2018 Fish River Canoe Marathon set for SA K1 Champs

As the nationwide drought continues to linger, paddlers from around the country will be licking their lips about the guaranteed water release from the Grassridge Dam for the two-day Fish River Canoe Marathon from 5-6 October.

Now well established as one of the most popular races due to the consistently good water levels, the Fish is a race that is enjoyed by novices and professionals alike and this year the country’s top paddlers will be fighting it out for the SA K1 River Marathon title.

With the opening day being 48km, Keithsstarting with a 2,3km stretch across Grassridge Dam and a quick portage, the opening 9km often sees a large group of paddlers bunched together as they approach the first major obstacle at Keith’s Flyover rapid.

From there the field thins out slightly, and if you are able to gain a slight advantage it will be difficult for the chasers with the second day only being 36km long.

Day two’s iconic obstacle is the Cradock Weir that comes just a few kilometres from the finish, and in the past it has provided Some dramatic moments that has often decided the final outcome of the race.

The Fish in nature is a fast-paced race giving paddlers very few opportunities to get away from the opposition should no mistakes be made. In 2016’s K1 shoot-out both days came down to end sprints in the men’s race with Euro Steel’s Hank McGregor edging his 2018 FNB Dusi K2 partner Andy Birkett for the title.

This rivalry that has developed over the years has blossomed into friendship with the pair racing the upcoming ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships together in what is widely regarded as an dream K2 combination.

The effects of racing at the World Marathon Championships should have subsided when the paddlers head to the Klein Karoo town over the first weekend of October.

Despite their friendship they still maintain a healthy rivalry and the SA K1 Championships will provide another enthralling chapter in this modern-day battle of the titans.

With the Fish being one of the premier river races on the calendar the elite field is always extremely strong and will include local star and defending K2 champion Greg Louw. Louw finished third behind McGregor and Birkett in 2016 and will be hoping to push the pair in 2018.

The ladies showdown will see a new K1 winner crowned following the 2016 and 2014 dominance of Abby Solms.

There are a number of paddlers who will be in the running for the top spot on the podium with Bridgitte Hartley, who was the runner-up in 2016, and Jenna Ward sure to feature as potential title winners.

There will be a further challenge from the wings and the pair of Hartley and Ward will have to be careful throughout the two days because there will be a group of paddlers including Christie Mackenzie ready to pounce.

The young Mackenzie has come into her own following her second place finish at the 2017 FNB Dusi and followed that up with a K2 second this year. She won bronze at the 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships and will be hoping for a podium at the Fish this year.

Once again the Fish River Canoe Marathon will provide all the paddlers with two days of entertaining paddling and partying with the event commonly referred to as the biggest party in paddling.

Drama defines exciting Fish final stage


Mistakes from both the men’s and women’s overnight leaders at the death handed Greg Louw and Andy Birkett and the crew of Jenna Ward and Anna Kožíšková the respective Fish River Canoe Marathon titles on Saturday.

Starting the final day with just a one second lead, the surprise package of Stuart Maclaren and Frenchman Cyrille Carre were right in the mix until they fell out at the bottom of the Marlow Chute, just nine kilometers from the finish.

This mistake handed the advantage to the experienced Louw and Birkett duo who put the hammer down right to the finish where they claimed their second consecutive title.

The winning pair, who went in the second stage as the favourites, were made to work hard for their victory as Maclaren and Carre living up to their word of putting them under pressure the whole way.

“We had a good, clean day today and managed to get through all the major obstacles first which we wanted to do and avoided making any mistakes,” Merrell/Knysna Racing’s Louw said.

“Stu (MacLaren) and Cyrille (Carre) were really strong throughout and it could have been anybodies race right up until they had an unfortunate swim.

“Andy and I click in a boat which means that we don’t have to have too much time together before it comes right, it’s not ideal but if you click you can make the boat move pretty quickly!”

Birkett was full of praise for his partner who navigated them down through the two days without a hitch.

“It saves you so much energy when you get yourselves into the right place at the right time when it comes to rapids and portages.

“We were always taking out first and putting in first at the portages which, when you add up all that time, makes quite a big difference.

“It’s also great to be able to paddle with a mate like Greg, irrespective of the result I would still be happy at the end of the race,” Birkett said.

It was heart-wrenching for the runners-up who seemed to be mixing it up well with Louw and Birkett until they fell out at the Marlow Chute and they cut disappointed figures at the finish.

“I don’t even know where the start to be honest,” a gutted Maclaren said. “It was one of those swims where we were basically out of the boat before we hit the bottom.

“We had their card for a lot of the day which is probably the most upsetting part. We really wanted to have a proper crack coming into the finish line, but that’s racing and we will definitely be back to give it another go!”

It was another solid day in the boat for the Murray Starr and Adrian Boros combination as they powered their way home to an impressive third place overall.

The ladies race followed a similar pattern despite the 61 second deficit that Ward and Kožíšková had to overturn at the start of Saturday’s final stage.

Throughout the day the chasing pair managed to whittle down the overnight advantage and caught the leading pair at the Marlow Causeway portage.

From there it was a straight shot to the finish and the pressure told as Hartley and Bedec capsized at the Cradock Weir which gave Ward and Kožíšková a slight gap which they took.

“I did feel a bit of pressure going into the race considering Anna has won the last few Fish’s that she has paddled with Abby,” Ward said with a smile.

“It’s a great feeling for me to say that I have done a good job replacing Anna’s usual partner Abby (Solms) for now!

“I have never won the Fish so to come away with a win is massive, I’m so happy.”

It was another case of so close as Hartley and Bedec came unstuck at the Cradock Weir and despite not getting over the line, Hartley was proud of their efforts.

“Yesterday for us to shoot Double Trouble and Soutpans and make it was great,” she said. “It was always going to be a challenge taking a novice down but Krisztina was incredible for a first-timer.

“We took up the challenge and really pushed as hard as we could but unfortunately we came undone right at the end, but we gave it a good shot.”

With the drama at the front of the ladies race unfolding the Under 23 pair of Kyeta Purchase and Kerry Segal went about their business quietly and cruised home to a solid third place overall.

The age group tussles followed a similar pattern to the opening day with a tight contest for the Under 23 crown, where Tom Lovemore and Kenny Rice took home the honours ahead of Jarryd Gibson and Brandon Orpwood with Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi finishing third.

Purchase and Segal claimed the Under 23 women’s crown in dominant fashion as the Peek sisters, Cana and Jordan, finished second over 20 minutes behind them while Dee Kotze and Kelly Biljoen rounded out the Under 23 women’s positions.

Alex Masina and Stewart Little were in a class of their own as they motored home to the junior boys title just over seven minutes ahead of impressive Under 16 pair of Hamish Lovemore and David Evans with the duo of Emanuel Zaloumis and Callam Davis having a strong day to finish third.

The junior girls title went to the dominant Under 16 Epworth pair of Caitlin Mackenzie and Amy Peckett who were followed home by another Under 16 crew in Cayleigh Shaw and Cara Waud as Tracey Oellerman and Shannon Parker-Dennison rounded out the junior girls podium.


1.Greg Louw/Andy Birkett 1:57:38
2.Stuart Maclaren/Cyrille Carre (FRA) 1:58:35 4:40:38
3.Murray Starr/Adrian Boros (HUN) 2:01:06 4:44:43
4.Jacques Theron/Bryan Leroux 1:56:55 4:46:49
5.Alan Houston/Andrew Houston 1:58:05 4:46:51
6.Siseko Ntondini/Kiko Vega (ESP) 1:57:21 4:47:13
7.Thulani Mbanjwa/Banetse Nkhoesa 1:59:07 4:47:54
8.Jakub Adam (CZE)/Simon van Gysen 1:58:22 4:48:16
9.Jasper Mocké/Sbonelo Khwela 2:00:25 4:49:11
10.Clinton Cook/Hamish Lovemore 1:59:50 4:51:40
11.Hank McGregor/Lee Furby 2:02:57 4:51:42
12.Alex Roberts/Wayne Jacobs 2:01:59 4:55:24
13.Kenny Rice/Tom Lovemore (U23) 2:03:25 4:56:48
14.Brandon Orpwood/Jarryd Gibson (U23) 2:04:53 4:59:56
15.Trenton Lamble/Steve Woods 2:04:25 5:01:10

1.Jenna Ward/Anna Kožíšková (CZE) 2:08:05 5:14:27
2.Bridgitte Hartley/Krisztina Bedec 2:11:08 5:16:29
3.Kyeta Purchase/Kerry Segal (U23) 2:13:41 5:29:32
4.Kirsten Penderis/Robyn Owen 2:17:52 5:34:39
5.Nikki Russell/Christie Mackenzie 2:18:16 5:37:28
6.Caitlin Mackenzie/Amy Peckett (U16) 2:23:34 5:47:58
7.Natasha Bradford/Sabina Lawrie 2:28:17 5:54:46
8.Jordan Peek/Cana Peek (U23) 2:27:09 5:56:43
9.Cayleigh Shaw/Cara Waud (U16) 2:27:02 5:57:23
10.Robyn Henderson/Debra Lewis 2:26:09:5:58:12

Under 23 Men
1.Kenny Rice/Tom Lovemore 2:03:25 4:56:48
2.Brandon Orpwood/Jarryd Gibson 2:04:53 4:59:56
3.Mpilo Zondi/Mthobisi Cele 2:08:21 5:06:22

Under 23 Women
1.Kyeta Purchase/Kerry Segal 2:13:41 5:29:32
2.Jordan Peek/Cana Peek 2:27:09 5:56:43
3.Dee Kotze/Kelly Biljoen 2:36:11 6:29:20

Under 18 Boys
1.Alex Masina/Stewart Little 2:04:32 5:01:39
2.Hamish Mackenzie/David Evans (U16) 2:06:07 5:09:14
3.Emanuel Zaloumis/Callam Davis 2:08:42 5:13:43

Under 18 Girls
1.Caitlin Mackenzie/Amy Peckett (U16) 2:23:34 5:47:58
2.Cayleigh Shaw/Cara Waud (U16) 2:27:02 5:57:23
3.Tracey Oellerman/Shannon Parker-Dennison 2:33:05 6:10:02

Honours fairly even after Fish stage one


Stage one of the 2017 Fish River Canoe Marathon ended in a stalemate with the men’s and women’s races dishing up a spectacle right to the finish as Stuart Maclaren and French star Cyrille Carre, and Bridgitte Hartley and her Serbian partner Krisztina Bedec, take the slightest of leads into the second and final stage on Saturday.

The guaranteed water release from the Grassridge Dam draws paddlers in their thousands to the Fish River Canoe Marathon every year and the big water and technical paddling is what often determines the difference when the crews reach the Cradock Sports Complex on Saturday.

The pair of Maclaren and Carre were the surprise package of the day, matching the defending champions Greg Louw and Andy Birkett stroke-for-stroke, and then shading them in the final sprint to earn them the stage victory.

“I have never been in this position in my life before [leading the Fish River Canoe Marathon],” Maclaren mentioned after their stage win. “Cyrille was incredible in the back of the boat and despite this being his first big river race he was so strong.

“We are not putting any pressure on ourselves going into tomorrow, we have got nothing to lose but you can be sure that we are going to put Andy and Greg under a lot of pressure!”

Having spent very little time in a boat together in the lead up to this Fish, Maclaren wasn’t worried about that that could impact on their performance over the two days.

“We didn’t have a lot of time in the boat together but the time that we did have together in the lead up was really good. The boat went smoothly and I knew that when we got here we just had to make sure that we avoided making any mistakes.

“I knew if we could get through the big stuff with the bunch then we could go to work on the flat water and put the rest of the guys under a bit of pressure,” he mentioned.

Through most of the stage there was a group of three boats on the front with Murray Starr and Hungarian marathon powerhouse Adrian Boros’ boat making up the trio, however the pace got a bit too much for Starr and Boros and they fell off the back and finished in third one-and-a-half-minutes behind the leaders.

Despite not winning the stage, the smart money might still be on the defending champions who have the experience of being at the front of a big race and Louw was happy with their open stage outing.

“It was a good day for us today despite the fact that I didn’t have juice until we go to Katkop,” Louw laughed. “Fortunately I’ve got such a strong partner so he managed to get us to Katkop with the rest of the group.

“We had a good day but tomorrow is going to be another long day in the seat!”

There are very few other established crews at this years’ Fish but for Birkett, the strength of the field was never a question and having such a close race is something he is relishing.

“We knew that there were going to be a lot of strong combinations here for Fish so we were expecting it to be a tough day,” the Euro Steel star commented.

“It is great racing when there are a few boats in the contest and we really enjoyed the racing today.”

The ladies race followed a fairly similar pattern to the men’s race, however Hartley and Bedec managed to eek out a slender one and a half minute lead over the chasing Jenna Ward and Anna Kožíšková with the Under 23 pair of Kyeta Purchase and Kerry Segal finishing in third.

“It is great to have finished today in first,” Hartley said. “We would have been happier if our lead was a bit bigger but it’s great that there is such an exciting race for the ladies title.

“Usually there is a break away early and then you are on your own but it was awesome to be racing Jenna and Anna today.

The Hartley and Bedec combination has had some time to gel but Bedec was the first to admit that it took time for them to iron out the creases.

“We struggled a bit in training but we came together well today and we didn’t shake or anything which was great!”

In the age group racing the newly formed Varsity College pair of Kenny Rice and Tom Lovemore were the strongest Under 23 pair on stage one with Natal Canoe Club’s Jarryd Gibson and Brandon Orpwood taking second the Western Cape’s Nick Notten and Mark Keeling finishing third.

The junior men’s race is not as close as the Under 23’s with Alex Masina and Stewart Little holding a lead of just under six minutes over Border’s Joshua and Matthew Fenn who are being chased by the impressive Under 16 duo of Hamish Mackenzie and David Evans.

Leading the junior girls are the form Epworth pair of Caitlin Mackenzie and Amy Peckett.

The second and final stage will take paddlers from Knutsford to the finish at the Cradock Sports Complex on Saturday.


1.Stuart Maclaren/Cyrille Carre (FRA) 2:42:02
2.Greg Louw/Andy Birkett 2:42:03
3.Murray Starr/Adrian Boros 2:43:36
4.Hank McGregor/Lee Furby 2:48:44
5.Alan Houston/Andrew Houston 2:48:45
6.Jasper Mocké/Sbonelo Khwela 2:48:46
7.Thulani Mbanjwa/Banetse Nkhoesa 2:48:47
8.Siseko Ntondini/Kiko Vega (ESP) 2:49:52
9.Jacques Theron/Bryan Leroux 2:49:53
10.Jakub Adam (CZE)/Simon van Gysen 2:49:54
11.Clinton Cook/Hamish Lovemore 2:51:49
12.Kenny Rice/Tom Lovemore (U23) 2:53:22
13.Alex Roberts/Wayne Jacobs 2:53:25
14.Brandon Orpwood/Jarryd Gibson (U23) 2:55:03
15.Trenton Lamble/Steve Woods 2:56:44

1.Bridgitte Hartley/Krisztina Bedec (SER) 3:05:21
2.Jenna Ward/Anna Kožíšková 3:06:22
3.Kyeta Purchase/Kerry Segal (U23) 3:15:50
4.Kirsten Penderis/Robyn Owen 3:16:46
5.Christie Mackenzie/Nikki Russell 3:19:11

Under 23 Men
1.Kenny Rice/Tom Lovemore 2:53:22
2.Brandon Orpwood/Jarryd Gibson 2:55:03
3.Nick Notten/Mark Keeling 2:56:54

Under 23 Women
1.Kyeta Purchase/Kerry Segal 3:15:50

Under 18 Boys
1.Alex Masina/Stewart Little 2:57:07
2.Joshua Fenn/Matthew Fenn 3:03:04
3.Hamish Mackenzie/David Evans (U16) 3:03:06

Under 16 Boys
1.Hamish Mackenzie/David Evans 3:03:06
2.Gustav Smook Jnr/Zanenhlanhla Mbala 3:16:42
3.Luc van der Westhuyzen/Samuel Butcher 3:17:22

Fish River Canoe Marathon by numbers

Numbers1 – The number of K4 craft entered into the 2017 Fish
1- The number of paddlers to have finished every single Fish Marathon – Rory Anderson (35 medals)
2 – The number of paddlers poised to become Kingfishers for completing 30 races – Glenn Hilliar, Martin Grotepass
2 – The number of days of paddling at the Fish River Canoe Marathon
4 – The number of paddlers a University needs to finish to qualify for the USSA title
6-  The number of current Fish Eagles, or paddlers that have done 30 or more Fish Marathons
6 – The number of weir’s paddlers will encounter at the Fish
10 – How many Fish finishes one needs to become a Coelacanth
17 – Number of years that Brian Longley and Nic Longley’s Father and Son K2 record has stood
20 – The number of medals needed to become a Fish Eagle
25 – The number of paddlers poised to become Fish Eagles in 2017
30 – Number of Fish Marathons one needs to complete to become a Kingfisher
36 – The number of years that this race has been run
35,8 – The distance in kilometres of the second day of the Fish
46 – The distance in kilometres of the first day of the Fish
62 – The number of K3s entered into the 2017 Fish
69 – Number of K1s entered into the 2017 Fish
77 – The number of paddlers that took on the first ever Fish in 1983
81,8 – The total distance in kilometres of the Fish River Canoe Marathon
147 – The total number of paddlers to have completed 9 races, and poised to become Coelacanths
402 – Number of K2s entered into the 2017 Fish
1059 – Number of paddlers entered into the 2017 Fish
4093 – The number of paddlers to have finished only one Fish
10259– The number of individuals who have completed the Fish Canoe Marathon

Fish excitement comes to the fore


One of the annual canoeing highlights gets underway on Friday as the 36th edition of the Fish River Canoe Marathon takes centre stage with paddlers from all over the country converging on the small Karoo town of Cradock for the two day, 82km race.

The 2017 edition of the race will have some added spice as it also doubles as the South African K2 River Marathon Championships. This increased incentive will guarantee exciting racing at the sharp end of the field.

When discussing potential winners it seems that people won’t look further than defending K2 champions Euro Steel’s Andy Birkett and hometown hero, Merrell/Knysna Racing’s, Greg Louw. The pair snuck to victory in 2015 over the Euro Steel duo of Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké and should be out-and-out favourites for the title this time around.

McGregor, who won his tenth world marathon title last month, will be taking on the challenge with good friend and business partner Lee Furby. The pair are the current South African doubles surfski champions having won the Gara Dolphin Coast Challenge in August and are enjoying the idea of racing Fish together.

The interesting fight at this year’s race is going to be for the rest of the spots in the top five. There are a number of combinations that will be eying a spot on the podium but they will need to beware of a handful of outside pairs.

There is a distinct international flavour at this year’s Fish River Canoe Marathon with a number of paddlers from overseas teaming up with local paddlers hoping to push for a spot on the podium at this year’s showdown.

Of the international paddlers Hungarian ace Adrian Boros is the headline act. The 2017 world marathon championship bronze medallist will team up with Murray Starr for the event and the pair are widely fancied for a podium finish.

Three-time Breede Canoe Marathon winner Stuart Maclaren will join forces with French marathon and sprint star Cryille Carre while 2015 Fish bronze medallist Siseko Ntondini has joined forces with Spanish marathon powerhouse Kiko Vega.

There will also be a strong South African contingent as always with the likes of Alan and Andrew Houston, Kenny Rice and Tom Lovemore, Mark Keeling and Nick Notten as well as juniors Stewart Little and Alex Masina and Hamish Mackenzie and David Evans fighting it out for the Under 18 crown and pushing for a top ten finish overall.

The ladies race looks to be far less clear-cut than the men’s race with the women’s batch featuring a group of K2 combinations vying for the top spot.

The South African/Czech Republic combination of Euro Steel’s Jenna Ward and Anna Kožíšková will go into the contest with a relative lack of training time together.

Kožíšková, the defending K2 champion, and Ward, who is a renowned marathon paddler, could form a formidable combination at this year’s event and will be a combination that will be eyeing the winners spoils.

2015 silver medallist at the Fish was Euro Steel’s Bridgitte Hartley. The former Olympic bronze medallist is teaming up with Kristina Bedec from Serbia. The pair have been working hard together in the past few weeks and will provide a stern test for the other title hopefuls over the two days of racing.

2016 Marathon world championships K2 silver medallist Kyeta Purchase will join up with good friend and Euro Steel teammate Kerry Segal for the outing while Nikki Russell will team up with young world championship K1 bronze medallist Christie Mackenzie for the race starting on Friday.

One of the set K2 pairings, a pair that represented South Africa at the recent marathon world championships, is that of Caitlin Mackenzie and Amy Peckett. The Under 18 combination will prove tough to beat when it comes to the overall junior girls crown.

The 2017 Fish river Canoe Marathon will for the first time incorporate a Paddling Herd as part of The Cows, the charity fundraising foundation that raises money for the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation. There are at least 22 people signed up to race this year’s race for The Cows and they have currently raised over R70 000.

Of this money raised The Cows will distribute it to their main benefactor CHOC as well as to the Cradock Cancer Care Centre.

The first stage of the 2017 Fish River Canoe Marathon takes paddlers 45,8km from Grassridge Dam to Knutsford on Friday morning.

Nicky Irvine wants to make a difference on her milestone Fish

The upcoming Fish River Canoe Marathon will be a massive occasion for Nicky Irvine Floros as she sets out to become the first female paddler to complete 20 consecutive races, and she plans to use the milestone opportunity to raise R20 000 for The Cows charity drive.

The 34 year old biokineticist from Hilton was one of the first to grasp the opportunity when The Cows, normally involved in cycling, road running and swimming, decided to launch a Paddling Herd at the 2017 Fish.

“I first encountered The Cows while riding the 947 Cycle Challenge and was just amazed by their spirit ,” said Irvine.

“Then, when I read about The Cows forming a Herd for the Fish on the race website, there was no hesitation. This gave us a fantastic reason as a family to go to the Fish this year.

“Having a family of our own makes the work that CHOC does even more real, so getting involved in a fundraiser for CHOC was an easy decision to make,” she added.

Their two daughters, Lulu (4) and Georgia (2), are no strangers to the Fish, as they have been part of the race in a number of unusual ways.

“Both of them have already done a Fish because I paddled with both of them while I was pregnant!” said Irvine.

“We have made special Cow suit onesies for both of them and they will both be doing their duty with collection cans.”

Irvine did her first Fish as a 14 year old, paddling with Alice Rawlinson, and remembers the trip vividly.

“Alice’s dad Dave got us into this massive Accord, and we tripped quite a bit of the river. He banned us from shooting Keith’s Flyover, but we just bombed down the middle of all the other big rapids because we didn’t know any better.

“The race sponsors dished out these bright yellow hats. I recall our seconds saying we were so easy to spot on the river because of the bright hats and the loud chatter that was always going on in our boat!” says Irvine.

She tried hard to coax Rawlinson back from overseas to paddle with her on her milestone twentieth consecutive Fish, but she couldn’t make the trip, so she turned to her husband Nick with the plan for a special family trip.

“The response to our Cow Fish plans has been amazing. We have already raised R14 000 and we will keep it up hoping to try and get to R20 000 by the end of the year via our GivenGain account.

“What has amazed me is how aware everyone is of the work that CHOC does when you approach them, which makes getting donations so much easier.

Her husband Nick Floros, perhaps best known as the mountain bike trail builder for the Rio Olympic Games, the prospect is a little daunting.

“Gee, I wish I could have done a bit more training,” he said frankly. “I know it is going to hurt a bit but it will all be worthwhile,” he said.

Without entering into a debate on control issues, he conceded that he was sitting in the back seat of the boat to keep the peace.

“Nicks will be driving boat, because she thinks she is the better driver,” he ventured bravely. “Personally I think it is more about weight distribution than driving ability!”

Their boat of choice was repaired at the last minute, after having badly damaged the nose of their K2 in last year’s Fish.

“It was so bad that the whole nose had to come off a new nose was put on,” he said. “So we might take our time to get back to full confidence on things like Double Trouble,” he added.

Nicky says that the trip to Cradock will be special for their family.

“Time is short. We really want to make the most of the time we have together. If what we achieve over this year’s Fish will allow another person to enjoy another laugh with their family, then it will have been a good deed,” She concluded.

Houston brothers taking 2017 Fish in their stride


The brother pairing of Alan and Andrew Houston will once again team up for the 2017 Fish River Canoe Marathon and as is their way they are not putting themselves under pressure at this year’s edition of the two-day race on 6 & 7 October.

The former Michaelhouse school boys managed to race to a seventh place finish in 2015 against a strong field and despite this year’s men’s field seeming like quite an open one they still feel that they are going to enjoy the race and appreciate time in a boat together.

“We paddled the Pre Fish together last weekend and despite it being our only paddle before Fish we clicked straight away,” younger brother Alan said.

“That is always a good sign. We would like to have had more time in the boat together but being so far apart, me in Stellenbosch and Andrew in Underberg, means that that is the way it goes.

“We haven’t actually spoken about a specific goal for Fish, we just want to have a good race and we’re both happy to be there.”

Alan will be in the front of the boat at the Fish this year, as he was in 2015, and the relationship between the two siblings in the boat is an amicable one.

“Andrew is convinced that the reason I drive is because I am lighter, but we both know the real reason,” Alan chuckled.

“We don’t fight, well we haven’t fought yet in the boat and that’s mainly due to the fact that we know each other so well and our bond is strong enough that we know what makes each other tick and where each other’s limits are.

“I think that that is one of the great advantages of paddling with a sibling but I also know some cases where that doesn’t quite work out so smoothly,” he added.

The Mooi River-raised pair put their names on the K2 paddling map when they finished fourth in the 2016 Dusi Canoe Marathon despite being in third going into the final stage.

All paddlers understand the importance of portaging on the Dusi and the Houston brothers are both strong runners, however Alan still believes that despite the shortness of the portages on the Fish there is still an opportunity to make up time on the runs.

“It is a bit of a disadvantage for us that there is so little running but with that said we still feel that if we run really hard it can be beneficial to us.

“The small portages are still important for us and we want to use them well.

“Although there isn’t too much running we still feel that we will be competitive as our consistent pace is one of our major strengths,” he emphasised.

The 2017 Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 October.

Louw & Birkett back to defend Fish crown


Having romped to an impressive K2 title in 2015, Andy Birkett and Greg Louw will return to Cradock for the 2017 Fish River Canoe Marathon eyeing another shot at taking home the title from 6-7 October.

The laid back pair of KwaZulu-Natal’s Birkett and Cradock’s own Louw formed a strong partnership during the 2015 season that saw them race the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships together and then race at the Fish where they beat the strong K2 duo of Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké for the title.

Birkett has been in fine form this year winning the N3TC Drak Challenge in January, the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in February and then grabbing a silver and a bronze at the recent World Marathon Championships in his home town of Pietermaritzburg.

For Merrell/Knysna Racing’s Louw, who isn’t a full-time professional, getting in the training can be difficult however he knows that stretch of river so well that he just makes sure that he is fit enough to compete.

“I am a financial planner these days so I definitely don’t have as much time to train as I used to but I try and get in at least one paddle a day,” he said.

“Although I don’t paddle as much as I would like I still get in some good weekend training sessions which sort of makes up for the lost time.

“Andy (Birkett) is probably one of the fittest people that I know so there is never a doubt that he is going to be in tip-top shape when we get on the water.”

The 2015 champions have a strong bond as a combination and their friendship off the water is something that enhances their relationship on the water.

“We have done so much paddling together that we don’t really need to do too much preparation.

“It would obviously be better if we could train in the build-up but we live so far away from each other that we will just have to make sure the boat is set up correctly and that not too much has changed in two years!” Louw added.

Having hosted the recent ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, South Africa has become the preferred post-Worlds holiday destination for a number of the international paddlers, meaning the international entry might be slightly higher.

Louw has seen a number of internationals at the Fish in the past but he believes that this year might be a bit different.

“The international guys in the past have come short quite badly on the Fish due to the big water.

“There are a number of international guys entered for this year’s race but the difference is that a number of them have entered with experienced South African paddlers.

“They always posed a threat but I think this year they are going to be a real threat to us!

“With these strong pairs we can normally narrow it down to about ten boats that can dominate the race,” a circumspect Louw mentioned.

Despite the fast nature of the race and the pressure on maintaining concentration throughout, Louw does see the importance of making sure you don’t empty the tank too early on both days.

“The race at the front is always so quick and close so you have to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes because one small mistake can cost you the race.

“With that said, it is equally important that you make sure you conserve yourself because those last ten kilometres can really dish out the hurt if you have gone too hard, too early!” he added.

Ward & Kožíšková strike up formidable Fish partnership


With the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships a thing of the past, young South African ace Jenna Ward will be teaming up with defending women’s K2 champion Anna Kožíšková for this year’s Fish River Canoe Marathon from 6 to 7 October.

Both paddlers were busy at the world championships with Ward teaming up with Nikki Russell in the K2 showdown where they finished eleventh while Kožíšková ended fifth in the K1 women’s race and seventh in the K2 race.

Kožíšková’s traditional K2 partner has been Abby Solms, and the pair won the K2 race at the Fish in 2015 then did the double when they won the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in 2016. Solms’ has taken time away from paddling as she is expecting her first child leaving Kožíšková at a loose end.

Solms became match-maker following a phone call to Ward suggesting that the pair consider paddling the Fish together.

“It has worked out quite nicely for us considering that both of us didn’t have a partner to paddle with,” Ward commented.

“To be honest I see this as quite an honour paddling with the defending champion and someone that has won the Dusi as well!

“I am really looking forward to paddling Fish with Anna, and she is such a strong paddler that it is going to be a lot of fun.”

Taking time to prepare and get to know your partner is often the pre-race plan, however with Ward and Kožíšková being over 1000km apart at the moment they will have to wait until the week of the race before getting in a boat together.

“After Worlds Anna and her whole family went down to Cape Town to see her brother which has meant that we haven’t been able to do any training.

“We will be paddling the same boat that Abby and Anna paddled so it will be set-up for her already so I am not too concerned.

“She got very sick after the World Championships and had to take a week off training but she assures me that she is back and training hard,” added Ward.

Ward heads into her 10th Fish River Canoe Marathon having never won the race and she will be hoping to shake off that bride’s maid tag that she has been carrying.

The challenge for a consecutive crown for Kožíšková and a debut win for Ward will be the duo of Bridgitte Hartley and Serbian star Kristina Bedec.

“There is no question it is going to be tough and there are going to be some strong girls crews but I think our biggest threat will be Bridgitte and Kristina.

“They won the Liebensbergvlei race over the weekend and with Kristina staying here they will have a lot of time to train.

“Kristina is not familiar with river racing which might be a slight advantage but they will be very strong contenders,” a wary Ward added.

Despite their rushed preparations Ward isn’t too concerned that they will not spend any time in the boat before the race.

“We’ve just decided to go with the flow and see what happens.

“We are both still training hard on our own and she is a defending champion so I know she is going to be in fine form.

“She is going to be providing the power from the back and I’ve just got to drive straight!” she added with a chuckle.

The 2017 Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 October.

Hungarian ace Boros set for Fish debut

Boros1050Hungarian paddling star Adrián Boros has added his name to the growing list of top paddlers that have entered the Fish River Canoe Marathon on 6 and 7 October, as the former K2 World Champion sets his sights on doing as many major South African river marathons as possible.

Boros, who celebrated his 27th birthday in Hungary this week, has signed up strong local paddler Murray Starr as his partner for the two-day 82km trip from Grassridge dam to Cradock that will double as the SA K2 River Champs this year.

The Hungarian, who won the K2 world marathon champs title with his partner László Solti in Oklahoma City in 2015, finished second in K2 race and third in the K1 race at the recent World Champs at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg, after having become the first international paddler to win the Berg River Canoe Marathon title earlier in the year.

Boros makes no bones about his fondness for South African river races, having taken part in the Berg and FNB Dusi marathons, and as the northern hemisphere winter sets in he is planning to try his hand at a number of new South African races.

“I really like river races, and we don’t have races like the Dusi or the Berg in Hungary,” said Boros. “That’s why I like travelling to South Africa. I want to do all the big races in South Africa, if I can.”

He said he knew little about the upcoming Fish marathon, but knew it was a highly competitive race with a title that is prized amongst the elite racers.

“I really don’t know that much about the Fish, other than it has some big rapids, and not much running, which is good for me,” said Boros.

“This year the Fish is K2, which also suits me,” he added. “I have a good partner in Murray Starr, as he is a good river paddler and a good driver,” said Boros.

He did admit that Starr was not his first choice of partner for the Fish, as he was planning a bigger campaign in South Africa this summer.

“Everyone needs to know that I actually wanted to paddle the Fish with Carl Folscher,” Boros admitted.

“We were planning to do the Fish and then the Dusi, and a few other K2 races together, but Carl is going to be away in Germany during the Fish. I am very happy that Murray has agreed to paddle with me for the Fish.”

Boros said that he was coming off a big training base that led to the World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, and was feeling good about his form coming into the Fish.

“I am still feeling good and still strong. Hungary is getting cold now and we are heading into our off-season, so I will come to South Africa soon,” he said.

Boros will bring his typically tenacious style to the race, and hopes that a summer taking part in the major South African river races will add to his skills as a rough water river marathoner.

“I really like the South African river races. I hope that with some experience I can become a good river paddler,” said the respected flatwater ace.