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Surfski | World's best coming to Durban for SA Surfski Champs

paddling superstar Hank McGregor

Paddling Superstar Hank McGregor

DURBAN – In just over a month's time the country's elite surfski paddlers will be fighting for South African titles at the 2024 SA Surfski Championships off the coast of Durban, but the top contenders will be forgiven for having an eye on glory on the world stage.

The field that is sure to be loaded with an excess of South Africa's international stars, including a surplus of elite and age group World Championship medallists that includes Hank McGregor, Josh Fenn, Matt Fenn, Nic Notten, Kenny Rice, Uli Hart, Kira Bester, Melanie Van Niekerk, Michelle Burn, Nikki Birkett and Saskia Hockly.

That is sure to make the racing intense for the two days of downwind action in the singles and doubles races for men and women, but there are a couple of extra World Championship-based incentives to tempt the country's best to be on top form on July 13-14.

downwind conditions at the SA Surfski ChampionshipsPaddlers can expect some great downwind conditions at the SA Surfski Championships in July.

Firstly the event is the selection event for the 2024 World Championships to be held in Madeira Portugal on October 3-6 and so the racing is sure to be a no-holds-barred contest as paddlers fight for places in probably the world's strongest surfski squad.

The 2024 SA Surfski Championships in Durban is also a test event for the 2025 World Championships which will be held at the same venue, and so the country's top paddlers will also be keen to get a preview of the potential courses under race conditions.

Depending on wind conditions, the likely course for both the S1 (singles) or S2 (doubles) events both now and the 2025 World Champs will be either Durban to Umdloti in a south-west wind, or Durban to Toti in a north east wind.

Such is the strength of South African surfski paddling that picking a winner for events each weekend is something of a lottery, but it is always a good bet to put some money on Hank McGregor for the win. Although the multiple World Canoeing Champion is yet to claim a corresponding surfski title, the evergreen 46-year-old does have a frustrating record of three runners-up finishes, including the two most recent World Championships in 2022 and 2023.

"We are so excited to be hosting the South African Surfski Champs in Durban this year," said event organiser Dave Harker. "This event has a double role in that we will be deciding the national champions, while also testing everything as we prepare for the 2025 World Championships.

"South Africa has an incredible record in world championships, with loads of world champions at the elite level, as well as the key age-group categories like U23 and juniors. With that in mind, I think it is fair to say South Africa, along with Australia maybe, is the top ski paddling country in the world, so it is about time we got to host the World Champs and gave our local fans the chance to see some South Africans being crowned with world titles.

"The courses we have selected will provide paddlers and spectators with some great downwind action and it will be great to give people a sneak preview on July 13-14 when we have an amazing selection of world champions fighting for SA titles and SA team selection," added Harker.

The "race village" will be based at the Durban Underwater Club with the final race corses decided once prevailing wind conditions for each day are known. The singles race is provisionally scheduled for Saturday, July 13 with the doubles race pencilled in for Sunday, July 14, but dependent on weather conditions the events could be switched to ensure the best conditions for racing.

The 2024 SA Surfski Championships is also the second leg of the lucrative Euro Steel Surfski TRPL Crown, a new three-event series made up of the country's biggest surfski events. The other two events are the Prescient Freedom Paddle in Cape Town, which took place in April, and the Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski Race in East London in November.

Entries are open on the Canoeing South Africa entry portal at paddler.canoesa.com

Waveski, Durban, Surfski

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