Fish River Marathon best of them all

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Sport - RICHARD VON WILDEMANN

In per­fect weather last week­end, nearly 1,000 pad­dlers were treated to a Hansa Fish River Marathon for the record books.

Ev­ery year is spe­cial at the Fish, a race that is so much more than a com­pet­i­tive pad­dle. It’s the gather­ing place each year to re­new old friend­ships, of­fi­cially wel­come the sum­mer sea­son and jol up a storm af­ter two tough days on the wa­ter.

Some party on the way there, some be­fore the event and all hit the af­ter party with vengeance.

It is a pad­dling Afrika Burn of sorts, where there is some­thing for ev­ery­one.

Your con­trib­u­tor swapped the pad­dle for the mic and en­joyed a ter­rific two days com­men­tat­ing.

One thing’s for sure, pad­dlers do not ap­pre­ci­ate their sec­onds as much as they should. From mak­ing the oats, applying sun­screen, mix­ing juice, ty­ing on boats, look­ing af­ter kids, chang­ing flat tyres – the list goes on and on. The pad­dling bit is the easy part.

To­gether with sec­onds, the event com­mit­tee go out of their way to make the event what it is. Pad­dling char­ac­ters such as Barry Lewin and icons like Hank McGre­gor have raced all over the world at the ma­jor events and state with­out ques- tion the Fish is top of the list.

John Oliver is an­other gi­ant fig­ure of pad­dling. The Kings­ley Hol­gate looka­like is the chief time keeper for all the races in the rain­bow na­tion.

Oliver’s work is rather thank­less, but your con­trib­u­tor found new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the amount of ef­fort which goes into the re­sults.

Oom Jan­nie Mal­herbe, at 79 years young, fin­ished an­other marathon and is still sharp as a ra­zor.

“I used to have some com­pe­ti­tion in my class, but there’s no one left, ” Mal­herbe said.

I felt this leg­endary fig­ure should just keep pad­dling and in­spire the young­sters.

The word trans­for­ma­tion should not be used in pad­dling. Wa­ter does not care what the colour of your skin is and we are all equal on its sur­face.

So many young­sters have come through the ranks and have made their mark on the sport. South African pad­dling can be proud of that and other sport­ing codes should look to it as an ex­am­ple.

In the main cham­pi­onship event Andy Bir­kett won his maiden sin­gles ti­tle af­ter a two­day duel with his K2 part­ner Hank McGre­gor that ended in an epic end sprint in front of a huge crowd. Brid­gette Hart­ley was also a first-time cham­pion, lead­ing from start to fin­ish in the women’s event.

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