THE Discovery Surfers Challenge may well have started out as a race between a small group of surfers and roadrunners, but the addition of paddling has made for an interesting, if not always equal contest.
The runners have bemoaned high tides from time to time, while the paddlers have on occasion battled into strong westerly winds.
On the other hand strong easterly winds, combined with low tides and rivers, have meant fast times for runners. An extra kilometre added to the run since 2010 has added another dimension, but regardless of conditions, both paddlers and runners want to win.
Only twice have the paddlers gotten the better of the runners and that happened last year when Brendon Thompson and Andrew Carter were the first double-ski combination to cross the finish line. Their winning time was an impressive 68:36.
They were shadowed by another ski carrying Richard and Mathew Tebbutt and they too beat the first runner, Awonke Bungu, albeit by just 17 seconds. While no single ski has ever beaten a runner, the hard-as-nails Hennie Roos was fourth to finish, a mere 15 seconds behind Bungu, sounding a warning for years to come.
Two runners, Zingisile Marikeni and Makaya Masumpa finished just ahead of a second single ski, paddled by Duncan Boyd, while the first mixed double combination of Colin Hall and Lynne MacAllister came in next to really trouble the runners.
Admittedly the conditions favoured the paddlers, but once they have proved to themselves they can win, there is going to be a resounding belief they can do so again. The runners meanwhile must be having creeping doubts.
We asked Andrew Carter to describe the event from the paddlers’ perspective and he said: “Paddling the Surfers Challenge from Yellows to Nahoon is pretty amazing. The views from offshore are spectacular and every once in a while we are joined by a school of dolphins.”
Carter puts some improvement in the paddling category down to the fact that “modern lightweight skis have helped make the rivalry a closer contest”.
The long-term weather forecast suggests mild temperatures with fresh north-easterly winds. That being the case, the game is on.
This year the singles men are looking to make history and the ones to watch include Stevie Woods, Bevin Manson, Roos and one of South Africa’s top paddlers, Richard von Wildermann of Port Elizabeth.
Carter says paddlers do not know how close they are to the runners until the final leg from Bonza Bay to Nahoon, when a clear view of the beach emerges, and the racing intensifies.
Paddlers need to drop off their skis at the Yellow Sands Caravan Park, arriving an hour before the event and checking in with race officials on the beach. A race briefing takes place at 1.30pm and lifejackets as well as leashes are compulsory equipment, while cellphones are advised.
For more information contact Carter on 082-320-2904.