This Friday’s final leg of the 2018 FNB Surfski Series, the Varsity College Surfski Challenge and Varsity College SA Schools Championships, will showcase the best junior surfski paddlers from around the country battling it out for national honours at the Marine Surf Lifesaving Club.
The cream of the Under 18 and Under 16 ocean racing crop will be on the start line in Durban this Friday with a number of 2017’s top achievers returning for a shot at a national title.
Amongst the class of 2018 will be a handful of paddlers that did battle for South Africa at the 2017 ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in Hong Kong.
Young Zara Wood from East London provided one of the paddles of the event for South Africa when she finished third in the Junior Girls category behind fellow South African Sabina Lawrie, who won the title, and Australia’s Georgia Sinclair.
Currently in the Under 16 age group, Wood is going into the contest on Friday with a relaxed attitude and doesn’t feel like she needs to put too much pressure on herself.
“It would be incredible to win the overall girls title and I would love to win but I am going to go and have fun,” she said in the car on her way up to KwaZulu-Natal.
“I have been training hard and I am excited to see who I will be coming up against.
“I know that Amy Peckett is going to be there and she is a very strong paddler so it is going to be an exciting race.”
Checking weather conditions is a vital part of surfski preparations and Wood is hopeful that the conditions on Friday will line up with her ideal ocean racing environment.
“I like big swells with good, long runs and I think that the conditions on Friday are going to be quite similar to what I am used to back home.
“Racing in Durban isn’t very familiar to me but I have an idea having raced their once before,” Wood added.
Amy Peckett will be another force to be reckoned along with her Epworth teammate Car Waud.
One of the paddlers that will be hoping to get himself on top of the Under 18 podium this year is Western Cape star Uli Hart. The youngster took part in the 2017 Ocean Racing World Cup as a replacement and finished fifth in the junior boys division.
“My preparation for this Friday has been good and I am really looking forward to the race,” the SACS pupil mentioned. “I am not too familiar with the conditions in Durban but I know from a few past races that the wind doesn’t tend to blow as much as here in the Cape.
“This means that there might not be as much assistance for us than I am used to so I am preparing for a tough, flat paddle.
“There is often quite a big break to get through and I remember that from SA Schools Champs last year so I am also going to be wary of that!” he added.
The Under 18 Boys showdown is always an exciting one and this year will be no different with a number of paddlers putting their names into the title-winning hat.
From the Eastern Cape, Matthew Fenn will offer up a stern challenge and from a KwaZulu-Natal perspective Brendon Delport and Hamish Mackenzie will be hoping to make an impact on proceedings.