ERK Vaal Dam Wall River Race 19 September 2015

PHOTOS: FACEBOOK/GautengCanoeUnion

Hordes of weary paddlers made their way back home, stiff, achy, tense tired muscles and very satisfied after a tough hard grinding slog albeit only 33km, from the Vaal Dam Wall to Three Rivers, on Saturday 19 September 2015.

East Rand Kayak hosted the race to provide training opportunity for the hundreds of Gauteng paddlers who will stream to Cradock in the Eastern Cape next month for the A grade Hansa Fish River Marathon.

The Vaal river is well known to paddlers as a hard slog with strong head winds as the current flows towards the paddlers providing resistance as they  brace their backs and pull against the tide for a few hours, making sure that once this tough race stretch is done, no other river stretch will be as hard going!

Happy that the hardest part of their training is now behind them, paddlers compared blisters, chafe, numb bottoms and dead legs as they limped out of their boats, looking forward to their hot bath, nap and the rugby later in the day!


The SHUTE some 8kms into the race where all the water from the Vaal River channels into a narrow passage lined with huge boulders, causing a massive wave train with huge holes and drops and great stopper waves, saw a fair number of swimmers as most paddlers putting their paddle into the fast current were unable to retrieve it within the two seconds required before the boat would go over on that side…..while more experienced paddlers pulled on top of the waves through the challenging trough rather than let their paddles get caught – and the top paddlers simply cruised through without missing a beat…..


Visgat rapid did not result in any withdrawals due to boat damage but was an interesting spectacle for spectators as boats got stuck sideways washed up against rocks in the strong side currents as the paddlers rushed to the tight sharp chicken run turn, after battling a number of waves similar to being in the ocean except for the occasional lurking sabotaging underwater rocks spread  throughout the approaches.

Well done to the ladies who took on this tough challenge that intimidated many male paddlers especially as the weather in the morning was chilly and overcast.  Undaunted, Sarah Robinson and Janet Bartlet (Dabs) finished their race as the 14th double, in a time of 2 hours 56 minutes, while young Under 18 Sowetans, Asanda Ndlovu and Sniziwe4 Gxobole finished in 3 hours 42 minutes, and Mariette Zandbergh in 3 hours 51 minutes as the only K1 lady in the race.


The race winners, once Cornelis Human and Gavin Shuter were out of the race due to a rock slicing through their hull requiring extensive repairs, were Tom Ngcobo with Thando Ngamlana (SOW) in 2 hours 30 minutes, and a couple of seconds later, Gregory Smith with Martin van den Bergh (VIC/JCC) in 2nd place while Richard Cele and Colin Ledwaba (VIC) finished as 3rd double in 2 hours 35 minutes.

The first K1 finisher was Alex Roberts (Dabs) in 2 :35 in 3rd place overall, with Piers Cruickshanks as first Veteren crossing the finish line in 2 hours 35.  Tommy Booth with Nicholas Weeks (ERK) finished short of a podium position after a mighty effort finishing in 2h 37.

Harald Wattrus and Dean Burscough (DABS) finished as the first Sub Grand Masters in 2 hours 42, and Liam with Michael Stewart were the Father Son winners (ERK) in 2 hours 43.  George Louw and Daniel Barnard (Dabs/Lik) finished as the champion Sub Veterans in 2 hours 46  – in fact this was the hero rescuer of a collie dog that got swept down the mighty Ash river some years ago, while the white water teams were competing in a freestyle slalom championships…

The photo of the terrified huge eyed half drowned,  beautiful large dog swept up onto his playboat where he clung in desperation while being paddled through the rapids to safety was big news at the time…….and he would undoubtedly have drowned if Barnard had not left his marshalling post to rescue him in the nick of time.

The first Mixed boat which was also the first K3 from Dabs contained William Hardie, Mandy Joyce and Mick Joyce finishing in 2 hours 47 minutes – the K3’s, invented in South Africa, have been enormously popular on large white water wide rivers such as Vaal, Orange and Fish and are fantastic for introducing novices to white water canoeing.  An annual SA K3 takes place annually in SA – held on Breede earlier this month.

MORE Mixed doubles include the awesome sibling JCC team of Morgan and Ryan Ziervogel who were the K2 Mixed Doubles winners and first finishing Under 23 pair, in a time of 2 hours 51 as 11th K2, and Jason Brown with Monique Steven (Dabs/FLO) were the second K2 Mixed Doubles finishers in 2 hours 56 minutes.

The top finishing Master age category position was taken by  Bryan Slater and Graham Neate (Dabs) in 2 hours 58 while the first Grand Master finisher was K1 Peter O Connor in 3 hours 3 minutes.  The GM winners in the K2 race were Keith Beeston and John Rowan (JCC/ERK) enjoying a leisurely paddle at a suitably comfortable pace for Grand masters finishing in 3 hours 44 minutes.

With a delicious tasty sandwich and a cold drink in hand, paddlers soon forgot their aches and pains and congratulated themselves on their amazing tough haul successfully completed, and a notch on the training program well marked……Thanks to ERK for providing the super opportunity – those who finished are without doubt, while achy and stiff, much stronger and fitter than yesterday!

Jennie Dallas

for GCU PR

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