This weekend we headed East to the Witsand Whale of a SUP Race – Hosted by Pili Pili Xtreme Sport Centre.
This was the 3rd annual Pili Pili held in Witsand, at the mouth of the infamous Breede River.
Upon arrival on Thursday afternoon, we were greeted with the warmest of welcomes from the Breede River Lodge and the PiliPili Adventure Centre, both of which are located on the banks of the river. Weary from our travels, we were delighted to be shown to our accommodation, where we were able to relax and take in the beauty of our surroundings. We later enjoyed a traditional Heritage Day braai, along with good conversation and great company.
Friday morning arrived and we couldn’t wait to get on the water. With the sun shining and not much wind, we were able to enjoy a leisurely paddle out the mouth of the river and into the waves, gaining an understanding of the course of which we would be racing. As the day progressed, we saw more competitors and supporters roll in, all in excitement of the race taking place the following morning.
The morning of the race had arrived, starting with registration from 8-10am, followed by the course layout meeting. With the race to start at 11am sharp, all paddlers gathered their equipment and entered the water in anticipation.
The race was off to an exciting start and we quickly found ourselves scrambling around the first buoy located only a few hundred metres away and fighting for a place in the train. Dylan Frick, Chris Couve and Kimon Dos Santos broke away from the rest of the train to gain an early lead. Following closely behind them was Rory Smyth, myself (Michael Oxley), Joshua Robertson, Shayne Chipps, Matthew Maxwell, Dave Maxwell and Guy Bubb.
One minute later, we saw the start to the women’s race, with Jackie De Billot, Lande Williamson and Mishka Steyn gaining a definitive lead over the rest of the ladies.
The course proved to become more and more difficult throughout the race, with the wind, currents and waves ultimately being the deciding factors.
Crossing the sand bank with board and paddle in hand and heading for the home stretch, we saw Dylan, Chris and Kimon (men) and Jackie, Lande and Mishka (women), powering ahead towards the finish line marked by the Xpression on the Beach flag.
There was an undying support from the crowds lining the harbour wall as the last of the competitors crossed the finish line, showing real determination, as the conditions continued to worsen.
Prize giving commenced at 5pm at the PiliPili Restaurant and Bar where the R15k cheque for men’s first place was handed to Dylan Frick and title of PiliPili woman’s first place and 2015 Overall Woman’s Race Champion to Jackie De Billot.
The rest of the evening’s festivities consisted of a great game of rugby (GO BOKKE!), NSRI’s famous lamb spit-braai and the highly competitive beer pong championships.
The weekend wouldn’t have been the same without the constant refreshments provided by Red Bull SA and Bos Ice Tea. Thank you to Neels Swanepoel and Craig Robinson of PiliPili Adventure Centre for organising an unforgettable event and Breede River Lodge for their unwavering hospitality. It was definitely one for the books and we cannot wait for next year!
Words by Mike Oxley
Photographer : Clare James