8.Tyron Maher 36:34
9.Oliver Burn 37:22
10.Emanuel Zaloumis 37:28

Women
1.Brigitte Hartley 36:50
2.Hayley Nixon 37:34
3.Kyeta Purchase 39:35

Doubles
1.Clinton Cook/Hamish Lovemore 32:58
2.Jason Ekstrand/Richard Lowe 33:09
3.Darly Bartho/Clinton Pretorius 34:27

Mixed Double
1.Jenna Ward/Luke Nisbet 34:41

Junior Boys
1.Emanuel Zaloumis 37:28
2.Hamish Mackenzie 37:30
3.Brendon Delport 39:56

Junior Girls
1.Sabina Lawrie 42:44

SHORT COURSE
1.Matthew Maroun 20:59
2.Shane Maguire 22:17
3.Jasper Gaylard 23:00

Doubles
1.Justin Swart/Stefan Swart 21:21
2.Mark Taylor/Richard Taylor 22:09
3.Jason Ward/Nigel Ward 22:12

SUP
Men
1.Nick Park-Ross 26:26
2.Brandon Read 26:58
3.Robbie de Billot 27:42

Women
1.Charlotte Anderson 30:19
2.Lande Williamson 30:41
3.Danica Bartho 32:26

2017 FNB Surfski Series set for another top-class showdown

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – The Durban surfski fraternity will once again be treated to a spectacle when the coutnry’s best surfski stars battle it out over the 10-leg FNB Surfski Series as world leaders and beginners alike take to the warm Indian Ocean waters from this Friday until March in one of the most popular series on the East Coast.

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The Durban surfski scene has been dominated over the years by two of the world’s leading paddlers – Hank McGregor and Matt Bouman. The two have built up an impressive rivalry that has seen the pair trade series titles, although in recent years McGregor has been the dominant force and will be back to defend the title he won in 2016.

McGregor, who recently took home the overall honours in the World Surfski Series, is in top racing form and will return to the familiar waters of KwaZulu-Natal with his eyes on another overall title at the 2017 FNB Surfski Series.

“I think last year was my seventh title at the series so it really is a series that I enjoy and have done for years,” Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ McGregor mentioned.

“Barry (Lewin) always puts on such a great event and through the ten weeks it becomes tradition for my family so we feel a bit lost with what to do on a Friday night when the series is over!

“I’m really looking forward to another tough series against not only some of the best surfski paddlers in KZN, but in the world too.”

McGregor’s long standing battle with Bouman goes back to well before their professional paddling days and he knows that not only Bouman will pose a threat to his title chase.

“Matthew and I have been racing each other since we were about eight years old so we know each other pretty well.

“The likes of Wade Krieger will also be a tough competitor and I am sure that there are going to be some youngsters looking to make an impact on the series,” he added.

The FNB Surfski Series has become a stalwart event in Durban during the early months of the year and with resolutions being made McGregor feels that this adds to the series’ appeal.

“It’s a great way to get back into the swing of things after a good break over the festive season.

“People are looking for events to get themselves back into shape and with a fairly forgiving course it’s an ideal way for people to get into surfski racing.

“I am looking forward to another competitive year of racing and with my river season training in full swing it will be nice to get into a surfski once in a while,” McGregor added.

The women’s series is set to be one of the most competitive yet with the depth of women’s surfski paddling in KZN growing substantially in the past few years. Hayley Nixon, who won the women’s World Surfski Series title in 2016, is one of those hoping to take top honours this year.

“I love being involved in the FNB Surfski Series as it was probably the first series that I ever did in a surfski,” the Euro Steel/Carbonology star mentioned.

“Each week it is always such a great way to start the weekend and this year I am expecting the battle for the women’s title to be really tough!

“There are girls coming across from river racing and with the likes of Bridgitte (Hartley) also getting into a surfski means that there are so many girls with different strengths. It makes the racing really competitive and each week will be just as tough.”

The FNB Surfski Challenge, Race One of the 2017 FNB Surfski Series, takes place at 17h30 on Friday, 6 January at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club, Addington Beach. More information can be found at www.marineseries.co.za

FNB Surfski Series to welcome Durban paddlers to 2017

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – As many preparing for the fast-approaching festive season, the December holidays represent a golden opportunity for KwaZulu-Natal’s paddling fraternity to enjoy spending time on the ocean, brushing up on their surfski skills ahead of the arrival of the much-anticipated 2017 FNB Surfski Series in January.

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The popular ten race series is one of the biggest of its kind globally and attracts hundreds of paddling enthusiasts to Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach each week for the Friday evening contests.

With an 8km or novice-friendly 4km race option, easy surf entry, on-water safety crews and endless lucky draw prizes, the series is the ideal way for beginners to get into the sport while sharing the start line with some of the globe’s top elite racers who also lock horns weekly.

“2017 is set to be another cracking year for the FNB Surfski Series and we’re really looking forward to hosting hundreds of past participants and scores of new faces each week,” says series coordinator, Barry Lewin.

“Coming down to the FNB Surfski Series on a summery Friday evening in Durban and racing with or against your buddies before then swapping a few battle stories and claiming the week’s bragging rights – we don’t believe there is a better way to start the weekend!” he adds.

While much of what has made the series the success it has become remains, one exciting change to the mix sees banking giant First National Bank (FNB) take over as the series’ sole title sponsor having shared this with Varsity College for the past two years.

FNB’s enlarged backing of the series sees them further entrench themselves in South African paddling circles having already established strong ties with the iconic Dusi Canoe Marathon and the Durban Downwind surfski race.

“FNB Business is delighted to be a sponsor of the FNB Surfski Series,” says FNB Business KZN Provincial Head, Howard Arrand.

“At FNB Business, developing and maintaining relationships with our clients forms an integral part of how we do business. The FNB Surfski Series provides us with an exciting platform where we can make a lasting connection with new and existing clients.

“Innovation is central to FNB Business; the annual FNB Surfski event is perfectly aligned to our belief that adventure is the heart of innovation.

“Over and above this, the FNB Surfski Series affirms our commitment to providing an experience for participants through a sport that is ever growing in popularity in the KwaZulu-Natal region.”

Having gone head-to-head during the series’ clashes for the better part of a decade, global surfski stars Hank McGregor and Matt Bouman are again expected to contest the weekly spoils while Wade Krieger, Luke Nisbet, Steve Woods, Gene Prato and Bailey de Fondaumiere add depth to the world class men’s field.

“It is always great to race against a quality field and Durban hosts many of the top ten paddlers in the world, while we also often get some out-of-towners join us too, so you know you’re in for a great race each and every week of the FNB Surfski Series,” says Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ McGregor.

“It’s great to be able to test yourself on a Friday evening and the series is a really nice way start the year again after recharging a bit over the festive season.

“With the racing only being over 8km, you don’t exactly have to be the fittest person on earth to complete the race but up front the pace certainly does get quite intense.

“Barry (Lewin) always creates a really safe environment, especially with all the novices often in the field, so while its fast and furious for those that are racing, its friendly as well!”

The women’s title challenge will too be a hard-fought, richly contested affair as the likes of Nicole Russell, Hayley Nixon, Kyeta Purchase and Jenna Ward square off while Michelle Burn and Donna Tutton could add great experience to the mix as well.

The FNB Surfski Challenge, race one of the 2017 FNB Surfski Series, gets proceedings underway on Friday 6 January at 17h30 at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club.

The opening encounter is however preceded by a series registration function at Robsons on Point in Durban’s Point precinct on Thursday 5 January from 16h00-19h00.

While race entry is R100 per paddler, participants are encouraged to take advantage of the series special that gives paddlers 20% discount should they enter all ten races upfront.

Series special purchasers, together with those who complete eight or more races during the series, will also qualify for the series’ loyalty programme giveaway – a limited edition FNB paddle cover.

More information can be found at www.marineseries.co.za as well as on Facebook (www.facebook.com/marinesurfskiseries), Twitter (www.twitter.com/marineseries) or YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/MarineSeries).

McGregor bags maiden FNB Durban Downwind success

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – South African paddling icon Hank McGregor overcame sickness, flat conditions as well as a strong local field to clinch his maiden FNB Durban Downwind win on Sunday while the in-form Nicole Russell claimed the World Surfski Series title event’s women’s crown.

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Despite organisers’ best efforts to stage the race in the best available wind conditions of the weekend, Mother Nature didn’t come to the party as hoped and the 26km journey from La Mercy Beach to Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach was a testing one for all.

McGregor, having come close to victory in the race’s debut in 2014, had little hassle second time around as he claimed a commanding triumph, racing home one minute and four seconds ahead of Matt Bouman.

“I’m glad to take the win this time around,” said McGregor. “I narrowly lost it two years ago so it’s nice to win the Durban Downwind for the first time.”

“Conditions were pretty tough; there was hardly any assistance really so it was a hard slog for 26kms.

“I managed to get out in front early and then kept the guys behind me for the rest of the race – there weren’t too many tactics involved really.

“I was in hospital on Friday so it was a hit and miss whether I was going to race but I’m glad I was able to get out there and it’s nice to have gotten the win,” added the Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks athlete.

Bouman echoed McGregor’s sentiments regarding the conditions while sang the praises of the victor and the organisers alike.

“It’s sad that it was as flat as it was because there aren’t many races where the organisers genuinely search for the best downwind conditions and the Durban Downwind is one of them where they do.

“This was one of only a few opportunities where the guys use the whole two day window period to try to find the wind but when Mother Nature says there’s no wind then there simply is no wind.

“I’m not unhappy with how I performed; it was good for me personally but the person who puts in the most work is the guy who wins and it’s something you’ve got to give people credit for.

“Hank was just too strong today and well done to him for that. The man’s commitment to sport and the amount of work he does is one hell of a thing,” added Bouman graciously.

Australia’s Mark Anderson (Fenn Kayaks/Oceanpaddler Sydney) claimed the bottom step of the podium while Gene Prato and Barry Lewin (Jeep Team) claimed positions four and five.

Carbonology Sport’s Bailey de Fondaumiere was the first junior across the line, finishing seventh overall, while birthday boy, Wade Krieger (Epic Kayaks/Falcon World Travel) rounded out the top ten.

In the women’s charge, Russell and Hayley Nixon went head to head from the get-go, the former edging out the latter by thirty three seconds in the end.

“I love the Durban Downwind and it’s great to win again,” said Russell. “Winning SA Marathon Champs a couple of weeks ago definitely gave me a bit of confidence in these flat conditions because I do normally prefer the bumps, runs and a bit of swell.”

“I knew it was going to be a grind but it was even tougher than I was expecting.

“Haylz (Nixon) was there the whole way and it was a ding-dong battle between us. I went deep early on and I didn’t see Hayley until we met up at about halfway. I then went on the inside and she stuck to the middle, which worked out for me in the end but it was very close.”

Nixon was pleased with her effort. “It was an awesome race and a titanic battle. I’m stoked with second place and well done to Nikki on her win,” the Carbonology Sport competitor said.

While a predominantly local field, eleven paddlers from Gauteng and one each from Western and Eastern Cape made the journey to Durban for the race with Johannesburg’s Anna Clifford Arwidi rounding out the women’s podium while Durbanville Hills’ Anton Holtzhausen was the first Masters competitor home.

Through the support of title sponsors FNB, a prize money purse of R40000 was given away across all age groups and categories while all finishers stood the chance winning various Thule and Funky Pants lucky draws prizes.

“KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s second largest economy and is well positioned in the tourism and sporting sectors,” commented Howard Arrand, FNB Business – KZN Provincial Head.

“We relish the opportunity to be involved with the Durban Downwind event as the sport continues to grow in popularity as one of the key activities in the province and the South African sporting calendar.

“Congratulations to all those who took part in the race as well as the families, spectators and the various communities who showed their support,” he added.

More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
2016 FNB DURBAN DOWNWIND

Overall
1.Hank McGregor 1:44.50
2.Matt Bouman 1:45.54
3.Mark Anderson (AUS) 1:48.54
4.Gene Prato 1:49.27
5.Barry Lewin 1:50.40
6.Luke Nisbet 1:50.52
7.Bailey de Fondaumiere (U18) 1:52.35
8.Jason Ekstrand 1:53.06
9.Steve Woods 1:53.43
10.Wade Krieger 1:54.10

Women
1.Nicole Russell 2:01.32
2.Hayley Nixon 2:02.05
3.Anna Clifford Arwidi 2:27.49

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.

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