Daring rescue by paddlers

2013-02-28 00:00

PADDLERS Len Jenkins and Cam Schoeman were remembered for more than winning the Number Seven to Whisky Canyon race on the Umkomaas River last Sunday.

Their victory was overshadowed by their earlier heroics when rescuing U23 paddler Gavin Shuter, the nose of whose K1 boat was stuck under a rock just after Number Six rapid.

Shuter was tripping rapids One through Six, following Jenkins and Schoeman, on the way to the start of the race when the incident happened.

“There’s a steep rapid after Number Six, it has no name, and as we went down I mentioned to Len how bad it was,” said Schoeman. “Behind us, Gavin went over a pour-over and his boat’s nose went under a rock. He was lucky the boat went in deep under the rock. His boat’s tail never swung left or right and he was held straight in the current.”

Shuter explained, “Len and Cam’s K2 boat went over the rock while I unfortunately went under it.”

Schoeman recounted the rescue. “Water was going over his chest, his boat and splash cover. It was a miracle his splash cover never popped, as he would have been in serious trouble if his boat had filled with water.

“We turned around and paddled upstream, Len jumping out at the side of the rapid, running up and trying to jump in to get down to Gavin. He [Len] got to Gavin and managed to stand on a rock and pull Gavin out from the back.”

Half-an-hour prior to the drama, double Dusi champion Jason Graham and top junior paddler Donovan Wewege had tripped the same section of river, emerging minus a paddle and a boat with a broken nose.

Shuter had plenty of faith in his rescuers, saying, “I remained calm as I knew Len and Cam are two of the best on any river.”

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