13 July 2009
Clint Pretorius posted an emphatic victory in the Dunlop Surf Ski World Cup Durban on Sunday, beating a powerful field of paddlers in 32 kilometres of downwind racing drama to endg a long streak of second places in major international races.
Facing technically demanding two-metre chop, whipped up by the timeous arrival of a south-westerly wind, Capetonian Dawid Mocke moved into a strong position as the race went through the key turn just off the Umhlanga lighthouse, as the top contenders fanned out across the ocean searching for the best runs.
However, desperate not to make the same mistake he made a year ago by staying too far out to sea, Mocke opted for an unusual line very close inshore for the last half of the race – a move that backfired badly as he struggled with the westerly swells coming over his shoulder.
A deeper line
Durban North local Pretorius read the conditions superbly and opted for a deeper line, riding the swell to optimal advantage, as he surged through the field and sliced past Matt Bouman, who was also looking poised to take control of the race at the halfway stage.
Pretorius then put together a dramatic 20-minute solo charge that changed the race as he streaked into a 500-metre lead as he passed the Umhloti River mouth, leaving Bouman flagging in his wake.
The impish 24-year-old, widely known as “Laaitie” in the paddling community, had to dig deep in the final 20 minutes of the race as exhaustion started to take it’s toll, but he was able to jog up the beach to the finish at Westbrook and claim the title with a victorious salute without another paddler in sight.
The race for silver
Pretorius won by almost two minutes from Bouman, who was put under massive pressure by the sudden arrival of veteran Oscar Chalupsky from a typically deep sea line. The duo was locked together in a needle duel for the silver medal until Bouman found another gear and dropped Chalupsky in the dice to the line.
A disconsolate Mocke had to settle for fifth place in the end, coming home behind the strong finishing Brett Bartho, another of the paddlers who benefitted from the decision to head further out to sea in search of better swells.
As the enormity of his achievement started to sink in Pretorius drew parallels to his sensational victory in the legendary Molokai Challenge in 2006. “When I won the Molokai I didn’t really know what I was doing. Three years on I can really appreciate this win, and doing it on my home ground makes it really sweet,” said the Durban student, who pocketed R40 000 for his efforts.
‘I really had to dig deep’
“I really had to dig deep in the last few kilometres because I had really gone out hard,” he added.
The big swells, and the fact that the seeded elite paddlers started in the last batch and had to work through all the back markers, made it almost impossible for the leaders to assess where they were lying in the race.
“I actually didn’t even know that I was leading when I turned in at the last major point before Westbrook!” Pretorius revealed.
Bouman raced superbly on well-researched lines, but was undone by Pretorius’ spectacular solo charge, which ended Bouman’s unbeaten run in the Discovery Men’s Health Surf Ski Series.
A gutted Mocke was left to rue his tactical errors. “I really thought I was in with a strong chance, but it seems like I overdid it coming too far in-shore, and I battled with the side-on westerly swells,” he said.
“This race really favours the locals, and it still remains unfinished business for me,” added the popular Capetonian, who has won just about every other major international surf ski title, but has had to settle for minor placings in the Durban event for the past four years.
Plettenberg Bay star Michele Eray comfortably won the women’s title, setting off on a shrewd deep sea line that saw her separate from most of the B batch that she started in.
“I am so chuffed to win this because I suspect that some people think I am a flatwater specialist,” said the Olympic K4 star.
“It was technically demanding out there because the swell was more a wind chop, rather than a deep sea swell, and being lighter I was able to get onto lots of those smaller bumps and use them to my advantage.”
Eray can justifiably lay claim to the title “the best female surf ski paddler in the world” having won every single surf ski race she has entered since the Beijing Games, including the Hong Kong Dragon Run, the Dubai Shamaal and last weekend’s Investec Mauritius Ocean Challenge in big surf off the Indian Ocean island.
The international challenge failed to make a dent into the top 10 placings, with Frenchman Yannick Laousse spearheading the foreign challenge in fourteenth place, just ahead of Aussie under-21 star Brendan Rice, with compatriot Mark Anderson in finishing in seventeenth place.
The double-ski race went to the potent Durban duo of Warren Jacobs and Jeffrey Smith, whose blitz from Durban to Westbrook left them in second place overall. Sean and Alison Uys took the mixed doubles title.
- Clint Pretorius 1:55:37
- Matt Bouman 1:57:21
- Oscar Chalupsky 1:58:12
- Brett Bartho 1:59:46
- Dawid Mocke 1:59:59
- Tom Schilperoort 2:00:24
- Herman Chalupsky 2:00:57
- Jasper Mocke 2:01:05
- Richard von Wildermann 2:03:59
- Steve Woods 2:04:52
- Michele Eray 2:17:52
- Michele Eder 2:26:04
- Tiffany Kruger 2:26:55
- Donna Winter 2:30:37
- Nathalie Veckranges 2:34:19
- Warren Jacobs/Jeffrey Smith 1:56:29
- Richard Philps/Gary Clarke 2:03:59
- Iain Searle/Quinton Rutherfoord 2:05:53
- Bevan Manson/Marcel Keet 2:08:15
- Nigel Stevens/Michael Stevens 2:08:57
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