The surprising story behind The Surfer’s Challenge – and why you should take it on!


Over 45 years ago, a playful dare led to a race that’s since become one of SA’s most-loved annual sporting events. Learn more about the Discovery Surfer’s Challenge and how – thanks to a new 5km event – anyone can join the fun this February!

Some prefer water, some prefer land, but everyone enjoys a little friendly competition! The Discovery Surfer’s Challenge is a mixed sport event that invites walkers, runners and paddlers to make their way along the Eastern Cape’s gorgeous coastline.

While many multisport races (like duathlons or triathlons) require that contestants run and cycle or swim, what makes the Surfer’s Challenge so unique is that you can choose your mode of movement – by land or by sea!

What’s the story behind the Surfer’s Challenge?

The year was 1975, the scene was a popular East London pub, and the players were a mix of local athletes and surfers. The Runners had just beaten the Surfers at an annual road relay from King Williams Town to East London and were glowing at their win.

The Surfers, unfazed in confidence, suggested that if they’d raced on water and not tar, the victory might be theirs. The Runners leapt at the challenge, and so what started as a tease birthed a decades-long sporting contest that has kept locals (and increasingly visitors and weekenders) racing to the finish.

This year, the Discovery Surfer’s Challenge takes place on 15 February. It consists of four separate races that entrants can choose from: a 17.5km surf ski paddle race; a 17.5km trail run (these two events happen alongside each other); a 10km trail run; or a 5km Junior and Open fun run.

Step or splash – anyone can join the Discovery Surfer’s Challenge

The race focuses on healthy competition, says Head of Experiential Marketing at Discovery, Iona Maclean, but also gives the whole family a chance to take part in paddling, walking and running.

“There are many ways to get active and because people are different, so we’re pleased to host an event that encourages people to move more in ways they find both enjoyable and challenging. As part of our Vitality pledge to help make 100 million people 20% more active by 2025, we’re hoping that the newly introduced 5km Open route will inspire families and people of all ages and fitness levels to give the race a go,” she says.

The warm waters and stunning natural surroundings make the route memorable, and well worth a weekend at the East Coast. If you’re looking for fun ways to get active this year – and if you love an ocean view – the Surfer’s Challenge is for you! Sign up here.

Need some extra motivation? Take a look at the highlights from last year’s race.

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