In what is being billed as the most competitive surfski race outside of the world championships, a star-laden field has been confirmed for the Dis-Chem Pete Marlin on 5 and 6 November.
Leading the impressive list of current and former world champions is new world title holder Kenny Rice, who leads a very strong contingent of Western Cape paddlers travelling to the Border for the two days of downwind surfski racing.
Rice finished second last year and is keen to close out his stellar year by adding a Pete Marlin single ski race title to his impressive and growing CV of paddling achievements.
If he is to do that he will have to get the better of multiple world marathon and surfski worlds silver medallist Hank McGregor, the new marathon world title holder Andy Birkett, 2021 world champ and race double-defending champion Nicky Notten, Dom Notten, two-times Under 23 surfski world champ Uli Hart, Border ace and world champs silver medallist Josh Fenn, his younger brother Matt Fenn, fresh from his Fish Under 23 victory, and at least a dozen more elite men capable of threatening the top of the podium.
Add to that mix a vast depth of talent, spearheaded by the likes of siblings Jasper and Dawid Mocké, Dan Jacobs, Durbanites Gene Prato and Wade Krieger and Barry Lewin, who has recently relocated to the Eastern Cape, and the sharp end of the race will be highly competitive.
After South African women secured four places in the top eleven at the recent world champs, the women’s field will provide just as compelling a spectacle for the race followers, but with the news that defending champion Michelle Burn has been forced to pull out of the race after picking up Covid, the stage is set for a fascinating tussle for the women’s honours.
Local trailblazer Nikki Birkett has form and solid local knowledge on her side, and she will be part of one of the deepest women’s fields ever assembled for the race, including the class of Jenna Nisbet, Under 23 world silver medallist Kira Bester, on-form Western Cape ace Melanie van Niekerk, Candice Murray, and the double junior world champ Saskia Hockly, who is eyeing the race as an opportunity to make her mark on the overall women’s podium.
Knysna-raised Chloë Bunnett, who has been taking European surfski paddling by storm racing as a member of the Spanish national team, will return to her familiar stomping ground, and is sure to be in the reckoning as well after her silver medal at the 2022 European Champs.
As so often happens, expect eager young turks in the junior and Under 23 ranks like Jade Wilson, Matt Coetzer, Luke le Roux, Josh Simpkins, Holly Smith and Meridah Dill to rattle the seniors cages in both the singles and doubles races, many of them buoyed by confidence found at impressive showings in Portugal at the recent world champs.
With Saturday deciding the single ski honours, and with it the PW Harvey and Co Eastern Cape Surfski title holders for 2022; the Sunday race focuses the attention on double skis, and all the stars of the S1 race on Saturday will be back in what promises to a condensed and equally thrilling downwind spectacle.