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On Friday evening the South African paddling community lost its finest servant ever; John (Hairy) Oliver. John became canoeing’s official timekeeper and administrator in 1990 and ever since he’s travelled to every corner of the country for everything from sprints to marathons to rivers to surf-ski races. At first, he was at all the events with his beloved wife Margie (who passed in December 2009) and in more recent years we saw him either with his daughter Lorna or his son-in-law Kevin, and his dogs; first Odin and then Freia, names from Norse mythology which he loved. He also loved his Opera. We believe that Kirsten is named after Kirsten Flagstad, a Norwegian Soprano who was famous for Wagner Opera roles. Just two weeks ago John and a certain Giles Walkey spent a beery afternoon in a Howick establishment trying to sing some of the better-known Gilbert & Sullivan songs; far too loudly. He loved paddling, and he loved the community of paddlers. This was his life. We recently heard from Janet Simpkins how he launched the SA Schools Sprints Regatta 30 years ago, but he wasn’t just an organizer and administrator. John was an accomplished canoeist in his day having completed serval Umko’s and 15 Dusi’s. He did the Dusi with his eldest daughter Lorna when she was just 13 years old – and she hasn’t missed one since, while Kirsten now has over 20 Dusi’s to her name. So, it was very special to see John, Lorna and Kirsten together at the end of this year’s Dusi, after the committee had launched the John Oliver Dusi Series, in honour of his legendary loyalty and commitment to this iconic race, and our sport. John, thank you for everything you did. We will miss you. Our sincere condolences to Lorna, Kirsten and family.

The GCU Marathon Series started on what was a fresh Saturday morning at VLC with a short course event of 3.6km, including two portages. Well-done and thank you to all the athletes who participated. Fastest of the Guppies across the U8/U10 and U12’s were Ruoxi Hao in the boys and Cassandra Feige in the girls, in racing that was described by one of our elites as ‘spectacular’, especially the portages – we hope everyone learnt from the workshop hosted by Clint and Brad. Talking portages, there was a racing incident in trying to dominate the second run of the men’s race. Brad B went from first to last among the leading bunch of 4; young Luke led the portage followed by Kwando, but Clint’s run was the strongest getting him back in contention and he then won the end sprint, just ahead of young Luke, and Kwando came third. Exciting stuff for the spectators. Clint said he was lucky to come away with the win.
The ladies also had a ‘racing incident.’ The leaders appeared not to have listened to the race briefing and missed the turn on the first lap, which meant that they had to turn back and try and recover. In the end Caitlyn Odell (Tuks) took the win followed by Jessica Lee, and then the very strong Helen Jansen Van Vuuren was third. Alexis was 4th lady home (despite a swim) while Karen was well pleased to say she beat Sarah; we didn’t know she was so competitive! Talking ladies’ competition, Tuks now has the likes of Caitlyn, Emma Hatfield and Amy Hulett – all who are competent and strong, but we now have Jessica Lee (imported from Cape Town, and of surfski pedigree) at Dab’s. On the subject of fresh starts, this was Jess’ first ever marathon (and her first attempts at portaging); and she excelled. Jess is a shining example of someone who works hard for her results – she knows how to tough it out and it looks like she will be setting the standards of where one can be. (She even did a 44min TT on Sunday with Rob C – fantastic!) Well-done Jess and welcome to Dabs! Thanks to Rob, Jodie and all the organizers for coordinating and staging the series. The next event is a long course K2 race at VLC on April 20th. Marathons are not just for racing snakes and Nelo paddlers, they are excellent for training, and learning to portage properly – so go have a go!

Finally, some surfski new news: if you don’t know that it’s the HASSC this weekend – then where have you been? Phone a friend, borrow a boat, enter now – as our Admiral says: “Don’t be scared.” Recent news from the ICF is that Durban will stage the 2025 edition ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships. We are yet to hear what the course will be, but we hope it won’t start (or end) at Tiffany’s (Salt Rock) because there was a bit of Carnage there last month, but hey, look how happy they all are!

We hope to see you all at the HAASC and our C-Side on Saturday!