Jasper Mocké and Hayley Nixon were crowned the SA single surfski champions at the Pete Marlin surfski race on Saturday morning in sharply contrasting races that ended at Nahoon beach in East London.
Mocké was locked in a titanic duel in a fast-paced three ski front bunch that included Hank McGregor and Kenny Rice in what was always going to be a flat-out sprint given the short distance and following seas.
Mocké, who came into the race as the defending champion after winning the crown at the FNB Durban Downwind last year, opted for a deep sea line with Nick Notten, while McGregor and Rice stayed closer inshore.
“I got into a great rhythm in the middle section of the race and got ahead of Nick, who had taken off at a hundred miles an hour,” said Mocké.
“After the Yellow Sands point I decided to shift tactics and head back inshore and we started to catch some decent groundswell coming into Nahoon. It was quite messy going inside the Three Sisters reef.
“I didn’t know it but Hank caught the same wave as I did coming into the finish, but he was a couple of hundred metres further down the beach.
“It was a repeat of what happened at Marine at last year’s race where I managed to paddle right to the finish and Hank was left running op the beach,” said Mocké.
McGregor duly wrapped up the silver medal and Kenny Rice the bronze, edging out Notten who had stayed on a deep sea line for much of the fast outing.
Nixon, in sharp contrast, was able to assert her dominance early on and the current world champ cantered home to take the women’s title unchallenged.
She started keeping a close eye on a strong women’s field that included Nikki Birkett, Bridgitte Hartley and Jenna Ward.
“Bridgitte (Hartley) started really well and I stayed with her, and after four or five kilometres I was very conscious of Jenna Ward, who was racing brilliantly in a new ski and always seemed to be just over my shoulder,” said Nixon.
She pulled away after the halfway point in the short race, racing with some of the elite men who had started catching the B batch paddlers.
“It was quite fun because I was pacing myself with Andy Birkett for a while and then Gene Prato,” said Nixon.
“I was lucky to have an East London local with me at the end so I could follow his line into the finish at Nahoon, which rounded of an awesome race,” she said.
The win was particularly gratifying for Nixon, who has now finally managed to win the SA surfski title, some time after she won the world title.
“We have all been having a good laugh about that!” she said. “But this means a massive amount to me. I am so stoked. I feel like I have finally earned my stripes,” she said.
She heaped praise on the race organisers for getting the balance right between delivering an exciting downwind race and ensuring the safety of every participant.
The race was contested over 19km from Glen Eden beach to Nahoon, the early start delivered a moderate North Easterly winds and swell for the big field of singles paddlers. The double ski race takes on Sunday morning.