Whitewater kayaking is much more than just a sport or a hobby for me - it is ingrained in my DNA and is an integral part and a driving force in my life. For me, kayaking is a portal to deep happiness and provides me with much more than just physical challenge and a sense of accomplishment - it is also my spiritual “happy place”, a place of solitude and reflection, a place of learning, testing, sharpening. It is a reason to wake up every morning and push myself a little harder.
The term “kayaking” has a broad scope and involves many variations and disciplines. I am generally stoked as long as I have a paddle in my hands but river kayaking is where my passion lies, from the mellow meanderings of gently swirling currents to the adrenaline-soaked energy of thundering waterfalls. I particularly crave the challenge of running hard whitewater that leaves most people thinking… but WHY? …and then stepping it up to the next level and racing down it!
One of the most fulfilling and rewarding spin-offs of kayaking for me is the wide variety of truly remarkable places (a.k.a. gear testing locations) it has taken me over the years, ranging from hot and humid equatorial rain-forests to the glaciers and volcanic landscapes of Iceland – in total more than 30 countries on 5 continents so far – and the “to do list” just continues to grow!
Some days involve pioneering remote and uncharted rivers, knowing you may possibly be the first human beings ever to lay eyes on the hidden natural beauty deep within the river valley - those are the best days! But any day on the river with a group of motivated and like-minded athletes goes down as a great day in my book. Kayakers are an international family and I am grateful for every opportunity I get to spend time with that family out on the water, whether exploring, racing, practicing a new freestyle technique or just simply chilling.
Whitewater kayaking has actually taught me many lessons which I relate back to everyday life, such as the ability to focus and critically analyse a situation (when scouting a line), the determination to overcome (when things don’t go to plan), the need to be balanced (when to step up and charge hard and when to walk away) and has dished out more than a few doses of humility in the process. Without wanting to sound too hippy, you really do need to tune-in to the mood of the river to be able to harness its abundant energy and heed its warning signs. It is a devastatingly powerful force of nature to be respected and appreciated.
- The highlight of my kayaking career is actually every time I get in my kayak but there are a few things that stand out:
- A filming project with Matchstick Productions in Norway for an extreme sports series entitled Focused.
- Starring in the award winning adventure sports movie Halo Effect by Steve Fisher / Flowstate Narratives filmed in Iceland and Norway. BTW this also included smashing my arm on a powerful 20 meter waterfallknown as Aldeyjarfoss.
- Returning to Iceland to film the sequel to Halo Effect including a second, more successful attempt at Aldeyjarfoss.
- Multiple times South African Freestyle Kayaking Champion.
- Participated in two World Freestyle Kayaking Championship events.
- Multiple times winner of local extreme down river races and the South African National Extreme Downriver Race Series in 2014.
- Some of my all-time favourite kayaking destinations include Norway, Iceland, Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, New Zealand and of course the mighty Zambezi!
- South Africa has an assortment of whitewater gems as well…. when it rains…the Witte in Bainskloof W Cape, Thrombosis Gorge in KZN, the Blyde River Canyon in Limpopo and the Ngwempisi River in neighbouring Swaziland to name but a few.
Getting into kayaking?
Gear - Kayaking is one of those sports that tends to grab you and never let go. It does require a modest investment in gear up front (you can get everything need you need for the cost of an entry level MTB) - but once you have the gear, it is actually a relatively inexpensive sport with travel costs being the biggest factor. Skills – Taking the plunge and learning the Eskimo Roll at the outset will open up a whole new world of possibilities while reducing the pain of learning other kayaking skills. From then on it’s all about time in the saddle as kayaking is largely a muscle-memory activity and while your body is learning and fine-tuning new skills, you’ll be having more fun than a tornado in a trailer park!!