Race Alert! R250,000 West Coast Express Launches in South Africa

Thursday, 18 July 2019 11:55 | Written by 
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Race Alert!  R250,000 West Coast Express Launches in South Africa

Big prize money has been offered before in surfski races, but the massive handicap prize-pool is really going to shake things up,” said Russell Sadler, Race Director for the newly announced West Coast Express, and Operations Manager for the World Surfski Super League (WSSL). “At least, we certainly hope it will,” he laughed.

West Coast Express

The race course follows one of Cape Town’s best downwind courses, the “Milnerton to Melkbos” from Lagoon Beach, Milnerton past the infamous Robben Island to Melkbos Beach, just over 20km in length.

At the end of October, the chances are excellent for a southeasterly wind. The most likely conditions for this run include:

  • An easy start through small surf; Lagoon Beach is protected from the SW swell.
  • Small, clean wind-generated runs to begin with.
  • Growing waves, still clean, fast and very linkable.
  • And finally the tricky swing right into Melkbos – don’t cut the corner (the organisers will probably put out a buoy to prevent this!) – and a 1km side-on/into the wind push to the beach. Watch out for the shore-break!

This is one of the cleanest (as in smooth lines of waves) and most enjoyable downwind routes in the Cape.


West Coast Express Downwind Route - Milnerton to Melkbos

Home of the Stars

“It’s only fitting that this race should be based in the Western Cape,” said Sadler. “When you consider the number of world champions that have come from here.”

Among the Cape-bred and trained paddlers expected to take part are:

  • Kenny Rice (two-time champion of the Gorge Downwind Championships, and 2019 Canadian Downwind Champion)
  • Sean Rice (2013 ICF Ocean Racing World Champion)
  • Dawid Mocke (multiple Surfski World Series Champion)
  • Jasper Mocke (multiple Surfski World Series Champion)
  • Nicholas Notten (World surf lifesaving champion – surfski, 2018 Freedom Paddle champion)

South African juniors stars, ready to take on the world, include: Uli Hart, Jake Schoeman, Matthew Fenn, Naomi Petersen, Christie Shrimpton, Kira Bester and Zara Wood.

Bring it on!


WCE Prize Money

The prize pool (seniors and juniors) pays out equally to men and women.  

"We've also got a ton of product prizes for the Masters and doubles categories," said Sadler. "Folks will definitely get their money's worth in extras."


  1. R10,000
  2. R8,000
  3. R6,000
  4. R5,000
  5. R4,000
  6. R3,000
  7. R2,000
  8. R1,000


  1. R5,000
  2. R4,000
  3. R3,000
  4. R2,500
  5. R2,000

But the big money is in the Open Handicap section of the race, which is in ADDITION to the category prizes.

My understanding is that the way this works is that women’s times are calculated at 87% of the men’s times.


  • The first male paddler finishes in 01:00:00
  • The first female paddler finishes in 01:08:58. Her time x 87% = 01:00:00 and it’s a dead heat for first place.

“That’s the basic idea,” confirmed Sadler. “We’ve got an actuary working to confirm the maths on this.”

The Open Handicap prize pool pays out as follows:


  1. R20,000
  2. R15,000
  3. R10,000
  4. R8,000
  5. R7,000
  6. R6,000
  7. R5,000
  8. R4,000

So if the leading woman is within 87% of the winning man's time, she would take home R10,000 for winning the women's title PLUS R20,000 for winning the handicap prize.


  1. 10,000
  2. R8,000
  3. R6,000
  4. R4,000
  5. R3,000
  6. R2,000
  7. R1,000
  8. R500

Dates and Entry

Race date is 26 October 2019.

Early bird entries are open at €70.00. From 27 September, late fees will apply at a hefty €140.00

Entry can be done now at:


For more information see:

South African Tour

One week after the West Coast Express is another classic South African surfski event – the Pete Marlin in East London.

The Pete Marlin comprises two days of downwind paddling – singles on one day, doubles on the other on another usually reliable downwind course. (The Pete Marlin also counts towards paddlers’ ICF rankings.)

For more info on the Pete Marlin, click here.

South Africa offers visitors endless tour options from wine farms to Big 5 Game experiences is to whale watching, scuba diving and golfing safaris…


The West Coast Express joins five other races in the inaugural World Surfski Super League in 2019. The WSSL comprises 6 races, 4 to count:

  1. Gorge downwind champs: 15-20 July 2019 – Columbia river, Portland, USA
  2. Irish Coastal challenge: 28 Sept 2019 - Dublin, IRE
  3. West Coast Express: 26 Oct 2019 – Cape town, RSA
  4. Hong Kong Dragon run: 9 Nov 2019 – Hong Kong
  5. Perth Doctor: 23 Nov 2019 – Perth, AUS
  6. 20 Beaches Classic: 7 Dec 2019 – Sydney AUS

WSSL Points System

Male and Female athletes are awarded points in each race, best 4 results to count.

Points are awarded in a sliding scale from 1st to 17th position as follows:





































And from 18th to 98th position according to the formula:  

Points awarded = 99 - <position>

Example: 50th position gets 99 – 50 = 49 points.

The men’s and women’s champions will be awarded titles and prize money at the 20 Beaches Classic in Sydney in December, 2019.

CSAM logo

Prize Pool

The US$ 65,000 prize pool, sponsored by China Silver Asset Management, will be awarded equally to men and women (open categories) as follows:

  1. US$ 8,500
  2. US$ 7,500
  3. US$ 6,500
  4. US$ 4,000
  5. US$ 3,000
  6. US$ 2,000
  7. US$ 1,000

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