Races within a race

East London – There is just one week to go until East London becomes the focus of local paddling with the Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski Race crowning the 2023 South African Champions.

A packed field of stars will be lining up for the Saturday’s single ski race that will crown the country’s top paddlers for this year, and then on Sunday the doubles race will decide which crews gets the bragging rights as SA’s top combinations.

However, for those that are not able to challenge for the overall championship or age group titles, there is still plenty of reasons to be competitive in South Africa’s most popular offshore paddling event.

Two “events within an event” in which all paddlers can be competitive – from the racing sharks up front to the weekend guppies at the back – are the fiercely contested inter-provincial competition and The Marlin Legends.

The inter-provincial competition, which only takes Saturday’s singles results into consideration, was introduced in 2022 with the Western Cape Canoe Union claiming the inaugural title. Led by a strong showing in the senior and junior categories, the Western Cape visitors finished on 88 points to win by 32 points.

Despite Hank McGregor and Saskia Hockly winning the men’s and women’s overall races for KZN, the province could only amass 56 points for second, just ten points ahead of the Eastern Cape hosts.

Inter-provincial points are awarded to the top ten positions overall (10 points down to one) for men and women, and the top three in each age category (three down to one).

This year, KZN once again have a huge contingent of paddlers making the journey to East London, and with almost 100 entrants they will probably be marginal favourites to claim the 2023 inter-provincial title.

The strong Western Cape contingent of about 60 paddlers are a group of mostly quality-over-quantity entries and the points structure means they are sure to be contenders for the inter-provincial title once again.

It is not surprising the local Eastern Cape clubs have the biggest entry of well over 100 paddlers, while there are almost 30 inland paddlers from Gauteng and at least seven international entrants.

The second group of paddlers who will be striving to make sure they earn some coveted bragging rights are The Marling Legends who have completed 10 or more Peter Marlins.

There is a group of 12 paddlers who have finished all the Pete Marlin Surfski Races since accurate records of finishers have been recorded and updated over the past 12 events. Another 18 paddlers have finished 11 races, and 14 who have taken part in 10.

All 12 of the entrants who have finished the past 12 will be aiming to make that a lucky 13 with all of those “Marlin Legends” entered into the 2023 event.

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