Fenn Swordfish surfski, Fish Hoek Beach

In Cape Town MTB circles, people talk about cycling up to the Constantiaberg Mast, known simply as The Mast, as a kind of rite-of-passage. Likewise, in surfski paddling you must complete what is considered by many to be the finest downwind track: The Miller’s Run. Sunday afternoon, 03 March 2013 was a beautiful warm summer’s day featuring decent swell, and most importantly: 32 knots of  wind travelling in a South-south-easterly direction.

After my DNF at the last race of the Best 4 Series, I really needed to get my confidence back. A difficult decision as a bad experience on a Miller’s Run could really dent my enthusiasm for any future races. Sunday arrived, and seeing that it looked like the conditions were going to be perfect for the Run, I quickly packed my gear and we headed down the peninsula. It was a little unnerving coming over Glencairn Pass and seeing the white-caps in False Bay.

It was the weekend of some big lifesaving competition, as well as some other paddling events, so a lot of the faces that are part of my surfski family were sadly missing. However  there was still a good turnout, and some 46 paddlers completed the run, including some SUP paddlers, and our impressive guest from Mauritius in her outrigger (who probably finds my endless stream of questions about her craft more gruelling than any of the actual races themselves).

The route is fairly straight forward: from the slipway at Rumbly Bay at Miller’s Point you paddle out to Bakoven Rock a few hundred meters off-shore, rounding the granite dome on the upwind-side before turning left and heading straight downwind with the following swell, passing the Roman Rock Lighthouse and straight into Fish Hoek Bay. It is a 12 kilometre downwind paddling playground.

The paddle out of the little bay to the rock was bumpy and slow, and it feels like you are being wound-up in the slingshot ride at Ratanga Junction: as you turn downwind the south-easter joins the swell and rockets you down the course. I was a little surprised at how far away the Lighthouse appeared to be; within 10 minutes the field of paddlers was scattered downwind amongst the hills of white water, and I was more-or-less alone, very grateful for the NSRI launch cruising watchfully in the near distance. I had only done the section from the Lighthouse to Fish Hoek Beach before as part of the Peter Creese Lighthouse Challenge, so reaching it was a relief as I felt like I was now dealing with a known entity.

I still have so much to learn about surfskiing, and especially catching the runs that are what makes downwind paddling so exhilarating. I was immediately however pleased to note that my skills have improved dramatically in the last months, and I got to experience the pure thrill of my Fenn flying down the swells at speeds well over 20 km/h, dancing left and right to stay on the runs as they writhed across the bay, the sound of the Venturi drain sucking dry signalling full-speed and a dry cockpit as the 6 meter fibreglass needle sliced through the warm water. Still, I got swamped a number of times, and had some uncomfortable moments between runs being tossed around from side-to-side, and I still have loads of work to do on my balance and technique so that I can keep my boat-speed up.

Charging into Fish Hoek Bay with the last runs with strength left in my arms was really rewarding, and Dawid counting me in across the finish line on the beach felt like my final welcome into the downwind family.

Paddler Time Category Overall
Dawid Mocke 00:43:10 1 1
Nikki Mocke 00:47:51 1 Lady 4
David Fox 01:01:18 36

I am one very puffed up paddler today, and want to say a huge thank you to my girlfriend for seconding me and putting up with the last-minute decision, and to Dawid and Nikki Mocke who do so much for the sport and made the day happen.

By David

Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

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