Durban - An air of intrigue hangs over the 2017 Gara
Dolphin Coast Challenge on Saturday and Sunday as the major cold front
threatens to whip up huge surf and offshore swells for the two day surfski
event that is doubling as the SA Double Surfski Championships.
The race organisers are playing a waiting game and will confirm the race course
once they assess the surf conditions after the cold front has passed over the
region, committed to making sure the prestigious event takes place but also
putting the safety of the paddlers and their skis as a priority.
With this year's race having the added incentive of being a national title race
and the race is expecting to see some of the finest surfski paddlers lining up
on the start line.
For the race's defending champions, Hank McGregor and Lee
Furby the conditions will not be foreign, however the crews that will be
chasing them are going to make sure that they work for any advantage that they
It is expected that the big pressure will come from the experienced duo of Matt
Bouman and Wade Krieger.
The pair are good friends and have developed a solid
combination over the years, making them a tough nut to crack.
Among other potential podium finishers are the likes of stalwarts Steve Woods
and Luke Nisbet, Jason Ekstrand and Richard Lowe as well as Gene Prato and the
young Bailey de Fondaumiere.
An outside shot at a top place finish might be the young duo of Clinton Cook
and Tyron Maher.
Cook has been in strong form with a positive showing at the
recent SA Marathon Championships and Maher is always a strong competitor.
Despite the fact that there is only one all ladies crew entered into the race
it would have been difficult to bet against the defending champion pair of
Nikki Russell and Jenna Ward.
The pair won the ladies K2 title at the national marathon championships
recently and are in fine form and with their fine surfski pedigree are going to
provide a challenge for many of all-male pairs on the water this weekend.
In the mixed category there are two boats that will square off for the shot at
the national title. The young crew of Brandon van der Walt and Kyeta Purchase
will take on the experienced crew of Shaun Burgin and Donna Winter.
With the amount of training and racing the Van der Walt/Purchase duo have been
doing recently, they will go into the encounter as the favourites for the mixed
Registration from 16:00-18:00 at Suncoast Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club on
Friday before the race.
The Gara Dolphin Coast Challenge takes place on Saturday, August, 19 and Sunday, August 20.