East London – The Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski Race takes on a double dose of added significance in 2023 when the country’s top ocean racing paddlers will be fighting for both S1 and S2 national titles in East London on November 4-5.
Entries opened on Monday for the weekend of downwind surfski paddling off East London that has acquired something of a cult following within the surfski communities. Every year the two-day downwind event attracts a huge field of paddlers from Cape Town, Durban and even a big contingent of inland paddlers.
The event has built its massive popularity on the back of organisers who aim to give paddlers the best possible paddling courses. The two-days of downwind racing are designed to offer optimal following winds and seas, while ensuring that the entire field is safe in the conditions.
Couched in typical Border hospitality, the event revolves around a single-ski race on the Saturday, followed by a double-ski race on the Sunday. This format means this year Canoeing SA has awarded the two-day event SA Championship status, giving paddlers the extra incentive of two national titles for one weekend of racing.
And there is another temptation for the elite paddlers to enter, with the dates slotting in perfectly with preparations for the ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships in Perth, Australia, on December 1-2.
The friendly dates mean defending singles champion, Hank McGregor, will be able to use the East London classic as a top-level race just before he jets down under with the aim of winning the only accolade missing from his bulging trophy cabinet: A World Championship Gold Medal.
McGregor, who also won the East London event in 2016, has made Perth his target for the year, and that means he is probably going to be one of the first entrants to submit his name as a contender for the Biogen Pete Marlin, along with current defending doubles champions Andy Birkett and Nicky Notten.
The race has deservedly earned a reputation for superb downwind paddling and after the perfect conditions in recent years, most of the country’s best elite men and women are sure to have made it a priority to plan the trip to the Border region for the Pete Marlin weekend.
However, this event is also known for its unrivalled Eastern Cape hospitality, and the top paddlers’ entries are far out-weighed every year by the droves of recreational surfski fanatics who, once they have tasted the Border downwind thrills, make an annual return for the weekend surfski festival.
The 2023 Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski Race will take place on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 November in East London.