East London - The Pete Marlin Surfski Race this weekend will double up as the 2018 South African Surfski Championships with the country's leading ocean racers taking on the East London surf over two days starting on Saturday.
Both the singles and the doubles will take place on the 23km's between Orient Beach in the city and Yellow Sands to the north, and the race organisers will be watching the weather very closely before confirming the precise race courses based on the prevailing wind, surf and swell.
The whose-who of ocean racing in South Africa will be on the start line this Saturday as paddlers from up and down the coast converge on this iconic section of ocean paddling in South Africa.
From a men's perspective defending champion Matt Bouman's name is one of the significant absentees from the entry list, however the depth of the elite field makes it one of the strongest line-ups in the global surfski scene.
Hank McGregor, Kenny Rice, Jasper Mocké, Stuart Maclaren and Andy Birkett as well as Nick Notten will all be present to fight it out for the national title.
McGregor might head into the contest as the favourite; however the likes of Rice and Mocké are definitely capable of pipping McGregor and will be hoping to get themselves ahead of the multiple world marathon champion on Saturday.
Andy Birkett, who recently relocated to Nahoon Beach, would have spent a bit of time on the water learning the route and this local knowledge will set him up as a strong podium contender.
There will also be a strong local contingent hoping to claim a win in local waters with Jordy Malherbe as well as Matthew and Joshua Fenn also among the East London residents with podium ambitions.
The Cape Town contingent of Mocké, Rice, Notten and Maclaren will be formidable. All four of them have shown great form throughout 2018 and the fight for the top spot will be a tough one.
In the ladies showdown all eyes will be on Hayley Nixon. The current women's ocean racing world champion has been unstoppable in a surfski for more than a year and will be the paddler to beat.
With that said there will be some stiff competition from the likes of fellow Durban paddler Jenna Ward as well as local star Nikki Birkett.
Birkett has been working her way slowly back to race fitness following the birth of her first child and will have local knowledge on her side.
Also among the podium hopefuls in the ladies race are Bridgitte Hartley and Zara Wood.
From an age group perspective it might be safe to say that young Matthew Fenn and Uli Hart will fight it out for the Under 18 boy's title, while East London local Zara Wood will be the girl to beat in the Under 18 girls national title race.