Countdown to 2021 Pete Marlin begins

Within days of opening entries for the two-day Dischem Pete Marlin surfski race in East London on 30 and 31 October, the volume of entrants underscores the popularity of the race and the urgency in the paddling community to make up for the event that was cancelled under the lockdown restrictions last year.

The race was started by the Border paddling community after the death of popular local paddler Pete Marlin on the Umkomaas River in 1989, and has been staged on a wide variety of different formats over the first two decades that it was held in Marlin’s memory, much of it organised by the East London Surf Lifesaving Club.

Many of those races took in stages of the PE to East London surfski marathon course, and the Pete Marlin was even extended to a three day paddle at one stage.

In 2010 the race fell under the control of the Border Canoe Club and was formalised into a two-day event of approximately 22km stages each day, making the best use of the prevailing weather conditions.

With an array of sponsors on board and with the locals primed to deliver typical Border hospitality to paddlers travelling into East London for the race, numbers quickly grew as word of the race’s unique appeal spread, attracting regular entries from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

After hosting the national championships the event became well supported by the elite surfski racing community, underscored by good prize money and incentives on offer.

East London has traditionally been a hot-bed of elite surfski paddlers, and the current pacesetters include national champion Josh Fenn and the husband-and-wife duo of Andy and Nikki Birkett.

This year a total of R130 000 is available in cash prizes, with the male and female podium finishers in all classes sharing equal prize money.

To add further value to the event, paddlers who enter before 15 September will get a free pair of Funky Pants paddling shorts, with a retail value in excess of their race entry fee.