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:
During the Race:
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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