Fish River Marathon best of them all
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.