Birkett and Schoeman hit form ahead of Fish

Words & Photos: Dave Macleod

The brand new K2 crew of multiple Dusi champ Andy Birkett and former world champ Cam Schoeman hit the global canoeing headlines this week with two solid results in Spain, boding well for their form ahead of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon in Cradock on 27 and 28 September.

Birkett and Schoeman committed to racing the second half of the year's K2 races together after a successful SA Marathon Champs where they clinched a berth in the national team to the marathon world championships in Copenhagen.


Last weekend the Pietermaritzburg pair flew to Spain for the iconic 18km Sella Descent, where they finished a competitive fifth, and then went on to scoop a third in an equally competitive K2 race.


The result came as little surprise to their supporters, as they had been flying in training at Camps Drift prior to the start of the Spanish campaign.


"We are going really nicely together," said Birkett. "Cam is so strong in the boat and he just doesn't know the meaning of giving up."


"We both enjoy the Fish, and we are looking forward to seeing how we go," added Schoeman, who finished sixth in the K1 championship race last year.


Schoeman won the world marathon title partnering Ant Stott in the K2 world title decider, before concentrating on his farming business in Ladysmith. He returned to competitive canoeing in 2012.


Birkett won three back-to-back Dusi titles, twice with Jason Graham, and was handily placed in this year’s Dusi until a disaster swim in Thombi Rapid effectively ended his dreams of a fourth title.


The pair will face the same challenge as the other elite paddlers on the national team to the world champs in Denmark, which take place the weekend before the Hansa Fish, leaving very little time for the paddlers to jet home, pack and travel to Cradock in time for the Friday morning start of the Hansa Fish.


"We race the K2 race in Denmark on the Sunday, and then we fly out on Monday, get back on the Tuesday," said Birkett. "There's just time to grab some clean clothes and head down to Cradock for the start on Friday morning.
"But it will be the same for a couple of other crews as well," he added.


The K2 title has been hogged by Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt for the last three K2 championship races, with McGregor and Len Jenkins winning the K2 crown in 2006.


The duo will probably stay together for the SA K2 River Champs, which will be decided at the Vaal Marathon in November, before the attention will shift to the KwaZulu-Natal summer season that peaks with the K1 Dusi Canoe Marathon title decider.


The Hansa Fish River Canoe marathon takes place on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 September. More information can be found at