Latest Surfski News

Tuesday, 17 October 2023 07:11
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” I thought to myself a few moments after launching on the brand new V10 4G for the first time. It was getting dark; it was raining; the squalls were lifting sheets of spray off the water… directly offshore. What WAS I thinking? The answer is that I’m a sucker for new toys – and if I get my hands on one, I HAVE to play with it. Damn the weather, full speed ahead… Since then I’ve paddled the boat many more times, in much pleasanter weather. Here’s what I think of this,…
Thursday, 08 June 2023 12:42
East London, South Africa: Angus Warren watched helplessly as the shark’s teeth crunched through the hull of his surfski. “It seemed to go on and on,” he says, “pushing and chomping. I was thinking, why is it not working out that it isn’t food? “I can’t tell how long it took, but I had enough time to shout a couple of times to the others.” The next thing he knew, he was in the water…
Thursday, 27 April 2023 18:42
CAPE TOWN - Hank McGregor and Josh Fenn convincingly claimed back their Prescient Freedom Paddle title on Thursday in a dramatic race marked by tough conditions and a rain-delayed start.  Conditions were extremely tough - a brisk northwester blowing spray from the big confused chop into the paddlers' faces as they headed out to the island.  Huge breaking surf on the far side of the island ensured a wide line but the wind dropped as the fleet started on the journey back to the finish, making it that much more difficult and energy sapping to catch the runs.  
Tuesday, 25 April 2023 11:50
Last Friday, however, I paddled with Dawid on a windless autumn evening in Cape Town. Cruising from Fish Hoek to Muizenberg, we paddled together, stopping at all the coves to surf a few waves. In short, the operative word was "fun". This was a different Dawid - off duty - and, well, I've never paddled with anyone so noisy before. Whistling, singing, shouting to folks on shore - yahooing as he caught a wave. Heading home at dusk we crept up behind a group of seals lazing on the surface. Dawid began barking like a five-year-old paid by the bark...until…
Thursday, 09 February 2023 07:39
A look back - aaaaargh! A mountain. Let it go through... A smaller one, with a glimpse of something massive lurking further out to sea. Catch it, catch it! Sprint, sprint, you’re on it, here’s the break zone, keep going, keep going, the roar from behind and the sudden acceleration as a massive foamy caught up to me, keep it straight, keep it straight... Phew. Arrived. Panting. Stop the watch. ok. Made it. Empty the boat, pick it up to prevent it knocking you down. Done.
Saturday, 26 November 2022 17:16
The South Africans cleaned up today at the most prestigious surfski race in Australia – arguably the most prestigious race in the world - taking five out of the top six places and the entire podium at the Shaw and Partners “The Doctor” in Perth. Defending women’s champion, Kiwi Danielle McKenzie won the women’s trophy.
Saturday, 19 November 2022 13:01
Gold Coast paddler, Cory Hill, took first scalp in the five-event ocean ski racing series, the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week, winning the inaugural race today, the 24km Fenn West Coast Downwinder from Fremantle, just south of Perth, to Sorrento Beach. In fine conditions with a 16 knot SSW wind courtesy of the famed Fremantle Doctor, the start off Port Beach was intense with the top paddlers in a terse battle to make the first break.   But it was 33-year-old Hill – the 4-times DOCTOR champ who relishes the Perth conditions – who was able to shake the field…
Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:54
It’s not easy to catch a rolling, runaway single ski in 30kt of gusting wind – and as they attempted to grab it, Alex and his doubles partner lost their balance and fell into the water. By the time they’d remounted, the single ski was gone – blown away by the strengthening near-gale. They turned and paddled back upwind to find their buddy.
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:08
Accident reports are easy to write when the story ends happily, but this one didn’t and it’s with a very heavy heart that I’m writing this, with a view to learning what we can from it.
Wednesday, 15 July 2020 09:13
When the NSRI found Duncan MacDonald, he was approximately 6km off Smitswinkel Bay, drifting rapidly further offshore. Gale-force squalls whipped sheets of spray off the waves, reducing visibility almost to nothing. What Happened? Given the small size of the surfski community, there’s always intense interest whenever there’s a rescue. What happened? What did they do wrong? What can we learn from it? Clearly there are lessons to be learnt from any mishap – so here’s a description of what happened, shared with the permission and cooperation of the folks involved in the hope that we might all learn from this…
Friday, 24 April 2020 11:41
Durban – As the continued coronavirus lockdown grips the country, Canoeing South Africa will host a 24 hour Canoeing4COVID-19 event this weekend as a way to raise funds for members of the broader paddling community that have been badly affected by the lockdown.
Wednesday, 11 March 2020 14:35
“Hey, Rob! Help!” The shouts penetrated the sound of the howling wind and crashing waves – and even through the noise it was obvious from the tone of his voice that something was seriously wrong. I turned and headed back upwind.
Tuesday, 03 March 2020 14:43
Many paddlers use Personal Locator Beacons, or tracker apps like SafeTrx on their mobile phones. But handheld VHF radios are also a great choice to consider – especially when they’re DSC-capable like the Standard Horizon HX870E.
Monday, 24 February 2020 12:01
I finally got my hands on a demo Fennix Swordfish S this weekend and did two Miller's Runs in succession to see if I could feel any difference in handling between the 2018 Swordfish S and the new Fennix model.  Conditions were challenging: False Bay was covered in whitecaps, whipped by a combination of a 25-30kt southeaster and small, confused seas.  The result?  I definitely want to spend more time in this boat.
Thursday, 26 December 2019 10:30
The shark smashed like a freight train into Roger Swinney’s surfski in an explosion of noise and spray, knocking him off into the water.  “I managed to get back on the ski,” he said, “but I fell off again and as I remounted the second time, I saw the swirl and tips of the shark’s fins. “I didn’t see it clearly, but from the force of it and the movement in the water, it looked big!”

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When things go wrong...

Thursday, 13 December 2012 08:27 | Written by 
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The AMS METRO Rescue Helicopter hovers overhead, directing the NSRI's Eddie Beaumont II rescue RIP to the scene. The AMS METRO Rescue Helicopter hovers overhead, directing the NSRI's Eddie Beaumont II rescue RIP to the scene. Credits: Barry Lewin, John Hishin, Kassie Crous, Chops Craig

Chasing 3m breaking waves in 35kt gusts is the best fun you can have outside of tangled sheets – but gear failure can be a much bigger issue.  You have to be mentally and physically prepared for things to go wrong…

Big waves, wind… and the men in grey suits.

Here in Cape Town, the southeaster has been blowing for weeks… and when the southeaster blows, paddlers in the southern suburbs head for the (in)famous Millers Run – a dynamic 11.75km downwind route from Millers Point to Fish Hoek.

The real challenge of the Millers Run is that you seldom have clean, straight waves; usually you’ll have two or three sets of waves running at different angles which make it tricky, not only to link sequences of runs together, but simply to stay on the ski. 

You can be surfing down the face of one wave, when the crest of another smacks into you, side-on.  Basically if you can handle the Millers Run on a big day, you can handle almost any conditions.   But if there’s any doubt about your ability or your equipment – you’ll be found out.

On the edge

Matt Winter recently graduated from a Fenn XT to the faster, but tippier, Fenn Mako Elite but he was confident that he’d be able to handle the new boat in the runs. 

“But I hadn’t tightened the length lock on my split paddle,” he said.  “I’m very sensitive to the angle and when it slipped near the lighthouse, it caused me to lose my balance and fall in.”


Winter tried for some time to remount his ski and succeeded a number of times in getting back in – but he’d been unable to reset the angle on his paddle, and with that and the strong side-on wind and 2-3m breaking waves, he found it impossible to get the boat going fast enough to turn downwind.  And inevitably, he kept falling back in the water. 

Eventually, cold and exhausted, he reached for his cellphone. 

“My Blackberry is being repaired,” he said, “so at the moment I’m using a simple old Nokia.  The great thing about that was that I could press one button to call for help.” 

That one-button press dialed the last number he’d called – and within seconds he was speaking to Nikki Mocke, and she immediately called the Simonstown NSRI station who in turn activated their crew and the AMS METRO rescue helicopter.

“I was quite anxious,” said Winter, “I’ve done a lot of fishing and I know what swims in these waters!” 

Enter the pros

Meanwhile Dawid Mocke and Barry Lewin had launched at Millers Point for their own Millers Run and twenty or so minutes later found Winter floating next to his ski. 

Lewin assisted Winter to get back on his ski and he started paddling only to be knocked off yet again.  “Shame,” chuckled Lewin, “he only got about 20m and a big foamie just took him out!” 

Cold, exhausted and uncertain about the setup of his paddle, Winter decided to sit it out and minutes later the AMS METRO chopper was overhead, guiding the NSRI’s RIB, the Eddie Beaumont II to the scene.

NSRI Rescue

The Eddie Beaumont II rescue RIB, being guided to the scene by the AMS METRO rescue chopper

Home and dry

The NSRI crew loaded Winter and his gear onto the RIB and sped back to their Simonstown base. 

“I was so impressed by the calmness of the paddler and the efficiency of the NSRI crew,” said Lewin.  “NSRI Simonstown are rockstars!”

Eddie Beaumont II

Safe and sound - the only casualty a slightly bruised ego!

The Right Gear

“A few months ago,” said Winter, “Dawid gave us a class on safety and stressed the importance of a leash.  If I’d lost the boat yesterday, I’d have been in deep trouble.

“The two main things for me,” he reiterated, “were the fact that I was wearing a leash, and that because I had an ancient old phone, it was so easy to use.”

Something to think about.

“My uncle is one of those guys who hounds people in malls, raising funds for the NSRI,” he laughed.  “I signed up about five months ago, so I feel better about that!”

NSRI and Surfski

NSRI Simonstown

The NSRI and surfski paddling in the Western Cape enjoy a close relationship - pictured here are the Station 10 boats (Simonstown) providing security at the recent Peter Creese Lighthouse Race, which was held in testing 30kt conditions.

In 2008, was privileged to be able to organize a search and rescue exercise with the NSRI during which a whole range of equipment and techniques were tested.  Click here for the story of that day.

In 2009, the Best 4 Surfski Series director Billy Harker handed over his entire database to the NSRI fundraisers, following a dramatic five hour rescue of a paddler taking part in a race in False Bay.  A year later, nearly a million Rand had accumulated; enough to buy the Gordon’s Bay NSRI station a fully equipped rescue RIB.

Millers Run

“Personally, I love the Millers Run – I’ve done literally hundreds of them,” said Rob Mousley, editor of the website  “But when it’s big, I still have plenty of respect for it.

“I was chatting to some of the senior paddlers recently and they expressed concern that some novice paddlers were being encouraged to do the run on big days.  If you’re not experienced, rather wait until the weather is a little less hectic and have an enjoyable run.

And as one of the club seniors said, "If you are experienced and you encourage someone else to go beyond their ability and something goes wrong, YOU will be held responsible.  The Millers Run is an extreme paddle on big days, and should only be attempted after you've done several in milder conditions.”


Official NSRI Press Release

The NSRI said,

“At 17H03 on Tuesday 11 December NSRI Simons Town were called by Nikki Mocke who had been contacted directly by the paddler who had his cell-phone in a waterproof pouch and was able to call for help.

He had broken his paddle and in the rough sea conditions was not able to stay on his ski. He was drifting in 35 knot winds and 3 meter breaking swells and struggling to hold on to his surf ski. The AMS METRO Helicopter was dispatched as well as the Sea Rescue boat Eddie Beaumont II from NSRI Simons Town. The  helicopter located the casualty half a mile to the West of Roman Rock light house. He was being assisted by other paddlers.

The helicopter remained over the casualty as a reference for the rescue boat. Eddie Beaumont II arrived shortly after the helicopter and recovered the paddler and his surf ski and returned to Simons Town with them.

Sea Rescue commends the paddler for having his safety equipment on him. Paddlers should always wear a PFD with pencil flares, cd or mirror for signalling for help, and a cell phone in a water proof pouch attached to it – not stored in the hull. Paddles should be attached to the craft with a leash and in high wind the paddler should also be attached to his craft with a leash.”