The South Africa surfski team that has been selected for the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships is a strong one, aiming to dominate the medal positions in both the men’s and women’s showdowns in Hong Kong this weekend.
The team is looking to improve on its last showing at the international ocean racing showpiece in Tahiti in 2015 where Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling’s Jasper Mocké finishing as the highest senior men in third place followed by Think Kayaks’ Sean Rice in fourth and Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ Hank McGregor in sixth.
The only men’s gold went to Mark Keeling in the under 18 showdown and the team will be hoping to put that right this year in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.
The ladies results were fairly similar in 2015 with Euro Steel/Nelo Kayaks’ Jenna Ward bringing home the gold in the Under 23 women’s race while Euro Steel/Carbonology Sports’ Hayley Nixon ended fifth in the senior ladies event.
2017 should yield far better results for Team South Africa which has a number of title contenders at a race that many are familiar with. The race will track the same 22km course that the famous Hong Kong Dragon Run follows, a race that South African paddlers have traditionally performed well at.
In 2016 it was Hank McGregor who was the strongest paddler along the course as he pipped Australian Corey Hill to the title with fellow South African Sean Rice claiming the bronze.
There was a plethora of ‘Saffas’ in the top ten with no less than seven paddlers from the Rainbow Nation finishing in the top ten in the men’s race.
New Zealand’s Teneale Hatton won the ladies race last year ahead of Hayley Nixon with Jenna Ward and Nikki Russell in fourth and fifth.
The national team will be led by the current World Surfski Series champions McGregor and Nixon, but there are a number of paddlers that will be in the running for a spot at the top of the podium.
From the men’s perspective Jasper Mocké, Matt Bouman and Stuart Maclaren will be fighting it out with McGregor along with self-entered Sean Rice. Rice, who qualifies through his position in the top 30 in the world rankings, was not at the SA Championships but will be a amongst the South Africans gunning for the title.
In the Under 23 age division Sean’s brother Kenny will be a tough nut to crack along with fellow Western Cape star Mark Keeling.
The junior team will feature one paddler in the form of East London’s Joshua Fenn.
Having arguably one of the most competitive women’s surfski circuit’s in the world, the South Africa ladies team will be highly competitive.
Joining Nixon on the team will be fellow Durban senior surfski stars Michelle Burn, Bridgitte Hartley, Nikki Russell and Jenna Ward.
Looking for a first ocean racing world championship medal in the Under 23 class is Kyeta Purchase while the young Sabina Lawrie and Zara Wood will be representing South Africa in the junior category.
Outside of the formally selected team for the World Championships there are a number of paddlers who will be representing South Africa as they sit in the top 30 of the world rankings. Amongst these paddlers are the likes of Ian Black, Herman Chalupsky and Bevon Manson.
Joining them will be a handful of paddlers that will be taking part in their personal capacity with young Uli Hart, stalwarts Lee Furby and Billy Harker as well as Andre Wood, Allan Lawrie and Johan van Rooyen.
Team South Africa – ICF Ocean Racing World Championships 2017
Hank McGregor, Jasper Mocké, Matthew Bouman, Stuart MacLaren, Kenneth Rice, Mark Keeling, Joshua Fenn, Michelle Burn, Hayley Nixon, Nicole Russell, Bridgitte Hartley, Jenna Ward, Kyeta Purchase, Sabina Lawrie, Zara Wood, Colin Simpkins (manager).
Sean Rice, Ian Black, Herman Chalupsky, Bevan Manson, Ulvard Hart, Lee Furby, Billy Harker, Andre Wood, Allan Lawrie, Johan Van Rooyen.