The prizes – a modest couple of hundred Rands for the top three in each division and t-shirts for the rest – are clearly not the incentive that drives athletes to compete in South Africa’s Discovery Surfing Challenge.
No, they do it solely for the glory and the bragging rights. After all, the entire thing came about on a dare made inside a favourite East London watering hole.
It was 1975, and having not fared as well as some of their runner friends in a road relay from King Williams Town to East London, the five man surfing team was in for some teasing from the athletes. In an attempt at retribution, the surfers issued a challenge to the road runners: a competition on their own turf – the beach – and set about planning a route taking in the sand, rocks, loose boulders and rivers between two points from Yellow Sands at the Kwelera River mouth to Nahoon Beach in East London.
That first race stretched for about a kilometre further than the current one, and began with just 36 enthusiastic runners. To add insult to the surfers’ injury, that maiden race was won by one of the road runners!
The mad race became an annual tradition, and so, for the past 35 years, surfers, athletes, walkers and paddlers have paced the Eastern Cape shoreline for this Discovery Surfers Challenge. These days, it has become one of the most sought after marathon obstacle courses in the country.
The race has stayed in the hands of the surfing fraternity ever since and currently boasts an entry base of over 2 500 participants. (This year the tally of entrants stood at a hefty 2 654!)
All that trouble for a couple of hundred bucks… Who knew that pride could be so cheap?
For the first time, South African DStv viewers can see the race on television at the following dates and times:
Thursday 12th March 18h00 CSN, SS1 and SS1A
Friday 13th March 10h00 SS2 and SS2A
Saturday 14th March 13h00 SS2 and SS2A
Sunday 15th March 18h00 SS2 and SS2A