Elite surfski racing returns to the KZN North Coast with the Engen Ballito Downwind

The sporting action is set to increase at the 55th Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill with the inclusion of the Engen Ballito Downwind on Sunday, 7 July between Bythdale and Tiffany’s beaches. This premium doubles surfski race forms part of the epic Ballito Pro festival programme running in KwaDukuza from 25 June to 8 July, featuring live entertainment, quality retail, extreme sports, art activations, kids’ activities, and more!

The surfski and paddling community on the KZN North Coast growing with racing returning to the region and there’s a need for more events. The Engen Ballito Downwind originally ran in 2018 but was put on halt due to Covid-19. As the paddlers relocated to the KZN North Coast, the club has organised a number of events on the KZN calendar, including Jawitz Properties season opener, as the KZN Marathon Championships.

The organisers, South Africa Surf Ski, are proud to partner with the local standout festival for the region, The Ballito Pro, as part of the programme. Barry Lewin, Event Organiser, said:

“It’s great to be part of a larger festival to offer surfski paddlers not only the great ocean conditions of the KZN North Coast, but other auxiliary activities such as Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill, the concerts presented by Corona, as well as the markets and retail activities which are bringing visitors to the region.

“We are very excited to welcome a new title sponsor to the event with Engen Ballito, our local filling and convenience centre as well as perennial surfski sponsors, the Pumpsmiths who are supporting the event. Big thanks to Mark Jason and Rajesh Ramperthab for backing the sport as a local business, and we look forward to the paddlers filling up at Engen.”

The KZN North Coast is a hotbed of local talent, Hank McGregor, Saskia Hockly, Christie Mackenzie, and Brent Chiazzari as well as club members who will use their local knowledge to take advantage in the seniors, vets, juniors, and mixed doubles categories.

uMdloti residents Saskia Hockly and Christie Mackenzie – the KZN Flatwater Marathon Champs – will be upping the competition at the event as they take to the water. Commenting on the race, Hockly said: “I’m super excited to hear that yet another new race has been brought in on my home stretch of coastline, and for it to be hosted alongside the Ballito Pro is really cool with the high vibes and good spirits!

“One of my favourite races, the Dolphin Coast Challenge is held on the North Coast and I believe this specific stretch of coastline has some world-class potential. I’m really looking forward to getting geared up in my ski leading up the SA Surfski Champs in Durban as well, and the surfski community in our city is filled with amazing, friendly and passionate people who all share one thing in common: the love for the sea! I can’t wait to line up on that line and race with good friends and in my favourite place in the world.”

Fellow paddler, Christie Mackenzie said: “I am super excited to be a part of this race! Surfski is relatively new for me and I’m super excited to be sitting behind my super-competent partner Saskia Hockly. We have had a super successful season together so far and I’m really excited to be learning more about the sea from her.”

Competing with Luke Nisbet is Salt Rock’s Brent Chiazzari, a new resident on the KZN North Coast who’s very keen to compete in the Engen Ballito Downwind: “The vibe around The Ballito Pro and the inclusion of a surfski event is really quite exciting for the surfski fraternity. Barry Lewin loves a good downwind and he’s planned the route along some of the best downwinding coastlines in South Africa. If we get some wind this year, it is sure to be one for the books. The launch itself can be a bit hairy with Blythdale having a typical steep entry beach with a decent shorebeak, but that’s part of the challenge. Luke and I are hoping for some strong downwind conditions!”

2024 Engen Ballito Downwind

Course: 18.5kms from Blythedale Beach to Tiffany’s Beach

Date: Sunday, 7 July

Time: 9am

Entry: www.canoesa.org.za | R305 (incl. KNCU fees) with a race shirt for the first 50 paddlers to pre-enter

This is a proudly Ballito Pro event presented by The Pumpsmith, South Africa Surf Ski, and Engen Ballito.

2024 Ballito Pro Festival Lineup

Outside of the skating and surfing arenas, visitors to this year’s Ballito Pro will enjoy two weeks of non-stop festival fun at the longest-running professional surfing event in the world. Some exciting 2024 festival elements include:

  • Ballito Pro Music Concerts Presented by Corona
  • Recreational Action
  • Retail Delight with food, drinks, arts and crafts
  • Kids’ Corner with face painting, sandcastle building, beach dashes, and Jive with Jen dance
  • Battle of the DJs and After Dark programme
  • Monster Energy Activation
  • iLembe Surf Riders Fundraiser
  • After Dark Programmes and Parties
  • Painting on Purpose Art Activation
  • Litter4Tokens Awareness Campaign and Beach

Following the 2024 theme, This is the Battlefield – Lena Inkundla Yempi, visitors will watch the best surfers battle it out in the longest-running professional surfing event while enjoying a host of top-class festival entertainment.

Don’t miss any of the action at the 2024 Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival #thisisthebattlefield #lenainkudlayempi

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:

Website: www.theballitopro.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/theballitopro/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheBallitoPro

Instagram: www.instagram.com/TheBallitoPro

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theballitopro

Snapchat: Username – TheBallitoPro

Image Credit: © WSL/McGregor