Hundreds in Byron Bay Ocean Paddle

HUNDREDS of aquatic athletes will hit the salt water for the second official Byron Bay Ocean Paddle today and tomorrow.

Ocean skis, ocean kayaks, retro skis and stand-up paddle-boards are among the craft that will take in the Byron coastline view from out at sea.

And the list of entrants is stunning.

What started as an experiment has exploded into an international event with a cast of heroes set to challenge for the title that is growing in prestige.

Taking on the challenge are Australian Ironman champion Shannon Eckstein; his brother and three-time Coolangatta Gold winner, Kane; former Australian and World Ironman champion Zane Holmes; and champion South African paddler Clint Pretorius.

And for a retro treat, two of Australia's greatest ocean athletes, Grant Kenny and Darren Mercer, could even rekindle a rivalry that stretches back two decades.

Event organiser Kurt Tutt has been delighted in the way the event has taken off.

“We started it two years ago just as a feeler,” Tutt said.

“But it just keeps growing; the interest has been amazing.”

Tutt, a champion open-water paddler in his own right, is so keen to see the event grow that he will be watching from the sand this year.

“I have spent so much time organising that I haven't had time to get fit,” he said.

“So I am happy to just take a step back from competing this year to ensure it runs smoothly.”

At 2pm today paddlers will launch their craft in front of Byron Surf Club and complete a 12km circuit out to sea, finishing back where they began.

And there is a 1pm start tomorrow where paddlers will (depending on wind direction) set off from the Northern end of South Golden Beach and head 18km down wind to the Byron Surf Club.



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