The end of the Pili Pili era

The end of the Pili Pili era

(Feedback by Gary Van Rooyen)

Thursday’s forecast predicted epic KITING weather for the SUP race day!!

The paddling die-hards tightened their tie-down straps and left home. They were off to the well-known Breede River Lodge hosting the “Pili Pili Whale of a Race” in Witsand. They had an old score to settle, and the race was only a part of it.

The paddlers all knew it would be windy from the start, but they turned up on race day with their heads in the game.

Due to the priority of safety first, and with no NSRI boat on duty, it was agreed that there would be no crossing over the river mouth. This area can be tricky with the current going out & the swell to work through, let alone during a strong wind.

The race was shortened to around 5km out of the regular 7km, which was a bit disappointing to the regulars, but it made sense when they had to start in the harbour due to the wind factor. No one  could stand in a straight line outside the harbour!

Finding a line

The course involved a paddle with the wind upstream to a buoy about 100m away. Paddlers went around the buoy and back into the wind for about 3,5km, all the way down to a sand spit.

There was lots of falling and jostling – trying to find the best line with the current going out and the wind coming towards you was no easy task. There was also about a two foot wave mid-river, so it was best to steer clear or stay to the side of that.

Some paddlers got off to a great start, but others had lots of falls. Tarryn King broke away quickly from the ladies’ group. In the men’s department, it was our Junior Sprint Champion Cameron Tripney who darted off, leaving all in his wake – making it difficult for the other guys to catch up,  so the lineup held fast with a slight shift mid-race.

Eventually it was Cameron Tripney who took it home, with a lovely downwind from the sand spit all the way home –  a very easy run. Tom King came in second, Miggie really showed up well, coming in third place!

The two prone paddlers did exceptionally well too, with Jadon coming in 3rd overall in the men’s section, and Cailin earning second place overall in the ladies’ division – impressive work! According to Jadon, the event really lived up to its name of being at the “Xtreme Sport Centre!”

The first lady of SUP was Tarryn King, followed later by Evette Terblanche. Some really nice prizes went to Candace who spent a bit of time on her knees, but hats off to some of the girls like Lynne and Gaby too – it was a tough day but they did incredibly well. Charles too!

Sadly this was the last race – the owners have sold the restaurant, and we hope they can host another race in their new location.

This news, however, did not mar a great weekend, with the highlight being the continuation of a traditional post-race beer pong rivalry. The “wild horses,” Gary and Candace, almost reached the finals, but were unable to topple the unbeatable duo and owners of Pili Pili – Neels and Craig – who have won for 8 years running! This game is serious business, as surely as were the sore heads on Sunday morning!

So is this the end of an era? We hope not, and we are confident that the beer pong champions will find a new venue and a new race to continue the legacy! The SUP addicts will be there, still trying to settle that beer pong score!

Downwind Mavericks race day

Downwind Mavericks race day

In the middle of June, when paddlers have grown weary of the Cape’s windless winter days, the banter on the local chat group can quickly escalate into a very interesting plot.


A restless Young Gun, ever eager for more paddling, passes a glib comment to the SUP master of old about catching him on a downwind. A quick uptake, and a challenge is set in motion.

Out of this banter grew our race! The experienced Mavericks would race against the Young Guns, in the renowned southeaster downwind territory of Miller’s Run – an 11km paddle that can have a few challenges if the wind demons are not in the right kind of mood for the day. It can be a workout, or a whirlwind!

The race date was set, the entries logged in and the wind began to whisper that morning of exciting things to come. Our race director gave us a good-to-go signal, warning that it would be an honest paddle, as the ocean and wind were in a bit of a docile state compared to regular downwind conditions.

The busy slipway at the start

Thanks to the local paddler’s taxi service, Miller’s taxi, our racers had a lift all the way to the venue, but as with any event, you never know what’s in store on the day. The slipway at the start was abuzz with a fair amount of traffic, and the fishermen were working the sea with gusto and lining the route the paddlers needed to take. Alongside that were some casual paddlers, also taking advantage of a great day and “milder” conditions to notch some more downwind miles on to their paddling belts! Vinny later commented that our racers displayed the best organisation he had ever seen amongst the slipway chaos.

Paddlers ready, set…. and go!

A few of the intermediate paddlers were set off first, as well as some brave watermen trying out their first downwind race and first time on a race board – what absolute sports they were – and they made it all the way, albeit tired at the end.

The Mavericks were selected and given a special leader’s rash vest to wear and the Young Guns and mere mortal paddlers had to do their best to keep up as part of the second pack to leave. 

We must give hearty applause to the prone paddlers. The Miller’s downwind on a milder day is already a slog on a SUP, especially when compared to the double-bladed power of the surfskis. Completing 11km on a purely hand-paddled craft while bending on your knees or lying on your stomach – well, that’s just another level of seamanship altogether! We salute our two prone paddling guys, and hope that the junior ladies-in-training will soon be the young guns chasing you mavericks!


Pick up your ski & go again

Young gun lineup at the finish

Our prone paddler finishing strong       

So, back to the challenge that set the stage – what was the outcome?

Well, the SUP master reigned after all, but only just. The Young Gun was very close behind him, in fact, just under 3 minutes behind! Watch out for the next race – we might have to crown a new Maverick!

The SUP Master retains his title! 

The Young gun is ready for more! 

Join us on 12th November as we embark on part 2 of the Downwind Mavericks Series.

Details on our SUPSA CALENDAR soon!