Hank and Pippa McGregor take on KZN doubles title at the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge

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World-class surfski paddlers are heading to Scottburgh on the KZN South Coast this Sunday (9 June 2024) to compete in the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge doubles race – paddling power couple Hank and Pippa McGregor among them. This epic contest forms part of the second annual Ocean Festival, running from 6 to 9 June 2024, bringing people together to celebrate and protect the ocean.  

Husband-and-wife team, Hank and Pippa McGregor from the KZN North Coast, are pipped to take the Mixed Doubles title in this year’s event, having competed together before on several occasions. While Hank took the singles title at the 2023 Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge, this will be Pippa’s first time competing in the event.

Commenting on the upcoming race he said: “I’m super excited to be racing with my wife on Sunday, we’ve done numerous races together around the country but a highlight was winning the Mixed Doubles Race at the Masters World Marathon Champs in Portugal 2022. There’s something special about standing on top of a podium, with your wife by your side, watching the national flag being raised.”

Despite their wins, Hank said the ‘top class field’ assembling at Scottburgh on Sunday meant they would have to bring their best: “There’s no saying we can win this weekend but I’m looking forward to introducing my wife to the event and to having a great weekend on the KZN South Coast.”

There will be big competition coming from the formidable surfski paddling pair of Brent Chizari and Luke Nisbet. Although he’s a North Coast resident now, Brent comes from Amanzimtoti and knows the waters well. He’s supported by Nisbet who is a National Surf Lifesaving Champion and top paddling contender. They will have to watch out for veterans of the sport such as Richard Louw and Jason Ekstrand who could upset some of the younger crews in this contest.

In the ladies division, the dynamite duo of Christie Mackenzie and Saskia Hockly, both from uMdloti on the North Coast, are clear favourites. This informed crew is fresh from winning the KZN Flatwater Marathon last weekend and is tipped to win the KZN Surski Championships.

Speaking ahead of the event, Saskia said: “I raced in the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge last year and it was such fun. I’m super excited to be racing again this year in a double with my good friend, Christie. This is good preparation for the marathon trials next weekend and the world championships to come. Although Christie and I have only competed in two surfski races, we’ve had some good results, and am looking forward to mixing it up with the top men’s crews.”

Barry Lewin, the Race Director, said the stage is set for a quality race on the Mid-South Coast this weekend: “We’re not only welcoming big names to the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge – which looks to be another fantastic competition – we’re also creating awareness about the need for ocean conservation. This is a great opportunity for everyone to come together, to celebrate the ocean, and to play our part in conserving it for future generations.”

Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge Details

There is the option of the 15km long course and 8km short course in the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge. Paddlers will head from Scottburgh Main Beach in front of the Premier Hotel Cutty Sark beyond the surf zone north towards the famous Greenpoint Lighthouse. They then turn around the first marker buoy and head in an easterly direction to the internationally renowned Aliwal Shoal, one of 41 MPAs in South Africa and named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the world’s top 10 dive sites. Paddlers then head around the hot spot marker south for the final approach around the backline marker, through the surf zone and to the finish line on Scottburgh Main Beach.

Date: Sunday, 9 June

Place: Scottburgh Main Beach

Contest registration: 7.30am

Contest start: 9am

Prizegiving: 1pm

Divisions: Men’s, Women’s, Juniors (U18s), Vets (40+), Masters (50+).

Entry fee: R305

Race-day entry: R350

Prize is a share R20 000 in cash, with a gift for early entries and lucky draw prizes!

Thanks are extended to all the sponsors of the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge: Leatherback Rum, Premier Hotel Cutty Sark, The Pumpsmith, Halfway Toyota, South African Surfski.

2024 Ocean Festival Programme

Alongside the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge, the Ocean Festival includes a range of family-friendly events centred around the theme of ‘Engagement, Education, and Economics’ through ocean conservation.

– Mural at Scottburgh Beach’s Nipper Clubhouse renowned local artist Giffy

– Beach clean-up at Scottburgh Main Beach

– Ocean Education with SAAMBR, and Ocean Science & Research Workshop

– Aliwal Shoal scuba diving reef clean-up

– Mahlongwa River paddle and clean-up

– Exclusive film screenings at Premier Hotel Cutty Sark

– Ocean Festival Surf Pro surfing contest at Scottburgh Main Beach

– Live music and entertainment evening

– Ocean Carnival Lifesaving event with Scottburgh Lifesaving Club

– Made for More adaptive surf therapy session

– Sunrise Beach yoga & movement

– Ocean-inspired outdoor mural art

Please check @theoceanfestival on Instagram and Facebook, and www.oceanfestival.co.za website for the most updated Ocean Festival programme details. Contact Barry Lewin on Barry@sasurfski.africa for more on the Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge.