After her stunning silver medal at the European Surfski Championships in Italy on the weekend, Knysna surfski star Chloë Bunnett has promised to jet back from her adopted home in Spain to take part in the 2022 Dis-Chem Pete Marlin surfski weekend on 5 and 6 November.
The 44 year old has settled in Tenerife in the Canary Islands off Spain, from where she runs her Knysna business, and made her mark at their national champs earlier this month by winning a place in the Spanish surfski team to the European Championships and then the World Championships.
Having done seven Pete Marlins already, the bubbly ace says she won’t miss out on the event in November.
“The Pete Marlin is a very special race, I’ve been made to feel so welcome since the first time I raced there,” she gushed from Cagliari in Italy, where the European Champs are being held. “As well as the whole atmosphere, it is just such a great event that tests your surf skills to the max.”
“The whole coast is amazing,” she added. “Scary, but amazing and I just want to get better and more comfortable on the Wild Coast.
“Each year I come back I feel like I get to know this part of the coastline better and better. One day I’ll master it!” said the Carbonology/Livingsea/Vaikobi athlete.
Bunnett is part of a resurgence of interest in surfski racing in Spain and in Europe generally, and thriving on the depth and standard of competition amongst the female paddlers there.
“We had almost 600 paddlers and over 90 women racing over the different age groups in the second selection race which doubled as the Spanish national championships,” she explained. “That was a record entry and fantastic to see the sport grow, especially amongst the ladies.
“The setup in Spain over the years has definitely helped to increase the numbers in the sport,” she said. “Spanish cups and national championship entry fees are covered by the federation, which encourages more entries and clubs are aided by the federation to bring juniors into the sport.”
She said that her typical training and racing days did not have much in common with a typical day off the Border coastline.
“Most of the races are in the Med, which is stunning but then the swell and waves are smaller,” she said “It is loads of fun and attracts less skilled people to race as well.”
For Bunnett the allure of the Dis-Chem Pete Marlin is two days of exhilarating downwind paddling and the warmth of the Border hospitality.
“What stands out to me is the acknowledgement of all the paddlers at the prize giving, be it a master category podium, overall winners or just a fine for doing something crazy or stupid on the water,” she said.
“It is such a great atmosphere and everyone is involved, to me that will grow our sport and bring everyone together after battling it out on the ocean.”