From Valley to Berg

2014-07-09 00:00

PAARL — The 2014 Berg River Canoe Marathon will dish up some harsh conditions for the paddlers and negotiating that environment is something that the Computershare Change a Life Academy paddlers will be hoping to do on their four-day slog from Paarl to Velddrif in the middle of July.

The crew of men from the Valley of a Thousand Hills has been chopped to 10 but Martin Dreyer was confident that he could have taken more paddlers down but logistics counted against them.

“We are taking down a strong team to the Berg this year,” the Dusi Duke said. “It would be more than that but we are only taking one bus down, unfortunately.”

The vast difference between the winter conditions in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal could be a problem for the Change a Life paddlers, however, not having river paddling opportunities in KwaZulu-Natal in winter the Berg provides a chance for them to get in some training as well as establishing a mid-year goal.

“The KZN river season has been over for a while when the Berg comes around and I have always thought that it is a great chance for guys to set themselves a goal for the middle of the year. It provides a great platform for the guys when they come back and head into our summer paddling season,” Dreyer said.

Dreyer, who is familiar with the conditions in the Western Cape, mentions that adapting to the conditions is going to be the most difficult part of the race for his “Zulu’s”.

“The weather is not the only issue for these guys but the river is so different to what they know in KZN. There are trees in the river down in the Cape which make navigation a lot more critical with the trees being more like a strainer in the river.

“The weather will be different with rain and cold but hopefully the cold front that is hitting the Cape this weekend will be a thing of the past when we down there for the race because in the cold conditions I think it will take its toll on my guys.

“We are going to have to be prepared for some cold conditions and I have made it clear to the guys that they must not go into the race expecting the weather to be the same as it was last year,” Dreyer added.

A race of this length is something that is not common with a lot of paddlers and Dreyer was quick to point out that his Change a Lifers had been putting in the correct preparation for the four-day event starting on July 15.

“It is a Comrades like event and the guys have had to spend a lot of time in the boat and with Nagle [Dam] becoming too small now the guys have been putting in four to five hour sessions at Inanda Dam once a week.”

Having done so much for the Computershare Change a Life Academy in the past, team ambassadors and Dusi Canoe Marathon winners Sbonelo Zondi (EuroSteel/Computershare Change a Life) and Thulani Mbanjwa (Build It) will lead the 10-strong contingent down to the Western Cape.

“Sbonelo has been there or there­abouts at the Berg in the past and he and Thulani will be important in helping the younger guys in the squad.

“Sbonelo is looking for a top five and if he can motivate the younger guys to better results than that is great for the academy.

“In terms of paddling races it really doesn’t get much harder than the Berg and it really matures you as a paddler so going with five junior guys is also great because I think when they come back and take on our season they won’t suffer.

“The Berg grounds you as a paddler and that is something that I am hoping the guys will be ready for,” Dreyer added.

The Berg River Canoe Marathon starts in Paarl on July 16 and ends at Velddrif on July 19. More information can be found at

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