After being forced to postpone two months ago, the ‘reloaded’ Bay Union King of the Bay, will probably see a new champion crowned as KZN’s top surfski paddlers fight it out over the 22km course on Sunday, 4 August.
The race had to be moved from its original date due to the severe floods experienced in the Durban area in early May.
The event often draws a large entry due to its unique start at the Silt Canal in the Durban harbour from where paddlers take on eight kilometres of flat water that traverses the length of the harbour before exiting through the harbour breakwaters.
After leaving the shelter of the iconic East Coast port the paddlers then race out and back to the uMgeni River mouth before finishing at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club.
The race was won last year by Andy Birkett, but the river marathon world champ, who now lives in East London, will be racing in the Sella Descent in Spain over that weekend, where he and Hank McGregor will be aiming to win the K2 title on the 50th anniversary of the first South African crew to claim the title.
Despite McGregor’s absence and that of other pacesetters like Matt Bouman, Durban boasts some of the country’s best surfski racers and they will be expected on the Bay Union King of the Bay start line.
Former winner Brandon van der Walt, Luke Nisbett and Gene Prato will more than likely be there to fight it out however there is another group of paddlers coming through that should provide a stern test.
Tyron Maher has been in good form and recently won the Berg River Canoe Marathon team title with Hamish Lovemore.
Lovemore is no stranger to Durban surfski races and will be keen to be in the thick of the action at this year’s King of the Bay.
Van der Walt and Maher teamed up to take the Geriatski’s Doubles race over the weekend. It was Van der Walt’s second win of the 2019 Bay Union Ocean Surfski Challenge series following his win at the Citadel race the week before.
Van der Walt last won the King of the Bay title in 2017 when he beat last year’s champion Birkett in an exciting end sprint and the current Master in Charge of Canoeing at Maritzburg College is in fine form.
The fact that the KZN singles title will also be on the line is sure to entice the best of the local men available on the day down to the silt canal start on the Bluff side of the harbour.