Kira Bester Surges to Pete Marlin Win to claim the 2023 SA Surfski Champs Title in East London

Kira Bester was clearly the strongest paddler in the 22km Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski race off the East London Coast to win the 2023 SA Surfski Championships on Saturday. Photo: Craig Giese/Gameplan Media

Kira Bester has claimed the South African Championship title after winning the opening day of the Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski Race in East London, Eastern Cape, on Saturday, 4 November, 2023.

Bester had to survive a scare that brought back a couple of unwanted memories before comfortably beating Saskia Hockly and Nix Birkett into the lower steps of the podium in the women’s race.

Clearly the strongest paddler in the 22km race from Orient Beach to Yellow Sands off the East London Coast, Bester broke away virtually from the start to comfortably lead her rivals home.

“I’m very, very pleased with this win because last year was quite a train smash,” said Bester while remembering being knocked off her ski by a wave within sight of the finish in 2022, and before recounting her second close-encounter with a whale on Saturday.

“It’s actually ironic my near-miss with the whale today, because last year I broke my boat just after Pete Marlin when a whale breached and smashed into my ski.

“So seeing another whale and it only just missing me, brought back a bit of a trauma and I was ‘Oh no, not again.’ But then, when I looked back, I was very pleased it had just missed me.”

Coming up today, Sunday’s events are all about the doubles crews with some strong combinations lining up to claim the S2 national title.

In the women’s doubles race, Nix Birkett will be paddling with Jade Wilson and are sure to be tough to beat, although the 2022 doubles winner and former South African, Chloe Bunnett, will be looking for a repeat victory. She is now living in Spain and has teamed up with last year’s mixed double runner up, Tracey van der Walt. 

Two other young crews to watch closely are the Junior World K2 Champions Georgia Singe and Holly Smith, and Hockly with UK’s Rosie Edwards.

The mixed doubles is always an interesting tussle but it is hard to see anybody beating Saturday’s singles champ Hank McGregor and his wife, Pippa.

“We’ve done quite a few races together this year and to share something with your wife is quite special,” said Hank earlier this week. “We won the world mixed doubles championships last year at World Canoe Champs, and we thought it would be really cool if we could add the South African Mixed Surfski Champs by winning the Pete Marlin.

“I really enjoy paddling with my wife and I’m going to be leaving next week for Hong Kong and I’ll be gone for nearly a month, so it was like the last time to really share some quality time together, and nothing better than actually being able to do a race together.”


Main Photo Caption: Kira Bester was clearly the strongest paddler in the 22km Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski race off the East London Coast to win the 2023 SA Surfski Championships on Saturday. Photo: Craig Giese/Gameplan Media

Photo 2 Caption: Kira Bester pictured running up the beach to finish the SA Surfski Championships, beating off competitors Saskia Hockly and Nix Birkett for the national title. Photo: Craig Giese/Gameplan Media

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