Paddlers race for the KZN Champs title with Nisbet and Chiazzari taking line honours

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Top paddlers came out in force on Sunday, 9 June 2024 to compete in the 2024 Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge at Scottburgh on the KZN South Coast. This doubles race saw Luke Nisbet (Durban) and Brent Chiazzari (Salt Rock) in first place with the ladies’ race won by Saskia Hockly (uMdloti) and Christie Mackenzie (uMdloti). The event forms part of the Ocean Festival (6 to 9 June 2024), a commemoration of World Oceans Day centred on the theme of ‘Engagement, Education, and Economics’ for ocean conservation.

The race went off very well despite the challenging surf conditions, with participants competing in either the 15km long course or the 8km short course which started at Scottburgh Main Beach in front of the Premier Hotel Cutty Sark, and headed out beyond the surf zone north towards the famous Greenpoint Lighthouse.

Paddlers turned around at the first marker buoy and headed in an easterly direction to Aliwal Shoal, before heading 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.

Speaking after the win, Luke Nisbet said: “It was really a great race today, luckily we had a backline start which made it a little bit easier as there was quite a big swell. It was an offshore wind so everyone tried to keep quite close to shore on the way there. About 500m before the Aliwal Shoal turn we had a bit of a gap over Luke Swinney and Bryce Lawson so we tried to hold that gap on the way back in. It was really tough as there was an offshore wind coming back as well. It was a quite hard race but very exciting.”

His teammate, Brent Chiazzari agreed, saying: “Great to be back for another Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge, and the ocean didn’t disappoint! I had a great paddle with Luke – he really read the runs and navigates the surf well! The young U23 combo of Bryce Lawson and Luke Swinney held a high pace upfront early and really made us work hard for the win.”

Competing for a second year in a row was Saskia Hockly from the winning ladies’ team, who said this is one of her favourite surfski events: “I came back this year and got the chance to race with Christie which was very cool – it was a great prep race for Marathon Trials next weekend. The conditions were good, but the offshore wind caused some little bumps to Aliwal Shoal with a side wind coming back. There was some beautiful wildlife including a massive turtle at the turn buoy which was lovely. So cool to race with friends and be in Scottburgh on a beautiful weekend and massive thanks to the event organisers. I can’t wait to come back next year.”

Barry Lewin, the Race Director commented: “It was great to see the paddling community gather together in celebration the ocean at this iconic venue on the KZN South Coast. Paddling in the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area (MPA) is such a privilege for sea users and we look forward to many Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenges in the future.”

Leatherback Rum Surfski Challenge Results

Men’s Race

1st place: Luke Nisbet and Brent Chiazzari (1:07:37.41)

2nd place: Bryce Lawson and Luke Swinney (1:08:31.93)

3rd place: Zoog Haynes and Matt Gunning (1:10:39.08)

4th place: Gal Marks and Keegan Vogt (1:10:42.37)

5th place: Brad Pearse and Travis Wilkinson (1:10:56.65)

6th place: Vernon Vogt and Brendon Waters (1:10:56.89)

7th place: Richard Lowe and Jason Ekstrand (1:12:40.00)

8th place: Sean Uys and Shaine McAlister (1:13:39.98)

9th place: Kwanele Banda and Keelyn Tucker (1:15:31.39)

10th place: Senzo Ngcobo and Jayden Jansen van Rensburg (1:15:50.85)

Ladies Race

1st place: Saskia Hockly and Christie Mackenzie (1:12:48.49)

2nd place: Mikaila Brown and Dayna Deeble (1:21:47.09)

3rd place: Julia McAlister and Sarah Jones (1:13:39.98)

4th place: Lyn Bennett and Claire Spring (1:28:13.22)

*For full results list visit

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 kept many visitors busy with a range of conservation-focused ocean events. These included ocean and river clean-ups, exclusive film screenings, the Ocean Festival Surf Pro surfing contest, the Ocean Carnival Lifesaving event, Made for More adaptive surf therapy session, educational talks, live entertainment, yoga, art, and more!

If you missed this year’s epic event, don’t get caught out next year! Follow @theoceanfestival on Instagram and Facebook to keep updated on all ocean conservation happenings.