Dusi duo’s incredible feat

2013-12-27 00:00

THEY are by far the most prolific K2 combination in the history of the Dusi Canoe Marathon with a partnership that spans four decades, but Elly Hind and Graham Pole will be taking a rare break from the three-day race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, this season.

Originally from Benoni, but now close friends living on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, the duo hold the record for the most Dusi races completed in a K2 — 28 successful finishes — eight more than their nearest rivals.

They have started 32 Dusi Canoe Marathons together and managed to finish 28 of them — a remarkable feat in itself considering the two of them had no idea what to expect when they took part in their first adventure down the Msunduzi River in 1972.

“It was really difficult when we first started out, but we were young and full of life,” Pole said. “We have had our ups and downs through the years, but our friendship has only grown since we did our first Dusi together.”

The two met on their first Dusi over 40 years ago and then became partners following their first escapade down the river. Pole remembers the early days of the Dusi and how the bond was created after spending days in the valley.

“The race used to run from Wednesday to Friday so we would come down and camp in the build-up to the race, which was where we got to know each other well. The race was all about enjoyment and getting to the finish,” he said.

When the two came together as a combination the boats were different and they would spend a lot more time on the river than the paddlers do these days. Hind recalls some arduous stretches on the river.

“We started before the dam was built and coming from Gauteng we really had very little idea of what was happening, but we would fight it out and spend around 19 to 22 hours on the river, which was a long time,” said Hind.

“I have always been the one at the front of the boat, so maybe it had something to do with my driving, but we got to the finish eventually.”

It was a mutual agreement that Hind would be in the front of the boat and that has never changed since they came together as a combination. The skills at the front of the boat were not seen as the reason for Hind getting the job.

“Elly always drove us, from our first race together to now,” Pole said. “He is shorter than I am, so we always said that he should be in the front and that I will just sit in the back and provide the power.

“Being in the front of a canoe is just something that I have never done and I get a little nervous in the front, so it was an easy decision for us. I have been sitting in the back for years and it isn’t going to change.”

The two of them completed their 28th Dusi Canoe Marathon in 2013. But they have no plans to compete in the race in 2014.

“We really are like brothers now and do a lot more together than just paddle. We play golf and are both based on the North Coast, but I have moved up to Richards Bay, so we don’t see as much of each other as we used to,” Hind explained.

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