Surf Ski Mayhem in South Africa
(Photos/information courtesy of www.surfski.info)
Leave it to the South Africans to turn an otherwise tranquil surf ski race into a carnage-fest. Such was certainly the case in the recent Winklespruit leg of the Discovery Men’s Health Surf Ski series in Durban, South Africa, in early June when only 31 paddlers out of 150 got out through the boat-and ego-breaking, bigger-than-Oscar-Chalupsky surf.
In the end, Hank McGregor triumphed in tough conditions that saw less than twenty percent of the field successfully complete the 15-kilometer race. Two stalwart competitors, meanwhile, Dawid Mocke and Clint Pretorius, were so trashed in the pounding surf, and sidetracked by a rescue, that they never even made it out in time for the event’s start.
With a strong easterly wind, and a heavy six-foot swell breaking at Winklespruit, the race format was changed from a beach start to a deep-water start, allowing the field fifteen minutes to try and get through the big surf. Scores of paddlers were dumped in their attempts to get out to the backline, resulting in a huge percentage of withdrawals, including established surf ski racing stars Dawid Mocke, Brett Bartho and 2006 Molokai champion Clint Pretorius.
While they were attempting to get through the heavy midbreak, Mocke and Pretorius spotted a novice paddler in serious trouble. The duo, both seasoned lifesavers, abandoned their race to rescue the struggling paddler and bring him back to shore safely. “Luckily, he was wearing a PFD,” says Mocke, adding that there were also a number of other paddlers and lifeguards on duty. “If not he would definitely have gone under. By the time we got to him he was totally exhausted from getting dumped in the break.”
Meanwhile, competitor Konrad Karcz had his own problems while trying to get out through the surf (see photos). “I managed to roll under two waves as they broke on me,” he says, “but on remounting after rolling a third time my boat was wrecked.”
The surf was so annihilating that it also affected far more than paddlers. The day before the race, a bystander drove down onto the beach and then couldn’t start his car. When the tide came the surf crushed it to smithereens.
Fortunately for competitors and organizers, the 12-km. leg six of the Discovery Men’s Health Surf Ski series took place the following Sunday, which offered far easier conditions from the launch at Ushaka beach.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1.Hank McGregor 53:34
2.Matt Bouman 53:52
3.Barry Lewin 54:31
4.Steve Woods 54:32
5.Daryl Bartho 54:40
1.Belinda Carbutt 1:13:38
1.Scott Rutherfoord/Wayne Wilson 54:02
Info: www.surfski.info; www.surfski.co.za