Tree Blocks, Rain, Fish Eagles and the Swartlands Marathon

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Photo by John Hishin-Cape Town Sport Photography

I spent the past week in the beautiful winelands region of the Boland/Swartland area in the Western Cape. I managed to trip the ever-changing Berg River a number of times, and at all different river levels. It was amazing, as the change that occurred after the heavy rains of Wednesday and Thursday changed the river so much that I could hardly recognise where I was. Weirs that were big drops the day before, I paddled right over the top, oblivious that there was something below me! And tree blocks that had caused big problems were suddenly under water!

It had been 7 years since I had last been on the challenging river, and my fear of the trees was still present! Luckily I managed to trip with many past champions and Legends, such as Giel van Deventer, the Rabies, and Graham Bird. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Each time was a different adventure, the only consistent thing was a massive Fish Eagle flying above us.

I am using a new boat from Knysna Racing Kayaks, and its a lot smaller than any other K1 I have paddled in the river. It’s a lot closer in size to my Nelo Vanquish 3 that I paddle in the flat water. I love the responsiveness of a small, rigid boat, and it handled the river conditions so well! Thanks Albert! I also used Vibram Five Fingers on my feet, it felt amazing to be able to feel my peddles, almost like I was barefoot! I will do a seperate post on the 2 types I am testing out a bit later.

It’s amazing how a bit of river knowledge and confidence through the tress will save you many minutes of hard paddling! I leant the hard way the first few times, and I am hoping to learn even more as time passes. The camaraderie of the local Western cape guys is awesome, and everyone is keen to help and explain where to go in the maze of the Berg River and all her trees and channels!

The SA K1 race was hosted by Peninsular Canoe Club who did an awesome job on the organising front, with loads of safety and they even went and cleared a number of dangerous tree blocks the weekend before!

The race went well for me, I paddled with Robyn Kime the whole of the first day of 40km and most of the second day of 45km. I ended up opening a small gap in the last few km’s to take my first National River title, with Robyn in 2nd, and Berg Legend Jean Wilson outsprinting Hilary Pitchford for 3rd.

In the men’s Hank MacGregor won the endsprint from Lance King, and ever-fit Graeme Soloman in 3rd.

Berg is going to be very interesting!!

Thanks mom for seconding me!

John Hishin-Cape Town Sport Photography

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