Wade Krieger and Hayley Nixon bagged maximum log points in the series-opening Bay Union Season Starter at Addington Beach on Sunday, making the most of the benign ocean conditions to grind out wins against a big field of surfski enthusiasts.
Krieger was drawn into a tussle with Herman Chalupsky at the front of the men’s single ski race, both eager to take full advantage of the absence of series stalwarts Hank McGregor and Matt Bouman.
Chalupsky took the lead early on in the first lap, consisting of a leg straight out to sea followed by a downwind sector back to eThekwini beach, before Krieger made his move and surged to the front.
“It was a tough race,” said Krieger afterwards. “Herman (Chalupsky) was tactically better in the runs, but I managed to make up that fifteen metres after the turning buoy.
“Then I pulled to the top and I think my surf skills helped in the end and I managed to get onto a wave coming in and run up the beach to the finish to claim the win,” the Team Epic/Falcon World Travel athlete said.
“I like to take it one race at a time,” said Krieger. “I am injury-free at the moment, feeling strong and I can only improve from here.
“Next weekend is the 21km Bay Union King of the Bay, so I will have to taper a bit this week because you can never underestimate that type of distance,” said Krieger.
The women’s title fell to Hayley Nixon in a dominant performance that saw her race to the front early on and consolidate an impressive victory to kick-start a season in which she plans to focus heavily on her surfski racing.
“We had a great tussle on the leg out to the turning can, and as we got into the downwind leg in managed to pull a bit of a gap on Nikki Russell.
“She came back strongly but luckily I was able to maintain the gap and take the win,” said Nixon.
She said that the high standard of racing amongst the elite women who contest the Bay Union Surfski Series was going to make for a very competitive five race programme.
“You are not supposed to come good in the first race of the series because then there is pressure for the rest of the series!” she mused.
The outing was encouraging for Nixon as she sets her sights on a number of international surfski races. It was also a perfect start for her in her new Carbonology team colours, with her team mate Bailey de Foundaumiere adding “Hayley and Bailey” swag to the team haul by winning the junior boys title.
Classy Durban schoolgirl Kyeta Purchase (Fenn Kayaks) romped to a comfortable win the junior girls division, finishing third overall in the women’s race.
Fastest over the 12km long course was the doubles crew of Barry Lewin and Clinton Cook.
The race got the hugely popular winter Sunday morning Bay Union Surfski Series season under way with a bang as a big field of paddlers of all abilities took advantage of the mild surf and gentle ocean conditions to enjoy the series pipe-opener under cool overcast skies.
The race organisers laid on a novel two leg course that took advantage of the prevailing downwind conditions and a novel crossing of Vetch’s Reef on the second lap, as part of a commitment to ensure that each race in the series has unique characteristics and appeal to the regular surfski paddlers.
With an emphasis on fun, there was plenty of friendly banter, with some eager paddlers dressing up in fancy-dress for the occasion.
The second leg of the series is the Bay Union King of the Bay hosted by Stella Canoe Club on Sunday 24 April, which affords surfski paddlers the once-a-year opportunity to paddle across Durban harbour and out through the harbour mouth.