McGregor & Ward victories kick-start winter surfski season


Words: Kyle Gilham | Photo: Kevin Sawyer

Durban’s globally renowned winter surfski season got underway on Sunday 4 May with the Bay Union Season Starter, race one of the four leg Bay Union Surfski Series, which saw regular front runner Hank McGregor and top step of the podium novice Jenna Ward get their 2014 campaign underway in ideal fashion with victory in the men’s and women’s races respectively.

Challenging surf conditions greeted the over two hundred strong field in front of Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach however a deep water start and a revised course sent the paddlers on their way smoothly and got the widely anticipated season of ocean paddling underway.

Having shared the Varsity College Marine Surfski Series title with fellow Epic Kayaks team mate Matt Bouman earlier in the year, McGregor was eager to start the defense of his winter series title well.

“I’ve been doing a fair amount of distance training recently ahead of next week’s Molokai so it was nice to be able to come here today and get the win in a slightly shorter format,” said Epic Kayak’s McGregor.

“With me going to be in Hawaii I’ll miss the next couple of weeks’ races so it’s really nice to leave South African shores with a win under the belt,” he added.

The win wasn’t without fault for McGregor though as he and doubles race leaders Lee McGregor and Allan Hold at the time took a mid-race detour on the second lap which forced them to work a little harder than they would have hoped at the tail end of the race.

“Conditions were fantastic. There was a bit of chop, a bit of swell and a bit of wind,” explained McGregor. “On the second lap I managed to get away with my dad (Lee McGregor) and Allan (Hold) – the leading double – and we’d opened up a decent gap on the rest.”

“We went around the can at Snake Park and headed for the turning buoy out at sea. We got about two kilometers out and eventually had to put our paddles down because we just couldn’t find the can,” added Lee McGregor. “We turned and looked back and there the can was, about 300 meters inside us, so we had to turn and head back which meant the guys all came back together again.

While the younger McGregor managed to still claim the win ahead of regular doubles and training partner Grant van der Walt and Adam Nisbet, his father and Hold were narrowly pipped to the post by Quinton Rutherford and Byron Taylor in the doubles division.

“They say you should never follow you son! Plus I was the navigator on the yacht, not Hank, so I don’t know what I was doing following,” chuckled Lee afterwards.

The women’s race was a tightly fought affair as under-23 rising star Jenna Ward and in form fellow Fenn Kayak’s paddler Nikki Russell enjoyed a ding-dong tussle throughout.

With Russell having lead the way for the first of the 6km loops, Ward then surged to the front midway through the second lap and never looked back as she claimed her maiden surfski race victory of her career.

“It’s awesome to get my first win!” said an ecstatic Ward afterwards. “Obviously Michelle (Burn) didn’t paddle today but I haven’t ever really beaten Nikki before and she was going really well towards the end of the Varsity College Marine Surfski Series, so I’m really stoked!”

“Once I got past Nikki on the second lap she was still on my tail the whole way. We came in through the surf together and then it was a sprint up the beach which I’m really pleased to have won!” she added.

The rapidly expanding short course category saw Lauren Coleby and Paul van Achterbergh victorious in the singles events while Luke Chalupsky and Mark Spencer won the doubles race.

Sunday 11 May sees the Lion of Africa Surf Challenge, race two of the 2014 Bay Union Surfski Series, take place at Marine SLC at 08h00. More info can be found at

Summary of results

1.Hank McGregor 43.36
2.Grant van der Walt 43.56
3.Adam Nisbet 44.20
4.Luke Nisbet 44.36
5.Herman Chalupsky 44.46

1.Jenna Ward 50.52
2.Nikki Russell 50.53
3.Julie Cornelius 54.18

1.Quinton Rutherford/Byron Taylor 45.53
2.Lee McGregor/Allan Hold 45.55
3.Gavin Searle/Linton Hope 46.27

Junior Boys
1.Jordan Clauson 47.54

Junior Girls
1.Kyeta Purchase 1:02.18

1.Paul van Achterbergh 27.00
2.Sipho Luthuli 30.00
3.Kevin Oliver 31.11

1.Luke Chalupsky/Mark Spencer 24.12
2.Jeff Cawood/Josh Cawood 27.08
3.Trent Baird/Sandile Shange 27.42