This annual historic surfski marathon sadly signals the end of the winter surfski season in KZN. Held every year after the Durban winter surfski series on our notorious KZN south coast, it is a test of both man and craft. This year was once again no exception. A nasty surf break at all the beaches. A very fresh head wind picked up during the race which was also  going to make it very tough to complete the course without having to dig really deep and hurt plenty.


This year the major prizes were for double ski teams. This is where having a good very tough partner comes in. I cannot praise my partner Linton Hope enough. My way of dealing with a strong head wind in a race is to just heads down and tough it out as hard and fast as you can. Not a murmur from him as we chased down boat after boat in the second half of the race. A win for us in the masters category and a top 10 finish overall, (9th), rounded off a great race and a fun season for our pairing. The highlight being a second overall in the one downwind series race. Our hybrid construction APEX 2 double surfski served us well in all the various conditions we raced in.


A further highlight was the progress of the squad of young paddlers from marine SLC that I have been coaching. At the end of the Winter series, 4 of them, including 2 juniors wanted to take on the Scottburgh to Brighton Marathon. They toughed it out real hard, with the senior paring of Sthembiso Mbatha and Mkwaba Banda finishing strongly.


The young juniors Sipho Luthuli  and Brendon Sharp, having an epic battle against the elements and the surf, finishing in 8hours 30minutes. A real show of character in not giving up. They left in their wake a number of paddlers that turned away at the start and did not even get on the water and a good few that withdrew during the race.


Hats off to 1) Billy Harker of the surfski series (, for stepping up each year and doing his best to promote this race. 2) To the organisers from the KZN south coast that host the event each year and acknowledges every single paddler that finishes the course. 3) To the great performance from Bevan Mansen and his young partner Kyle Friedenstein for coming up from East London and showing the locals that it takes a bit extra to win this one. 4) The large contingent of paddlers that come down to the race from up in the freezing Gauteng and have to contend with very unfamiliar surf and wind. I never saw any of them moaning after the event. They are a very appreciable bunch of paddlers 5) To all our seconding teams that have to be up at 3am in the morning to get us to the race and follow and support us along the route. 6) To a challenge that hurts like hell for a good few days afterwards, but gives you a warm feeling of accomplishment. 7) GU Energy South Africa for sponsoring the Marine surfski squad with racing fuel and seeing potencial in the surfski future.



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The sea takes and it delivers. Yesterday it delivered. And how it delivered! The best conditions of the season so far for surfski racing. Some bigger sets at the start and finish did claim a few scalps, including our own Mark Mulder, who, racing to get into the top 5 cut the point at the finish and trashed his light weight carbon ski on the rocks. Not a good outing for him but for Barry Lewin on a BULLET, his third second place in a row in the series behind Hank McGregor, showed some real class and speed to run down and pass Mathew Bouman in the last 5km. Over and above Barry’s vastly improved fitness, we have been waiting for the BULLET to take its place amongst the leading competitive surfski’s in the market. The ski has proved its worth in both the flat conditions in Durban harbour to being able to match anything in a great down wind and sizeable surf.

As for the double ski race, I have said it before. The APEX 2 is the most underrated ski in the market. When, after a slow start a couple of 50 something geriatsky’s like myself and partner Linton Hope can charge through  a competitive field and finish second overall, it is a good indication of the surfability of the APEX 2 double surfski. Man! We had an absolute ball out there.

We have reached the halfway mark in this year’s Winter Series and it has really been incredible for us to see the huge strides our products have made this year in particular, with paddlers on our full range of craft on the podium across all the categories and grades . This year’s series has been one of the biggest and most competitive for some time. 5 down and 5 to go. Watch this space.

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This new look TV series that covers all kayaking disciplines and codes, also includes a product preview on new craft in our market that is topical or becoming popular. Our FOCUS single surfski has been getting a lot of attention and we were asked by the producers of the show if they could preview the FOCUS. The previewer is an independent media journalist. The fact that the interviewer is not an expert surfski paddler and has more of a river kayaking background was a good exercise to show that the FOCUS is suitable for paddlers coming off entry level ski’s and being very manageable. The results in races has proved the ski’s competitiveness throughout all levels of paddler. We expect the popularity of the ski to grow even further when we enter the South African Spring and summer season.

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On the back of a record breaking summer surfski series inDurban, the momentum has kicked on into the first three races of this years Winter series. Very big fields of paddlers providing close competition in all the categories right from the novices in the short course through all the grades up to the elite  paddlers where the top paddlers in the country are locked into tight racing in all three of the first races so far.

It is a great platform for us at Custom Kayaks to measure the success across the board of a very balanced, successful range of products. All three of our single ski’s have hit their mark in the series already.  The run down is as follows:-

BULLET (Elite) single ski. Up front, a fit again Barry Lewin has been 3rd, 4th and 2nd overall on his new BULLET single ski and Mark Mulder consistently in the top 10 and one top 5 placing. As it gains momentum, the BULLET, with a fit paddler in the seat will still prove to be amongst the most competitive surfski’s anywhere in the World.

FOCUS (Intermediate) single ski. This new surfski has been the real shaker. Its versatility from novice user friendliness, to competitive edge, is clearly evident in the series so far. There are great examples. Paul Jensen, 12 months ago, a novice on an entry level surfski, moving on to the FOCUS attained a good B grade category time in his very first ever Winter series race. The B grade makes up the biggest category of paddlers in the series and is very competitive. The grand masters category, (over 60 years) has produced first and second place finishes on the FOCUS, by Allan Hold and Patrick Elly. Up front,Stretch Struwigfrom Richards Bay  a masters paddler, (over 50 years) is not only dominating his age group on the FOCUS, but has been close to the top 10 overall in some of the races.

HORIZON (Entry Level) It is awesome to see the many new paddlers doing the series for the first time. Many of them on the HORIZON single surfski. A great example is a junior girl paddler, Savannah van Rooyen, in her first season, dominating the junior girls short course race each time so far, winning both the senior and junior ladies race in race 2.

APEX 2 (double surfski). Examples of the versatility of this surfski is endless. Up front at the racing end of the field, myself and partner Linton Hope in the two races we have done, (skipped race 2 having a bad flu bug), have been clear winners in the masters category, (over 50 years), on an APEX, sneaking in a top 5 overall in race one, really frustrating some of the younger top 10 hopefuls. Thando Thusi and Sthembiso Mbatha, the development crew from Marine SLC in their first season together have placed in the top 10 in each race so far. Thando, relatively new to this level of racing enjoying the overall performance that the APEX can give you.

From the top level down through the grades numerous doubles crews young and old are having an awesome experience on the APEX, irrespective of their ability level.


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I attended the champs on 21 March as a competitor in the Marine SLC Team, 22 -24 March as a Team manager and on all 4 days as a manufacturer. I was reminded throughout the champs of the great spread of usage of our lifesaving craft throughout South Africa and was blown away by the success of our craft in the results in all the age groups, junior under 16, junior under 19, senior and masters.

Clearly, the most used and most successful single ski in S.A. is the TITAN, with the TITAN 2 (Adjustable), becoming more and more popular with clubs and competitors with each competition.

Most of the single ski finals were dominated by over 60% of the field on the TITAN and TITAN 2. There were also a number of other Team titles, ie; surfski relay and Taplin relay that were won or placed using the TITAN single ski. It was also  good to see the amount of clubs that are now using our new competition rescue craft.

A particular feature of the champs was in the masters champs, where the competitors predominantly use their clubs craft, how, with a only very few exceptions almost all the titles were won on the TITAN single ski and both the masters double ski titles were won on the APEX 2 double surfski.

It was a long hard championships, held in varying unpredictable seas at times, and we were elated at the overall representation of Custom Kayaks craft country wide. We will be looking at ways to innovate even further for next season.

Some of the title holders on our ski’s are as follows:-


National Male Iron man title, (Gold medal) in all three age groups, Senior (Luke Nesbit), U19 (Paul van Achterberg) and U16 (Nicholas Nottan)

Paul in his Titan

National Ladies Iron Woman title U19 (Kirsten Flanagan)

National single ski  championship – Senior Men – Silver medal (Sean Rice)

Senior ladies  -Gold medal (Tiffany Kruger)

Junior male – U16 – gold Medal (Nicholas Nottan)

Junior lady  – U 16 – gold medal (Amy Hare)


National double surfski championship – Senior men – Bronze medal

(Brandon van der Walt & Nic Burdin)

National Mixed double surfski championship – silver medal – Oliver Burn & Michelle Eder.


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“FOCUS” Surfski up for grabs in the Custom Kayaks “FOCUS Lucky Draw Promotion”

Win a Custom Kayaks “FOCUS”


To spread the awareness of this new dynamic intermediate single surfski, Custom kayaks is launching a lucky draw promotion over the next three months.

The FOCUS is suitable for paddlers just off the entry level surfski’s, right up through the grades, and has proved itself to be competitive at all levels.

Try out a Focus in Durban or purchase a FOCUS single ski between now and the KZN Single surfski Championships, Race 8 in the Discovery Best 4 Surfski Series on 23-24 June 2012, and you go into a draw to either win a New FOCUS single surfski or get you money back if you have purchased one during this period.

Contact Custom Kayaks on 031 – 3121711 or Mark at 083 309 5242 to book a try out. Daily updates on the try outs and the draw will be posted on our face book page.  

All those to try or buy a FOCUS go into the draw.

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My side of the story from the back of the double.

By now, many of you will have seen the Utube clip of Barry and I surfing on the mound off Durban during cyclone IRINA. This area, (the mound) breaks only once or twice a year if that, usually on a very big swell being pushed into the bay by a strong southerly wind. The wave, sometimes about 500 meters across and about 2km out to sea gives you a very big face to work down and as long as you do not get caught on the inside you can have some great rides for up 1 -2km long. Speeds in general that you can reach on these swells can get up to 35-40km per hour in a double ski. It is quite difficult to get enough speed to catch the big sets in a single ski.

I was probably one of the first to arrive at the club on Sunday morning, and when I saw the effect of the cyclone pushing into the bay, I put on my lifejacket right away. This was going to be a special day. At my age, one I was not going to miss.  The size of the inshore surf was going to be the first challenge, so I have specially for days like this a “nose Cone” that I fit on to the front of the double ski, to help get us out through the surf, through the consistent sets of monster white water pounding the beach front. I was waiting for somebody else to arrive to put in the back of the double ski, when our boat crew members started to arrive with helpers to drive cameramen in rubber ducks to film this phenomena. Barry, my son arrived and he got hooked up for some time mounting Gopro camera’s on the surf boat and then on our ski and on my head. This was all making me irritable, because it was taking too long to get out there.

Getting out through the surf was something else altogether.

Waiting for the gap!

Punching massive walls!

Eventually sneaking out!

The effect of the cyclone pushing the waves into the bay on the back of a strengthening wind had an effect that required every bit of experience we could muster. I have ridden bigger waves on a surfski, but the speed that the swell was coming through was staggering. The difference in being on the right line on to the wave or getting caught in massive walls of water was critical. That’s why from the film clip you can see that we did not have to paddle too hard to get on to the wave. We had to be in exactly the right place though. Again, in hindsight, I would not have elected to be out there in the back of a double ski with many other paddlers that can read that kind of stuff like Barry can.

The speed down the face of the wave was blinding. At that speed a  wrap around motor cycling visor would have been handy to assist with visibility.  You had to keep your paddle clear of the water most of the time, because if you did crab your paddle, it would rip you out of the boat for sure. It is not easy to see from the film clip but it was incredibly choppy. The craft was bouncing and almost airborne some of the time. When Barry took a few strokes, I made the mistake of trying to paddle and keep in time. There was no point. It was only making us unstable and run the risk of us crashing out and maybe never seeing the ski again.

We rode a good 7-8 long waves all 1-2km long. Hard to tell at that speed. The first big wave was where we hit 68.8km per hour. The second one in the clip was memorable, because Barry was out on the face of the wave, but I was in the pocket under the lip getting the wax sucked out of my left ear. We were running away from a massive wall of water inside us. Some of the other waves were bigger but not as fast. The weather got really atrocious so we paddled the one or two Km back to the Limestone reef off our lifesaving club, and rode that for a long way before having to negotiate the massive surf break at marine. We treated a huge group of watchers to a spectacular wipeout coming in. “Neptune just showing us who’s boss and getting one late goal back at us”.


Great to do this on a ski that I have designed and built. There is satisfaction in that alone. The APEX 2 double surfski is tailor made for that kind of experience. Stable enough, fast enough and its down wind surfability is unbelievable. I believe it is the most under rated surfski in the market.

The ocean has served up some very special moments for me out there. Most of them unrecorded and they will remain in my memory. How I wish today’s technology could have been around then for more of them to have been recorded. The fact that this one was recorded does make it special indeed, but being able to experience it in the back of a double ski with my son, is a blessing for which I will be eternally grateful.


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The ‘FOCUS’ – Interview with Mark Lewin


Posted in R&D, Surfski, Video | 1 Comment

Barry Lewin’s Video from the Pete Marlin

Barry was in East London for the Pete Marlin and put together a video of the race. There is some nice downwind fottage of the “BULLET”.

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The ‘FOCUS’ is here – Photos!

If you have been following the blog, we have been in the R&D faze of a new intermediate boat which has just been named the “FOCUS”. The first one came out the mould yesterday and so we hit the beach to play. Check out this photo album of the “FOCUS”

Orders are now open for the “FOCUS” and if anyone is keen to demo the boat please give us a shout at the shop.


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