With Portugal hosting the 2018 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships next weekend, a segment of the traditionally large South African contingent of paddlers have flown out early to include the 2018 Nelo Summer Challenge surfski race on Friday as part of their Iberian paddling extravaganza.
The ocean racing event is one of the biggest in Europe and is one of the most prestigious titles on offer so for a number of those taking part in the World Marathon Championships it was a race that could not be missed.
Amongst the huge entry of South African paddlers is a strong elite men’s contingent that includes the Mocké brothers, Dawid and Jasper, the Rice brothers, Sean and Kenny, as well as multiple marathon world champion Hank McGregor.
From the quintet, McGregor, Jasper Mocké and Kenny Rice will be racing in the World Marathon Championships. Mocké in the men’s K1 race on Saturday, however Rice and McGregor will have an extra day to recover as they race in the K2 event next Sunday.
The local surfski scene has continued to tick over with the Western Cape being the hive of activity in the winter months so expect the Western Cape’s Mocké and Rice brothers to be well tuned when they start this weekend.
McGregor recently teamed up with Andy Birkett to win the recent Gara Dolphin Coast Challenge, and the Euro Steel pair has thoroughly enjoyed mixing up surf ski races with their flatwater marathon training.
There will be five South African ladies taking on the Nelo Summer Challenge; however there might be no need to look further than Hayley Nixon for your champion-to-be.
The Euro Steel/Viakobi athlete has been in sublime form this year and will want to continue her dominance in the ocean before she teams up with the young Christie Mackenzie for the women’s K2 race at the marathon world championships.
In the senior ranks, recent sprint bronze medal winner Bridgitte Hartley will be out to show her incredible diversity in a boat. Hartley won bronze in the women’s K1 1000m at the sprint world championships this past weekend and will hop in a surfski hoping to upset some of the title contenders.
Hartley will also be racing in the flat-water marathon championships next week in the women’s K1 and K2 races.
Also mounting a bid will be the young and current junior ocean racing world champion Sabina Lawrie. Lawrie, who will be racing in the Under 23 age category at the flat-water marathon worlds, will be hoping that she can press for a top position this weekend.
Also taking part is young Zara Wood, who has proved herself as a force to be reckoned with in the ocean and on flat water. The youngster from East London has the opportunity to gain valuable experience from the world’s best ocean racers. She too will then venture on to Prado Vila Verde for the marathon showdown.
Dozens of other South African paddlers have entered the Nelo Summer Challenge, and will show off the depth of paddling across all the ages groups at the 19,5km event, which starts at 3pm on Friday
There will be a number of South Africans taking part that will be paddling in the ICF Masters World Cup starting early next week.