In the weeks prior to the 2010 edition of the Blyde Xfest, hype and excitement for the weekend was built to a fever pitch by the organizers, Mohlatsi Adventures. For a change the organizers of a kayaking festival in South Africa actually decided to begin planning for the festival well in advance. The result was a record turnout, and an absolutely outstanding festival, with this year’s theme being “I’ve got a lovely bunch of Coconuts”.

On Friday 26 February, myself and two other sons of gut-monkeys (Phia and Mirka) made the drive from Joburg to the ever-warm, ever-beautiful Lowveld. Stopping along the way to buy some cane and vodka for the party, we forgot to get any lunch for on the river the next day. Oh well, we weren’t too worried, and arrived at the Mohlatsi Adventures camp overflowing with the excitement of weeks of anticipation, and rapidly tucked into our supplies whilst waiting for other kayakers to arrive. And arrive they did, in their droves. I don’t there have ever been so many kayakers in one place in South Africa. 


At trailer full of boats at sunrise, on the way to the upper Blyde. DSC_0011 Festival organiser Deon Breytenbach, who put together a superb event. DSC_0016

The two brave souls who chose to paddle playboats down this section.   

DSC_0049Jay Hyde with his crazy helmet.


Adrian Vroom on one of the upper rapids, before the racing started. DSC_0118

A whole bunch of paddlers on one of bigger rapids. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many paddlers on a river in South Africa. DSC_0168

Lots and lots of coloured boats! DSC_0173

Folks scouting Log Waterfall. It’s not really a waterfall, but does have a log, and a very nasty siphon. Most people walked this. DSC_0180

There’s also a nasty undercut. Here, Paul is busy taking a closer look at the underneath of it.  DSC_0182

And breaking his paddle, which Andrew Kellet was kind enough to retrieve. DSC_0206Shane Raw, Log Waterfall. 


Hannes Pienaar, Log Waterfall. DSC_0271

Leon and Dean checking out Alley’s Staircase. DSC_0273

Checking out the racing line. DSC_0279

The crowd of competitors/spectators. DSC_0303

Uno de Waal going hard. DSC_0362

Shane Raw with some serious speed. DSC_0492

Luke Longridge racing with hand paddles. DSC_0551Deon Breytenbach going backwards with hand paddles.

The upper Blyde River (actually recently renamed the Mohlatsi River, but always the Blyde to most South African kayakers) is one of the most beautiful rivers anywhere in the world, flowing down the world’s deepest green canyon. The entire canyon is a pristine nature reserve, and access on the river is limited to 40 people. Since the organizers (Deon and his lovely wife, Ronel ‘Rubyshoes’ Strauss) announced the dates for the festival months in advance, the trip down the upper Blyde was entirely sold out for the festival, and paddlers from all over the world made the trip (we had paddlers from France, Canada, the UK, Swaziland, and even from the Republic of Cape Town).

This year the event included a video competition (won by Andrew Kellett), downriver racing (won by Shane Raw, again) a beginners kayak race, a croc race, a kayak ramp freestyle (won by yours truly), and a hand-paddle downriver race (a new addition, which I also managed to win). The upper blyde race was restricted to ‘advanced’ paddlers (i.e. those reasonably comfortable on class III-IV whitewater), and racing took place on Alley’s Staircase, Gutter 2/Curtain Falls, and Camels Humps (Marks Drop/Terminator was looking too hairy at this level) whilst the beginners were accommodated on an easier section of whitewater further downstream. racing down).


Andrew Kellett running Terminator. DSC_0589

Yours truly running Terminator, sideways. I got my line rather wrong… (this is Luke in case you didn’t know who is writing the article. Many thanks Luke, great to have your stuff on here! – Adrian) DSC_0594

Side surfing… DSC_0608

But getting out in the end and avoiding the big-ass undercut just downstream. DSC_0648

Scheepers Schoeman with a rocket-ship impersonation… DSC_0651

Which resulted in a broken paddle. DSC_0671

Scott, Mark’s Drop. DSC_0697Kate Walton, Mark’s Drop.


Stefano Sessa taking a dip below Mark’s Drop – he liked the water so much he even swam down the evil-looking natural weir just downstream! DSC_0727

Neil O’Leary, Curtain Falls – the racing was down the chicken line (except for the hand paddle race), as the main drop was looking very juicy. DSC_0756Ant Hoard also on the chicken line, Curtain Falls. DSC_0780

Shane Raw, Gutter 2. DSC_0792

Someone getting a little worked in Gutter 2. DSC_0818Spectators…


Deon Breytenbach running the main line on Curtain Falls with hand paddles. DSC_0915

Adam Gray, running Curtain Falls with hand paddles. DSC_0941

Philip Claassens racing down Camel’s Humps. DSC_0963

Luke Longridge on the kayak ramp. Photo by Jo Fisher. DSC_0999

Daniel Barnard on the kayak ramp. Photo by Jo Fisher. DSC_8053

Luke Longridge, kayak ramp – Photo by Josh Lewis. DSC_9168 (Medium)

Luke Longridge, kayak ramp – Photo by Josh Lewis. DSC_9256 (Medium)Luke Longridge, playing with fire. I’d forgotten that I did this until Josh Lewis sent me the pics. A lot of tequila was drunk that night. 


The Sunday Olifants River trip… good fun. DSC_0053b

The Sunday trip – Deon surfing a little wave. DSC_0060b

Olifants River scenery. DSC_0069bDean giving some locals a ride on the Olifants.

Basically, the 2010 Blyde Xfest was, in my opinion, the best kayaking festival ever held on South African soil, and a massive success. Make sure you’re there in 2011, on the 29th and 30th of February.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking for the rest… Thanks to all who took pictures for me, and to Josh Lewis for the extra cool night shots.

White Fluid Name deep etched with white inside copy_250

All words: Luke Longridge. (Thanks a lot for another cool article that you allowed me to publish on my website Luke. For those that don’t know, Luke is also a sponsored Fluid Kayaks Team Paddler. Keep a look out for more great stuff from this superb paddler! – Adrian)
Photography by Luke Longridge, Josh Lewis and however took of Luke.