Wheeler sizes up Dusi #44

2015-02-17 00:00

QUIETLY and inconspicuously Lyle Wheeler has ­completed every single Dusi Canoe ­Marathon since 1972 and is aiming at a 44th consecutive Dusi medal when he ­arrives in Durban on Saturday.

Wheeler is second on the list of ­all-time Dusi finishers, only three behind the unbroken string of 46 finishes by the iconic late “Dusi King” Graeme Pope-Ellis.

For the enthusiastic 65-year-old from Umlaas Road, paddling has become part of his lifestyle. And while he is proud of his incredible stretch of consecutive Dusi finishes, homing in on the record of Pope-Ellis fills him with a little ­trepidation.

“I have thought about that possibility a lot, and it’s nice and not nice at the same time,” Wheeler said. “Graeme Pope-Ellis was always a hero of mine, a total legend, and even if I pass his record I will never ever match up to the man.

“I had great chat with his son Lee ­recently and told him of my deep respect for his dad. There will only ever be one Pope. He taught so many of us about ­respect and sportsmanship.

“If I am lucky enough to break his record, I promise you I will spend that occasion talking more about Graeme Pope-Ellis than myself,” added Wheeler.

Wheeler went past the mark of 42 Dusi medals held by Roly Alborough in 2013, a feat that also impacted on him heavily.

“Roly was also a true legend. I vividly recall paddling up to Mussons one day and there I saw Roly Alborough and Andre Hawarden standing there, with their shirts off. Man, those were men. They were like Sergeant-Majors! I just about wanted to turn around and go back!”

He will be paddling with long standing Dusi partner of 10 previous Dusis, Robert Heerman. “We have a lot of fun ­together,” Wheeler said.

“I have had so much fun paddling with my children Shelley, Quinton and Billy and now with my grandchildren!

“The Dusi becomes part of you,” he added. “There is this incredible sense of camaraderie and friendship that you take from the Dusi every year that is so important to me.”

Wheeler was quick to point out that the modern Dusi is markedly different from the heydays of the seventies, and that the current banter about the 2015 Dusi leaning back towards an old-school Dusi is unrealistic.

“In our early Dusis we ran portages that don’t even exist anymore,” recalls Wheeler.

“I remember my dad going out at night to fire off flares so that paddlers who were still out on the river could get an idea of where the overnight stop was.

“Some mornings we would go down to the river to start and there would still be guys arriving after paddling and camping out overnight.

“Everyone stayed in the valley overnight. There were hardly any roads and no houses …

“We often didn’t have any water in the river, and we would start in ankle-deep water and then run, and run, and run.

“Before Inanda dam we would run from the Dip Tank overnight stop on a portage called Cakewalk all the way to the Burma Road portage, do that portage and basically start paddling at the ­Pumphouse Weir.

“What we do today is a breeze ­compared to those days!” he added.

Modest and humble by nature, ­Wheeler embodies the spirit of this 64 year old event that has become a pivotal part of his life.

The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday to Saturday, ­February 19-21, 2015. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Men.24 Model of the Week: Wendy from Cape Town

Find out more about our featured model, Wendy from Cape Town


You won't want to miss...

Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
WATCH: Pornhub is giving users free access to premium content these holidays
5 top leg exercises for men
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.