2016 and 2017 Gara Dolphin Coast Challenge champions Hank McGregor (front) and Lee Furby (back) negotiate the break coming into the day two finish at Salt Rock last year. This year's event will be a shorter version in a bid to attract less serious paddlers to the two day event that doubles up as the KZN Doubles Championships this weekend. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

Durban – The 2018 edition of the Gara Dolphins Coast Challenge will see a slight change in format with the race reducing the overall distance of the two day event that will double as the KZN Doubles Surfski Championships on the KZN north coast this weekend.

Previously the event took place over a total distance of 64km between Zinkwazi and Suncoast Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club, however the days have been shortened to 21km and 22km respectively with the open day’s action taking place between Pirates SLC and Umdloti while day two takes place between Umdloti and Salt Rock.

Changing the distances was the decision of race director Anton Fouché, who has been pleased with the reception of the inovation as well as the understanding as to why the race has been shortened.

“There has been very little resistance to the change and we felt that we needed to make the race more accessible to the less serious paddler,” Fouché said.

“It is still going to be a serious challenge for everyone but we felt that after all the effort that goes into getting sponsors and organising a race we needed to try and increase the numbers. Paddlers are always late on the uptake but we have already matched last year’s entries with a couple of days to go before entries close," he said. 

Taking up the challenge on KZN’s north coast is still not going to be for the faint of heart, however with the event being shortened by 21km, the wind might not have as much of an impact as it would have with the longer distance.

“The wind unfortunately looks to be coming a day earlier but we are still confident that the course will be manageable with lighter winds. A lot of guys will still be sitting on the fence and watching the weather closely but we hope that they will get their entries in because it is going to be a fun day on the north coast,” Fouché added.

Many of the races along Durban’s shores have migrated north towards Ballito, Salt Rock and Zinkwazi and Fouché believes that the paddlers that live in that area form an important part of paddling in the province.

“I guess with Hank (McGregor) living up there and the dynamic of having a whole bunch of keen paddlers there then you can see why it is an important base for paddling in KZN. They have the Dudley Pringle Dam as well as the ocean in that part of KZN so they have access to great training water,” Fouché commented.

The Gara Dolphin Coast Challenge takes place on August 18 and 19. Entry and general information can be found at www.dolphincoastchallenge.co.za.

The Mercury