Experienced paddlers who are bored with the usual plopping down our backyard Klip, really enjoy the challenges of the Upper Klip and look forward to testing their skills – even I do, and I am by no means a decently average paddler, but I enjoy the hard work and sharp reflexes required, although I know and recognise my own limitations and wouldnt do the river at full flow as it is too fast for my ability.  In any event we seldom get the chance to try as numerous marshalls are required and every available manpower needed.


With the recent rains filling the river,  water is coming in from Lenasi, East Rand, Florida and the river does keep rising for days – we cannot possibly predict how much by which day the water will rise despite keeping a close eye on it – and it was rising on Friday late afternoon/evening.


The twisting, winding, narrow stretch of river from the Lido Hotel (Buksies Holiday resort), through to Henley was extremely technical and very fast requiring exceptionally good reflexes and river reading – and some luck?
Paddlers were shoved about from tree to tree rounding sharp corners in strong currents, dropping into huge wave trains, ducking under trees, humping over trees – and a number of boats didnt make it through successfully.    There were also paddlers on the tricky section who havent been on the river in months if not a year  – perhaps this section is not suitable for those out of practice….long gaps in practices do require some memory/reflexes to kick in and there’s no time on the Upper Klip for reminding the brain/body co-ordination.


The river was NOT as full as some previous race years…..and there are LESS tree blocks now than previously – perhaps that is why the faster flow….?


Its almost unexplainable how such less experienced paddlers and even those moving from K2 to K1 – so are K1 novices in recent months, who managed to finish the race unscathed when they should have been the casualties! ….luck of the draw on the day?  Who knows what makes that difference!!   Certainly only B grade river racers should be on the river and perhaps it is necessary to change back to A grade designation but it was largely A graders who withdrew…..so what are the answers!?


I am going to mention a few of those really new inexperienced paddlers who I have helped on learning river trips who amazed me by not only finishing, but finishing comfortably and with boats intact -in K1’s !!!  Tristan Trican – school leaguer who has just turned 16 and done K1 Klip races but never above Heidelberg Bridge, did his first K2 FISH in October, and sailed through finishing the Two Day Klip, in 16th position, as 2nd Under 18 – What!?  Cobus Wagner, second year racing, has done K2 including Fish until recently and now moved to a K1 –  sailed comfortably through as 23rd K1……Marcell Otto….started learning to paddle last year, struggled swimming everywhere, broken boats in K2 with partners, just wasnt getting there –  had really bad luck…..went to Fish with an experienced partner and came back to FINISH this excessively difficult river race in a K1 with hardly a shocked expression on his face in any photos….HOW do these guys manage it?  ( Sorry I am sure there are other newbies achieving well but I dont KNOW them – these are those I worked with, and assisted to get up to Fish and they just took off like jet engines!)    WELL DONE!!  when I see the highly experienced racers withdrawn, swimming, broken boats – it really is quite fascinating trying to figure out why or how!!


There were some 20 paddlers LESS on the second day for various reasons……and 7 lost / missing / broken boats – mostly K1’s….and boy it would have been hard work manouvering a K2 around those tight corners – chances of a break were really high!


We understand there was a tremendously good attitude on the river with paddlers being courteous and helpful, offering assistance, backing off for others – they realise the potential for danger, and respect fellow sportsmen more than getting a good time – this makes us feel very proud of the kind of people we have on the river – well done guys!  and a special mention to Kelvin Byres, who came across an injured paddler with a torn intercostal rib muscle (which is horrifically sore to breathe, cough or sneeze even – as I well know from personal experience) and who gave up his good time on the race, to assist and escort him to safety and the river bank and ensure somebody could assist him further before continuing his race……the spirit of sport….well done….


A very young very cold shivering owl was also rescued from cold water at the start…..and placed in a box in a warm car with sunshine until delivery to a FreeMe centre could be arranged – thanks for that too – WE are canoeists / river proud and therefore by nature Environmentalists……nature lovers….of course and do the right thing!!


And while driving from seconding point to another seconding point picking up stragglers looking for lifts along the way, the strangest thing – in a backstreet in Daleside (NOT a town, just a suburb – no real shops or church etc) two men MARCHING along in full kilt and regalia playing awesome bagpipes – no eye contact – like the royal soldiers, they just stared ahead and kept playing while I videod them – check on GCU facebook!  how weird is that!?  Perhaps it was a private tribute to someone special – no spectators, no crowd, nobody else on the streets!!


The Upper Klip on Day 1 did have some issues  as always – notably a second waterfall with a missing in action marshall which caused some big swims that were quite scary and did result in lost / damaged boats….. the other tricky drops and pipes were portages, so the most challenging obstacles were the tight corners in fast current,  inbetween trees and I have posted videos showing Morgans corner where the water was really bursting through the section at top speed making fast reflexes and hard work paddling to get around obstacles.  Although a few swimmers, most paddlers seemed to get through even if on the wrong line – there was enough water to be forgiving….


The Everite bridge was interesting and a bit hectic as a portage with the water going right over the bridge, with its short 50m portage where a paddler got lost while others almost did but were stopped in time…..and a few bunches crowded up on the take out – but they all managed themselves very well as there were already some withdrawals by that stage and there werent big bunches arriving at the same time – the water was flowing over the bridge creating potentially dangerous suck under situation which was not engaged!  Well done to the K2 drifted to the wrong side of the bridge who managed to safely secure their position on a log and get to safety while I held my breath!


Daleside Weir had only a few swimmers as well, including the marshalls on duty (First year paddler and a complete novice who had awesome fun but obviously showed a good line!).


These type of drawn out long races are certainly challenging for Marshalls and sweeps and should be seen from their perspective – an average 40km race, should take on average 4 hours….and when marshalls sit in position HALF WAY through the race, for 4 and a half hours waiting for the back markers to finish, it should provide an increased amount of respect and admiration for their commitment while they wait for the sweeps and the limping struggling paddlers at the back of the field….RESPECT……THANK YOU…..


The second day was still good water although not so technical nor difficult, as many rapids become easier, although there are still challenges at others  – it was really awesome fun – and thanks to the couple of Moms / Wives / Seconds who DID support the really awesome Serendipity Coffee Shop where the children can enjoy the jungle gym and pool and the menu is quick tasty and very reasonable – a super place to enjoy after watching your paddler come through the nasty Broken Weir…..where there were very few swimmers today, only a few who PEGGED as they came down the broken wall just too far to the right of the tongue.


Double Drop didnt have many swimmers  either and it was a bit of a monster – and behind the race some learners even made it!


Race organisers do try to split the marshalls up ie one sweeps half way, and another takes over, where possible, but lack of manpower makes it difficult……and also  things go wrong – overgrown river banks / muddy roads, flat tyres…….. instead of two marshalls at a place, sometimes ONE has to manage……  sometimes marshalls / sweeps damage boats or get hurt and have to withdraw and those left pick up the tab…….it takes enormous patience and dedication to marshall / sweep these river races and an enormous amount of manpower.


Thanks to the clubs AND their members who assisted – without these committed paddlers, there could be NO races in these conditions and these hours and distances  – Watuni managed the lower Klip, JCC the Upper Klip, and FLCC the middle Klip – There is also frequently an ERK member to assist somewhere  ! 😉 – and we are extremely grateful to them all ESPECIALLY as these teams also assist tremendously with TREE CLEARING which is a thankless timeconsuming repetitive job as you just clear one area and another tree goes down nearby!


Especial thanks then to Gavin Steyl and his team of merry Robin Hood Forest Tree hunters (Martin Sly, Warren Ziervogel etc) from JCC, Bertie Baard, Craig Smith and Rod Carpenter who are currently keeping the rivers safe for your training and enjoyment….  I waited in the SPAR carpark on FRIDAY night until 8pm to pick up a group that was working in the late afternoon who paddled in the dark after tree clearing the lower section so the paddlers wouldnt have to portage so many times or have hassles with the trees in the LOWER KLIP …..


Gavin Steyl’s team PRE TRIPPED the UPPER KLIP section the afternoon before the race – in the rain as well into the late evening……


This is commitment guys and its not to make them happy – its to provide an unpaid, thankless service for the paddlers ……we dont make money on races…..after prizemoney and GCU fees are paid, whats left doesnt cover costs…..which mostly comes out of their OWN pockets ie petrol to the races for marshalling or tree clearing – NO reimbursement…..and the amount of time given up….


The results were interesting with some top paddlers out of the race, including the ladies who were asked to withdraw if they hadnt already lost / damaged their boats, in light of the high fast water flow.


Loveday Zondi (SOW) was the fastest paddler on Day one while Shaun Maphanga (FLCC) was the fastest paddler on Day two…..but the overall winner was Zondi in 4 hours 41 minutes to take the first place podium.  Tom Ngcobo finished on the 2nd Podium in 4 hours 44, and Maphanga took 3rd place in 4 hours 49, as well as top Veteran position.


The 3rd finisher was young Thando Namlana (Sow) as first Under 23, in 4 hours 53, while Alex Roberts (Dabs) finished as first Sub Veteran in 4 hours 55 minutes.    Meyer Steyn (Dabs) was the Grand master winner in 5 hours 23 minutes, and the first K2 finished in 5 hours 26 – Robert Levick and Justin May (Dabs).


Lona Magadla (SOW) was the winning Under 18 in 5 hours 27, and Benjamin Cockram (Dabs) was the Sub Master winner in 5 hours 31.


Andre and Mariette Zandbergh were the first mixed double finishers in 5 hours 52 minutes,and Uwe Schmidthaus (VIC) finished as first Master in 6 hours 12 minutes.  The remaining first finisher in an age category was Sub Grand master, JP Pienaar (LIK) in 6 hours 45 minutes.


Thanks also to those assist with the refreshments – Gavin Steyls family today and MY family yesterday….we really appreciate their support for our stupid passion….!!  MUCH appreciated I am sure by the starving thirsty paddling barbarians when they do get to the finish!


And THANKS always to the many unnamed helpers in the background who are always there including drivers…..you guys and gals are real stars…


Lots of paddlers really felt they had great fun and learned an enormous amount in this very hardworking race……and we all feel sympathy for those who were unable to finish, or who lost / damaged boats – so sorry it worked out that way – hopefully next time!?


PS Gavin Steyl has already started hauling “missing” boats off the river and salvaged the first one today…..


IF it hadnt rained the previous 3 days – it could have been a completely different scenario……who knows!?  certainly there are complaints when its too low and sluggish – horrible piece of river then!


Happy Paddling….


Jennie Dallas

for GCU PR

082 857 857 1