Fish 2009

Photo by Gameplan Media

Photo by Gameplan Media

The Fish River Marathon has to be one of the Greatest Races in the world! The organisation is superb, excellent safety, fun After-Party with awesome South African bands (think Prime Circle), good friends, and a GREAT river full of exciting rapids, man-made weirs, and some flat sections to test your endurance (and mental strength!)

My Race:

Good start in the mist, the same mist that caused half of B Batch to get lost. I got across the dam pretty quickly, and led the portage over the dam wall, and back into the river. We had caught up to a lot of the guys who got lost in the mist ahead of us, and there was quite a people-block at the second put in after Collett Weir. As I was paddling away, a male paddler hit my paddles, pushing them under my boat, and causing me to have a very unfortunate swim. I went from my hard-earned 1st to about 5th. I pushed hard and managed to catch up to Robyn and Abie at Keith’s Flyover, and had a great portage and managed to put in ahead of the girls. Robyn hopped on my wave and we were now in 2nd and 3rd place. We tried pulling at a constant pace and managed to catch up to Katerina just above Katkop Portage. Then, I put in a bit of a surge and managed to drop her, but Robyn stayed on my wave. Last 2 obstacles coming up were Glen Alpha Bridge which was negotiated successfully, and then finally, Knudtsford Drop. This did not go well, and I think fatigue must have been setting in as I stuffed it up properly, opening up the door for Robyn to take the stage win, and even for Katerina to catch up and pass me. So that meant that I had to start Day 2 about 2 minutes behind Robyn and about 1:10 behind Katerina.


Albert, his wife Michelle and I after Day 1

Albert, his wife Michelle and I after Day 1

Day 2: Elapsed Time start

I started hard, and managed to catch both Robyn and Katerina fairly quickly, after about 35 minutes into the stage. I rested up on the wave, and tried to focus on recovering as quickly as possible. After Gauging Weir I put the burners on and managed to drop Katerina, and then just above Marlow Shoot I managed to drop Robyn. One more major obstacle to go and my first Fish victory would be realised. Not sure why I panicked, but I shot it a little too far to the right, and had a major swim. The lifeguards got me out, although it felt like I was there for ages. The suck back is really strong, and made me remember why man-made obstacles are so dangerous. My boat on the other hand, had a real ‘mare of a time. It got held under water for at least 4-5 minutes, while I waited in the bank. My paddle eventually popped out, then my boat. By now both Robyn and Katerina had passed by, and with the finish only just over a kilometre away, there was no chance of catching them! If I had only had a quick swim, and my boat hadn’t been held for so long, or if only I had shot it properly, if only, if only… That is river racing for you. Well done to Robyn Kime for having a flawless day, showing that “no mistakes” wins the race!

I have never won the Fish, and the last Eastern Province paddler to win it was the late Daniel Conradie, who was my coach and mentor. To say the Fish means a lot to me is an understatement. I  am super proud of being an Eastern Cape paddler, “Oos Kaap” rocks, and I will definately be back next year to make ammends and try my hardest to claim a victory.

Thanks to my mom for being a “Super Second” and driving for me, and making me some power food!

Below is how I should have shot the weir 🙂

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