The 2017 edition of the popular FNB Durban Downwind will see one of the strongest ladies fields ever assembled as a number of paddlers eye out the national singles surfski title when the race takes place over the weekend of 24-25 June.
With a South African championship title up for grabs, the race will had added bite, and with a large contingent of Durban paddlers lining up the rest of the country’s chargers will have a tough task ahead of them.
Current women’s World Surfski Series champion Hayley Nixon will be one of those local paddlers that will be hoping to bag that elusive national championship and the Euro Steel/Carbonology star is up for a huge challenge.
“South African women’s surfski paddling is in a really good place at the moment,” Nixon commented.
“There are about four or five girls that can win the race and I appreciate the fact that there are so many strong women paddlers around at the moment.
“Racing used to be a walk in the park a few years ago, but now it has stepped up a notch and it can only be a good sign of things to come.
“With a busy international period for me right after this weekend it is great to be racing paddlers with international pedigrees. I appreciate the challenge of having such tough competition and you really have to earn that national title.”
Despite a strong field of ladies lining up for a shot at the FNB Durban Downwind title, Nixon feels strong and ready for the race.
“I am in a good place at the moment, I am ready to race!” she said confidently.
“I’m not in a position where I might be a bit under-cooked; I have trained really hard and have done all the preparation for a big few weeks of racing.
“Although there is a lot on the line this weekend it doesn’t change my approach to my race. It makes it slightly more nerve-wracking but I believe that my race plan and approach is strong so I will stick to that.
“A lot of paddlers are racing in Mauritius but I am skipping that leg (of the World Surfski Series) and heading to Portugal and then to the United States for the Gorge Downwind. The race is a downwind along a river so the concept is a bit strange!
“I have been trying to do some research on it but I haven’t really found anything so it is going to be an interesting challenge,” an excited Nixon added.
2016 FNB Durban Downwind champion Nikki Russell will be hoping to repeat her feat of 12 months ago, however the field is going to be significantly stronger this year, adding more spice to the racing.
Euro Steel stars Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase can never be counted out. The two are in the midst of their ICF Canoe Marathon World Championship build-up so should be a powerful force to be reckoned with on race day.
Kirsten Flanagan is going to represent part of the Western Cape contingent that will do battle over the 26km course between Marine Surf Lifesaving Club and La Mercy beach.