It’s a real doozy!

March 31, 2020

Three days. One hundred and twenty kilometres. Soaring summer temperatures. Gruelling rapids. Tough portages of up to six kilometres. The Dusi Canoe Marathon may be many things, but one thing is for sure: it’s not for the faint-hearted. JaSure chatted to Lowveld athlete Roger Mortlock, who will be dipping his paddle into the KwaZulu-Natal waters at this year’s race.

Roger is pairing up with 2014 Dusi gold medalist Piers Cruickshanks, whose marathon with fellow paddler Siseko Ntondini inspired the popular local film Beyond the River. This year’s race, held over 27 to 29 February, will be just as tough, drawing the crowds as usual to Africa’s largest canoeing event. If you’re thinking about entering, or prepping your gear for the weekend ahead, Roger’s race knowledge is a must-read.

Coming back for yet another Dusi, Roger is born and bred in the Lowveld, where he lives on a macadamia nut, avocado and passion fruit farm with his Canadian graphic designer wife Charlotte. While leafy crops blanket Roger’s farm, he has also built a running track on the land and, together with a dam, these are ideal for training in between the busy day-to-day of a farmer. While Roger works hard on his farm, he's also devoted hours of his time to flying, having passed his commercial helicopter and fixed wing private pilot licence. The added bonus is that he and Charlotte get to take to the skies visiting their favourite spots, such as the more secluded beaches of Mozambique.

Travel has also been made possible for the couple as Roger spent five years as a competitive triathlete, taking part in races across the globe, from Australia, Mexico and Morocco, to Europe, where he came fifth in his age group at the World Triathlon Series in Rotterdam. 

But, it’s back to the boat for Roger this year, as he has the opportunity to team up with South African paddling legend Piers Cruikshanks, to take on one of the world’s toughest canoeing challenges. It’s the fifth time back for Roger, who has completed three Dusi Canoe Marathons and had the bad luck of a broken boat on the third day of his first Dusi at the infamous Tops Needle rapid. Previous marathons have seen Roger come in 28th and 30th place, but this year, he and Piers are aiming for the top ten, which Rogers says will take a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, as the competition is fierce. While the race has its fair share of highs, and lows for that matter, Roger considers that nothing compares with hitting the flatwater of Blue Lagoon in Durban to cross the finish line.

If you’re hoping to be amongst the boats who get to Blue Lagoon, either this year or some time in the future, Roger has a few tips to beat those tricky rapids and taxing runs.

7 Tips when doing the Dusi 

Before the Race:

  1. Paddle five to six times a week, making sure that you squeeze in those long paddles over the weekends. Try to get your boat onto river water as much as possible, to mimic the big day.
  2. Run, run and run! Aim for five running sessions a week, where two of these include running with your boat. Interval training is important here, as not only is it effective when preparing for the paddling and running, but it also saves you time, as you’ll need two separate training sessions most days. 
  3. Several gym workouts and core training sessions a week are also essential, as these will help give you the strength you need for those back-breaking hill climbs and relentless rapids.
  4. When it comes to your diet, nothing beats simply eating the right foods, not even supplements. Make sure you’re getting in balanced meals throughout the day and drink plenty of water – up to five or six litres daily. If you’re doing a long training session, you might want to add a rehydration sachet to your water bottle.


During the Race:

  1. Hydration on the big day is absolutely vital, as the heat in the valley can be ruthless, often surpassing temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius. Drinking enough liquid not only keeps you hydrated, but helps with your recovery for the following race day.
  2. If possible, get yourself a new boat for the race. Newer boats will not only save you precious minutes on race day, but could also save you heartache, as they are less likely to break.
  3. Whatever you do, don’t drink the river water! ‘Dusi guts’ is often an unfortunate side effect of swallowing a mouthful of water during a rapid, due to the E.coli count of the rivers. If you do happen to get an upset stomach, keep hydrated, especially with fluids containing plenty of electrolytes.


Roger’s tips may just make all the difference in what he describes as an ‘intense’ race, from the stiff competition and blistering heat, to the dicey river conditions and steep hill climbs. Accidents do happen, so remember to be careful out there and insure your gear with the nifty new JaSure app.

Good luck 2020 Dusi paddlers! Race your hearts out!

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