Young ‘grand slammer’ aims to continue paddling

2015-03-31 00:00

GROWING up in Byrne Valley, Richmond, it’s easy to see why Epworth Grade 12 pupil Kennedy Stone (18) describes herself as a country girl, somewhat a tomboy. She’s a model schoolgirl, a prefect and head of boarding, but it’s outside the classroom that she shows her mettle, her roots from the country.

Playing first team indoor and outdoor hockey is quite normal, but it’s on the water where she is beginning to make a name for herself. She has half-colours for canoeing but that’s a minor detail when looking at her paddling achievements this season.

She is the only schoolgirl this year to have completed what is known in canoeing circles as the Grand Slam of Canoeing — the 50 Miler, Dusi and Umkomaas River Marathon, known as the Umko — and she plans to repeat the exercise many times in the coming years, becoming something of a “multiple” grand slammer.

“My dad Craig was a paddler before a serious polo accident forced him to stop, but I was always interested in having a go, so much so that I received my first boat when I was seven,” said Stone. “I never paddled at junior school though, but when I arrived at Epworth, a school with such a rich paddling heritage, I took it up quite seriously.”

Older brother McGregor (a strong canoeing name), set the standard by competing and completing his first Dusi while in matric at Hilton College in 2012. It was a challenge the younger sister had to simply match and, in time, better.

“If he could do it, so could I and in 2013, as a Grade 10 pupil, I conquered my first Dusi with Bruce Lovemore, a seasoned campaigner on the river,” said Stone. “We spent quite a bit of time practising on the river and it gave me an incredible adrenaline rush. Those three days were amazing. The bug had bitten and nothing beats the feeling of paddling over the finish in Durban.”

Having learnt a lot about herself on her first Dusi, Stone was back in 2014, partnered by fellow Epworth paddler Rebecca Martin, also from Byrne Valley.

“We were on the podium as the third U18 doubles pair to finish. It was unexpected, but getting a podium spot just makes you determined to keep going back, doing other races, wanting to improve and reach greater heights.”

This year’s Dusi saw Stone assume the senior role in the K2 boat, taking Emmalee D’Oliveira, a junior paddler from Epworth, on her first trip via water from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

“I felt I could give back and share the experience with someone in the same position I was in three years ago.

“We finished safe and sound, the 22nd K2 home,” she said.

As for taking on the Dusi in a K1, “I have targeted 2017 as the year to go it on my own.”

This year, Stone couldn’t get enough of racing and being on the river. She took on the 50 Miler, which is on part of the Dusi route, with Brittany Meikle, the Dusi with D’Oliveira and the Umko with James Clowse, a veteran of 14 races.

“The Umkomaas was a two-day race and although I had tubed on the river before, this was the first time I had tackled it in a boat,” she said. “On day one, the scenery was beautiful, seeing parts of the river inaccessible to most and if I thought the waves then were big and challenging, I was informed I had seen nothing yet.

“Day two saw me in survival mode. The waves got bigger and the rapids meaner as we went down, but we had a clear run, finishing 30th overall and the third mixed doubles pair.”

Having tasted and survived the experience in all three grand slam events, Stone wants to continue paddling after school, but, as she says, “It’s hard to compete when you are not a full-time paddler. I do want my green number for completing 10 Dusi marathons and am on course there. I will see how competitive I can be, but a podium place in any race will always work for me”.

Stone lifestyle:

Loves the outdoors and horse riding

Has provincial colours for polocrosse

Plays saxophone in Epworth’s symphonic and jazz bands

Advice to others:

Never give up on the goals you set yourself. All the pain leads to much gain. Stick out the journey and learn about yourself.

Paddling advice:

Relax your bum and keep those paddles up.

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