Nick Notten admits feeling a small sense of “vindication” after claiming victory at the iconic Pete Marlin Surfski Race over a star-studded South African field.

The 26 year-old was crowned the 2021 ICF Ocean Racing World Champion in July, but at the time commented that his triumph felt somewhat “soured” given the number of high-profile athletes unable to attend due to international travel restrictions.

But there can be no question marks over his latest performance.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Notten (1:17:08) emerged victorious from a fiercely-contested and constantly-changing race at East London, finishing ahead of fellow Cape Tonian and close friend Kenny Rice (1:18:04) and Jasper Mocke (1:18:21) in third.

After leading in the early stages, Josh Fenn (1:18:49) finished fourth while Hank McGregor (1:19:13) recovered from some late drama on the reef to cross in fifth.

Behind them, Uli Hart (1:19:17), Dawid Mocke (1:19:42), Andy Birkett (1:20:40), Matt Bouman (1:21:03) and Phil Smith (1:21:25) rounded out the top ten.

Michelle Burn (1:29:11) continued her incredible year with another victory, winning the women’s division ahead of Kira Bester (1:31:56), Candice Murray (1:34:50), Saskia Hockly (1:36:08) and Jenna Nisbet (1:36:30).

“I’m super, super stoked to win the Pete Marlin,” Notten tells The Paddler.

“As far as a South African field is concerned, it’s probably the strongest a Pete Marlin has seen in years.

“It gave me a bit of vindication after winning Worlds with the other guys not having the opportunity to go.”

“It was important for me to show the South Africans that I was the strongest here too, so it was cool to do it in that style of race… it’s really helped with my confidence and that the training seems to be going well.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Slight downwind conditions greeted athletes over the 21 kilometre course… so that meant racing was tight.

After a tpically fast start, the field split into different lines.

Taking an inside route, Josh Fenn led the early affairs with Hank McGregor alongside.

Nick Notten sat further wide with Kenny Rice, Jasper Mocke and brother Dom Notten.

The lead changed throughout, with Fenn and McGregor both pushing the pace.

Jasper Mocke leads one of the bunches off the start of the 2021 Pete Marlin Surfski Race. PHOTOGRAPH: © Bruce Viaene.

“From about 12 kilometres, I tried to make my move and really started to come through,” Notten recalls.

“It was sort of a cat-and-mouse race by that point. At 18 kiometres I think I had a little bit of a gap, maybe 20 metres or so in front of Hank and Kenny.”

But the battle was far from over.

As it so often does, the Pete Marlin was to serve up one last twist.

“It’s difficult to see Yellowsands [the finishing beach]. The point doesn’t jut out, it just falls away behind the sand.

“I got there and saw that it was the point, so I darted inside thinking I had already gone past it, but I actually came right over the reef.”

“Hank was just on my tail, sort of the run behind and caught this first little bump over the beginning of the reef thinking it was safe…

“As I peeled off the run I saw the reef stretch out and I had overestimated how far wide we’d gone.

“Next thing, I saw a set peeling on my right. I tried to dart across the reef to outrun it sideways and I just escaped the first one, popped the second one, then the third one I really had to punch through.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

That slight gap was enough for Nick to sneak through for the win, but for Hank, there was no escaping the ocean.

He was forced to tackle the waves head-on, relegating him down to fifth place.

Hank McGregor living out every paddler’s nightmare at the end of a 21 kilometre race. PHOTOGRAPH: © Bruce Viaene.

For Notten, focus now shifts to a Cape Point Challenge he admits he’s “very excited” to take on.

In 2020, he finished second, just five seconds behind Kenny Rice, who claimed his third-straight victory.

The task for Notten is now converting the momentum he’s carried through the past 12 months – and the success its created – into arguably South Africa’s most iconic surfski race in search of his first title.

“It’s a bit of a different intensity being so much longer,” he says. “I am very, very sure that i’ll have a very strong challenge from Kenny.

“It’ll be very hard to beat him – he’s shown that it’s very hard – but it is a challenge I’d like to take on and hopefully win the Cape Point Challenge.”

“All I can do is train my hardest and hope that’s enough.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

After the disappointment of the singles race, Hank McGregor teamed up with Josh Fenn to add another doubles’ title to their pairing the following day.

McGregor & Fenn (1:04:01) won over Nick Notten & Andy Birkett (1:04:35), Dawid & Jasper Mocke (1:07:05), Kenny Rice & Uli Hart (1:07:09) and Gene Prato & Matt Bouman (1:07:43).

“I felt like I had a point to prove after yesterday,” McGregor says. “My pride was pretty bruised after that swim.”

“I looked out to sea and I saw Dawid and Jasper Mocké getting into the runs so we went out to join them and started another duel.

“All I had to worry about then was not taking any more stupid lines into the finish,” he joked.

The Cape Town crew of Candice Murray & Kira Bester (1:15:24) won the women’s division ahead of Saskia Hockly & Jenna Nisbet (1:17:32) and Valma Jean Hockly & Jade Wilson (1:19:14).