Cape-based beach sprint champions Ryle de Morny and Mandi Maritz lead an all-star cast at this week’s General Tire Lifesaving South Africa National Championships in Camps Bay.
Fish Hoek are the defending champions.
The nationals will also include KwaZulu-Natal’s brilliant Carmel Billson, who won a record 17 national titles in 2016.
Carmel will be massive to the overall title challenge of Marine Surf Lifesaving Club, along with her sister Lauren.
Maritz, despite living in Cape Town, will be in the colours of the powerful Durban Surf as the best of KwaZulu-Natal’s clubs attempt to dethrone Fish Hoek, who recently also won the 2017 Western Province Club Championships.
False Bay’s De Morny has consistently been the fastest man internationally on sand over the last decade, but it’s in the surf where the likes of Carmel and Durban Surf’s 15-year-old lifesaving sensation Tayla Gilmore are expected to dominate among the juniors.
Gilmore won 11 medals at the 2016 National Championships and won gold, silver and bronze at the World Youth Interclub Championships late last year.
Gilmore and Woodridge’s Amica de Jager, who won four Under-17 individual golds a year ago, are among the most talented in the sport.
Umhlanga’s Matthew Maraun and East London’s Josh Fenn are the junior male stars and Kings Beach’s Daniel Jones is another young name expected to make inroads in the Senior Open Division.
More than 200 of the country’s most celebrated veterans will compete in Wednesday's men’s and women’s Masters Championship, which is the forerunner to the three-day Open and Junior Divisions, which will accommodate the aspirations of 500 competitors.
The General Tire Lifesaving South Africa Nippers National Championship, featuring a record 800 participants from ages eight to 14, takes place at Kings Beach in Port Elizabeth from April 6-8.
Fish Hoek’s overall title defence will be strong in every division with Jayden Alford-Loots and Kim van Gysen the 2016 respective winners of the Ironman and Ironwoman titles in 2016.
Alford-Loots will have to be at his best to beat off the challenge of club mates Dominic and Nicholas Notten and there is a quality pack chasing Van Gysen’s charge for a successful title defence.
Fish Hoek, individually, have an imposing presence in most divisions, but it’s their depth in quality from numbers one to three that saw them dominate a year ago.
Marine and Durban Surf are boosted with some of the biggest South African names in the sport, and Durban Surf’s Nippers have for the past five years been second to none in taking gold.
Marine (four) and Tuks (three) provided the bulk of the 2016 national squad of 12 that competed at the World Championships, with the Cape-based quartet of De Morny (False Bay), Maritz and Fish Hoek’s duo of Nicholas Notten and Kirsten Flanagan also rewarded with national colours.
But for the next four days in Camps Bay it’s not about country but about club, and everything points to Fish Hoek being the club to beat.