East London – The weather conditions for the Dis-Chem Pete Marlin surfski weekend off the Border coastline look set to deliver optimal downwind paddling conditions for the huge field of paddlers converging on East London this weekend from every corner of the country.
With a steady South Westerly wind forecast for the weekend the event organisers will in all likelihood stage the singles race on Saturday, that will also host the PW Harvey and Co Eastern Cape single ski championships, from Orient Beach to Yellow Sands.
That 22 kilometre outing will be the same course used for last year’s thriller, offering excellent downwind paddling and the challenge of a number of reef and point breaks.
In last year’s humdinger duel Hank McGregor gambled by taking an inside line at Kwelera Point within sight of the finish at Yellow Sands and got dumped by a big wave, which meant he could only watch from the rocks as Nicky Notten, Kenny Rice, Jasper Mocké and Josh Fenn raced into the finish.
The course for Sunday’s doubles race will be set nearer the time, with the race field kept abreast through the event social media channels and WhatsApp group.
The huge entry is laced with some of the world’s best elite men and women, and will deliver one of the year’s most competitive surfski showdowns, with a prize pool of R135 650 on offer.
New lifesaving surfski world champion Mark Keeling has joined the race at the eleventh hour, where he will line up alongside several current or recent world champion paddlers including the new ICF Ocean racing world champ Kenny Rice.
There will be a new name on the women’s trophy, as defending champion Michelle Burn confirmed she wont be racing as she battles to shrug off the dose of Covid she picked up at the surfski world champs in Portugal recently.
But for many the allure of the Dis-Chem Pete Marlin weekend is as much about the Border hospitality as it is about two days of excellent downwind surfski paddling.
A strong contingent of regular surfski paddlers will travel from KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, while the event always attracts a hardy group on Gauteng paddlers, fondly known as the Transvaal Navy.
The event hosts have introduced a new inter-provincial trophy that will pool points from the results across all the age groups to determine the inaugural provincial champions.
The Border Canoe Club ensures the entire weekend is memorable, from arranging home-stays for the out-of-town paddlers, to a social registration and a Saturday afternoon focussed on live music and watching the telecast of the Springboks playing Ireland.
The race is staged every year in memory of Pete Marlin, a popular Border paddler who died paddling on the Umkomaas River in 1989. For the first two decades it was run by the East London Surf Lifesaving club and its format changed year-on-year, often using sections of the route used for the four day PE to East London surfski race.
In 2010 the Border Canoe Club took over the running of the event, and formalised it into a weekend of two individual races of approximately 20 kilometres taking best advantage of the prevailing weather to offer the best downwind paddling conditions.