The inaugural 28km surfski challenge around Robben Island takes place on Freedom Day, 27 April 2018. Photo: supplied

CAPE TOWN – Legendary South African paddler Hank McGregor, a 10-time World champion, arrived in the Mother City today to take part in tomorrow’s Bamboo Warehouse Freedom Day Paddle.

The inaugural 28km surfski challenge around Robben Island has attracted around 200 entries (singles - S1 and doubles - S2) and finishes at the Oceana Power Boat Club adjacent to the Cape Town Waterfront.

“Kudos to the organisers for delivering a new, fresh iconic event that I’m sure will go on to attract big names from around the globe in future,” said McGregor.

“We get to paddle around the infamous Robben Island which housed the late Nelson Mandela for 18 years, that’s huge, hence my decision to make the trip from Durban and be part of history.”

“To be able to get up close to the island and do so on a day commemorating the first democratic elections in 1994, for me, is a time for reflection.”

“As for the race itself, it will be a rough and tough trip from past experience; SA hosted the inaugural Ski Racing World Cup in 2004 (won by the Cape crew of Graeme Solomon and Jasper Mocke).” 

“We raced from Blouberg Beach to Robben Island and back and I remember harsh conditions that had one on guard all the way,” added McGregor.

“But this time I’m not in it to win it, it’s more a case of enjoying the occasion with my S2 partner Lee Furby, who hasn’t been around the island before. So we will just be soaking up the experience and making sure we arrive at the finish in one piece.”

“My money is on the classy Cradock-based brothers Ryan and Greg Louw (who just won the SA Lifesaving ski title) landing the S2 title.”

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Don’t rule out the threat posed by the Mocke/Jono Nieman and Clint Cook/Tyron Maher combos.

Race sponsor, the evergreen Graeme Solomon, who partners Ian Trautmann, is a man on a mission for another reason.

“Having spent countless hours in our rivers and oceans training and racing, I have seen first-hand the trash we are choking our planet with.”

“It is vital we switch from single-use plastics and using unsustainable resources. Let’s create a planet our kids can enjoy,” said Solomon.

Current world surfski champ Hayley Nixon and world junior champion Sabina Lawrie will start as favourites in the women’s race.

Mike de Bruyn

Cape Argus

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