Scottburgh to Brighton Records Smashed ** updated **

Friday, 17 June 2016 14:02 | Written by 
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Who's won?!  A desperate dive across the finish line - Matt Bouman (L), Luke Nisbet (R) Who's won?! A desperate dive across the finish line - Matt Bouman (L), Luke Nisbet (R) Credits: Lynne Hauptfleisch, Alan Dean

Durban - It’s not often that a 46km race ends in a tied result.  But that’s what happened in yesterday’s Spar Hypersure Scottburgh to Brighton Surfski Race in Durban, South Africa…


The race was scheduled for this weekend, but when the paddlers saw the forecast, the paddlers’ whatsapp group lit up…  A healthy 15kt southwester was due to come in on the Thursday, in contrast to an expected headwind for the weekend. 

The race organisers managed to persuade the city to grant a permit to run the race on the public holiday… and the downwind was on.


The Scottburgh to Brighton is tough: the surf at Scottburgh is notorious for breaking boats; the surf at the check-in point at Amanzimtoti is notorious for breaking boats and the surf at the finish at Brighton is…  you get the idea!

And you don’t often see good downwind conditions: more often than not, you have a light offshore breeze lifting a side-on chop that interferes with your stroke, which turns into a headwind for the last 10km. 

Scottburgh to Brighton

Race Course - 46km from Scottburgh to Brighton.

Great Conditions

But there was no headwind yesterday.

The surf was challenging – one of the doubles came to grief on the way out at Scottburgh and another cut the corner coming into the checkpoint at Amanzimtoti and steered onto the rocks.  Ouch.

Surf Start

Punching through at Scottburgh

Scottbrugh Surf

A single just makes it...

Barry Lewin (who came third with his last-minute partner, Lee Furby) commented, “We had about 15kt of wind, which is enough in Durban.  It was messy, but the runs started 5km in and it was paddles-down while we were surfing.

“It got better in the second half,” he added.

Women's Record

Nicole Leigh Russell and Jenna Ward had a ball on their way to breaking the women's record for the course.

"It was a classic race," said Nicole. "Nothing beats a pumping downwind, the runs were magic and we were able to get incredible top speeds on our garmin... our max on Jen's garmin was 31.5km!"

The surf presented little challenge for the two experienced paddlers.  "There were a few gnarly sets that made for a few swims and one or two damaged skis," said Nicole.  "But we managed to have a clean run in and out the surf; it makes for really exciting racing though. Jen and I loved it!"

Fantastic Runs

Matt Bouman hadn’t intended to do the race.  “But downwind is everything in our sport,” he said.  “And I have to compliment the organizers for having the guts to make it so.”

He and partner Wade Krieger had a relaxed first half of the race.  “But I was nervous,” Matt said.  “Wade had never done a race longer than 2 hours and I certainly hadn’t trained for it.

“I thought we were clear away,” he went on.  “But when we headed into ‘Toti, Luke and Gene popped up to our right.

“That’s the way it goes in downwind paddling!”


Luke Nisbet and Gene Prato arrived at Amanzimtoti first

They found a better line than their opposition through the surf on the way out from Amanzimtoti and were ahead until…

“I don’t know whether Wade was looking to see where they were,” laughed Matt, “but we fell in!  And Wade struggled to get in again so we took 30-40sec to get going.  And then I had to dive in again to get my drinking system.

“And after that it was an arm-wrestle all the way to the finish. 

“The runs were fantastic – we were doing 20-28kph the whole time and the finish came so quickly.

“I was still nervous; we were just trying to stay calm and save a bit for the end.”

Photo Finish

As they approached the finish at Brighton, Matt and Wade accelerated. 

“We were a wave ahead, but as we arrived, the shore break jacked up and I had to wait,” said Matt.  “If we’d just gone, we’d have been smashed. 

Finish Wave

The leaders approach the shore break...

“Luke and Gene came through and beat us to beach, but then they dropped their boat!”  


The sprint up the beach started with Nisbet/Prato in the lead...


...until Gene dropped the front of the ski...

It turned into a lung-bursting sprint to carry the skis across the soft sand up the beach to the finish line.  A desperate dive… and who’d won?

There were photos – but none of them were at quite the right angle…  they show both crews with their skis in mid-lunge, but who was in front?  Who can say?!  So an honorable tie for the record-breaking first place was declared.

Dive over the line

...and a frantic dive across the line!


The Scottburgh to Brighton record, owned by Matt Bouman and Herman Chalupsky since 1998 was smashed by more than 17 minutes.

Zoog Haynes and Linton Hope broke the vets’ record; Nick Burdon and Hayley Nixon were the faster mixed doubles crew ever and the women’s record was smashed by Nikki Russell and Jenna Ward.

“It was just so nice to have a proper downwind,” exclaimed Matt.  “Good people, good times, good fun!”

Tony Scott

And a special mention to Tony Scott, at 75 an incredibly worthy winner of the Grand, Grand Master Class!

The race was run by South Coast Lifesaving Association.



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