Having grown up in a sport loving family on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Plettenberg Bay, it is no surprise that Michèle Eray has dedicated her talents to surf skiing.

However, the 29-year-old says she “dabbled” in several surf and turf disciplines (including water polo, squash and tennis) before turning her attention to the rough waters of surf skiing.

The Beijing Olympian and winner of last year’s Dubai Shamaal – the richest surf ski race in the world – will start odds-on favourite in the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Ski Classic at this year’s MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival.

Michael Zoetmulder, the festival’s watersport co-ordinator, says he will be “very surprised” if anyone crosses the finish line before Eray, even though the quality field includes names like Durban’s Tiffany Kruger.

A wary Eray says she is currently in the middle of base training and will probably not be at her best this Easter.

“There are so many high quality races these days, you can only focus on two or three per year. Of course it would be great to win every event I enter, but it’s impossible to peak for all of them.”

Eray says she is building towards several big races later in the year, but is looking forward to the Port Elizabeth event. “I’m usually away on training camps over Easter so I’m excited at the opportunity of competing at the Splash Festival this year.”

The event marks the start of a busy programme for her. The day afterwards she will take part in the national championships in her home town and from there she will be off to Spain.

For Eray, who says her career highlight is placing seventh in the K4 final over 500 metres in Beijing, surf skiing was a natural progression. “I crossed over from lifesaving when long-distance surf ski races became popular in the mid-nineties.”

According to Zoetmulder, South Africa has long been the breeding ground of the world’s top surf skiers, fuelled by the Chalupsky legacy. “Over the past few decades there has been a lot of interest in the sport and therefore tremendous depth.”

Surf skiing, says Eray, is becoming increasingly popular among women, especially with modern technology allowing much lighter equipment. “There is no reason why there shouldn’t be equal numbers of men and women on the water.”

The Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Ski Classic starts at 11am on Friday, April 10, and is expected to finish at around 12.30pm at Hobie Beach.

The top 20 male and female finishers will battle it out in the King/Queen of Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Ski Challenge, a knock-out event, immediately afterwards.

For more information, visit www.splashfestival.com or phone the festival office on 041 393 4844.

Issued by:

Full Stop Communications

Coetzee Gouws
041 368 4992
082 575 7991

On behalf of:

MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival