Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Surfski aces trade ocean for river at ‘the Fish’

As the Eastern Cape prepares its strongest ever challenge for gold medals at the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon, Port Elizabeth local and regular top performer Richard ‘Chopper’┬á Wildemann has teamed up with his fellow surfski star Barry Lewin for the two-day 82-kilometre classic that takes place on 27-28 August.

Despite the Fish and Groot Brak rivers ÔÇô the stage upon which the action is set to unfold ÔÇô having a far lower salt content than the waters the surfski aces are used too, the pair are relishing the opportunity to take part in this year’s showdown, one which many are tipping one of the most competitive K2 editions of the event in many a year.

Von Wildemann and Durban based Lewin, right, are no strangers when it comes to paddling together having competed in numerous doubles surfski events, including their third placed effort at this year’s inaugural ICF Surfski World Championships, however combining on the river is yet another first the pair will look tick off the list at this year’s Hansa Fish.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿

ÔÇ£I’m really excited,ÔÇØ explained Von Wildemann about paddling with Lewin on the river. ÔÇ£Barry (Lewin) is a good friend of mine and also a really competent paddler and we’ve paddled quite a bit together on the sea so it will be really interesting to paddle together on the river.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£With us being in two different parts of the country and with our work commitments we obviously can’t train together much, which is obviously always a little dangerous going into a big race like Fish, but Barry and I have always seemed to gel quite nicely every time we hop into a ski together so hopefully it can be pretty similar in a K2.

ÔÇ£Barry will drive us down so I’ll just sit back and let him do his thing in the front there and hopefully we don’t have any swims,ÔÇØ he laughed.

Despite the two having a great relationship both on and off the water, Lewin echoed his partner’s slightly nervous sentiments too whilst also adding his enthusiasm ahead of their new assignment.

ÔÇ£We’ve never paddled together on a river ever so we’re pretty much playing a bit of a game of Russian roulette. If things work then they could work very well but if they don’t then it could be a very long two days on the river,ÔÇØ chuckled Lewin tentatively.

ÔÇ£I’ve raced both with and against Chopper (Von Wildemann) for 23 years now so we know each other really well and he is quite a lively human so I’m sure we’ll have a great time on the water.ÔÇØ

The pair may never have paddled together on the river however the Hansa Fish is something both members are well accustomed to with the event being one that they relish every year. ÔÇ£I’ve done 11 Fish before, some competitive and some a little more socially in the middle of a K3,ÔÇØ explained Lewin.

ÔÇ£I don’t like running so Fish really suits me and I absolutely love racing on that river!ÔÇØ

Fuelled by humour and enjoyment the talented and successful pair will undoubtedly also be giving it their all throughout the two-day long Eastern Cape paddling major as they go after a gold medal made more desirable by the strength of the field that is set to gather for this year’s clash.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿ÔÇ£Probably 0.5% of the field go to Fish to race it whereas the rest are just there as the fish and chips really. We’re definitely not going there to be part of the fish and chips. We’re going to give it our all and try race hard but we’re going to look to have a really good time on the river too,ÔÇØ explained Von Wildemann.

ÔÇ£As the wise, old sea dogs trying their hand at some river paddling we’d be really happy to sneak a top ten finish! There are some real top paddlers who will probably be battling it out for the podium positions but positions four to ten are going to be extremely hard-fought as well so it really will be hard a race.

ÔÇ£There are lots of really quality youngsters coming through so it should be a really exciting race and a great weekend all round!ÔÇØ he added.

ÔÇ£We’re definitely there to race!ÔÇØ added Lewin. ÔÇ£We’re unproven as a combination so we’re not too sure what to expect but we’ll definitely be giving it our all and whatever happens, just paddling down that river is rewarding enough!ÔÇØ