As the international paddling season kicks into gear worldwide, the South African Marathon Championships and national surfski trials will take place in the quaint seaside town of St Francis Bay over the upcoming long weekend.
The Eastern Cape town is no stranger to hosting both marathon and surfski championships, and this year having both events in the same place gives paddlers the chance of qualifying for two world championships in one weekend.
The canals that run through St Francis will play host to the marathon championships on Thursday to Saturday, and all of the expected names have entered with the dual aim of gaining a coveted spots on the national team, as well as chasing a national title.
“On the eve of the 2023 SA Marathon Champs I am so excited for the weekend of racing ahead,” CSA’s head of marathon paddling Wayne Jacobs said.
“The team from St Francis Bay Canoe Club and Eastern Cape Canoe Union have really gone all out to put on an excellent event for both the paddlers and supporters.
“Even the weather looks to be coming to the party as the cold front appears to be giving way just in time for the juniors to kick things off tomorrow morning.
“The feedback on ‘the course from all those who raced on it at the ECCU Champs a couple weeks back was very positive, complementing the organisers on both the course and portage area.”
Jacobs understands the importance of the event for paddlers and is looking forward to the country’s best battling it out on the canals.
“This event is the one and only trial for team selection to attend the World Champs in Denmark at the end of August this year. So it goes without saying that it is a hugely important event for all those with ambitions of making the team.
“This year we have taken the decision to combine the u23 and senior K1 races. As a result of we are expecting an extremely exciting and competitive race, which will give the paddlers a real taste of what to expect on the world stage at World Champs,” Jacobs added.
From under 18 boys and girls, through the under 23 men and women and up to the senior age category, there are only spaces for two K1 boats per age category and then in the juniors and seniors there are just two K2 boats for each category.
Once again there has been a large interest shown in the senior racing categories as paddlers get in some much-needed racing before they jet to Denmark for the ICF Masters Cup, the traditional curtain-raiser for the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships.
The racing starts with the Junior under 16 and under 18 boys race on Thursday morning, followed by the under 16 and under 18 girls before the under 14 boys and girls race.
There will be a throng of guppy races on Thursday before the short-course races takes place in the afternoon, with both the men’s and women’s races taking place at 14:30 and 15:00 respectively.
Day two will see the veteran paddlers take the centre stage as they race K1 events in the morning. The under 14s to under 18s will race their K2 events before the senior and under 23 K1 men’s race kicks off at 14:00. The senior and under 23 women’s races start just after the men at 14:05.
Saturday’s third and final day of the championships will focus completely on K2 racing. The veteran races get the action underway before the senior men’s and women’s races get underway at 11:00 and 11:05 respectively.
The K2 racing brings down the curtain on the SA Marathon championships before the paddlers then shift their focus to ocean racing for Sunday.
On the surfski front, there will be five paddlers in the senior age category, both male and female, that will qualify for the team. In the Under 23 age category there are two each in male and female and the same in the junior age category.
The route for the surfski event on Sunday will be confirmed closer to the time.