The annual Hansa Powerade Fish River Canoe marathon has been around for a long time now. I fact, since 1982, the year I was born. It’s a well respected race in which ‘canoeists’ pit themselves against the river in a two day race. Day one is 46km and day two is some 25% shorter they claim on the website. It’s a big event hosting usually in excess of 1500 paddlers, or ‘canoeists’ as they like to be called.

On that note I’d like to note that any craft paddled with a two bladed paddle is called a kayak and any craft paddled with a one bladed paddle (usually in the kneeling position) is called a canoe. So actually, they are kayaking. But somewhere along the line the name canoeist stuck and that’s that. Canoeing in the true sense of the word is very rare in South Africa.

I was asked to be a shuttle bunny for two lady friends of mine who had entered into the K2 category (two people in one kayak, or canoe, depending on your viewpoint) and because I had never paddled the Fish I thought, why not? We drove up on one of the days, maybe the Thursday, I cannot quite remember and it was very pleasant and went by quickly. That afternoon Sam and I managed to get onto the river a short way below Grassridge Dam and made our way down to the infamous Keith’s Flyover. The water was cool in the late afternoon but we enjoyed a leisurely paddle down. The river is very easy but moves quickly enough on that top section and it wasn’t long before we went down the newly built Double Trouble chutes which were quite enjoyable to run. Then there was Toastrack and then Keith’s.

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Katta (left) and Samantha Braid. Fish_1_2_October_2010_043_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_046_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_048_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_054_E1 copy

Racing starts in batches on Grassridge Dam, before portaging the wall and then paddling down the river.  Fish_1_2_October_2010_057_E1 copy

Some people decorate a bit. Fish_1_2_October_2010_067_E1 copy

Katta and Sam (centre) head off. Fish_1_2_October_2010_069_E1 copySome random people under the bridge called Toastrack.

Keith’s Flyover is not very hard to run in a plastic kayak, however, in a narrow, unstable fibreglass beast I reckon its way harder. I think the stats are something like 50% of the people portage, and of the other 50% that attempt, half swim – something to that effect. It’s a renowned boat breaker too and because it’s quite early on in the first day of the race you could end up retiring quite soon, as some people found out.

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Where are their heads, underwater. I rest my case. Fish_1_2_October_2010_144_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_145_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_146_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_147_E1 copy

Good action! Fish_1_2_October_2010_167_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_168_E1 copy

Top hole has some substance. Not retentive, just a nice foamie. Fish_1_2_October_2010_172_E1 copyThe dolphin chaps swimming.

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Below the bridge at Keith’s. Fish_1_2_October_2010_180_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_183_E1 copyTop (or second) hole at Keith’s.

The next day Katta and Sam started their race and I was captain of Sam’s double cab bakkie, eating dust with all the other shuttle bunnies. It was quite enjoyable to drive around and the day went by quickly. I’m still absolutely amazed that helmets are not compulsory. It’s the most retarded thing ever to climb onto a river without a helmet. Oh wait, I’m told, “my head never goes under water went I go over.” Look at the pictures, they paint a different picture. But hey, each to their own…

Unfortunately Soutpansdrift managed to be the final nail in the coffin and Sam managed to get some stitches in her shin, not ideal. Soutpansdrift was the scene of a lot of carnage and long swims, with some dubious safety too, so they were not alone in coming to a sorry end. Of course, with there being so many people I didn’t have a clue as to where they were and only met up much later with an injured Sam, a still smiling Katta and a broken boat.

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Random weir, can’t remember the name. Don’t waste your time mailing me, I won’t change it :) Fish_1_2_October_2010_215_E1 copy

Soutpansdrift. A longer rapid causing a lot of trouble for people… Fish_1_2_October_2010_220_E1 copy

The weir at the top of Soutpans. Fish_1_2_October_2010_225_E1 copy

More Soutpans. Fish_1_2_October_2010_235_E1 copy

Bottom part of Soutpans. Fish_1_2_October_2010_243_E1 copy

The classic swimming position. Usually people would hit rocks with their backside at this exact spot – probably not fun. Fish_1_2_October_2010_247_E1 copy

End of day 1. Fish_1_2_October_2010_251_E1 copyKatta trying to find me :-) haha.

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Me playing around at Soutpansdrift after day 1. Photos by Samantha Braid. Fish_1_2_October_2010_285_E1_CR copy

Loads of blue cranes, our national bird.  Fish_1_2_October_2010_288_E1 copy

Late afternoon near to Cradock.  Fish_1_2_October_2010_293_E1 copy

Winners, and by a long shot!  Fish_1_2_October_2010_301_E1_CR copy

Some girls at the finish. Fish_1_2_October_2010_305_E1_CR copy

More girls.  Fish_1_2_October_2010_315_E1 copy Fish_1_2_October_2010_317_E1 copyDriving home.

That evening I gave the legendary party a skip and decided to stay at the flat and read a book. I hear they are quite legendary, so maybe another time! The next morning we watched the guys and girls finish the race and it was quite boring to be honest. Driving shuttle is a lot more exciting than sitting on the grass watching it grow! But overall the weekend was quite fun and the event is well organised and definitely you see a lot of people having fun. Which should be the priority, right?

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Photography by: Adrian Tregoning unless otherwise stated. 
Words by: Adrian Tregoning.