Champions forged on the River by the elements

Champions forged on the River by the elements

Velddrif, home of the West Coast Canoe Challenge.

“Sign up,” they said….. “It’ll be a flat water race,” they said….

The weather, however, seemed to think it was time for some effort after the lazy days of December, and blew in some challenges for the first race on the SUPSA calendar.

The original course had been altered to allow a scenic paddle through the canals of Port Owen, allowing viewers a better chance at supporting their favourite watermen and women. As race day dawned, these had to be altered or shortened to alleviate chaos and sheer exhaustion setting in when paddlers have to fight against prevailing winds.

Finding a line

A race day is never without a spot of drama amongst paddlers, leaving us stories to tell in recovery time. This time it was Cameron Tripney, our Junior World Sprint Champ, who was leading the field with headway to spare when dilemma struck.

The safety boat crew including Coach Dad had not been informed of the latest course change which took place at the race briefing, and so he proceeded to turn the leader of the pack around, convincing him that he was heading in the wrong direction. When the next SUP paddler came along, this safety officer started to smell the bokkoms, and wondered what on earth these paddlers were thinking! He was promptly informed that Cameron had been heading in the right direction – oops!!! He dashed off to tell Cameron to turn around… you can surely imagine the many expletives hitting the surrounding ears…..(@£$%^&*) Of course, being the competitive soul he is, Cameron got right back on course and pumped his way back to the lead, taking it comfortably.

Finding a line

Our other World Sprint Champ, Tarryn King, also gave us an indication of what a blessing it is to have someone at your side, coaching and guiding you through the rough spots to help you achieve your very best. Tom King gave up pushing for his own race to keep her going and help her get through. What an exemplary waterman and loving husband / coach!

Our new paddlers were in awe of the experience, and Sameer Agherdien, who had travelled all the way from the “windy city” of PE / Gqeberha, exclaimed that Velddrif could be vying for that title. He bravely paddled the short course, and made it safely back in under the watchful eye of the safety boat. He stated that it was “lekker to have shared the waters with the best in the game,” making his travels worthwhile. We even had some prone paddlers  join in for the great river experience! Now that’s hard work, with only your body, no help from a paddle at all! 

The value of these races is inestimable. You need to try them, no matter what level of paddling you are at.

Start small, join the fun short courses. In time your strength will grow and you will surprise yourself at what you can aim for. Join your local squad paddling sessions or time trials for group support and a valuable extra “push” from peers and coaches.

Racing and training are the essence of improvement.

They offer opportunity for travel and the joy of social interaction with like-minded water warriors. And for those of you that have not done the West Coast paddle, there’s opportunity to experience the delicacies of far-away shores, like Bokkoms – the West Coast speciality of dried fish (mullets) “biltong” as a special reward!

Racing is the prize –  so get your race pace on for 2023!

For more race images, click to view our Facebook race album: