History

Pete Marlin was a charismatic, high energy free spirit who loved wild places and adventures which he found aplenty in the rivers and seas of the rugged and magnificent coastline of the Eastern Cape. He went to school at Queens College arguably one of the best rugby schools at that time in the country. He qualified as a civil engineer at Natal University and there after moved to East London. He joined a small of small group of intrepid, pioneering kayakers and paddlers who began to explore every river that could be paddled in the Eastern Cape. Pete’s free spirit and love for adventure endeared him to a beautiful young teacher, Sheryle whom he married. Sheryle is now married to another paddling legend and renowned fisherman Peter Meyer.

In 1989 the small paddling community, family and friends from around the country were shocked by the tragic news that Pete had lost his life whilst paddling on the Umkomaas which derives its name from a zulu legend and is known as the river of chiefs and the place of cows. This tragic event sowed the seeds for a race in memory of Pete and was organized by his band of fellow paddlers. This race has become an iconic event on the surfski calendar in South Africa. It has grown exponentially drawing paddlers from around the country and internationally. It has hosted the South African surfski champs three times and been part of the ICF world surfski series.

Tribute is paid to another popular paddler, Mark Feather, who tragically lost his life and is sorely missed by all paddlers, this surfski race thus  holds special sentiment to many who paddle!

The race is generally a 22km course from Yellow Sands, East of East London, to the Nahoon or Orient beach subject to weather conditions. Past winners have included Bevan Manson, Richard von Wilderman, Dawid Mocke, Matt Bouman, Barry Lewin, Grant van der Walt, Nikki Mocke, Nikki Birkett, Hank McGregor, Michelle Burn, Jasper Mocke, Hayley Nixon and Nicholas Notten. Every paddler who has had the privilege of participating in the race and been exposed to this exquisitely beautiful coastline, has gone away with incredibly rich memories of a friendly, welcoming, hospitable community, whom gladly open up their homes to host paddlers from out of town!

The professionalism and organization of the race has been a result of the commitment and leadership of Charl and Bernice van Wyk and their team, who are primarily surfski paddlers themselves, passionate about the sport of surfski and its future growth! We would like to thank the Transvaal Navy paddlers from Gauteng, who make the trip down to East London annually and bring with them an abundance of banter and camaraderie, as well as fellow Natal paddlers; and both Eastern and Western Cape paddlers!!