Canoe stars take to uMzimkhulu for Dusi preparations | SASCOC - SASCOC

Canoe stars take to uMzimkhulu for Dusi preparations

With the summer canoeing season in full swing, paddlers keen to perform at the Dusi Canoe Marathon in February are turning to the clean water of the uMzimkhulu river for their end-of-year training.

The section of river that will play host to the N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon and SA K1 Championships on 18-19 January is certain to see most of the Dusi aspirants on the startline, albeit in K1 kayaks, in sharp contrast to the Dusi K2 championship format this year.

During the December and January holidays, an increasing number of elite paddlers are now opting to spend time in Underberg and continue their training there to take advantage of the clean water, good weather and at the same time enjoy the holiday attractions of the Southern Drakensberg.

In the past, serious Dusi title hopefuls have tried to spend every available training moment on the Dusi course, learning the intricacies of the rapids and portages. Nowadays, however, they are more selective in their planning.

The Dusi organisers steadfastly release all available information about the quality of the uMsundusi and uMngeni rivers on their website, and make it clear when pollution levels, which normally coincide with unusual rainfall, make the quality of the water dangerous for the paddlers.

The uMzimkhulu River however, is in the fortunate position of having no water quality problems, and paddlers on the river enjoy scooping water from the river to drink to slake their thirst.

Amongst the paddlers that will be spending a significant amount of December and January training on the uMzimkhulu are Dusi stars Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi.

“Apart from the fact that it is just a stunning part of the country, it is actually great Dusi training,” said Birkett. “My partner Eric (Sbonelo Zondi) and I can plan our paddling and running training perfectly because of the hills and the uMzimkhulu river which has a bit of everything.”

Multiple Dusi winner Robyn Kime is another fan of training in Underberg, and will be factoring the year-end Fast Drak ultra marathon into her Dusi training. Kime is training in her single ahead of the arrival of her Dusi partner Abbey Ulansky (pictured here with Kime, left) from Canada in mid January.

“I will definitely be spending part of the Christmas holidays training in Underberg on the clean water,” said Kime. “It is a bit far from the Dusi rivers if the rains come and the rivers come up, but the training is still great on the uMzimkhulu.”

Another Dusi contender Abby Adie is another planning to train in the Southern Berg over the year-end holidays

“I am planning to do some training up there after Christmas. It is so nice to be able to paddle on some clean water,” said Adie. “In Underberg you can enjoy yourself on a really great stretch of river.”

Picture: Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media

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