UNDERBERG — Four international paddlers have surfaced on the entry list for the N3TC Drak Challenge in Underberg on January 18 and 19. Australians Josh Kippin and James Morfitt as well as Czech Republic siblings Jakub Adam and Anna Adamová are busy readying themselves ahead of the two day race on the uMzimkhulu River. For the Australian duo, having already completed other river events such as the Hansa Fish, Lowveld Croc and 50 Miler as well as a host of surfski races, the Drak Challenge ticks yet another box on their South African paddling trip checklist. Morfitt’s six-month South African paddling adventure may well also include the Dusi Canoe Marathon, Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon as well as the Umkomaas Canoe Marathon, but for Kippin the Drak will signal the end of a special few months. Talented paddlers in their own right, the pair will once again have to overcome the difficulty of not knowing the river well; however, their recent time on the uMzimkhulu River during the KZN Mixed Doubles would certainly have helped a little. “The plan is to get up to Underberg a few days before the Drak Challenge to try spend some time on the river learning the lines so we don’t go into the race completely blind,” said Kippin. With very little prior knowledge of the river and the unpredictable nature of the mighty uMzimkhulu, Kippin is unsure of what realistic goals would be, however he is excited by the opportunity to spend some time in the popular holiday destination of Underberg. “I’ve obviously watched some of the videos before and kind of know the distances of each day, but even so, its pretty difficult to know exactly what to expect going into the race.” Their fellow international guests, Adam and Adamová, are slightly more familiar with the surroundings and the river with both having spent fairly extensive periods of time on the river prior to the 2013 event. Adam managed to claim a commendable 15th position in the men’s 2013 race whilst the flooded conditions saw Adamová opt not to risk life and limb on day one and instead casually float down the river with Dewald Hattingh in a K2 on the second. “I have only paddled the second day of the Drak Challenge, but it seems to me that it’s such a nice river,” commented Adamová. “The river is so clean and in such amazing, beautiful surroundings.” Adamová will be hard pressed to settle into the head space and familiarise herself with the river once more as she jets in from the Czech Republic just days before the race. Unsure of just how she will cope with the tricky technical stretches of the river, Adamová points towards 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon K2 partner Abby Adie as her favourite to claim the women’s spoils. “I will get back to South Africa on the Wednesday before Drak because the weekend before that I’m participating in a big cross-country skiing race here in the Czech Republic,” explained Adamová.