Cape Point Dream

Friday, 17 December 2010 14:05 | Written by  Murray Williams
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Team Duzi!  Kwanda Mhlophe and Richard Cele with Pete Cole and Simon van Gysen Team Duzi! Kwanda Mhlophe and Richard Cele with Pete Cole and Simon van Gysen Credits: www.surfski.info

From the famed Valley of a Thousand Hills to the crashing shores of Cape Point – two young Zulu men will tomorrow complete an extraordinary journey of discovery.

Duzi Dream

Kwanda Mhlophe and Richard Cele’s sporting story began in 2008 when Dusi Canoe Marathon legend Martin Dreyer made history by winning his seventh title with the epic race’s first-ever black winner, Michael Mbanjwa.

After years of victories around the globe, it remained Dreyer’s final dream – to nurture black paddlers to glory from the Umzindusi River’s banks in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. 

For too long, young boys had watched thousands of canoeists paddle past over the years in their back yard, without the chance to participate, and Dreyer set about turning this sad historic legacy on its head.

Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy

It was while training with Mbanjwa, in the valley, prior to winning the Dusi in a record time together, that Dreyer realised just what potential was there.

“All it needed was for someone to take them under their wings and with the right training, nutrition and equipment … well, the rest of the paddling population had better watch out!” said Dreyer.

With the backing of key corporate sponsor, IT company Computershare, sports manufacturers HiTech and USN nutrition products, The Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy was born, with Dreyer working tirelessly and meticulously to ingrain in the young black aspirants the excellence which had taken him to glory on so many occasions. Now in its third year and flourishing, his academy has surpassed even Dreyer’s famously high expectations.

On the Dusi 2009 his team achieved two placings in the top 10 and seven in the top 20. And, this year, his team secured third place, and a victory and 3rd place in the notoriously tough Non-Stop Dusi.

In the double canoe that clinched bronze were Mhlophe and Cele, aged 19 and 21 respectively.

Black paddlers were now achieving spectacularly at levels normally reserved for professionals, and in a sport in which they had been denied support for so long.

Fenn Cape Point Challenge

Fast-forward a few months to another of the world’s most demanding paddling races, but this time on the Cape ocean, 2 000km south from where the Umzindusi spills into the sea at Durban.

Cape Point Challenge

Taking on a new challenge - Kwanda Mhlophe and Richard Cele

The race: The Fenn Cape Point Challenge, now in its 18th year since 1979, and organised by Cape paddling champion Peter Cole.

A long-time mate of Dreyer’s, Cole wanted to replicate Dreyer’s transformation on the sea.

The result is that Dreyer’s two Zulu-speaking paddling aces will compete in one of the toughest ocean paddling races on earth.

Making the famous sea passage around Cape Point, home of legends such as the ghostly Flying Dutchman sailing ship, is neither for the faint-hearted nor inexperienced, so the pair will paddle on two double surfskis, piloted by Cole and fellow ocean warrior Steve Farrell.

“They have never been on the ocean before, but such is their fitness pedigree that I have no question that guided by two experienced paddlers, they will be able to complete the challenge," Dreyer said.

"...they haven't experienced it, they can't fear it!"

“The only possible curve-ball is that, similar to the way in which altitude affects everyone differently, on Everest, for example, one cannot know how they fare with possible sea-sickness.

“But a bonus is that because they haven’t experienced it, they cannot fear it!” Dreyer joked.

Surfski.info interviewed the pair yesterday on Fish Hoek beach, where they punched through the surf for a first and final practice.

Cape Point Challenge

First and final practise!

Cape Point Challenge

Remount practise - some do it one at a time...

Cape Point Challenge

...and some do it simultaneously.  Either way - the men were adept at getting back into the skis.

Mhlophe said: “I’m a little scared of the big waves – it will be my first experience of paddling on the open ocean – but I’m very excited, especially paddling with Peter. Martin’s told us a lot of good things about him, so we’ll be fine!”

Cele said of his feelings: “Just being here in Cape Town for the first time, my first time on a plane flying down here, my first time on the sea … I’m so excited.

“But in the sea there are sharks, so I hope they won’t try to catch us!”

Cape Point Challenge

Kwanda Mhlophe and Pete Cole

Cape Point Challenge

Simon van Gysen and Richard Cele

Cape Point Challenge

Cape Point Challenge

Around 200 paddlers will start the race at Scarborough, facing 50km around the Point to the finish at Fish Hoek.


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