09 July 2024

KZN North Coast shows off great conditions for the Engen Ballito Downwind title

Submitted by: Agnes Matladi
KZN North Coast shows off great conditions for the Engen Ballito Downwind title

With a selection of the province’s top competitive paddlers taking to the Indian Ocean on Sunday, 7 July, the 2024 Engen Ballito Downwind was always going to be a hotly contested tournament.

But in the end, it was East London brothers, Matthew and Joshua Fenn, who took top honours in the doubles surfski race from Blythedale to Tiffany’s beaches. Husband-and-wife team from the KZN North Coast, Hank and Pippa McGregor, took the mixed doubles title, coming 2nd overall just minutes behind the winners, while fellow North Coasters Saskia Hockly and Christie Mackenzie took the ladies' title.

This epic contest forms part of the Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill festival programme which brought non-stop entertainment to KwaDukuza visitors from 25 June to 8 July. Some 53 competitors started at Blythedale Beach at noon, finishing at Tiffany’s Beach 18.5kms north with the prizegiving ceremony hosted at Canelands Hotel.

Organisers South Africa Surf Ski partnered with The Ballito Pro for the event, with new title sponsor, Engen Ballito and perennial surfski sponsors, the Pumpsmiths, supporting the event. Speaking on behalf of the winning team, Matthew Fenn said: “The race went really well. We were blessed with more wind than the forecast predicted so we had a lovely downwind.

The competition was fun, we struggled to get rid of Hank and Pippa early on in the race, they were strong from the start and got out through the surf nice and clean, and it was good fun dicing them in the early stages. It’s a beautiful stretch of coastline to paddle and we really enjoyed it. Josh was super strong the whole way, I had a lot of fun in the back trying to stay with him.”

Commenting after the prizegiving ceremony, Barry Lewin, Event Organiser, said: “It was great to see so many paddlers take part in the event with guys coming from as far as Pietermaritzburg, Scottburgh, East London, and Richards Bay.

Conditions were amazing with a beautiful wind, which is what the event aims for. There were lots of big smiles on the faces of the competitors. It’s great to have local businesses backing the event with Engen Ballito, the Pumpsmiths, and South African Surfski sponsoring.” The surprise contenders on the day were Ballito power paddling couple, Hank and Pippa McGregor, both respected paddlers with a number of wins together.

Multiple World Champion, Hank, also said the day’s conditions were fantastic for the race: “The conditions turned on to be perfect. Barry waited for the perfect opportunity, the wind was building in the morning and a midday race was perfect. There was a small swell and great downwind conditions. My wife, Pippa paddled really well and we finished second overall against the Fenn brothers. Winning the Mixed Doubles was a tough competition with the likes of Matthew Bouman and Michelle Burn, and the Mansons, so we were really happy to pull off the title in this fantastic event. Thanks to all the sponsors and I look forward to next year’s race.”

One-half of the Ladies’ Division winners, Saskia Hockly, said despite initial weather predictions, it was a great race: “The forecast on Saturday night made it look like a slog of a paddle but we were happily surprised the ocean was spotted with white and running nicely.

After navigating a bit of a challenging launch, Christie and I headed deep to make the most of what was on offer.

There were some fabulous runs to race against and we hit some good speeds! We cruised down the coast to Tiffany’s where we came in nice and cleanly and overall, I enjoyed every second of the race. Barry always puts on such fantastic events and is always utilising the best stretches of coastline in our province, giving us paddlers a mixture of courses to enjoy throughout the season.”

2024 Engen Ballito Downwind Results Men’s Division

1st Matthew and Joshua Fenn (1:03:00.16)
2nd Luke Nisbet and Brent Chiazzari (1:07:57.34)
3rd Gal Marks and Keegan Vogt ( 1:11:24.93)
4th Marco Magni and Vernon Vogt (1:11:50.95)
5th Lee Furby and Barry Painting (1:13:27.67)
6th Ty Haynes and Troy Jacobs (1:16:15.76)
7th Bryce Hatton and Marc Stanton (1:16:33.78)
8th Brad and Chris Allan (1:17:11.40)
9th Jayden Van Rensburg and Senzo Ngcobo (1:20:17.62)
10th Clint Pretorius and Mark Jason (1:22:22.51)

Mixed Doubles Division

1st Hank and Pippa McGregor (1:05:03.14)
2nd Michelle Burn and Matthew Bouman (1:08:23.15)
3rd Bevan and Carol Manson (1:15:18.91)
4th Brendon Waters and Mikaila Brown (1:16:40.35)
5th Shaine and Julia McAlister (1:18:08.94)
6th Dirk Barnard and Stacey Lee Pretorius (1:31:40.72)
7th Wilma Deyzel and Keith Bennett (1:32:34.48)

Ladies Division
1st Saskia Hockly and Christie Mackenzie (1:12:46.12)
2nd Jenna Nisbet and Bridgette Hartley (1:19:49.65)
3rd Lyn Bennett and Clair Spring (1:37:25.16)

Following the 2024 theme, This is the Battlefield – Lena Inkundla Yempi, visitors got to watch the best surfers battle it out in the longest-running professional surfing event while enjoying a host of top-class festival entertainment. Watch LIVE The Challenger Series will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the free WSL app, and the WSL's YouTube channel. Also, check out more ways to watch from the WSL's broadcast partners.

To find out more about The Ballito Pro presented by O’Neill festival programme, visit:

Published in Sports Range