Durban – The much anticipated 2016 surfski season on the KwaZulu-Natal coast got underway on Friday evening when 275 of Durban's eager surfski community tackled the FNB Surfski Challenge, race one of the Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series, a clash that also saw Matt Bouman and Kyeta Purchase open their accounts with early season race victories.
A string of strong showings in the final few clashes of the Western Cape season in late December and a return to his favoured Indian Ocean waters, Epic Kayaks’ Bouman was full of confidence ahead of the commencement of the Durban season and made light work of his nearest rivals in the idyllically flat and novice-friendly conditions.
Bouman charged home ahead of former surf lifesaving sensation and ever-improving surfski ace Wade Krieger and Gene Prato while Jason Ekstrand secured fourth position and Grand Master flyer Lee McGregor secured yet another remarkable result as he rounded out the top five.
The women’s clash was another display of the extraordinary depth of ladies paddling talent in Durban with the race signaling another significant milestone in the series' history as the growth in depth in women's paddling in the region of late saw the series offer a dedicated ladies batch for the first time ever.
Up front, junior sensation Purchase edged out Fenn Kayaks team Jenna Ward for victory while emerging star Hayley Arthur claimed third place ahead of Donna Tutton and Sabina Lawrie while Sharon Armstrong and Lynne Hauptfleisch edged out Kelly Biljoen and Wilma Deysel in the women’s doubles race.
“Conditions were absolutely perfect, you couldn't have asked for better!” said Purchase. “There was a small wave on the way out and then a slight bump - which you had to work quite hard to catch - on the way down to the bottom can, and then very manageable surf on the way in again.”
“I'm training with the seniors every day so it’s nice to be able to mix it up with them and compare where I am against them in the races too.
"I've been training really hard during the festive season - twice a day, every day - so I've got a good base, even if I am a little tired, coming into the series!
“The Marine Surfski Series is my favourite series of them all, the one I enjoy the most, so it would be nice to try win it this year, even though I am still a junior!” she added.
Durban’s legendary doubles racing scene served up yet another tough contest as the mixed crew of Brandon van der Walt, now based in Cape Town, and Ward’s 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon partner, Vanda Kiszli of Hungary held of the veteran pairs of Linton Hope and Zoog Haynes and Lee Muir and Shaun Burgin.
Van der Walt’s older brother Grant, himself a former Marine Surfski Series top contender, was another familiar face making a welcome to the mix return via the mixed doubles category as he and girlfriend Heidi Bird tackled the 8km challenge while former surfski stars Daryl and Danica Bartho also enjoyed a share of the action when they tackled the stand up paddleboard (SUP) contest.
The 4km short course also saw some tight racing unfold with Patrick McNeill clinching the win in the singles race while Bruce and Matthew Pender-Smith were the first double across the line.
The Borland Surfski Challenge presented by Marriott, race two of the 2016 Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series, takes place at 17h30 on Friday, 15 January at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club, Addington Beach. More information can be found at www.marineseries.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS - FNB SURFSKI CHALLENGE
1.Matt Bouman 35.45
2.Wade Krieger 36.18
3.Gene Prato 38.01
4.Jason Ekstrand 38.28
5.Lee McGregor 39.05
6.Irvin Dixon 39.09
7.Luke Criticos (U18) 39.11
8.Oliver Burn 39.49
9.Bailey de Fondaumiere 40.02 (U18)
10.Clinton Cook 40.14
1.Kyeta Purchase (U18) 42.09
2.Jenna Ward 42.13
3.Hayley Arthur 42.38
4.Donna Tutton 43.58
5.Sabina Lawrie 48.06
1.Brandon van der Walt/Vanda Kiszli (HUN) (Mixed) 36.48
2.Linton Hope/Zoog Haynes 37.21
3.Lee Muir/Shaun Burgin 38.45
4.Derek Holmes/Gavin Searle 39.07
5.Matthew Elliott/Jody Taylor 39.19
1.Brandon van der Walt/Vanda Kiszli (HUN) 36.48
2.Shaun Dias/Anke Malan 41.54
3.Thando Thusi/Lauren Coleby 42.18
4.Grant van der Walt/Heidi Bird 43.55
5.Yohan Keulder/Louisa van Staden 44.21
1.Sharon Armstrong/Lynne Hauptfleisch 49.41
2.Kelly Biljoen/Wilma Deysel 51.09
1.Patrick McNeill 24.36
2.Keaton Riddle 25.26
3.Lucky Mabuya 25.43
1.Bruce Pender-Smith/Matthew Pender-Smith 24.01
2.Bruce Robertson/Kim Robertson 26.46
3.Patrick Palmer/Brandon Palmer 27.16