The DownWind Dash is held on Wednesday’s, and is a paddle from Milnerton Lighthouse to Big Bay Blouberg in downwind conditions (when Cape Town’s prevailing summer South Easter is blowing). Mastering downwind paddling seems to be the aspect of the sport that paddlers seem to aspire to, and it certainly is not as easy as you might think it would be. The reward when getting it right is a thrilling ride which will keep any ocean-lover coming back for more!

The DownWind Dash is well organised. It is a timed event, and results are tracked and published on the DownWind Dash Facebook Page. There is a safety boat, and people chip in to help with transport, including a trailer to take skis to the start (I think a large part of this is thanks to the good people at the Big Bay Lifesaving Club). The event is open to all single and double skis, as well as SUPs. Due to the nature of the event, it is not an event for novice paddlers. The cost is R40.

Dash#1, 05 December 2012

I was quite concerned that this downwind run would be outside of my capabilities. After chatting to one of the regulars upon arrival at Big Bay and discussing the conditions, and comparing it to my recent experiences at Sea Dogs and Best 4, I decided that I would be able to manage.

From the start we headed through the surf-line before heading right down the coast to Big Bay. The general tactic is to sight off the massive block of flats visible in Blouberg. The wind was directly behind our backs, but the swell pushes at an angle towards the shoreline, meaning that you are pretty much constantly trying to track left.

Arriving at Blouberg, you sneak through the rocks at Kleinbaai before landing on the beach in front of the Lifesaving Club. I suspect that in bigger conditions you paddle around the “main entrance”into Big Bay, as even in small surf you get the feeling that you don’t want to make any mistakes so close to the rocks!

I finished my first Dash in 00:51:56. Plenty of room for improvement! The conditions were listed as follows:

  • Wind Direction: SSE
  • Wind-speed: 30km/h
  • Surf: Small
  • Swell Direction: SE
I must say the conditions were just within my ability and had they been any more challenging I would not have enjoyed myself. I took one swim trying to hard on a run, but fortunately had learned my lesson from the New Balance Surfer’s Challenge: I fell in gracefully, relaxed, made certain I flipped my ski back the right way so as not to wind my leashes around it, and remounted fairly easily.

Dash#2, 12 December 2012

My second DownWind Dash was held in slightly less wind, but far bigger ground swell! Making it through the surf-line was an exercise in patience and timing. Once beyond the surf-line there were some nice little runs, and for the first time I felt like I was linking some of them up quite nicely. Unlike last weeks Dash where we snuck through Kleinbaai, this week we paddled around the rocks and into Big Bay. The surf was monstrous, and I had to wait for a set to pass before paddling in. As it was I got caught just before the beach and experienced my first ever nose dive, the nose of my ski actually hitting the sand!

The conditions were listed as follows:

  • Wind Direction: SSE
  • Wind-speed: 20km/h
  • Surf: Huge
  • Swell Direction: SW

Dash#3, 23 January 2013

My third DownWind Dash took place in pretty calm conditions. The breeze seemed to be SWW with emphasis on the west, with a light swell pushing onshore. This meant paddling parallelish to the swell with some light swell following which made it quite confused at times. There were still some runs to be caught, and my head was filled with Dawid Mocke’s voice saying “The runs are in front of you” over and over again.

I managed to leave my Garmin at home. My time was 00:55:54.

The conditions were listed as follows:

  • Wind Direction: S
  • Wind-speed: 20km/h
  • Surf: Small
  • Swell Direction: SW

Dash #4, 13 March 2013

Promising looking conditions dwindled to nought during a calm paddle for the final DWD of the 2012 / 2013 series. I still managed to put in a decent time which is in fact my PB for this course.

The record for the Dash is currently held by Tom Shilperoort stands at 00:33:58 (28 November 2012).

For more info and updates, join the DownWind Dash Facebook Page.

Big Bay Sunset

By David

Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

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