Posted by: Thea van der Westhuizen | August 5, 2011


ADOW/ DSKC members dominated the womens race in the 54th Discovery Scottburgh to Brighton Surfski Marathon. The 46.6km women’s race was won by Thea van der Westhuizen (5:15)  in her first attempt (actually the only woman in the singles race). Becky Mehew & Nico Smith (5:33) were the only mixed doubles who pulled it through.  The men’s race was dominated by Dawid Mocke, Sean Rice and Jasper Mocke. (Credits to Lynne Hauptfleich for great pics)

Winners 54th Scottburgh 2 Brighton "Probably the only time EVER that I will be in the same frame as legend Daw!"


His Harkerness (aka series organiser Billy Harker) described the race as:

Since 1958 ocean watermen have gathered before first light on the South Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. They meet at Scottburgh main beach which is 60km’s South of South Africa’s winter playground, Durban. They carry with them ocean spears, Surf Ski’s and sustenance for the 46.5km journey from Scottburgh, North to Brighton Beach. All in attendance share a common cause, get out beyond backline without damaging the craft, push on to the check point at Toti 30km’s North and then race for the finish at Brighton. The Discovery Scottburgh to Brighton Surf Ski race is built on the tradition laid down by the hard men who first pushed out to sea in ’58, there is no talk of turning to go downwind. The race is from Scottburgh to Brighton, come what may.

Waking up at 4am - race starts at first light

Leading up to the Annual Discovery Scottburgh to Brighton, talk revolves around weather and Surf conditions and the 3rd element, the Annual sardine run, which brings with it the entire ocean food chain. Dolphins short their regular territories, every sea bird worth his salt, whales, game fish and sharks all gather on the South coast to gorge themselves on the greatest shoal on earth.

Paddlers entered in the Discovery Scottburgh to Brighton spend evenings offering silent prayers requesting the SW wind to blow at their backs and maybe even howl through to attempt to break the current course record of 3hr 4Min and 25 seconds, set by Brett Pengelly back in 1998. The prevailing weather conditions in early July in Kwa-Zulu Natal are a light early morning off shore breeze set in motion by a Low pressure over the warm sea and a higher pressure over the cold land mass. This offshore breeze out of the NW, can pick up to around 20km/hr, but normally reaches its max around 9am at like 10km/hr. After 9am the NW Offshore tends to die off and a still calm ensues till around 9:30/10:00am when a NE (headwind) begins to push.

Sure Billy referred rather to the PADDLE when speaking about " gathering sea spears" ! Credits to Anthony Grote

These conditions translate to paddling on a calm sea with a light wind coming over your left shoulder. The smart money is to stay close inshore to Toti. The NE Headwind does not normally push before one gets to Toti. Paddlers can expect to get to Toti at around 9:30am and then to the finish at around 11am, That’s if the NE doesn’t get up strong.

There is a point, 6km from the finish, called “The Cutting” where “THE CUTTING SEA MONSTER” lives. Paddlers have been racing hard for 3 to 4 hours and can taste the Bracingly crisp Hansa washing down their throats, they can feel that warm sense of achievement at having dominated the Discovery Scottburgh to Brighton…AAhhhhhh NOT!! The Cutting Sea Monster reaches out and grabs hold of your rudder and ties 2 shopping plastic bags as well as a bungee cable with 3 tennis balls on it to test your mettle! ARE U UP to it?  I spit on the cutting sea monster… Bring it on Chine!

Becky & Thea: the only two ladies who made it to the finish line were from ADOW/ DSKC


Training around the cans in Abu Dhabi or paddling around Dubai’s Palm Jumairah cannot EXACTLY prepare one for this race. It requires specific skills in the surf as well as good downwind abilities. Here is Thea’s story:

The conditions prior race day was perfect and Daw, Sean, Jasper and I went to the halfway stop in Toti to catch some waves. I couldn’t have asked for a more experienced group of paddlers to guide me around the best options.  Jasper patiently made me practice paddling out and back till I felt confident (thanx guys!)

4 Surfskis 1 Volkswagen - Jasper and Sean were polpuar with local car guards

On race day, conditions radically differ from the day before. Good timing between sets (and some luck!!) helped me to paddle out of Scottburgh without getting my hair wet.

Scottburgh's start was way different than Abu Dhabi or Dubai

How NOT to launch in Scottburgh

I stayed close to the backline and patiently hoped for morning gusts to blow though. Not far into the race, I saw Sean Rice powering by … realizing his batch started about 45min after mine! Reaching Toti, I got wiped by the back break, but luckily managed to retrieve my ski, and paddled in without further drama. On the beach, I couldn’t find the bloke who was my seconds and had my juice/ gel refill! Billy’s brother Dave Harker offered some of his juice and syphened it into my juicebag. I’m allergic to caffeine but at that moment I couldn’t care less what was in the juice –  caffeine or no caffeine: as long as it was wet and kept me hydrated during the second half!

Going out at Toti was TOUGH. Shredded surfski debris floated on the water and paddlers were swimming everywhere. I waited a long time to find a gap in the back break, but it was too poundering and forceful. After an unsuccessful attempt to break though, I was sitting legs-out…waiting… A doubles ski with two guys built like He-Man landed next to me. I thought “paddling behind this is much more fun than checking out the back break’s inside a second time!” With sheer perseverance I popped over 😉 It wasn’t long before I lost sight of the He-Man team, but an awesome little downwind started to blow and made up for the rest.

Surfski debris @ Toti

Unlucky paddler @ Toti

The front paddling batch missed out on the wind from Toti, since they were already standing at Brighton with a Nando’s in the hand! Keeping all the warnings in mind about The Cutting Monster – I knew the end was close and kept a steady pace. Reaching Brighton, I could hear the music and smell the braai, except that I needed to manage in throughout huge surf again. The real monster was waiting in the back break and rolled thunder to the beach. I decided to sneak in just behind a Big One, hoping to make it to the mid section before being caught. Unfortunately the Big One’s twin was just behind me, and forced me to become well acquainted with marine life and the ocean’s bottom. I didn’t exactly exit “en femme”  but made it to the finish line with ski and paddle in one piece.

" I tried to sneak in behind this monster, but it's twin ate me"

It was an awesome event and a fantastic race. Tons of respect to paddlers like Custom Kayak’s Mark Lewin who completed it over 30 times (and often category winner).  Hats off to Becks Mehew and Nico Smit who also made it across the finish line.  ADOW & DSKC paddlers completing this race is a significant accomplishment, taking into account that we live in the desert and train in flat conditions, often soaring 30°C-52°C .

Awesome event and fantastic people. Many thanx to series oganisers His & Her Harkerness


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