Surfski paddlers will gather at the Silt Canal at the Durban Harbour Bayhead on Sunday morning ahead of the start of the popular annual Bay Union King of the Bay surfski race, which is the only chance in the year that surfski paddlers get to paddle across and out of the Durban harbour mouth.

The iconic 26km race from the old Stella clubhouse across the harbour to a turn buoy off the uMngeni River and back to the DUC clubhouse at Vetch’s Beach always attracts the cream of the surfski racers and a large social paddling field.

Race organiser Neels Meyer of Stella Canoe Club has assured paddlers that the race has measures in place to ensure full compliance with the Canoeing South Africa Covid-19 protocols, and said he was confident of the paddlers full co-operation.

He stressed that the pre-race check procedure would be different to avoid congestion and that paddlers would be required to check into a number of batch pounds for screening, and would be required to wear masks until their batches are called to the water.

“There has been good compliance at the Winter Surfski Series so far, and I am confident that we can count on the paddlers and their seconders to keep that up,” said Meyer.

He asked paddlers to plan around a drop-and-go system at the Bayhead area as parking was very limited and spectators were not allowed at the start and finish venues.

The Bay Union King of the Bay is the fourth race in the Winter Series and is the first of the three longer races that head out into the open ocean.

“All the paddlers doing the long course which goes down to the river mouth and back after exiting the harbour will be expected to have their phones in a dry-bag with SafeTrx loaded onto their phones,” said Meyer.

“This has become the standard for open-ocean races and paddlers understand that this is the best way to look after their safety,” he added.

He added that rules specific to the unusual race across the harbour also needed to be adhered to.

“While we have permission to paddle across the harbour, the paddlers need to stay off the shipping lane, especially staying left as they exit the harbour mouth, and to be vigilant at the point where they cross the shipping lane,” said Meyer.

He also pointed out that paddlers were not allowed to exit their skis to run across the sandbank near the container terminal.

The well-supported Winter Series gradually builds in race distance to help paddlers training for the iconic open-ocean races later in the season, starting with the Pirates-Umhlanga-Pirates on 12 June and culminating in the Scottburgh2Brighton marathon on the last weekend in June.

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