World’s oldest Surfski race to set Durban alight

The 2018 Pirates Umhlanga Pirates surfski race, acknowledged as the world’s oldest surfski race is set to get underway in cracking conditions at Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club on Saturday and will see the cream of Durban’s surfski crop taking part over 24km.

Amongst one of the top contenders at the race is the current women’s surfski world champion Hayley Nixon, who has recently returned from winning the women’s race at the Molokai Challenge in Hawaii.

“It’s great to be lining up for one of Durban and the world’s most iconic surfski races this weekend,” the Carbonology/Euro Steel athlete said.

“It’s very special being involved in such a long-standing Durban tradition and it’s incredible that it has been going on for 60 years!”

Conditions are set to be very mild for the showdown up the north coast and back on Saturday, but Nixon and her experience suggests that conditions at Pirates could be hugely different to those predicted.

“Never believe Wind Guru when looking at the weather for Pirates!” Nixon mentioned with a laugh.

“You really never know what you are going to get and Pirates always seems to produce a wave or two!”

With the race moving into the longer distance category, energy conservation for the paddle home is crucial and going into the event with a sound race plan is a major focus for Nixon as she prepares for all possibilities.

“It’s nice to have an out-and-back race where you have to use more than just one set of skills with a headwind section and hopefully a bit of a bump for the downwind leg.

“The 24km race means that you have to box smartly and make sure you don’t go out too hard at the start and have nothing for the way back.”

Next weekend will see the nation’s top canoe marathon paddlers fight it out for a spot on the sought-after national team for the world championships so Nixon feels there might not be too much stiff competition, however she is using it as important preparation for the flat-water championships.

“I know that a lot of the girls will be focusing on marathons but I see this as an awesome opportunity to have one last, good two hour grind before next weekend.

“Racing in a surfski also just changes things up and gets you off the flat water for a bit, which I am excited about,” she added.

Nixon’s result at the Molokai has reaffirmed her prowess as the leading lady in surfski paddling worldwide. With a week to reflect on the win, she is grateful that she was given the chance to race against the world’s best in one of the world’s most iconic races.

“To have my husband there was one in a million and I am extremely grateful that we were able to get to Hawaii and the faith that Shaw and Partners showed in me was enough motivation for me to win.”

The men’s race at the Pirates Umhlanga Pirates is set to be an exciting showdown as the city’s regulars are all expected to be on the start line on Saturday morning.

With the likes of Hank McGregor, Matt Bouman, Wade Krieger and relative newbie Andy Birkett, the race is set to be an exciting showdown all the way to Umhlanga and back.

Racing starts at 07:00 on Saturday from the Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club.