Defending champion Dawid Mocke had to work hard in tough conditions to retain his Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Ski Classic title at Hobie Beach in Port Elizabeth on the opening day of the MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival.

After taking the lead in the closing stages, Mocke, from Fish Hoek in Cape Town, held off Matthew Bouman from Durban for the second year in-a-row. The 32-year-old completed the two-lap, 26km course in 2:00:18, a mere nine second ahead of Bouman (2:00:27).

Sean Rice (2:02:47) from Cape Town, who was in contention for a large portion of the race, eventually finished more than two minutes down in third.

Port Elizabeth’s Richard von Wildemann (2:04:50) was the first local home in fourth, bettering his fifth place from last year. Nineteen-year-old Grant van der Walt, a world junior kayak champion from Durban, was fifth in 2:05:47.

Barry Lewin (2:07:24), a Durbanite who represented South Africa in the Southern Shamaal in December last year, made a good recovery after having to dismount early on due to a fishing line getting caught in his ski’s rudder.

In the women’s race, PE-based Michéle Eray comfortably defended her crown in 2:17:16. The former Plettenberg Bay paddler was followed home by Cape Town’s Nikki Mocke in 2:19:35 and New Zealand’s world champion Katie Pocock in 2:22:55.

“It is a fantastic feeling to defend my title. South Africa has some of the best paddlers in the world,” a visibly tired Dawid Mocke said after the race.

“The conditions were really tough. There was no wind and the swell was extremely small.”

Mocke, the 2009 World Series Champion, said his game plan was to go out hard in order to stretch the field. “Once you’re behind, it is very tough to get back into contention.”

The field buckled under the relentless pressure and a leading group of five – consisting of Mocke, Bouman, Rice, Van der Walt and Von Wildemann – went clear heading towards the first turn at the boiler.

Another spurt by Mocke en route to the bell buoy on the first lap caught out both Van der Walt and Von Wildemann, trimming the lead group to just three. Rice succumbed heading towards the boiler on the second lap, leaving last year’s top two to battle it out to the finish.

“I took the lead at the bell buoy, but Mat drew level with me. He then took a wide line to the last turn, while I opted to stay closer to the coast.”

This tactic paid dividends as Mocke built up a 50m lead rounding the last marker. “All I needed to do was maintain the gap on the last stretch, which is not easy when you’re tired.”

Mocke said he was nervous about Bouman’s chase until the finish. “Mat is one of the toughest competitors in the world. He never gives up. I was looking over my shoulder until the very end.

“In a race like this, it literally comes down to catching or missing one runner.”

Eray – a Beijing Olympian and former Dubai Shamaal champion – also found it hard going. “The conditions were tough and very hot. Fortunately there were a few runners on the home stretch.”

She said her plan was not to start too fast. “Heading towards the boiler on lap one, I went deeper than the other girls and we got separated. I worked really hard to consolidate my lead and then focused on maintaining it.

“I was very worried about Nikki coming from behind. I trained with her before the Olympics and I know how fast she is when she has a carrot to chase.”

For more information, visit or follow the event on Facebook or Twitter.

Issued by:

Full Stop Communications

Coetzee Gouws
041 368 4992
082 575 7991

On behalf of:

MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival