By Joe Clarke
With the cancellation of this year’s Discovery Surfers Challenge due to the pandemic, 39 times race finisher, Mickey Wittuhn remained undeterred as he set off from Kwelera in cool conditions on Friday afternoon to complete his unofficial 40th finish.
As a 15-year-old in 1977, Mickey ran his first Surfers and the following year secured his best position of fourth, “In those days there were no watering points, no lifeguards manning the river crossings, tides were not taken into consideration and the run finished at Nahoon Corner,” the surfer and experienced waterman said.
Cheered on by his girlfriend Soula Coutsoudis at a water stop in Gonubie, he was further spurred on by a personal tradition, “As always I stopped off at my friend Dave Ridge at Rainbow Valley for my customary double brandy and coke, I felt good the whole way,” he added.
Mickey dedicated his run to the late Robbie Stone, Don Wilkins and Dave Fish as well as all those that have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Some interesting race facts…
The now 17.5 km race started in 1975 with just 26 runners.
The biggest field to date saw 3800 entrants in 2015.
The one-hour barrier mark has been broken on three occasions but never since the slightly extended new route was introduced.
Approximately 10 athletes have completed 40 + finishes.
Comrades Marathon legend, Bruce Fordyce has partaken in 10 races.
After the Buffs Marathon (one year older), the event is East London’s second-oldest race.
Surfski paddlers were introduced to the race in the 1980s.
The event now includes a 10 km and 5 km race to include all ages and varying fitness levels.
“This would have been the 47th race, up until now we have never cancelled. To us it was like a death in the family, the decision was not an easy one,” said Discovery Surfers Challenge Director, Neville Wilkins.