With seven-time winner Abby Solms out of action with her first child due in the New Year, the door is wide one for a new name on the women’s trophy, and Haase’s entry has thrown the cat among the pigeons.
Haase has held no fewer than 60 Dutch national titles across sprints, marathon and wild water downriver racing, and is the current downriver classic World Cup and European Championships silver medallist.
The 35-year-old from Ohé en Laak in the southern part of the Netherlands heard about the Drak Challenge from fellow Dutch wild water international and club mate Pascal Lucker, and committed to racing the 2018 race.
She is an experience river marathoner, having competed in major European races like the Liffey Descent, Krumlov, Sella and Ardéche Marathon, and medalled in every one of them. Now she says she is ready to take the step up by tackling some of the big races in South Africa.
“I started paddling when I was 12-years-old,” says Haaze.
“I paddled on a holiday and I enjoyed it a lot. This made me look for a kayak club in my hometown where I started to train for flatwater races.
In 2002 I went to the sprint world championships with the Dutch national team. I've had some great races at world cups and world championships over the years after but after missing the 2016 Olympics it was time to do something different.
“I moved to the south of the Netherlands and now I live 800m from a nice river with some small weirs and that is how I started downriver racing and paddling river marathons. Now I am really in love with this part of the sport,” said Haaze.
“I am enjoying the environment and atmosphere but mostly I like paddling the weirs. I am often still a bit afraid but I get an intense feeling of happiness when I paddle safely over a weir,” she says.
Haase has given herself a few days to get to grips with the river before the race and plans to take full advantage of the locals offers to take her on escorted trips down the uMzimkhulu to familiarise herself with the 62km two-day course before raceday.
Entries for the race are now open through ROAG via http://drak.co.za/enter/
The Drak Challenge starts at Castleburn on Saturday, January 29 with a 24km stage to Sinister Pool, just above the Swartberg Road. The second stage is 36km finishing at Early Mist Farm close to Coleford resort.
More information can be found at www.drak.co.za