Survivor aims to tick the Dusi on her bucket list

2012-12-29 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG — There aren’t many women who would consider getting into a canoe for the first time at the age of 60 and after beating cancer with the aim of doing the Dusi in 2013. But then there aren’t many women like Wendy Edmonds.

Edmonds is not just any novice canoeist. She is part of the famed Edmonds canoeing family — a clan that can boast 188 Dusi finishes among its 16 paddling members.

Of the 188 finishes, four were Dusi wins by her brother, John Edmonds: three K1 wins (1985, 1989 and 199) and one K2 win in 1994 with Kevin White.

He also won, along with his brother Andrew, two Non-stop Dusis.

In Dusi 2013, Edmonds hopes to add her finish to the impressive tally.

Edmonds’s involvement with canoeing began as a second in 1970, when her eldest brother, Trevor, entered the Dusi as a 16-year-old. Having seconded her brothers every year since 1980, completing a Dusi herself had always been on her “bucket list”, but she had almost given up on the idea until her brother John came to her with an offer she couldn’t refuse — to paddle the K2 with him in 2013 in what will be his 35th Dusi.

“I’d almost crossed it off my bucket list, as I thought I’d missed the boat as a Dusi paddler, having just turned 60. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when John invited me to join him in a double next year, saying it was ‘payback time for all my years of Dusi seconding,” she smiled.

She never complained about seconding: “My favourite thing about seconding the Dusi is the bonding between family and friends. There is always a lot of fun and banter, but we are all, paddlers and seconds alike, focused on a common goal.”

When asked how she found the transition from second to paddler, she just giggled.

“It’s exhilarating to start my sixth decade with a bang and get to paddle the Dusi as a 60-year-old novice. I have been focusing on my training goal of going from nil to becoming a skilled novice in a period of three months, in time to race the Dusi,” she said.

“There are a myriad of learning curves for novices, and feeling like a total klutz after falling out three times in one training session is a very humbling experience.

“But so many paddlers have shared their advice and given encouragement and support, which has been great.”

The Edmonds duo recently completed the Best 4 Healthcare 50 Miler — her first A-grade and multi-day canoe race.

“It was such fun shooting all of the rapids that I’ve only heard paddlers talking about when relating their Dusi war stories, and the elation of witnessing, first-hand from the back of the boat, John’s amazing skill and expertise as he weaves through the trickiest, bony rapids while others around us were taking a swim.”

Though she may be facing her first Dusi as a paddler, Edmonds is no stranger to a tough challenge, having twice fought, and won, the battle against cancer.

“The toughest challenge I have faced before this was receiving the news that I had a second cancerous tumour and needed radiation and chemotherapy again — four years after I’d undergone surgery and chemotherapy for a previous tumour.

“In hindsight, however, cancer has been a profound blessing as it has taught me to treasure my family and friends very deeply.

“I view the gift of life and living with an infinitely more spiritual perspective and appreciate the miraculous balancing act that underpins all our life experiences in a new way.”

Competitors line up for the start of the Dusi on February 14 at Camps Drift and end in Durban on February 16. More information can be found at

— Gameplan Media.

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