Michèle vs Michelle duel headlines women’s Dunlop Surfski World Cup
Durban – The tussle for the women’s title in the Dunlop Surfski World Cup Durban next weekend will see two classy South African paddlers who share tantalizingly similar first names square up for what promises to be an epic tussle.
Amanzimtoti based Michelle Eder was in rampant form during the summer Varsity College Marine Surfski Series, and has started the winter Discovery Sunglass Hut series in equally dominant fashion. Slight in stature, the 24 year old has developed a reputation as a tenacious competitor who is very capable in demanding surf conditions.
Plettenberg Bay product Michèle Eray is six years Eder’s senior, and since her successful sprinting career took her to Olympic final glory in Beijing, she has travelled the world, setting the benchmark for female surfski excellence as she won virtually every single ski race she entered.
Twenty-something Eray won the Dunlop Surfski World Cup last year, reaching the finish at Westbrook beach outside Tongaat a full six minutes ahead of second placed Eder.
However Eray’s challenge at the EuroChallenge in Spain last weekend was stymied by a persistent flu virus that dogged her during the race, which was won by compatriot Nikki Mocke. At times her heart rates was topping 170, forcing the gutsy Plett star to paddler well within herself.
Whether Eray will have shaken off the flu and it’s after effects in time to peak for the Durban decider will add an air of intrigue to the women’s race, particularly as the typical Autumn conditions at this time of year are more likely to offer flat seas rather than significant downwind swells enjoyed over the last two years.
“To be able to win in a downwind as well as flat is a good measure of an all-round paddler,” said Eray. “Durban usually offers good downwind as we have had for the last few years, but we will have to see what the earlier race date offers us on the day.”
“I was recently in Durban, and managed to do the race course with local legend Mark Lewin, so that was a great help,” said Eray. “After getting back from Spain I will have two final weeks of race preparation.”
“For South African paddlers it is a great opportunity to race with the world’s best surf ski paddlers,” Eray added. “Not many sports allow that. For example, in sprint and marathon canoeing, only two people per country are allowed to race. In surfski racing the everyday paddler can line up with the top paddlers in the world.”
Eder knows the KwaZulu-Natal coastal conditions very well, and is leaning her training towards a tougher grind than the race has enjoyed in the past two years.
“DUC to Winklespruit is actually 36km which is a massive distance and without some decent training it could end up being a long haul,” said Eder. “I am trying to do a bit of distance after recently finishing the Lifesaving season with more sprint related training.”
“I mostly end up doing one longer paddle a week and shorter sessions of about 45min on the dam in the evenings,” she added.
The Dunlop Surfski World Cup Durban takes place on Sunday 16 May over a distance on 32 kilometres. The final race course will be decided by the prevailing weather. More information can be found at www.surfski.co.za