Cape Town – With just a few days to go until the 2023 Prescient Freedom Paddle, entrants are preparing for their public-holiday journey around Robben Island with three things top of mind: the weather on Thursday, April 27; preparing their equipment for the 27km or 10km paddle; and getting their bodies prepared.
For the 407 entrants who plan on tackling the 27km paddle around Robben Island or the short course 10km along the coastline, there is now not too much that can be done to make sure the body is more prepared — although the top racers will be doing some fine tuning to be in peak condition to battle their rivals and the natural elements.
Paddlers and organisers cannot change the weather, but early long-range forecasts are predicted to be cool with winds picking up throughout the morning. However, the good news for entrants is that paddlers on the long course are likely to be blown back home by the north-west wind after making the turn around the famous island.
That just leaves nervous paddlers with equipment preparation as the most effective means to settle nerves.
Because this event is an open-water crossing to Robben Island and back, there is some important safety equipment that is required.
Part of the preparation, after having checked skis, boats, paddles or boards are all seaworthy, is for paddlers to make sure they follow some important safety instructions from the organisers. These include having the tips and tails of skis painted either red, orange, yellow or pink; each paddler wearing an approved PFD (Personal Floatation Device); paddlers must be attached to the surf ski, SUP or prone board with a leash; and at least one person on each craft is required to have a working cell phone with the safety tracking app loaded and activated.
Organisers also recommend paddlers carry a flare in case of emergency and entrants are given a numbered safety whistle which has to be returned as soon as the race is completed. This simple, but effective check-in / check-out system, is used to keep track of how many paddlers have returned and who is still out on the water.
Entrants have the option of two distances on Thursday with the majority of the field tackling the full route from the Oceana Power Boat Club, around Robben Island and back to the start. This is the iconic route that takes in one of South Africa’s most famous tourist attractions and is without doubt one of the main reasons for the growth of this event.
The shorter, 10km paddle also starts at the Oceana Power Boat Club, and takes competitors west past Mouille Point and Green Point, and then south west along the coast line to a turning point just off Sea Point, before returning back to the start/finish.