Serving the Dusi race for more than 20 years

2009-01-13 00:00

After over 20 years of serving on the Dusi Canoe Marathon organising team, The Witness’s Chris Pretorius has finally decided to hang up his paddle.

For the last 23 years, Pretorius has dedicated every day of his annual leave to co-ordinating and assisting in two of the province’s most renowned sporting events — the Dusi and Comrades.

“I first got involved [in the Dusi] in 1986. At the time, I was a motorcycle marshal.

We would drive up and down the bank making sure the people followed the correct course … to keep paddlers out of danger — and from trying to cheat!” he chuckled.

This graphics supervisor first got involved in the race after being approached by his good friend Roy Berriman, a founding member of the Dusi.

Shortly after Berriman’s death in 1989, the chairman of the race asked Pretorius to join the official organising team. “I was naive. I said, ‘yes, sounds like fun’,” he said.

Pretorius has served as campsite co-ordinator ever since.

It hasn’t always been good times for the 55-year-old.

One particular race that stuck out for him was the year that the Umngeni River burst its banks in the 1980s, leaving large-scale damage to the city, and changing the nature of the river (and race) for years.

“It used to be this curvy river with twists and turns everywhere.

After that flood, the race became a lot less challenging … now, over 20 years later, it’s as close to back then than it’s ever been.”

He said there have been many other changes to the race since he first entered in 1976, including the inclusion of refreshment points and big sponsors — and even the way it used to be reported on.

“Reporters used to send messages back to their newsrooms with homing pigeons … and we used to get the paper delivered by airplane.

They’d just drop them in a field near the campsite,” he recalled.

One tradition that stood the test of time is that every participant is entitled to a doughnut and cup of tea when they reach the campsite.

“Well, now, if you want, there’s Milo and other things. But it’s the same principle.”

Pretorius is very excited about next year’s race, as it is the first major South African sporting event in 2010.

However, his decision to leave this year allows him more time to be with his family. “It is time to let the younger guys give it a shot,” he said. “ … they can bring with them newer and better ideas.”

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