Downwind Classic 2016

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Making Surfski a Big Thing in the UAE

Organised by the Dubai Surfski Kayaking Club, the Downwind Classic 2016, is beyond a surfski race. This wet get-together gathers the most enthusiastic paddlers in the region to test their skills, socialize and enjoy the last drops of coolness out in the sea. The DWC attracted several paddlers along with a crowd of supporters staying back on the shore preparing a traditional after-race braai.

The Race

A fleet of 4x4s are snaking into the car park at the Dubai International Marina Club, all outfitted with their Fenn and Epic Surfskis. The DSKC trailer was the first to arrive at the scene ready with the cooler box with ice cold drinks and some snacks, watersport equipment and lifejackets while the earliest ones patiently wait for the rest of the group ready to head out for some fun in the sun!

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As paddlers greet each other like long lost friends that they probably are, a few kids jump out of the cars and they too can’t wait to play with the surfkis and other watersports equipment. Everyone unloads quickly and in no time the DIMC is littered with Epics and Fenns. The sun is quickly setting but the wind was nowhere to be seen. PFD’s, leashes and race briefing are absolutely imperative at this point to ensure all participants smash the course safely. The convoy gathers at the beach for the race briefing, this awesome energy and pre-race excitement was palpable. A couple of minutes later as paddlers get on the water a few enthusiastic cheers are heard from the DIMC.

The hard-charging fleet of surfskis swiftly gathers at the start line, the adrenaline is high and the heart is pumping. Paddlers plan their last minute race strategy and evaluate the conditions all to finish the hottest of the season 11km course as fast as possible!

Colin Campbell, club veteran, blows the whistle and together with Gary Luke and Doug Bitcon the race front pack was formed. Paddling out next to The Palm Jumeirah was refreshing as paddlers could still enjoy a bit of fresh air and catch the occasional run. Once you reach the turn point and paddle back it’s when you feel the heat! Paddlers really have to give 100% and push their physical fitness to the limits. The distance between the front pack and the remaining of the group kept increasing during the race with a few newcomers attempting to come closer to the front pack.

The gruelling 11km finished in no time with top paddlers completing the course well under one hour. Paddlers start gradually arriving to the finish line at DIMC and quickly share what we call in the community “war stories”. Previous war stories include boats colliding against rocks, paddlers crashing against each other, 30km/h max speed but this race was all about pushing your body to the limits and beat the heat!

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All paddlers did the course in excellent form and they all shared a great sense of accomplishment which makes it all worthwhile. The paddle itself is fairly quick, but the spirit remains for much longer once back at the shores. Friends discuss the course and previous races, rookies take notes of every word of wisdom from the more experienced ones, plans for barbeques and future trips are discussed; the spirit of surfski is alive! This is what this great community is all about. Discussions for the next season are already in place, promises to have bigger events with more people on-board of this great sport are made.

To get involved please email us at or visit for more details. See you on the water!


Words by: DSKC Committee

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