Cradock - After hitting the headlines with their victory at the recent Breede River Canoe Marathon siblings Ryan and Greg Louw have set their sights on the Fish River Canoe Marathon on September 27 and 28, hoping to snare the one title that means more than any other to them.
They were raised in Cradock and cut their teeth on canoeing on the milo-coloured irrigation water that, once released from Grassridge Dam flows through Cradock en route to the Eastern seaboard.
Since the race started in 1982, there have been few Eastern Cape paddlers that have managed to win their local paddling major, most notably the legendary Daniel Conradie and former Plettenberg Bay resident Michele Eray.
The younger of the two siblings Greg has also won the Fish, but as a K2 partner to current world champion Andy Birkett in 2015 and 2017, and while he will come into the event as defending champion, Birkett won’t be taking part in the Fish, opening the door for the brothers to team up together.
It has it challenges as Ryan Louw now lives in Cape Town and Greg works in Port Elizabeth, but the years of experience together and the unique synergy that siblings bring to a K2 makes it easy for the brothers to target big doubles races.
"We are really lucky because we have one of those combinations that just clicks," explained Ryan Louw.
"Even if we haven't paddled together for a while we can just jump in a boat and after a few paddle strokes it all starts coming back."
The brothers were hoping to make their mark on the iconic Sella Descent in Spain this year, and timed their training to peak for the world's biggest canoeing event, only to have their dreams shattered by technical problems right at the start.
"We jumped into the K2 that had been brought to Spain specially for us, and the steering totally collapsed. Just a few minutes before the start. So we basically flew all the way to the other side of the world to get a tan in Spain," said Ryan.
Younger brother Greg admits that, while the combination is almost instinctive now, racing in a pressurised environment with your sibling isn't always plain sailing.
"Paddling with your brother is not without its challenges, but it is never a mission," said Greg.
He added that the win at the Breede had come at a good time, being three weeks before the Hansa Fish, and the low river had made the racing harder, but a more worthwhile training session.
"Mission accomplished!" said his Greg after the Breede win. "While it was low it was still really good fun, and it was a good training session for the Fish in a few weeks' time, which is our main goal for this season."
While the Cradock locals are magnanimous hosts and famed for the hospitality they extend to the paddlers that turn the quiet Klein Karoo town into a hive of activity on the weekend of the Fish, they would love nothing more than to cheer Ryan and Greg Louw onto the top spot of the podium at the Cradock Sports Grounds on Saturday, September 28, and reclaim the Eastern Cape canoeing major crown.