The small Eastern Cape coastal town of St Francis Bay will become the hub of the South African paddling fraternity from 10-12 October when both the single surfski national title and the K1 and K2 marathon titles are decided at the P.W. Harvey & Carey Olsen St Francis Paddle Fest 2020.
The South African marathon championship showdown is one of the most prestigious events on the national canoeing calendar with some of the world’s best flat-water marathon paddlers fighting it out for the national men’s and women’s K1 and K2 titles across all age groups.
St Francis Paddling Club Chairman Pete Mitchley says it’s all systems go for the event in two weeks’ time, despite the challenges posed by the extreme weather and tides that breached the spit protecting the canals.
“Everything is on track for when the paddlers arrive,” Mitchley said.
The national championship returns to the same venue as in 2018 and Mitchley and the organising committee have set the course up to match 2018’s with some refinements this year.
“There were people paddling the portages in 2018, so we have chosen a time when the tides are more favourable.”
“Otherwise, the course is exactly the same, but should there be any issues then we have got a Plan B and a Plan C,” he added.
The marathon and surfski championships give paddlers the chance to compete for three national titles in three days, providing an exciting restart to national paddling.
“People have been cooped up for so long, and a trip to St Francis for a long weekend is a great way to get back into paddling competitively.
For our marathon paddlers, surfski paddlers, and the SUP and prone paddlers whom we are excited to include for the first time, the three days will be the festival of paddling that everyone has been hoping for.”
“We have been supported so generously in terms of sponsorship for the event. This has been a life-saver given the current climate under COVID-19 so we couldn’t be happier.”
Despite the shift down to a COVID-19 Level One lockdown, the organisers are emphasising to paddlers and spectators alike that they need to comply fully with all regulations and co-operate with the organisers.
“We have a number of systems in place to prevent gatherings as well as screening to make sure that we keep everyone safe, inline with COVID-19 regulations.
Please wear masks, sanitise and practice social distancing. Paddlers’ supporters are asked to ‘drop and go’.”
“There is a full list of all the regulations on the Eastern Cape Canoe Union (ECCU) website (www.eccu.co.za) and we ask that all regulations be followed,” Mitchley added.