The country’s top junior talent tackled the eight kilometer Varsity College SA Schools Surfski Champs in Durban.
In the under 18 boys race pre-race favourite and defending champion Kenny Rice surged to the front of the field early on and once he got a sniff of victory he took complete control of proceedings and powered ahead of the rest, finishing three and a half minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
The Bergvliet High School youngster has put in some remarkable performances in the twelve months since his first title effort in 2012 which have seen him regularly mixing it up with some of the country’s top senior open ocean paddlers.
“Coming into the race I was pretty nervous because there was a lot of pressure on me with everyone saying that I was the favourite and I really prefer being the underdog,” said Rice.
“I turned around the first can third but was soon at the front with Gene (Prato) and one other but when I turned to Gene to say it was his turn to pull I realized I was on my own. Gene had fallen back a bit and had gone quite a bit closer to the shore so I decided to push as hard as I could from then on.
“Once I got ahead of the rest of the guys I just tried to focus on not letting Hank (McGregor) and the rest of the senior guys catch me so I just kept pushing the entire way to the finish.
“I’m really stoked with the win, especially having won last year’s title in some controversial circumstances, so it feels great to be able to win one properly this time!
Despite having no answers to Rice’s dominance, a performance which also earned him a R40 000 bursary to Varsity College for the performance of the champs, Gene Prato (Glenwood High) put the rest of the field into a similar position to the one he found himself in as he stormed ahead of his chasers to claim a comfortable second place ahead of regular local rival Calvin McKie (Clifton College).
The under 18 girls battle was certainly one to remember as school mates, best friends, regular doubles partners and permanent single ski rivals Kirsten Flanagan and Amy Hare (both Springfield Convent, Cape Town) resumed the contest they started in 2012 – which saw Hare claim victory by the smallest of margins after an end sprint up the beach – only this time it was the other way round as Flanagan made the top step of the podium her own.
With very difficult North Easterly conditions prevailing Flanagan got the early advantage and the talented young star soon opened up a slight gap over Hare through the early part of the first of two laps.
Disaster nearly struck late on the opening loop though as Flanagan found herself stranded deep out to sea after her rudder hooked onto the shark nets, leaving her floundering and unable to paddle on.
“I thought that was my race over right there,” explained an animated Flanagan. “I was just about to jump off my ski to get my rudder free when somehow it just came free on its own.”
“Fortunately I had a bit of a gap over Amy (Hare) at that stage so I was still in the lead when I finally got going again but from that point onwards I decided to just push as hard as I could.
“I’ve been working pretty hard since last year’s race so I was really well prepared coming into the race this year and I’m really glad it seems to all have paid off.
The under 16 boys race saw Wynberg Boys’ High youngster Jonah Paarman claim his age group’s national schools title, signaling his entry as a competitive surfski paddler nationally whilst the under 16 girls title was won by surfski novice Anya Botes (Hoërskool Centruion) who made the trip down from Pretoria for the clash.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
VARSITY COLLEGE SA SCHOOLS SURFSKI CHAMPS
Under 18 Boys
- Kenny Rice (Bergvliet High) 34.24
- Gene Prato (Glenwood High) 38.01
- Calvin McKie (Clifton College) 38.35
Under 18 Girls
- Kirsten Flanagan (Springfield Convent) 42.45
- Amy Hare (Springfield Convent) 44.08
- Savannah van Rooyen (Kloof High) 53.00
Under 16 Boys
- Jonah Paarman (Wynberg Boys’ High) 42.39
- Tristan Wilson (DHS) 45.05
- Brett Wilken (Glenwood High) 47.42
Under 16 Girls
- Anya Botes (Hoërskool Centurion) 1:06.31