The Umhlanga Summer Festival will play host to the inaugural Ocean Heroes Surf Ironman Series in December with the best male and female athletes committing to establish this popular spectator sport in South Africa and further the aims of three important local causes
The series is driven by Wade Krieger, a respected Surf Ironman who competed professionally in the massive Nutrigrain Ironman series in Australia for ten years and has returned to his hometown to establish similar events in KwaZulu-Natal.
Krieger’s return home in 2014 was marked by his inclusion in the South African Surf Lifesaving team to the sport’s World Championships in France where he won two bronze medals.
“I really believe there is a need for this series to be born in South Africa, both for the community and as a voice for change,” said Krieger.
South African Surf Ironman legends Matt Bouman and Brett Challenor have also confirmed their participation in the December event series. Bouman currently holds the 2014 world surfski title for Surf Lifesaving and is the country’s most decorated surf lifesaver ever while Challenor has finished third at the World Championships previously.
Another addition to the Ocean Heroes team is South Africa’s best long distance open water swimmer Chad Ho who has won the Midmar Mile five times in a row since 2010.
Prince Shazi is another of the athletes selected at the trial held on 23 November and the KwaMashu youngster welcomed the introduction of the professional Surf Ironman competition in South Africa.
“Being able to race in the Ocean Heroes Surf Ironman Series will enable me to lift my competitiveness as well as increase my levels of self-confidence,” said Shazi. “I see Ocean Heroes as an opportunity to do what I love and contribute to great causes at the same time. “
The Ocean Heroes programme will be supporting three major causes: Clean Oceans, Water Safety and Youth Development. Krieger believes there has to be a higher purpose behind racing.
“The whole point behind Ocean Heroes is ocean athletes racing for great causes. As a result we are hosting a fundraiser in support of cleaner oceans. “
For the December inaugural event, a fundraiser will contribute towards the efforts by the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) and their work on the Mngeni River estuary in Durban. The event is also aligned with the global Paddle 4 the Planet programme that unites paddlers annually to raise awareness and funds for marine conservation.
The athletes will involve themselves in regular water safety programmes on the beach as well as youth development programmes running in parallel to the festival.
The fundraiser will be driven by a raffle backed by Hirsch’s, Mangwanani Spa, Virgin Active, EduSport Travel and KZN Solar.
“Making people aware of what is happening with the environment is crucial,” said Glenda Thompson, Hirsch’s Media Liaison. “Many of us take for granted the wonders of nature and we are slowly destroying not necessarily our future but the future of our children and their children.
“An educational program to make people more aware of what is going on in the ocean is absolutely critical, and we salute the Paddle for the Planet team for following this path. We would like to wish you the best and congratulate you on forging a path that is trying to lead people in the right direction,” she added.
“One of the cornerstones of Mangwanani organisational ethos is responsible tourism and sustainable job creation,” said Mangwanani spokesperson heidi Gibson. “It is therefore logical and fitting that the company aligns itself to the cause of ‘Clean Oceans” and more specifically “Youth Development” as this is a shared value.
“Founded in 2002, Mangwanani offers previously disadvantaged rural women training and development to turn them into qualified spa therapists. The company boasts its own range of eco-friendly products that are made from naturally harvested ingredients from communities,” she added.
The Umhlanga Summer Series, the first Ocean Heroes Surf Ironman Series’ events, will be held during the Umhlanga Summer Festival on Umhlanga Main Beach on 15, 16, 21 and 22 December 2014 from 2pm – 4pm. The series format for 2014 comprise of swimming, running, board paddling and surf ski. More information can be found at www.oceanheroes.co.za