Honouring the memory of a dear friend and restoring national pride prompted a local adrenaline junkie to take on the might of the ocean and set a Guinness World Record.
When the 2021 edition of the Guinness World Records book is published it will include the name of Durban surf-ski ace Quinton Rutherford.
The 50-year old Rutherford set a new world record for the longest ocean paddle in 24 hours when he travelled 227 kilometres in his 6 metre-long paddle-ski on Friday.
To achieve the feat Rutherford set out from Cape Vidal near St Lucia on KZN’s north coast at 4.30 am and eventually dropped his paddles in Thompson’s Bay in Ballito, around 7 pm that evening.
New Zealander Tim Taylor set the previous record of 214km in 2015.
But that “didn’t sit well” with Rutherford.
“The record didn’t belong in New Zealand but here in South Africa because we have the best eight surf-skiers in the world. Many of them are in Durban and some in Cape Town.”
Rutherford was referring to world-renowned paddle-skiers like the Chalupsky brothers (Oscar and Herman), Hank McGregor, and Andy Birkett.
“And we make the best surf-ski crafts in the world.”
Rutherford said he was a middle-of-the-road paddler when compared to his contemporaries, “but it is fitting that the record is now in South Africa”.
“Maybe it will inspire more local guys to attempt breaking the record,” he said.
The other motivating factor for Rutherford’s feat was his desire to pay tribute to his friend Mark Perrow, another accomplished local surf-skier, who died when the light aircraft he flew crashed into a cliff in uMkomaas, in March.
“Mark was my paddling partner and we had a good connection. I did this in memory of him, and to say goodbye.”
As fate would have it, Rutherford’s 227km journey ended outside Perrow’s home and Friday was also his friend’s birthday.
“It was dark when I got to Mark’s house in Ballito, which overlooks Thompsons Bay. “I got out to let out a flare, but when I tried to paddle again, I couldn’t get past his house. I was tired.”
Rutherford prefers endurance surf-ski events and is a regular at such events on the local circuit, and he has also participated in 25 Dusi Canoe Marathons.
But Friday’s record-breaking effort drew on all his years of experience.
“It took my years of skill and love for the ocean.”
Rutherford made the strategic move of going 34km out to sea, off Cape Vidal, to catch the current running through.
But that meant maneuvering his craft weighing about 10kg through winds travelling at 34 knots and 6m high waves.
“Going 34km out to sea is probably the limit for paddling. But we enjoy the adrenalin rush and freedom of being in the ocean, with the wind whipping across us.
“It’s me against nature. Friday was an extreme challenge,” Rutherford said.
While he fared well, it was tough times for the team of 4 adjudicators who travelled in a 6-foot rubber duck and monitored his progress throughout.
“Waves were breaking in their boats. It was wild.”
Rutherford said R250 000 was needed for the Guinness team from the UK to attend and certify that he had adhered to the strict criteria for his to stand.
He was able to raise the cash with help from the local paddling community and a few local businesses.
“We are small, but a closely-knit family of paddlers”.
Rutherford said he was warmly received by a large group of surf-ski enthusiasts at the end of Friday’s mission.
While he had no ambition for another record attempt, he hopes to mentor youngsters to go beyond his mark.
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