Words: Gameplan Media
As the racing snakes leave Grassridge Dam at the crack of dawn on Friday, 9 October for the start of the 2015 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon it is the ‘fish and chips’ that will take up the large majority of the river as they wind and bump their way with varying degrees of caution to the finish 82 kilometres away in Cradock and it is the hardy souls that brave the two-day adventure that make the race a unique experience for all that take part.
Photo credit: Jetline Action Photo/ Gameplan Media
The love affair for the Hansa Fish is no more evident than in the words of the man who has taken part in every edition of the race, Rory Anderson – who has graduated from the ranks of a Coelacanth to a Super Fish Eagle.
The Port Elizabeth resident will be heading into his thirty-fourth Hansa Fish in 2015 and is proud that he maintains an unblemished record to this day however there have been some close calls in the past.
“I have had some really bad breaks in my time,” Anderson reminisced. “A good bit of duct tape and some sticks have managed to save us and got me over the line which is something that I didn’t think would happen at the time!
“There have been some great ones that have also stood out for different reasons with one being myself and my partner were leading the K2 race and we were not far from the finish when we had a rudder problem and the guys behind us overtook us and took the K2 title.
“It was sad but it was great racing!”
Andersons love affair with the Eastern Cape’s premier canoe race began at its first edition where he was part of the organising committee but the idea of racing along the Great Fish River and the Great Brak River came well before he started competing there.
“A few of my mates and I were on our way to Johannesburg to watch some cricket when we drove through Cradock and over the river and I mentioned that that river would be a great river to paddle on!
“The river was pumping and I knew that it would be a great place to have a race.
“They weren’t canoeists so I was talking to myself a bit but that is sort of where the idea came from and we managed to organise some Eastern Cape races on the river when I was heavily involved in the Blue Water Canoe Club.
“Three years after that the Fish River Canoe Marathon started properly and I knew that it would catch on with the paddling public,” he added.
Anderson and the organising committee knew that the race would be a fool-proof winner in the eyes of your run-of-the-mill paddler as well as your racing snakes at the front of the field and through the years he has seen the race grow from strength to strength.
“The main reason why we knew that the race would become popular is the fact that we are always guaranteed water. Even if it is in the middle of a drought we will always have water to race on which makes it exciting for everyone,” the 58 year old mentioned.
With 33 Hansa Fish finishers medals under his belt the legend of the race has not set his sights on retiring from paddling or from the Hansa Fish and with a couple fellow paddlers breathing down his neck on 32 finishes he wants to keep his record intact.
“While I enjoy paddling I will keep on doing it and I am still very much a keen paddler.
“My love for canoeing is the main motivation why I keep coming back although there are a few chirps every year from the guys that are one race behind me asking what I am doing back again,” he chuckled.
“The challenge of the race just keeps me coming back and this year will be the fourth one in our K3 which is a lot of fun and we get along well which is great.”
The Hansa Fish River Canoe marathon takes place on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 October 2015. More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za