Local paddlers conquer gruelling race

2018-12-20 06:01

DRILLED by huge surf, beaten by the sun, currents, blisters . . . throw in the odd whale and a shark . . .

Local top-paddlers Haydn Holmes from St Francis Bay (former Woodridge College learner) and Woodridge College learner Graydon Mitchley (16) - the youngest paddler ever to finish the race - completed the gruelling biennial PE2EL Surf-Ski Challenge - a 300km contest featuring the best paddlers in South Africa that took to the Indian Ocean from December 5 to December 8.

They claimed an overall 11th place out of 30 teams that competed in the doubles event.

“What a humbling experience,” says Holmes. “Over the past 45 years, a mere 500 paddlers competed in the event.

“Every day is a new day and presents new challenges and anxieties - especially as you near the finish line. You know that anything can go wrong.”

The origin of the race goes back many years to when multi-international paddler Johnny Woods challenged famous long-distance runner John Ball to a non-stop race from Port Elizabeth to East London, which Ball managed to win.

“The first leg of the race saw us leave Port Elizabeth for the 80km race to Woody Cape,” says Holmes.

On day two we tackled the 55km to Port Alfred, while day three saw us completing the 70km race to Hamburg, before we finished 52km later at Landburg in East London the next day.”

Safety? “Paddlers are tracked each day through Saftrx, an app geared to pinpoint the exact position of each paddler at any given moment,” says Holmes. “There are also land-based crews in four-wheel drives looking after us, as well as the NSRI in boats.”

And will they do it again? Without a doubt.

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