Trac Lowveld Crocodile River Race / Feedback report – 21 / 22 October 2017

Photos: Facebook/GautengCanoeUnion


With the superb report from the race organisers on the event, there is not much further to add, however I have included some feedback from a relative novice who has just made it to A+ grade and had a wonderful experience finishing the race, as well as a sad ODE to the seconds who are worriedly watching for their paddlers to come in to the finish!


Also, a huge congratulations to Cally Henderson, the first woman over 50 to ever take on this challenge, who finished as second lady finisher, as the female Grand Master Winner, ahead of some awesome good young strong male paddlers even!!  and to Holly Spencer, young Under 23, the first lady finisher –  the only two ladies to finish the race….


The Top 10 finishers are listed below in the report from C J Lewis, and I would add that there were two Under 16’s who finished the race –  Gustav Jnr Smook from the Lowveld in 4 hours 28 minutes, as K1 13, and Wongama Makhasi (SOW) in 5 hours 42, K1 36.  The first Master finisher was John Barrow in 4h45, K1 21, (Dabs), with the first GM being Meyer Steyn in 4h37, K1 19 (Dabs).  The first SGM to finish was Mick Joyce, K1 40, in 5 hours 57,  while Pete O Connor was the first Great Grand master finisher in 4 hours 59, as K1 28.


SO…. there are no excuses why the rest of you Gautengers werent taking on the challenge!!!



Thanks to CJ Lewis from Lowveld for this super comprehensive report on the Trac Lowveld Croc


Mbombela – The hype before the race started on Saturday was whether 2 times defending champion Siseko Ntondini would make it a hatrick or whether the wily old fox with 8 victories under his belt – the last in 2012 – Ant Stott, would be able to dust off the rust and remember his lines.

With a magnificent 7 cumecs pumping out of Kwena Dam the racing was intense from the start as the competitors left in 30 second intervals immediately into the first obstacle. The river was tight with the flora having grown significantly since the last race in 2015 before the drought induced cancellation last year, but crystal clear and the non-stop roller coaster of rapids called for full concentration – one momentary lapse could cause disaster.

After Day 1 Ant Stott had showed his superior river skills by opening up a lead of just under two minutes on Carl Folscher another KZN paddler. Ntondini had endured a couple of swims to lie in 6th almost 7 minutes behind. Loveday Zondi lay third…

Day 2 dawned bright and sunny after cloudy conditions the day before. Most competitors had found their “Lowveld Legs” in the river and feedback on the banks afterwards was that  much improved performances from Day 1 were experienced. Ant Stott used all his cunning to hold off Folscher ahead of an absolutely flying Thando Ngamlana (U/23) who posted the day’s fastest time by over a minute. The ladies race was won by novice Holly Spencer.
Results: LADIES

  1. Holly Spencer 5:47:25  (U23)
  2. Cally Henderson 6:32:04 (GM2 overall – first GM Lady finisher ever!!)

Results:  MEN:
1.     Ant Stott                       3:56:13 (SV1)
2.     Carl Folscher                 3:58:27
3.     Thando Ngamlana         3:59:29 (U/23)
4.     Loveday Zondi              4:03:50
5.     Siseko Ntondini             4:04:10
6.     Gustav Smook              4::13:54 (SM)
7.     Kelly Tarr                      4:21:23 (U/18)
8.     Chazani Gumede           4:22:37
9.     Alex Roberts                 4:22:58 (SV2)
10.  Kelvin Byres                  4:23:57 (V1)



For a first timer on the Lowveld Croc, what an exhilarating experience.

Starting in elapse time format, which was a first for me, immediately dropping into the first obstacle of the day, Gauging Weir, and then straight into fast tight corners, seeing some experienced paddlers already getting stuck, swimming and looking uncertain on what to do, the thought jumps to your head…what have I gotten myself into!

Soon you sort of get into a rhythm but you never really relax. It’s constant concentration, eyes locked on the river. There’s too many obstacle names to remember so it’s all down to the experience you’ve build up in your short time paddling, which after only doing around 8km in the first hour, seems like very little experience. It’s not a race anymore, the goal now is to get your boat to the finish. Choosing your lines has to happen quickly, and it’s not always the right line but you stick to it. Sometimes you have to paddle aggressive and sometimes you slow the boat down and manoeuvre your way around the endless number of rocks. Some battles you win and some you loose. But somehow you get through. Rapid 14 probably claimed the most victims and Carisbrooke definitely not far behind.

To add to the experience, at around 22km into the race, you get told by a fellow paddler standing on the bank to get out, hippo ahead!!! The heart rate jumps as you quickly but  quietly exit the river, wait for the next paddler to give the same courtesy and then do a short portage through a veld, some thorny bushes, hop over two fences and it’s back on the river again…hoping you’ve put in far down enough not to have any sort of encounter.

I’m certain that my river skills improved in leaps and bounds in that short piece of river. As the day goes by, even after a few swims, you actually feel more confident going into the white water stuff, which is never ending. What a feeling to see the banners at the finish and you know you’ve made it, day 1 that is.

Sunday morning and I’m back at the start and the first thing you notice is that the field is not as big anymore. But that doesn’t deter you from getting your battered and bruised body back in the boat, which also had some repairs done to it from day 1’s experiences. But your not the only one.

Day 2 goes a lot better for most. Lessons learned from 24hours prior. Still the admin doesn’t stop, for some, but somehow after many stops emptying a sinking boat, or for whatever reason, you keep doing whatever you can to keep going, determined to finish no matter what. And after another long day on the river you see the finish and get such a feeling of accomplishment.

For myself, probably the hardest 2 day’s of paddling with all the admin along the way and the draining impact the river has on you mentally and physically, but by far the most fun I’ve ever had on any river.

Well done to LCC for organising an amazing race. That river has me and hopefully a few other first timers hooked for life.




With worried eye and creased frown

They sit and watch the river

Waiting for their king and crown

With lips that start to quiver


What could have gone wrong?

I hope that he’s ok

Why is he taking so long?

Why can’t home he stay?


At last from around the corner

A flash of a blade…it’s him I believe

As he glides over the line

I am sad with relief!!