Summer in South Africa is tough to beat, especially if you’re fortunate to find yourself somewhere along the beautiful Garden Route. Think Blue Flag beaches, clean ocean water, scintillating views and tranquil forests.
Add a few trails meandering down gravel roads, across mountain streams and onto sweet singletrack, plus a bunch of legendary athletes in a number of adventure sporting disciplines. What you get is the SABRINA LOVE Ocean Challenge, a fun, family event comprising two days of non-stop action sponsored by Stonehage and Discovery SA.
Several renowned athletes support the Sabrina Love Foundation, including Bruce Fordyce, Chad Ho, Michele Eray and of course, the inimitable Natalie du Toit. Over the past decade, they’ve become an integral part of the SABRINA LOVE Ocean Challenge and now return every year to add impetus to the fund raising process.
The event was originally conceptualised by Tony and Suzy Lubner in commemoration of their daughter Sabrina, who died after complications brought on by a rare bone marrow disease. All the proceeds from this feel-good fest directly support a number of charities supporting children living with disabilities in the Plettenberg Bay region.
Day one kicks off in and around the event hub created by organisers Magnetic South near Plett’s Main Beach, with competitors going head to head on a 10km run, a 15km surfski paddle, and a gruelling 6km ocean swim. The highlight for literally thousands of spectators on the beach was the arrival of Natalie du Toit, world-famous for her achievements at both the Olympics and Paralympics.
On day two, the SABRINA LOVE Ocean Challenge traditionally moves away from the ‘ocean’, embracing the dramatic terra firma playground extending inland from Plettenberg Bay. Once again, the owners of the spectacular Kurland Hotel and Polo Estate opened their hearts and arms to welcome the crew, competitors and kids associated with the event.
Proceedings started with a 10km and 6km trail run, with athletes taking to the forested slopes to wade across rivers, jump irrigation furrows and blast along forest single-tracks. A 25km mountain bike race followed, and again the route delivered unparalleled natural grandeur as riders cranked along gravel roads and technical forest singletrack.
A 900m lake swim then tested a large field of swimmers, with young and old enjoying a midday cool-down in the large, lily-pond lake on Kurland Estate. This was also the venue for the exciting ‘Kids of Steel’ Race, where moms and dads took a back seat while the young guns took to the outdoor arena.
“It was all about the kids which made it so amazing. They had a phenomenal time!” said Tina Betsakos, a Johannesburg local participating in the event.
To many members of the ever-growing SABRINA Family, this is the culmination of the two-day festival, with Tony Lubner pointing out that many of the kids were not even born yet when the first SABRINA LOVE Ocean Challenge took place exactly ten years ago. “I had a lump in my throat when I saw these children cross the line today”, he said. “One thing is for sure, they too are now ‘family’ for life!”
Organiser Mark Collins from events specialists Magnetic South was happy that the day went down without major mishaps. “I only relax once every one of the competitors are accounted for,” he said, “and this year we set a new record with nearly 4000 entries”. This shows a phenomenal year-on-year growth of more than 20% from 2013.
The financial support of umbrella sponsors Stonehage and Discovery means that literally every cent raised directly assists children with disabilities. This in no small way establishes the character of the SABRINA LOVE Ocean Challenge, and underscores why so many of the sporting world’s big names make it their mission to be part of this amazing event.