Distance in: 27km
There are six sections to Soutpansdrift. These sections are recommended for most paddlers who have been comfortable with the river thus far.
Soutpansdrift weir is easy. It is a one-and-a-half meter weir, shot down a 30 degree sloping chute built especially for the paddlers by the race committee. It is easy to shoot, and deposits the paddlers into easy water at the foot of the chute.
Section Two is the channelled section that runs through the willows below the weir. Stay left here. This is a section of the river that changes a lot, especially during the dry season.
Left is cleaner although fractionally slower.
Section Three is the bridge. It is essential that it is shot through the spot demarcated by the large green arrow painted on the side of the bridge. Anywhere else is be dangerous!
The arrow lines up with an opening in the bridge, where a large crowd of spectators will be standing. The old concrete slots have been removed, making the line under the bridge substantially easier. Make sure you are square with the arrow and paddling strongly. You will slide through the channel in the concrete and drop into clear water underneath the bridge.
For first timers, here are some reasons NOT to panic!
Don’t panic about the height of the bridge. There is no way you will hit your head, even if it looks low! You will drop at least three feet under the bridge.
Don’t panic about the proximity of the bridge pillar. You will be well clear of the pillar if you pass through the concrete slot marked by the arrow.
Finally don’t fret about the wave curling off the pillar under the bridge. This is light, frothy aerated water that won’t push you around. It is recommended you brace on the right as you go under the bridge, and don’t try and cut away from the wave on the left – it isn’t dangerous at all.
Once you have passed under the bridge, move towards the left of the river. The old rocky island twenty meters below the bridge has been completely removed, and the river flows smoothly to the left below the bridge.
From here you will pass through about 500 meters of steady, rolling rapids, some with quite big waves. There are no rocks in play at all, so it is simply a case of paddling steadily, keeping up your speed, and hitting the waves square on.
As you approach the bottom of the rapid, move to the right of centre, but not too close to the thorn trees (and odd overhanging log!) on the right bank. This will line you up nicely for the last wave at the bottom, where you will be greeted by the enthusiastic cheers of seconds, spectators and adoring fans.
This is probably the best place to get refreshments, so plan for your seconds to meet you 100 meters below the flat rock on the left side of the river just below the rapid. You are about to start the long slog home, so a refreshing, cold juice will be a treat!