Article by Gameplan Media, images by Anthony Grote
Durban – Durban surfski paddler Danica Bartho will face 162km of unpredictable seas, exhausting distances and an epic battle of mental toughness on her quest to become the first woman to successfully paddle from Richards Bay to Durban and, in the process, draw attention to the PinkDrive during breast cancer awareness month and raise as much money as possible for a close friend battling cancer.
Dubbed the ‘Lettie Paddle’ campaign, Bartho has been inspired by fellow paddling enthusiast Nikki ‘Lettie’ Heynes who – having already overcome breast cancer – is currently at the centre of a brave fight against liver, lung and bone cancer.
Bartho will tackle the four day long Da’Real Richards Bay to Pirates Downwind Surfski Challenge from 30 October to 3 November with every cent raised by the campaign to be put towards Heynes’ medical bills.
“Lettie is a phenomenal woman who has touched so many lives and now I have this opportunity to touch hers so it was definitely one I wasn’t going to miss!” explained an enthusiastic Bartho.
“It will obviously be a really tough few days in the ski and who knows what Mother Nature might serve up for us whilst we’re out at sea. I’m sure it’s going to be wild but what an adventure!
“I’ve been training really hard for this for the past few weeks and with Lettie’s strength and fight as an example, I definitely feel I can achieve what I’ve set out to and, hopefully, that will result in many others supporting the campaign generously,” she added.
Heynes, wife of Zoog ‘MamuLoman’ and mother of three, has endured a difficult journey since first being diagnosed with the disease last year however, despite overcoming the initial attack only to be diagnosed with liver, lung and bone cancer in April 2013, the inspirational personality is determined to face up to and overcome her cruel challenger all over again.
“Lettie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 whilst breastfeeding her youngest child but, after a brave fight, was later deemed to have overcome the cancer,” said Bartho.
“After a lot of pain and discomfort earlier this year Lettie’s, and her family’s, life was then turned upside down for the second time when doctors then discovered the cancer had returned, this time in her lungs, liver and bones.
“Being the most incredible person that she is though and choosing to see cancer as a challenge and not a life sentence, Lettie simply put on her ‘big girl panties’ and again decided to fight the cancer, against all odds! With her unfading faith, unwavering passion for life and never give up attitude, Lettie has risen to the challenge and she really is the most inspirational women I know!
“Currently Lettie’s counts in her liver and lungs are looking great and she recently started her final treatments for the bone cancer so hopefully, aided by the generosity of others, we can assist her in overcoming this final hurdle,” added Bartho.
Despite set to start the event as one of only two females taking part in a single surfski (S1), Bartho remains confident and excited by the adventure she is faced with as she looks to complete the 162km ordeal proudly dressed in pink and flying the Lettie Paddle flag high.
Bartho’s mission has struck a chord with fellow paddlers, many of whom have already made donations to her fundraising drive, or have pledged to sponsor her per kilometer of her paddle from Richards Bay to Durban.
“I have been blown away by the support from the paddling community,” said Bartho. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate, so I would really like to take it as wide as possible to get more people involved before we set off for the paddle on Wednesday 30 October, which will fittingly signal the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“Almost every single person knows of someone else who has been or is currently in a battle against cancer. It is a terrible disease and treatment is incredibly expensive.
“I really urge as many people as possible to make even the smallest of donations to the campaign – every little bit helps and, of course, we would be ever so grateful to those who are able to assist us in even larger ways as well!
Whilst welcoming any contribution others are able to make, Bartho also has a burning desire to inspire others to go out and motivate someone they know who is fighting cancer through positive actions, facing up to their challenges and embracing a healthy lifestyle.
“My intention for the Lettie Paddle campaign is to raise as much money as possible and if you’re able to make a lump sum donation or sponsor an amount per kilometer I complete, I – and I’m sure both Lettie and Zoog as well – would be hugely appreciative!
“However, over and above trying to raise money for Lettie, I also really want to move, motivate and inspire people! It’s more than just the money, it’s about helping people believe in themselves and encouraging them to make a difference in others’ live!
“I hope that if I can do ‘the impossible’ then they can too. You can do the impossible if you set your mind to it so I challenge everyone out there – let’s not be ordinary, let’s be great and let us all make a difference in whatever way we possibly can!
“If not now, then when? Be the person you have always wanted to be and be that person now! Be great every single day. Don’t be scared to challenge yourself and always strive to live life to the absolute fullest!
“Just go out there and do it, I dare you!” she added daringly.
Anyone interested in making a donation or pledging an amount per kilometre can do so via the campaign’s website (www.lettiepaddle.co.za) or by contacting Danica directly via email (email@example.com) or cellphone (083 626 6001).
I’m in Portugal for the FIRST EVER OFFICIAL World SurfSki Champs!
SO exciting, and so great for the sport! Nelo is (as usual) going out of their way to host a super event! The vibe is fantastic, and I can’t wait to race.
I did the LifeSaver Knockout race when I arrived, it was super fun, just tough to paddle hard after such a long trip! Richard von Wildeman won the men’s and I won the women’s.
Here is a link to GlobalSurfSki for some photo’s
I will try take some photo’s today and post them (including one of my super fast Bright Yellow NeloSki racing snake!)
Here is a link to the race website:
And don’t forget, if you want to follow the race LIVE via YouTube, go and subscribe to White Hot Media’s Channel. Click on image below to go sign up.
OK, time to explore Vila Do Conde (and have a sneaky espresso or two).
P.s. I Love Portugal!
Marathon Racing is taking a lot of flack right now, with the ICF releasing new rules and a 30 second penalty box similar to water-polo for paddling offenses. It’s been interesting to read the discussion on the FaceBook page where some of the sports greats are debating the rules.
For me personally, nothing beats racing my surfski, that being said, marathons are a great way to stay fit and the racing is intense!
Over the past few years I have had some success racing the World Championships, with a bronze medal at my first ever Worlds in Gyor, Hungary in the WK2 with Nikki Mocke.
After that I stayed away from marathons until Portugal in 2009 which was a hard race, top 10 in the K1, and a DNF in the K2. The following year began my “Wooden Medal” curse.
After a terrible start in the K1 race, I managed to catch up and race a fantastic 26km, until the last portage and a small hiccup, leading to being out sprinted for the bronze. The first of my “Wooden” medals.
The following day Bridgitte Hartley and I hopped in a double, and once again, got out sprinted for the bronze, #2 of my “wooden gongs”.
2011 saw me injured and miss the Worlds in Singapore. The following year in Rome, saw my 3rd “wooden” medal in the K2 with Robyn Kime. Not out sprinted this time, a nasty penultimate portage saw us lose the bunch and therefore be out of contention.
This year see the World Marathon Champs (new rules and all) being raced in Copenhagen. I am in the K2 with Bridgitte Hartley again. Lets see if we can turn my curse around! Here is the link to the website: Click me
However, first up is the FIRST EVER OFFICIAL WORLD SURFSKI CHAMPS in Portugal in 4.5 weeks time! I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. A huge step forward for the sport of SurfSki, and a pretty cool event to be a part of! I can’t wait!