Hundreds of thousands of festivalgoers took advantage of near-perfect weather conditions to pack out the first two days of the MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival at Hobie Beach on Easter Friday and Saturday.

Despite overnight rain, Port Elizabeth’s traditional watersport family festival got off to a rollicking start.

“In the 19 years that I’ve been involved with the festival, it has been the best opening day that I can remember,” said one of the festival’s organisers, Glenn van Eck from Magnetic Storm. “If the weather holds, I’m confident that we will achieve record attendance figures.”

He said they have had several reports from stallholders who had to restock due to the unexpected early demand.

“We had a magnificent opening to the watersport programme,” said Michael Zoetmulder from Zports, the festival’s watersport co-ordinator. “It is great to have so much public interest in this component of the Splash.”

He said the highlight of the first day was the World Series NMB Surf Ski Classic, won by Capetonian Dawid Mocke. Durbanites Matt Boumann and Hank Mc Gregor completed the podium.

PE’s Richard von Wildemann was the first local to finish, with Plettenberg Bay’s Olympian, Michèle Eray, winning the women’s section.

“It was awe-inspiring to have such an elite field,” said Zoetmulder. “The profile of this event will be a huge boost to local paddling development and PE’s status as the watersport capital of Africa.”

He said the relatively testing conditions were “ideal” for paddling. “The combination of the cross, down and headwinds, along with a great swell near Cape Recife, made it a true test.”

Zoetmulder said statistics had shown that many people, who could not be at the event, followed it on the live blog on the festival’s website.

Van Eck also confirmed that Friday evening’s entertainment programme – which was headlined by the Afrikaans band DJ Ossewa – was the best attended of any opening day he could remember. “The weather played along and so did the public.”

The metro also gave the new-look festival a thumbs-up. “The quality and success of the event so far vindicate our decision to outsource it to events management companies,” said metro spokesman Kupido Baron.

He said the turnout cemented the Splash’s status as one of the biggest beach festivals in the country, if not on the continent.

The role of the primary sponsors – MTN and the metro – was also highlighted by the organisers. “We’ve had outstanding support from all concerned in the short lead-up to the event,” said Doug Pudney from Frontier Events.

One of yesterday’s (Saturday) highlights was a successful crossing of Algoa Bay from Bluewater Bay to Hobie Beach by Denver Burns, the current Mr PE. He completed the swim in three hours, 45 minutes to join an elite club of solo swimmers that have achieved the feat.

The first person to have done so, PE’s Kyle Main, will try to break more new ground when he attempts a double crossing from Hobie Beach to the Bell Buoy and back tomorrow (Monday). He starts at 9am and is expected to finish the 14-kilometre circuit in about four hours.

The beachfront came to a complete halt at 8.30pm last night (Saturday) when thousands watched the Algoa FM Fireworks Spectacular set the night ablaze before the Afro-pop group, Mafikizolo, ended off the evening programme on a high note.

SMS the word “Monday” to 36073 to receive tomorrow’s (Monday) programme highlights on your phone. To win prizes such as cellphones, airtime and accommodation, SMS the word “Splash” to the same number. SMS’s cost R5 each.

Issued by:

Full Stop Communications

Coetzee Gouws
041 368 4992
082 575 7991

On behalf of:

MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival