McGregor and Russell win Provincial Surfski Champs (South Africa)

Sunday, 24 June 2012 18:56 | Written by  Gameplan Media
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Nicole Russell wins the 2012 KZN Surfski Championships Nicole Russell wins the 2012 KZN Surfski Championships Credits: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Umhloti – Hank McGregor (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) capped off what has been yet another magical winter surfski season for him when he once again showed off his sublime open ocean racing abilities to canter home to victory in the 26km Epic Kayaks KZN Surfski Champs on Saturday afternoon.

Third consecutive series title

The win also gave the paddling maestro his third consecutive series title in the Discovery Best 4 Surfski Series as, despite there being three races left in the series, Saturday’s singles victory was McGregor’s sixth of the series and hence establishing an unassailable lead on the overall log.

Shifting Forecast

With wind predictions shifting throughout the week organisers settled on the Marine Surf Lifesaving Club to Umhloti River Mouth option and with a slight wind at their backs and negligible surf assistance the group of nearly 150 K1 paddlers pinned their ears back and headed up KZN’s coast.

McGregor soon lead a group of four which included Grant van der Walt (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre), Matt Bouman and Len Jenkins whilst Barry Lewin (Team Jeep), Brandon van der Walt and Richard von Wildermann waited in the wings.

Final appearance for McGregor

McGregor was however eager to claim the win in his final appearance in this year’s series and before the halfway mark had broken away and looked comfortable.

Hank McGregor

Hank McGregor - KZN Champ AND Series Champ

“We all went out in a bunch but as we got deeper and there was a bit of a bump I decided to push the pace a bit and try suss everyone out. As I went only a couple guys came with me though and soon I was out there on my own so I decided to keep the pace going nice and consistently and that gave me a bit of a gap of the rest of the guys,” said McGregor.

“Once you’re in the front though it’s quite tough to see who’s who as you start getting in amongst the batches in front of you but it gave me a bit of incentive just to keep pushing and I’m really chuffed to have reached the beach first!”

“The race was one of the last surfski race I’ll be able to do in South Africa for a little while with me heading off overseas for a couple of races so for the win to have given me the series is really great and its awesome to have won the KZN Champs as well and end off on such a positive note,” he added.

Surfski Champs - Durban, South Africa

The Umhloti shore break was in evidence... paddle guys, paddle!

Grant van der Walt

McGregor’s good friend and regular doubles partner Grant van der Walt managed to bite the bullet and overcome the discomfort of his recent lower back injury to claim a solid second place finish and gain some good momentum before he and McGregor look to replicate their recent SA K2 Marathon Champs victory in Sunday’s doubles race.

“After the first kilometer or so it was just a four-ball and we stuck together for a fair way but once Hank got a gap it was always going to tough to close it,” said van der Walt. “Matt (Bouman), Len and I worked together for quite a while but Len then fell off the wave and shortly afterwards Matt came off mine.

“That left me on my own and I just had to knuckle down and give it a go. Fortunately I managed to cross the line behind Hank and I’m really chuffed with how my race went, especially to have beaten a few great surfski paddlers,” he added.

New kid on the block

Although relatively new to the world of surfski racing Len Jenkins has shown some great form in recent weeks in the ocean and aided slightly by the relatively flat conditions he raced home to claim the bottom step of the podium.

Another man in top form at the moment is Barry Lewin and despite having battled immensely in the opening stages of the encounter a spectacular second half saw him edge past Bouman to finish fourth, not far behind Jenkins.

Surf action

Don't look back!

Women’s Race

Former Eastern Cape paddler Nicole Russell continued her KwaZulu-Natal fairytale when she held off ladies surfski icon Michelle Burn (neé Eder) to claim the ladies title in her first major KZN-based surfski event.

“We’d pretty much been in a group for the first six kilometers but Michelle and I broke away and had an awesome battle for the middle section of the race.

“Eventually I managed to get ahead of her with about two kilometers to go and from there I just gave it my all,” said Russell.

“It was such a fantastic race and I’m absolutely over the moon that I won. I’m loving living in Durbs now and my paddling has improved so much since coming here and joining Hank’s training squad. He has taught me so much in such a short space of time!

“To have won the KZN Champs is just so awesome and really is the cherry on the top for me,” she added.

Burn, having had to withdraw from last week’s series race after suffering debilitating cramps once again had trouble as her body readapts to top level racing after a prolonged break recently whilst she and fellow paddler Oliver Burn got married.

“It’s a little frustrating not being able to perform at the level I was at before the break. I sometimes forget whilst I’m out there that I haven’t been racing like this for a little while and probably try push a little too hard and my body just isn’t ready for it yet,” said Burn.

“It was a fantastic race though. Nikki and I were really having a go towards the end there so it would have so awesome to have been able to try push her to the line but hats off to her on her victory,” she added.

Doubles Championships

Sunday 24 June sees the doubles leg of the Epic Kayaks KZN Surfski Champs take place with racing likely to get underway at 08h00 on the same course from Marine SLC to Umhloti River Mouth.

More info can be found at

Discovery Best4 Series




  1. Hank McGregor 1:45:32.01
  2. Grant van der Walt 1:46:49.72
  3. Len Jenkins 1:48:04.05
  4. Barry Lewin 1:48:20.12
  5. Matt Bouman 1:48:53.29
  6. Brandon van der Walt 1:50:14.83
  7. Daryl Bartho 1:51:44.12
  8. Luke Nisbett 1:53:08.16
  9. Richard von Wildermann 1:53:11.62
  10. Herman Chalupsky 1:54:01.42
  11. David Tudor-Jones 1:55:37.68
  12. Jean Luc Mauvis 1:57:30.26
  13. Adam Nisbett 1:58:11.25
  14. Travis Wilkinson 1:58:21.95
  15. Warren Valentine 2:00:21.54
  16. Steve Woods 2:00:35.04
  17. Gene Prato 2:00:39.30
  18. Gavin Searle 2:01:34.80
  19. Stretch Struwig 2:01:51.23


  1. Nikki Russell 2:11:44.99
  2. Michelle Eder 2:16:16.88
  3. Kerry Louw 2:17:19.97
  4. Antje Manfroni 2:18:10.20
  5. Jenna Ward 2:20:38.50

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