I had seen whitewater kayaking whilst rafting with my father on the Zambezi in December 1999 and knew deep down that that is exactly what I wanted to do. April 2004 I bought my first kayak, a Necky Blunt, with the money received from a third party accident claim because I had a car crash, compressing the third vertebrae in my neck. With a mate in the pool and a book lying precariously next to it, I taught myself the Eskimo roll. I lived three streets up from a lake and would go down and paddle the flat water as often as possible. Internet resources were limited using a dial up connection but I found a few small video clips of cartwheels and bow stalls. It took me 3 months of struggling to get the bow stall right but I was loving it. At a stage I stumbled onto Playak.com which is still the best kayaking resource on the net and somehow became friends with the owner, Jeroen Houttuin. My enthusiasm for kayaking was quite evident and I can’t even remember how it started but I must have posted more photos when Jeroen offered to create my own little space for me on the internet where I could post my photos and articles – this was the birth of adrian.playak.com.

On the afternoon of the 6th of April 2006 I posted the first article on my website which Jeroen had created. It was of my first Deepdale Gorge trip, a memorable overnight trip at very low water with Mike and Brett Pennefather, Carl van Wyk and Jared Peacock. http://adrian.playak.com/index.php/sa-kwazulu-natal-mainmenu-12/5-deepdale-gorge-at-low-water. This was the humble beginnings of a website which through a lot of hard work grew into what I would consider a decent resource for kayaking in South Africa, as well as documenting my trips abroad. It now stands with over 230 articles, thousands of pictures and links to a few videos - some of the articles almost breaking 10 000 hits. From the responses I’ve received locally and from across the globe I’d say people have enjoyed the website, and what I’ve shown over the years. Through the website I have also made some fantastic friends whom I’ve met in real life and paddled with here in Cape Town. Michael Schubert from Germany has already been here twice, and we went on a super cool road trip a while back as well. Without the site we surely would never have paddled together.


Table View, Cape Town.

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Doring River at ‘Camp Bali’.


The Kultsjöån, Sweden.


Upper Valldøla, Norway.


Dwars River.


Gatsien Rapid on the Vaal River in full flood.


The website and personal interaction (and luck?) soon attracted it first sponsor, Fluid Kayaks back in 2007, the month was probably March. My relationship with Celliers Kruger (the founder/brains behind Fluid – and you say his name as Cellier, the s at the end is silent…) has always been very constructive and positive. More importantly we also became friends. This is also the beauty of kayaking, that the people involved in the sport are friendly, enthusiastic people with a zest for life. During the last few years I was also sponsored by The Edge (an importer/distributor for outdoor products from a variety of companies), PeakUK gear, paddlers from Sawyer Paddles and Oars, WRSI helmets and Seals Sprayskirts and Accessories and our course Playak.com always hosting the actual website.

I believe I was never sponsored because I was a brilliant kayaker, because I’m really not. Instead I had a passion for documenting my trips, taking as many photos as possible and then writing about them afterwards. I was also very active and consistent with the website, as well as generally having a presence online and helping others where I could. I think it’s important to take note of this. If you’re an extreme kayaker throwing yourself off of big waterfalls, and charging through the technical mayhem that exists on the steep creeks it doesn’t give you the right to be sponsored. Sure it helps to get there, but that is only part of the equation as to why you should be deserved of a company basically giving you free gear in exchange for something. You need to ask yourself what that something is. It certainly takes one priceless commodity of yours –time.

Through Playak.com I met many wonderful people. I became online friends with a gentlemen from Finland called Tuomas Vaarala. In June 2007 I flew up to his hometown of Rovaniemi and we embarked on a fantastic kayaking trip from Finland, to Sweden, to Norway, back to Sweden, back to northern Norway, back to Sweden and returning to Findland. 21 nights out on the road, almost 6000km travelled. I managed to screw up my right shoulder early on which affected the trip significantly but I still tried my best. That December I met up with another online character from the Netherlands, Marten Lagendijk , on the Zambezi River with my good friend Luke Longridge. That was a very memorable trip too. Shortly after that I moved to Cape Town – March 2008. 11 months after the Scandinavia trip I finally went for an MRI scan where it was revealed that I had a 1cm tear in the labrum of my shoulder. Surgery resulted with 3 plastic screws being drilled into my shoulder with 4 sutures putting me back together again. After that I idled at home and did a lot of thinking… It was highly unpleasant to be out of action.

I’ve been extremely happy living in Cape Town. There have been some amazing times, tough times, unemployed times, broken hearts but generally it’s been bloody awesome. I’ve met the most amazing people here and have several mates I can call really good friends. Life has been great. Kayaking wise it was quite a change. The rivers here are very rain dependent and the two best rivers drop down to an unpaddleable level within 24 hours from flood. So if you’re a weekend warrior your options are limited to generally only one other river if it rained early in the week. The lack of variety and the fickleness of the rivers make for some frustrating times. At least the ocean here has some brilliant waves to keep up the stoke.


Batang Sangir, Solok Selatan Regency, West Sumatra, Indonesia.


Double Drop, Witte River.


Sunrise on the Mzimvubu River on the 3rd ever descent.


Noordhoek, Cape Town.


Keurbooms main beach outside of Plettenberg Bay.


I think this was taken in 2011, not sure. The quiver looks a bit different now though.


Morning Glory, Zambezi River.


Unfortunately what this meant is that I was left with posting articles of the same rivers, again and again. I believe I’ve reached the point where I can no longer post another article about the Witte River, or the Palmiet. It gets boring for you, the reader. This is the primary reason for me ending all of my sponsorships. The main draw card for me was my website, but without exciting new content I cannot offer what I could in the past. Also, life changes, your perspectives and priorities also change. Being so busy with work and just generally, well, busy. But this has been a long time coming and the time has now arrived for me to stop being that ‘sponsored’ paddler.

I never ran rapids for the sake of being cool or to get good photos of mean looking rapids. In the 9 years that I’ve been kayaking I’ve very rarely been hurt. This is probably because of my reasonably cautious nature, usually running rapids within my ability. In doing so it has definitely meant I have not progressed probably as much as I could have, but the yardstick for success is happiness, and if you’re happy paddling at your level of skill, then you’re doing it right.

Last season I also took record from 18 May to roughly the end of December. I was very slack with recording my windsurfing sessions as time was a bit short during the holidays but in the time before that I noted a few interesting things. Out of 50 sessions in the water (excluding any windsurfing), 8 were on the surfboard, 8 were surf kayaking and the other 34 sessions were all bodyboarding. From a river perspective I only had 10 river missions. Two were overnight trips on the Doring River and were counted as single trips each, and only one paddle down the Witte, 2 on the Molenaars and the remainder down the Palmiet River. Granted it wasn’t the best season, plus I was moving house in May so I lost a month of decent paddling as the rain came early. But if you examine those stats one can realise that kayaking isn’t my primary sport. I wouldn’t say bodyboarding is but because I live on the beach and it’s so quick and simple to get ready for I tended to do that a lot more. Bodyboarding is also a huge amount of fun. When it’s windy I am usually windsurfing, and in summer Cape Town is very windy.

Looking back at what I’ve said you can see I’m still a very active waterman. Being out on the water is good for me. It reboots my mind and allows me to enter a world few can appreciate. It also enables me to push my own limits and the exercise gained releases all the feel good chemicals that make for a happy Adrian. I will never stop kayaking, it’s a fantastic sport that takes you to places were few can go and I’ve had some of the best times of my life while kayaking, and actually most of my friends still are kayakers. Kayaking, like windsurfing, gave me life. My website will not stop, it might never stop. I still dream of kayaking in other countries but life does change and what one wants out of it needs to be revaluated from time to time.

I’d like to give a massive thanks to all of my sponsors for always generously supporting me! I will keep on paddling my Fluid boats, because I still really believe in the company and their products and designs. My PeakUK gear has always performed faultlessly and again, no need to change. In fact as long as nothing breaks I carry on as per usual with everything. I guess I was lucky to get sponsored by some great companies and have enjoyed representing them. Thank you once again.

Paddle safe,


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