Last year’s K2 Dusi winner, twice Dusi K1 third-place finisher and double Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon champion Sbonelo Khwela will take a new approach to this year’s ‘Dusi in a day’ next Friday when he looks to go the distance – from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban – alone.
While having threatened to do so in 2014, the Euro Steel/Red Bull flyer shied away from the individual challenge at the 11th hour and opted to partner five-time Marathon World Champion Hank McGregor (Jeep Team/Kayak Centre) instead.
McGregor and Khwela’s success was Khwela’s fourth Non-Stop Dusi title having previously tasted victory with Thomas Ngidi, Thulani Mbanjwa (Build it/Williams Hunt) and Andy Birkett (Euro Steel) – in race record time – in 2010, 2011 and 2013 respectively.
The intrigue of taking on the challenge alone has however flooded Khwela once more and after his bronze medal effort in the recent Dusi Canoe Marathon, the ‘Dusi Darling’ has confirmed he will now front up to the unique task.
‘I told myself “This year you just have to be a man about (paddling Non-Stop Dusi on your own)!’ chuckled Khwela. ‘I’m a bit scared because it’s a long way to try race on your own but I want to test myself!’
While coming into the clash as defending champ and with four titles under his belt already Khwela might go onto the race as the natural pre-race favourite however the young star is not putting any pressure on himself to make it win number five.
‘I’m just going there to have fun in my K1!’ explained Khwela. ‘I love paddling my K1 and while I enjoy Dusi a lot, I love Non-Stop because you get to push yourself to your limit for a whole day and then it’s over.
‘I just want to enjoy myself and experience what paddling a Non-Stop Dusi on my own is like,’ he added.
Without the support of a companion racing by his side, Khwela is all too aware of the mental test tackling the day-long journey alone presents.
‘When you’re in a K2 you have someone to chat with, to have fun with and who can motivate you. When you in your K1 though there is no one with you to help you when you get tired!
‘It is all about trying to make sure your day is as clean as possible and staying focused throughout because if you start making mistakes then it will become a very long day very quickly!’
The defending champ will also have an added obstacle to overcome during this year’s single day journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban after injuring tendons in his shoulder shortly before this year’s Dusi clash.
‘Dr. Kevin Subban at Prime Human Performance Institute managed to sort out my shoulder injury enough before Dusi that I could push myself for those three days.
‘I was always going to have to go back after Dusi though because my injury usually takes six weeks to fix, we just didn’t have six weeks before Dusi. I saw Dr. Subban earlier this week and after working with the bio, my shoulder is feeling quite good again. Now we’ll just have to see how I go on the day!’ said Khwela.
Picture by Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media