East London – With a month to go and already a record field of surfski paddlers entered, East London paddlers are excited to welcome the visitors from every corner of the country to the iconic Dischem Pete Marlin weekend of races on 30 and 31 October.
Andy Birkett, who is riding the crest of a wave after winning the Berg and Breede river races in recent months, says the local paddlers are training hard and eager to prove themselves against some of the best paddlers in the country.
“There are a number of training squads in East London, and everyone is frothing for the Pete Marlin,” said Birkett. “Our regular squad is going well and we mix it up between ski paddles if the conditions are good or river sessions.
“There are a bunch of other training squads, like the Ballies and the Fattis and Monis squads, and they are all amped for the Pete Marlin weekend,” added the Euro Steel star.
Birkett will be one of a number of singles titles contenders, and having signed up Nick Notten as a partner, he will be a serious contender for a possible doubles title as well.
His wife Nikki Birkett will share similar attention in the women’s race, and has set the family up well for a successful weekend, having entered the women‘s doubles race with new surfski world champion Michelle Burn.
But Birkett says that won’t add any pressure to the expectations of a hometown champion, as he says there are a number of Border paddlers that will be in contention.
“It is very competitive! We have a great depth of paddlers across the age groups, and with people like Josh Fenn, Luke Swinney and Steve Woods going well at the moment, it takes some of the pressure off us!” said Birkett.
The Birketts are looking forward to the biggest paddling event of the year in East London and are confident that the weather will deliver great racing conditions.
“Since I have moved to East London I have seen that there is always a good downwind to paddle here, and we are spoilt for options,” said Birkett.
“It is probably a combination of having missed out on a lot of paddling events due to Covid, and the reputation that this event has, but there is such a great buzz around amongst the Border paddlers.
“It is going to be a great month, with the Fish on the 8th and 9th of October and then the Pete Marlin three weeks later. We can’t wait,” he concluded.