Giant swell two days ahead of Dunlop Surfski World Cup
Amidst a backdrop of volatile weather forecasts and uncertainty hanging over the participation of a number of top title contenders, the Dunlop Surfski World Cup on Sunday is shrouded in intrigue and anticipation.
After a rollercoaster build-up week during which time the forecast conditions have switched from a gale force South-Wester to almost totally becalmed, the 26km race from Marine SLC at Addington beach to Umdloti will be a balanced test of downwind skill and endurance.
Event organiser Billy Harker says “What a radical vibe there is in Durban ahead of the Dunlop Surfski World Cup Weekend. As I write the surf in Durban is cranking 10-12 foot, gnarly top to bottom BOMBS. Only about five surfers went out yesterday. The Mound (an area about 1km out to sea where the dredgers drop their sand loads) is breaking at 15 feet!”
Add to this the human element and a race of epic proportions is expected. The man who lost the race up the beach to Dawid Mocké last year Matt Bouman has been in superb form this winter, but he may well pull out on the eve of the race if he is committed to the national sprint team.
Bouman has been in and out of favour with the sprint selectors, but with just months to go to the 2012 Olympic qualification event his brawn and speed looks set to be required for the men’s K4 crew currently being cobbled together at the national sprint training camp.
Bouman is itching to race the Dunlop Surfski World Cup but if the call is made by his sprint coach and the national selectors, he will have to withdraw from the race that he so passionately wants to win.
2009 champ Clint “Laaitie” Pretorius has also been sidelined in the week leading up to the event by a freak injury to his shoulder after coming off his mountain bike on a steep downhill.
“I should be okay to race on Sunday but my physio has advised me to rest as much as possible before the race,” said an otherwise very fit looking Pretorius. “I went for a short paddle, and the shoulder was bit sore, but I am hoping that everything will be fine by Sunday.”
Two time winner Hank McGregor’s build-up to the event has been far smoother, and he has been spending long hours training as part of his bid to win the Dunlop Surfski World Cup and the Windhoek Berg River canoe marathon titles in the space of three weeks.
Fronting a massively strong contingent of Cape title challengers is the husband and wife duo of Dawid and Nikki Mocké who swept the boards at last year’s event.
Add to that the younger Mocké sibling Jasper, the powerhouse Tom Schilperoort, who was second in the gruelling Molokai Challenge in Hawaii recently, and the impressive Sean Rice, and the chances of a Cape dominance of the podium is particularly strong.
“My build-up to the race has been perfect and I am as fit as I have ever been,” said Dawid Mocké. “It seems to me that the overall level of ski racing in the country has gone up a notch or two in the last few months, so it should be a very exciting race.”
“There are two races in the world that do justice to top level downwind racing, the Perth World Cup and the Dunlop Surfski World Cup in Durban. I can’t wait for the race on Sunday,” he added.
The international challenge will be fronted by Frenchman Yannick Laousse, while seasoned Australian icon Dean Gardiner heads up a four man challenge from Down Under. Paddlers from the UK, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Brazil will also be on the startline.
The women’s race will be a fascinating and all-too-rare meeting of last year’s winner Nikki Mocké, the rampant Plettenberg Bay ace Michéle Eray and the top Australian all-rounder Ruth Highman, with local stars Donna Winter and sprinters Tiffany Kruger and Michelle Eder sure to be in the wings throughout the race.
Mocké’s preparation for the defence of her title has also been far from ideal, after breaking her foot in a freak accident during lifesaving training at Fish Hoek, leaving her on crutches for ten weeks.
The junior race is also shaping up to be a thriller, albeit consumed by the overall race. Kenny Rice, the younger brother of Sean Rice, the young SA Schools champ Dom Notten and his sister Anna Notten will put the local youngsters Gene Prato, Lyall Whitehead and Kelvin McKie under severe pressure to make the podium their own.
Around 350 paddlers will line-up for the event, which is a new world record for an international surfski race, eclipsing the 298 set at last year’s Dunlop Surfski World Cup.
The Dunlop Surfski World Cup takes place on Sunday 26 June from Marine SLC at Addington beach.
More info can be found at www.surfski.co.za