Solomon and Solomon winding back the clock at Hansa Fish 2013


Words: Nick Tatham | Photo: Gameplan Media

South African canoeing star Graeme Solomon is relishing the opportunity to tackle the 2013 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon with his father, Eric, in what will be the first time the pair have taken to the water together in a quarter of a century.

It has been 21 years since Eric Solomon took on the hugely popular event and 25 years since he did it with his son whilst it has also been just under a decade since Graeme last paddled this stretch of the river himself.

Due to work commitments in the past, the Fish hasn’t been on Solomon’s paddling calendar in recent years however the rare opportunity to take part with his dad was one Graeme was not going to miss.

“My dad paddled with me when I did my first Fish in 1988,” the Cape Town resident said. “It has been a long year for me this year and I don’t normally paddle Fish because of World Marathon Champs but this year my dad and I decided that we would take it on.”

Eric Solomon has been settled in Sweden for over 20 years when his son gave him the call to come out and do the race with him once more to see just how much the race has grown and changed in over two decades.

“When we did our first one together I think there was only one group that went off at the start so this is going to be quite an eye opener for my dad to see how much the race has grown!” explained Graeme.

“Back then there was no Double Trouble and no weirs or shoots which means that it is going to be a serious change but we are going to try and do as well as we can because my dad hasn’t paddled much in the last few years,” Solomon added.

Another family combination that will be tackling the race are Cradock locals Butch Louw and his daughter Kerry who will be combining for their third Hansa Fish when they take off at the Grassridge Dam on Friday 27 September.

“We’ve paddled the Fish twice together,” Butch Louw said. “I have done it will all of my kids but as they started getting faster they started leaving me behind!”

The father/daughter combination seems to be fairly settled on the water and Louw does not seem to foresee any issues when they tackle the Great Fish River.

“There aren’t any issues with us in the boat together, we get along well and are not taking ourselves too seriously which means we going to enjoy it.

“We haven’t put any sort of time limit on our race and we just want to get down there and have some fun on the river,” the veteran of 16 Fishes added.

Louw also appreciated the chance that he had to share this opportunity with his daughter again and feels that being involved in canoeing offers parents a unique opportunity to enjoy the same experience which a lot of other sports do not offer.

“Canoeing is one of the only sports that you can do together, use the same equipment and share the same experience which makes it really special.

“It’s a really proud moment for any parent when you can get in a boat with one of your children and spend some quality time with them on the river,” a proud Louw mentioned.

Soon to be Kingfisher – if he is to successfully complete his 30th Fish – Chris Watts is another paddler who echoed the sentiment of Louw when he spoke about paddling with his daughter.

“My best Fish was definitely the race I paddled with my daughter who was 15 or 16 at the time. It was a truly marvellous two days on the river!” the veteran of 29 Fishes said.

In order to qualify to win the Marthinus Erasmus Memorial Shield – awarded to the first parent/child combination across the finish line – the child has to be a junior paddler. 2012 saw Josh and Jeff Cawood walk away victors however, with the defending champs opting not to paddle with each other this year, the door has been opened once again for a new name to appear on its winners’ plaque.

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