Eastern Cape hope Eray sets her sights on return to Hansa Fish


(Gameplan Media)

Cradock – Popular Eastern Cape paddling icon Michéle Eray is holding thumbs that her miserable year and a quarter of paddling injuries will come to an end and allow her to be part of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on 5 and 6 October, a race that she describes as the greatest river race in the world.

Eray, who was a cornerstone of the South African women’s K4 that made their A final at the Beijing Olympics went on to achieve massive success as a river marathoner and surfski racer until she picked up a serious wrist injury from overuse midway through 2011.

The gutsy Plettenberg Bay star, who is also a professional biokineticist, battled to get her wrist to respond to treatment and only made her serious racing comeback with stunning victories in the Sella Descent in Spain and the Nelo Summer challenge surfski race in Portugal last month.

Her plans to race the Breede marathon as a final peak before heading for the world marathon championships in Rome in late September were scuttled when she picked up a flu bug and had to withdraw from that race at the eleventh hour.

A frustrated Eray said she is desperate to get back to her normal full racing schedule, particularly with the Hansa Fish in her home province just two weeks after the world marathon championships.

“Things are not really stacked in my favour, especially as I have a long roundabout trip to and from the worlds in Rome to deal with,” said Eray.

“It is a tough ask for anyone coming back from Rome to get up against for the Fish,” she added. “To be honest all I want is to be able to be part of it again. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines.”

Eray was the toast of the Eastern Cape when she partnered Robyn Kime to victory in the 2010 Fish, in the process becoming the first local paddler to claim the title since the late Daniel Conradie, who had mentored her into canoeing, won it in 1997.

Mouton van Zyl/Gameplan Media

Her plans to defend that title the following year fell apart when he wrist tendon injury failed to respond to rest after her impressive Berg victory last year.

The Hansa Fish takes place in Cradock on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 October 2012 and will decide the SA K1 River Championships. More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za


Press Release for Hansa Fish River Marathon-Gameplan Media


Michele Eray determined to shrug off injury woes for Hansa Fish canoe marathon

Cradock – Defending champion Michele Eray is locked in a race against time to recover from a tendon injury in time for the Hansa Fish Marathon that starts on 7 October.

Eray has already withdrawn from the national marathon team going to the world marathon champions as she struggles to shake of a debilitating tendonitis injury that derailed her recent worldwide surfski tour.

Eray won the women’s division of a surfski race in the US in excruciating pain as the inflamed tendons in her lower forearms worsened throughout the race, eventually forcing her to abort the rest of her tour and return home to try and deal with the crippling injury.

“I guess its the cumulative effect of years of racing without a break,” said Eray. “The tendons in the back of my left hand are the problem and it has been six weeks off training and at the physio to try and get it right. I definitely won’t be able to put in the training I was hoping to for the world marathon champs so I have formally withdrawn from the team.”

“The Hansa Fish is another story though,” she added. “It is my local event and it is such a classic race, on and off the water, that I just cannot miss it. I hope to be able to start doing some paddling next week and that will give me three weeks to get some sort of form together to try and defend my title with Robyn (Kime).”

“This break has been a bit of a blessing in disguise because it has made me think about what events are important to me,” she said. “I respect events that respect women. It’s as simple as that. I will go all out to support events that offer equal prizemoney to the men’s and women’s winners and for years the Hansa Fish has done that.”

Eray won the K2 title with Kime last year, triggering celebrations in local paddling circles as an Eastern Cape local won a race title for the first time in more than a decade.

She has been in sublime form since then, winning the Dunlop Surfski World Cup and the tough Berg titles before setting her sights on the second half of the year packed with major surfski internationals and crucially the women’s K1 race at the world marathon championships in Singapore in October.

As a full time coach and biokineticist Eray knows how far to push the human body, but she is struggling to come to terms with the tendon injury that has brought her racing and training to a grinding halt.

The 30th edition of the Hansa Fish river canoe marathon takes place in Cradock on 7 and 8 October. More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za

Hansa Powerade Fish River Marathon


Shooting Cradock Weir-photo Dave Macleod

The Hansa Powerade Fish River Marathon is definitely one of my favourite events on the calendar! The organisation is superb, the race is awesome, and the after-party good fun. What more could you ask for in a race?

I flew home from Spain, after being in Europe (Portugal and Spain) for 5 weeks, landed at PE airport, and my mom (super second) fetched me and we drove straight to Cradock. I had just done 7 races, with the Fish being my 8th race in 6 weeks. To say I was tired was an understatement! Met up with Robyn Kime, who had made the the trip up to Cradock from Stellenbosch where she is a 3rd year student. By bringing in some youth I effectively lowered the average age in the boat to 25:)

We hopped in the boat for the first time ever on Wednesday, and shot Soutpans Rapid. It went well, and we combined nicely. Robyn was going to drive, as I felt that A) she is probably better at it than me! and B) being so tired, it helped giving her the responsibility of driving, leaving me to focus on getting the boat moving. We paddled Knysna Racing Kayaks new K2-The Rush. What an awesome boat! It was fast on the flats, and had ample buoyancy through the bigger rapids plus it was pretty stable! Thanks Albert and Hubby for a cracker of a boat!

Shooting Soutpans rapid-photo by Dave Macleod

Having not done too much preparation for this year’s Fish, we were both pretty relaxed in our approach. This went a long way in making this one of the most enjoyable Fish’s I have ever raced.

Day 1 went well, we were first out at the Dam Wall Portage, and never looked back. We caught most of B batch, and some of A batch, which proved frustrating as we had to wait many times for slower boats through the narrow upper sections, and going into the portages:( Robyn drove like a champ, and all I had to do was keep in time. We finished 20th overall in the men’s event (*no slip riding) and 1st in the women’s with an 8.5 minute lead over Tiff Kruger and Jen Hodson.

Day 2, we started in elapsed time with the men, meaning we could ride their wash. We were 2:48 behind 19th, but we had a pack of 4 men’s boats about 40 seconds behind us. They chased and caught us after about 27 minutes. They had dropped one boat. Thanks to Wayne Wilson and Mark Holtshausen’s hard work we caught the boat in front. unfortunately, they dropped off at Gauging Weir after a bad line leaving us with 2 other boats fighting for a top 20. We were feeling strong, and comfortable in the group. Until we swam at Marlow. It was quick and painless, but enough to lose our top 20. Then another swim at Cradock Weir (yes the crayfish are still at the bottom there) nearly ruined my good mood! We still managed to win by 14 minutes from the other women’s crews.

thanks to Robyn for helping me finally achieve a win in this race. Since Daniel Conradie (who won in 1997, and 1998) no other EP person has won the event. He was my mentor and I am glad to finally win the race on the river he took me down for the first time. Thanks to my mom and dad for seconding me, and well done to everyone involved in organising such a great race, and to all who finished it! Robyn, as little as she is, makes up for it by having a huge heart on the river! Great racing!

Hansa SA Marathon Champs


I hope everyone is enjoying the Public Holiday! It sure is cold here in Plett, great excuse to sit indoors and watch Switzerland v Spain on TV 🙂

The Hansa SA Marathon Champs went well for me. I used it as race practice, as the field was somewhat small. I made a break after the first portage and then tried to keep up a constant pace throughout the race, and run the portages hard. I was on my own, and I wanted to see what kind of time I could do. I ended up paddling 40 seconds faster than I did last year, and last year I had Bridgitte to help with sharing the pulling in the race. So overall I am pretty happy with my level of conditioning at this point in time.

I am on a small break now, then it’s time for the travelling to start. Hoping to go to the US for US Nationals and then 2 surf ski races in Portugal, followed by the Mauritius Ocean Classic, and then onto Spain for World Marathon Champs! Busy times ahead! But so exciting!

There was unfortunately some sports politics at the Nationals on the weekend, where 2 athletes were forced not to compete. As much as these 2 athlete’s are in amazing form, and would probably go on to make the National Marathon Team, one has to respect Canoeing South Africa, and it’s rules. The debate is not whether they would make good marathon paddlers, but whether they are breaking contract. Last year, after the sprint team selection trials, the contract came out and it had quite a few rules in it. One rule being no marathons. The reason being, that CSA is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of Rands on the Sprinters, backing them financially, and with Sports Science help, equipment purchases, great accommodation overseas for tours and flight costs paid, on the condition that the athlete focuses on Sprints alone, and the ultimate goal of winning medals for SA at the Olympics. Seems a fair trade. It’s more support than we got in the past by a long shot. It’s professional.

I made the decision to NOT sign the contract, as I wanted to carry on with my long distance goals of Surf Ski, Rivers, and Marathon. As did Grant vd Walt. A personal decision. The others that signed have received unbelievable backing from CSA. Now all they need to do is fulfill their side of the bargain, so by showing up at the National Marathon Champs, after signing along the dotted line, seems hardly fair. Unfair to CSA, and unfair to those of us who chose not to sign.

So although CSA looks like the “bad guy” in the situation, I think we all need to take a step back and think about it.

OK, enough politics! Let’s watch some soccer!

Thanks for all the amazing support. I am truly blessed to have the backing I do.

See you on the water,


Race 4: The Hansa 5 Beaches


Mercury 1 June 09The Hansa 5 Beaches was postponed due to the massive swell that hit the Natal coastline. Instead, Billy Harker from surfski.co.za held a 2 lap 20km race from Marine. Good call for safety, but pretty boring for us to paddle. Better than a broken boat though!


Race was ok, had a hard training week, so felt a bit flat during the first lap. that got better, but unfortunately a head wind picked up, making the last 3km’s uncomfortable. Finished 3rd in the Mens B-Grade, and 1st in the women’s event ahead of Donna Winter, in 89% of Matt Bouman’s time, my best so far.

There was a nice picture in the Natal Mercury (Anthony Grote.com).

Thoroughly enjoying the Natal winter, and my new digs.