THE 2013 Discovery Surfers Challenge on Saturday, February 16 commemorates the 39th running of an event that started with just 36 runners and surfers challenging one another.
This year well over 3 000 runners, paddlers and walkers will follow the same route from Kwelera Mouth to Nahoon Beach, a distance of 17.5km.
Added to these numbers are expected to be at least 500 participants in the Junior Surfers for six- to 14-year-olds and run over 5km with one river swim incorporated.
Both the men’s and women’s races have attracted a star field and the racing is going to be intense.
With the Gonubie and Nahoon Rivers being far less challenging than they were in 2012 the playing fields will be more even between those who are either strong or weak swimmers.
At a media launch at the Majestic Hotel in East London yesterday afternoon, the race convenor, Neville Wilkins, paid tribute to Discovery and their commitment to the race. He confirmed that it has been through their enthusiasm for the race that such huge growth has been achieved.
Jody Foster, Discovery head of sponsorships, in turn said: “The event has proven to be a great success, seeing thousands of people joining the challenge each year. The determination of the community of East London has been remarkable, including the support and encouragement from the residents along Oceanway in Gonubie, who provide makeshift showers, water, cold drinks, music and a helping hand yearin-and-year-out.”
No less than four past winners, Melikaya Sithuba who has a pedigree of a gold medal at the Two Oceans and a 11th-place at Comrades; Mluleki Nobanda a past winner of the Two Oceans; Awonke Bungu last year’s young winner and Doran Fritz are expected to contend the men’s race.
The three winners of women’s event in 2010, 2011 and 2012 will all be in action and hoping the conditions best suit them. Hanlie Botha is in sublime shape, Myrette Filmalter of Pretoria is a seasoned campaigner with a winning spirit and young Jessica Pollock, now running out of Cape Town, has all the enthusiasm of youth to drive her.
Last year the double-ski of Brendon Thompson and Andrew Carter beat the runners for the first time and enthusiasts are debating the merits of another win for the paddlers.
Another race within a race could be the tussle by past Comrades winners Bruce Fordyce and Shaun Meiklejohn.
Registration takes place at the Nutting Hall from February 13 to 16 and Discovery will also be on hand to do various medical checks including blood pressure and cholesterol.