Paddling fraternity and community rally behind missing paddler

The Dischem Automall Pete Marlin Surfski Race was rocked by the disappearance of one of the paddlers during the race on Saturday but with the help of the local community a huge search party was deployed in an attempt to locate Mark Feather who remains lost however the search for him will continue.

The Johannesburg paddler went missing after apparently completing almost the entire race. His cellphone was tracked close to the finish of Saturday’s race but he never reached the finish.

His damaged ski was found early on Sunday in Morgan Bay, some twenty kilometres beyond the race finish.

Once it was clear that he had not reached the finish safely the organisers convened a massive search effort that included land, sea and air based spotters. They were joined by numerous other aircraft and boats supplied by concerned members of the public, entirely at their own expense.

The search party did not relent in its efforts on Sunday as hopes of finding Feather safe and in good health dimmed with over 200 people made up of paddlers and the community assisted the local NSRI to continue the search on the beach as well as in the air.

The NSRI have been instrumental in the search to date and have been vital in extending the parameters of the search up into the Transkei by rallying the 4×4 community of East London to help in the search for Feather.

The paddlers support in the search for the missing paddler was immense as a number of them were not present at the prize giving because they were searching for Feather and Van Wyk was grateful for the assistance from the paddlers and from the local community. Out of respect and to allow fellow paddlers to continue to conduct searches, the event and planned doubles race for the Sunday was cancelled.

Race organiser Charl van Wyk maintained that all protocol was observed in the build-up to the race but following the disappearance of Feather the support from the paddling community was overwhelming.

“The search really is unprecedented!” race organiser Van Wyk said. “We have had seven aircraft in the air and the search began briskly an hour and a half after we were aware that Mark had gone missing.

“Having 200 paddlers ready to help out at 5am this morning was hugely humbling for us and with people searching up and down the coast we feel that everything has been done from us to locate Mark,” Van Wyk added.

The search has now become one that is the responsibility of the South African Police services and will continue on Monday.