SHOOT! Battle of The Bay

Words & Photos: Jacques Marais

This week’s Cape Town Downwind Surfski Race, organised by the Cape Town Surfski crew, saw a titanic clash going down as a strong international contingent of paddlers took on the epic Miller’s Run.

The Cape Town Downwind event is unofficially (for now, anyway) known as the 'Downwind World Cup', but judging by the stellar field of paddlers who took to the starting line on Monday, 16 December, there can be no argument that this event will soon become one of the must-do surfski races on the international paddling calendar.
It was as idyllic a day for an ocean paddle as one could wish for, with False Bay delivering an eye-popping combo of blue skies, a stiff southeaster and surging swells to set the scene of what was to become an epic struggle between some of the world’s leading swell-bladers.
As expected, there was once again a solid showing by the local 'Hoek' contingent, with Jasper Mocke facing off against his brother Dawid, the Cape Point Challenge Champion, and Hank McGregor, as well as top-class paddlers from Australia and the rest of the world. A scintillating duel between Mocke and McGregor took it down to the wire, with Jasper just managing to surge ahead over the final stretch onto Fish Hoek Beach. Record times by the top-three participants saw Dawid claiming the final podium spot.
More Mocke glory was to come, however, with Dawid’s wife Nikki dominating the Women’s field to lead home the duo of Michelle Burns and Michele Eray.
The Cape Town Downwind aims to be one of the world’s premier surfski events, and this status is bolstered by the fact that it boasts the richest prize purse for surfski racing in South Africa, on par with international races. A total purse of R200,000 was up for grabs, with R25,000 going to first place overall and R20,000 to the first woman over the line.
For full results and imagery, check out

Image 1: Swell Runner

The Shot: Elsie’s Peak creates a stunning backdrop for paddlers as they surf the final swell into Fish Hoek's bay during the annual Cape Town Downwind event. My latex Outex housing allowed me to stand shoulder deep in the waves to get this wide-angle perspective, while keeping my camera safe and dry.
The Specifications: 1/250 th sec @ f8; Sony A99-SLT + 16-35 mm wide-angle lens; ISO 100; WB setting (Auto); AE setting (0 EV); no flash; Outex waterproof housing.
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Image 2: Blades of Glory

The Shot: Jasper Mocke charges home through the breakers, displaying impeccable paddling style on the home run. A super-sharp telephoto zoom allowed me to position the subject within a narrow depth of field, retaining perfect focus while shooting at a high-frame rate.
The Specifications: 1/1500 th sec @ f5.6; Sony A99-SLT + 70-400 mm lens; ISO 400; WB setting (Sun); No flash used; AE setting (0 EV); Post-production in Adobe Lightroom.
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Image 3: The Incredible Japs

The Shot: This is where the Sony A99-SLT’s 10x frames per second kicks into good use! I had just enough time to reposition myself out of the waves to capture Jasper Mocke’s full-on elation as he powered onto the beach in first place. On-the-button focus meant I had a dozen shots to choose from, to get the exact moment.
The Specifications: 1/1200 th sec @ f5.6; Sony A99-SLT + 80-400 mm lens; ISO 400; WB setting (Auto); No off-camera flash; AE setting (0 EV); Polaroid filter in Adobe Lightroom.
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Image 4: Fantastic False Bay

The Shot: The scenic south delivered natural beauty by the bucket load, with aquamarine water and rugged mountain backdrops upon which to pace the action. A slightly elevated perspective of the finish isolates the paddlers as they power in towards the finishing line.
The Specifications: 1/750 th sec @ f5.6; Sony A99-SLT + 80-400 mm telephoto zoom; ISO 250; WB setting (Sunny); AE setting (0 EV); No flash utilised.
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Image 5: Foam Party

The Shot: A paddler nearly loses control in one of the breaking waves, with spray flying everywhere. Fortunately, I was again using the Outex housing to protect my cameras.
The Specifications: 1/2000 th sec @ f4; Sony A99-SLT + 16-35 mm lens; ISO 200; WB setting (Auto); No flash; AE setting (0 EV); Coloured filter added in Adobe Lightroom.
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Image 6: Fast Forward

The Shot: The powerful zoom range on Sony’s top-end lenses allows me to really frame my shots, even at a distance. This was taken from the shoreline at the start, and at the full extension of the zoom range.
The Specifications: 1/1250 th sec @ f6.3; Sony A99-SLT + 80-400mm telephoto zoom; ISO 400; WB setting (Sunny); AE setting (0 EV); No flash; Levels in Adobe Lightroom.
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Image 7: Paddling in Paradise

The Shot: A fisheye perspective of the start line near the Black Marlin Restaurant shows off the natural grandeur of False Bay in all its summer glory. Scrambling onto some high rocks gave me this bird’s eye perspective.
The Specifications: 1/150 th sec @ 9; Sony A99-SLT + fisheye lens; ISO 50; WB setting (Auto); On-camera flash; AE setting (-1 EV); Levels in Adobe Lightroom.
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