Dusi training continues | Riot Stand Up Paddle Boards
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Dusi training continues

Here is a reprint of a great interview with the two South African boys who are doing the Dusi with me in a few weeks time.

 

Pioneer paddlers to see whatSUP at 2014 Drak Challenge Underberg

As hundreds of canoeists ready themselves for this year’s N3TC Drak Challenge, a trio of brave souls are bracing themselves to make history on the South African paddling scene as they tackle the daunting task of completing the 68km race on a stand up paddleboard (SUP) rather than in a conventional river kayak (K1 or K2).

As if taking on the mighty uMzimkulu River sitting down wasn’t tough enough, Dean Bottcher, Brendon Germaine and Jon Ivins have set themselves the mammoth task of trying to achieve the feat standing up and, should they be successful, will become SUP trend setters globally, showing the many surf and flatwater SUPers worldwide that rivers can be their playground too.

“Stand up paddleboarding is huge internationally and is really growing quickly in South Africa too, so much so that many local surfski events are including an SUP category these days,” explained Bottcher. “What we’re looking to do, take on a technical river on a SUP with an under stern rudder, is a completely new concept though. It’s never been done before anywhere in the world!” he added.

Together with SUP sensation Corran Addison, the three hope that a smooth Drak Challenge will open the doorway to them taking part in the iconic Dusi Canoe Marathon in mid-February with their ultimate goal being to race the three-day spectacle from Pietermaritzburg to Durban competitively in 2015.

“Coming from a kayaking background I have been paddling for years but I’ve been paddling a SUP on the river since February last year,” said Bottcher.

“Since we had the boards made we’ve been doing the usual pre-Dusi races on the upper uMngeni River and the likes. The Drak is a completely different challenge though! “Hopefully we can make it through Drak in one piece and then we can look to do Dusi in a few weeks’ time with the goal of just finishing this time around and, if things all go according to plan, then look to try race Dusi next year,” he added.

While one eye may be on the future, Bottcher is all too aware of the challenge that lies ahead of him this weekend in Underberg and will be looking to take things just one step at a time.

“I haven’t ever had the best of races (in a kayak) down the uMzimkulu previously so it’s going to be pretty tough for me.

“Brendon, Jon and I will look to stick together throughout though and fortunately the others know the rapids pretty well and are quite confident on the river so hopefully we can just make it through the two days.”

As exciting as this weekend’s challenge may be, getting to this point has been a long, tough journey with challenges of various shapes and forms constantly raring their heads in the build-up.

Despite their being an abundance of challenges, some difficulties of others’ perceived the small group may have battled to overcome have in fact proven not to be an issue at all.

“We’ve had guys say ‘What about weirs?’ but we’ve run one or two now and it was like they weren’t even there!,” said Bottcher.

“It’s probably actually easier going down a weir on a SUP than in a kayak because you stay on top of the water rather than the nose digging in at the bottom.

“Rapids are a challenge, especially some we’ll encounter at Drak this weekend, but you’ve got three different ways of approaching these depending on your skill level. You can either stand up, kneel or, if you’re worried about falling off, then you can even lie down.

“We’ve also found we don’t actually need all that much water in the river at all to be able to go along quite comfortably.”

Brendon Germaine, Bottcher’s fellow Drak hopeful and the driving force behind the manufacturing of the new MaxPaddle Crossover SUP which the trio will be paddling this weekend, echoed Bottcher’s sentiments. “Rather than getting stuck in some of the holes that many K1s and K2s often do, the Crossover seems to in fact go over them which is obviously a huge bonus.”

Germaine also unpacked some of the challenges he was faced with on the design front. “The development of the board has been quite a nightmare,” said Germaine.

“Getting the right strength and weight has been really tricky, especially in the short space of time that we set ourselves.

“Making sure the boat was stable enough, without losing too much speed, was also something we had to overcome as well as dealing with the issue of drainage.”

A combination of Germaine’s manufacturing background, Bottcher’s enthusiasm and SUP experience as well as a guiding hand from Kayak Centre’s Rick and Clive Whitton have however produced the first ever SUP of its kind and is something all involved are extremely proud of, despite still having a little more work still to do.

“We’re about eighty percent of the way there now,” explained Germaine. “Our standard board is 14 feet long and, once we’ve finished working on our Dusi board, it will weigh about 14 kilograms, which is very similar to your average K1. “

The increased volume at the front of the board compared to most other SUPs and the sloped deck means a lot of water in fact flows off the front and even if the board does end up with a full deck of water, the drainage is good enough that, if you’re moving, it should drain entirely within 30 seconds which was a major breakthrough for us!”

With unpredictable water levels a characteristic of the Drak Challenge, Bottcher, Germaine and Ivins will have a close eye on the skies over the coming days as they hope for a medium river level come Saturday’s stage one start.

The N3TC Drak Challenge 2014 starts on 18 January at Castleburn outside Underberg and finishes on 19 January at Hopewell Farm close to Coleford. More information can be found at www.drak.co.za

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