KwaZulu-Natal’s surfski community were treated to a once-a-year paddling spectacle on Sunday, 24 April as the exhilarating Bay Union King of the Bay presented by Zurich, race two of the Bay Union Surfski Series, saw them charge across the waters of Durban harbour and out the mouth to sea.
With new race sponsors in Bay Union and Zurich on board and the unique challenge of the paddling from Stella Canoe Club’s former premises in the harbour’s silt canal, across the port, around Durban’s bay and back to Marine SLC, hundreds gathered to enjoy the rare paddling occasion with smiles aplenty beaming broadly afterwards.
World renowned paddling sensation Hank McGregor took to the front of the field from the outset and refused to relinquish his lead throughout the 22km tussle as he charged home ahead of Epic Kayak’s Matthew Bouman and third place finisher Luke Nisbet.
“It was awesome to see another good field assemble for this year’s King of the Bay and it was great to enjoy such fantastic conditions as well,” said McGregor.
“I opened up a bit of a gap over the others after two kilometers as I wanted to give myself a bit of a buffer and then when we got out the harbour mouth there was a bit of a headwind down to the turning buoy off uMngeni River mouth.
“Once we turned, I still had a decent lead and so I was able to enjoy the downwind leg all the way to the finish.
“The King of the Bay is one of Durban’s real tough races and is a completely unique event so it is great to see Bay Union and Zurich being part of such an iconic race and I’m also really chuffed to have walked away with the win!” added the Epic Kayaks/Mocké Paddling ace.
Last week’s race one winner, Wade Krieger and Steve Woods rounded out the men’s top five while young Bailey de Fondaumiere led Luke Criticos and Brett Evans home in the junior boys’ category.
Durban’s powerful and richly talented women’s surfski contingent took to the harbour’s waters with purpose, all eager to clinch the prestigious race’s title.
In the end Fenn Kayaks/Mocké Paddling’s Nicole Russell was too strong for Carbonology’s Hayley Arthur and Fenn Kayaks’ Jenna Ward while young Kyeta Purchase was the first junior girl home.
“It was a really good, strong field of ladies and we were all together going across the harbour with everyone taking turns to pull,” said Russell.
“Once we got out to sea then Hayley (Nixon) and I managed to get away and I was stoked to end up taking the win, especially having won last year’s race as well.
“The King of the Bay is a very special, Durban race and offers something quite different and unique,” she added.
The province’s highly competitive doubles racing circuit produced yet another fiercely contested affair as Varsity College/Jeep Team SA’s Barry Lewin and Clint Cook overcame the stiff challenge of Gavin Searle and Michael de Rauville while Linton Hope and Bruce Wenke claimed third.
As if spirits weren’t high enough already after the morning’s extra special paddling adventure, Tamryn McKie’s day was made even more memorable when she walked away the winner of the beautiful new Point Water Sports surfski lucky draw prize.
Sunday, 1 May’s Lion of Africa Surf Challenge, race three of the Bay Union Surfski Series takes place at 09h00 at Marine SLC and will again challenge participants in a fresh and exciting manner as their surf skills are put to the test.