Thrilling paddling race good for Buffalo City

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Thrilling paddling race good for Buffalo City

Sport boost for East London tourism
By Peter Martin

Image sourced

In many ways sports tourism assists businesses in Buffalo City whenever significant tournaments or events are held in and around the city.

The biennial PE2EL Challenge, a 300km surf-ski contest featuring the best paddlers in South Africa, is one such event that brings hundreds of visitors to Buffalo City, including paddlers, their families and friends, seconds, officials and spectators.

The 2016 event, which starts from Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, December 7, is spread over four days and this year an extra day, Sunday, December 11, has been allocated in case inclement weather or wind conditions make it impossible for the contestants to row. The first stopover is at Woody Cape which in previous tourneys has seen the destruction of many a surf-ski due to its pounding surf which can reach five meters in height. From there on the next day the paddlers rest at Port Alfred. The third stopover is in Hamburg and on Saturday (or Sunday if the extra day is used), they will steam to the winning post at Nahoon Beach from about 10am or even later depending on the wind.

“Safety is the paddlers is our number one concern,” said race director Richard Tebbutt. He confirmed that a total of 90 paddlers will contest this year’s Challenge, made up of 48 single surf-skis and 42 in 21 double-skis. The origin of the race goes back many years when multi-international paddler Johnny Woods challenged famous long-distance runner John Ball to a non-stop race from Port Elizabeth to East London, a run which Ball managed to win. “The paddlers will be tracked each day through Saftrx,” Tebbutt added. “There will be land-based crews in four-wheel drives looking after them as well as four NSRI boats.”

He further explained that Saftrx is geared to pinpoint the exact position of each paddler at any given moment, which will certainly put each contestant’s mind at rest concerning safety. Tebbutt was cagey about who could be among the favourites to win. However, he ventured that Bevan Manson, Craig Boechx, Steve Woods, son of Johnny, Carl Frauenstein, Durban’s Luke Nisbet and Caoe Town-based Paul Marais, all had a chance.

“There’s also an Australian who could do well. His name is Brendan Rice and he is the son of a former South African international paddler, Sean Rice. I think he will do well,” Tebbutt said.

In the doubles Tebbutt feels the combination of Hayden Holmes and Phil Smith of Cape St Francis, Durban’s Blackburn brothers, Simon and Andrew as well as Buffalo City’s Dave Schaefer and Chris Batting could challenge for first place. Among the women contestants, he favoured the up-and-coming local paddler Nicole Russell and the Cape Town-based Bianca Beavitt.

“Nicole has done so well internationally and is a real champion among the female surf-skiers, while Bianca is a hardened, seasoned paddler who always shows courage and determination and she has proven her mettle in tough conditions and over ultra distances,” Tebbutt said. “It takes a special breed of paddler who takes on the journey along our coastline,” Tebbutt said,

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