Surfski paddlers are gearing up for the Bay Union King of the Bay surfski race on Sunday 27 May, the only opportunity in the year that paddlers get to paddle out of the mouth of Durban harbour.
Established a decade ago and hosted by Stella Canoe Club, the event starts at the Bayhead Silt Canal, the old home of Stella Canoe Club and allows paddlers in single and double skis and stand-up paddleboarders to paddle the length of the harbour and out between the harbour breakwater piers before turning north.
The competitive paddlers will head out to a turning buoy off the uMngeni River mouth before returning to the Marine SLC clubhouse to complete a 22 kilometre route, while the less fit paddlers have the eleven kilometre short course option that turns into Marine SLC straight after exiting the harbour mouth.
“It is a great event for a number of reasons,” said Stella Canoe Club chair Neels Meyer. “For less experienced paddlers you have flat water of Durban harbour to cross before you get to the breakwater, giving you plenty of time to settle into your ski. Then it is a short paddle to Marine for the less serious paddlers.
“It is a thrill to paddle past and so close to these massive liners and container ships.” he added. “There is always plenty of activity going on in the harbour and the ski paddlers and SUP boarders get to enjoy this up close and personal.”
Meyer added that the port captain was co-operative to ensure that no vessels would be entering or exiting the harbour while the race was under way.
“It is always interesting. There can be a tricky chop that bounces off the harbour walls and the moored ships,” said Meyer.
“Depending on the prevailing weather, there is often a fun swell running into the harbour, which creates bumps that the paddlers have to paddle over on the way out of the breakwater.
“Then once you get to the end of the harbour mouth you are suddenly out in the open ocean, and into the winds and swells that are a staple of open ocean surfski paddling,” he added.
Coming at the end of the popular Pitch And Paddle surfski series, the race is a progression for surfski paddlers getting to grips with the sport, offering slightly longer distances and different technical challenges.
“This is a great occasion in the surfski calendar, and our sponsors Bay Union together with Sika and Métier like to make sure it is great value for money,” said Meyer.
“The first 300 paddlers will get a free superb quality paddling cap, and there is R10 000 up for grabs in prize money as well,” he added.
“With a 9am start, the day is designed around the family,” he said. “It looks like being a super day weather-wise so the rest of the family can enjoy the morning on Addington beach and a relaxed Sunday lunch there as well.”