Unsung heroes

Called ‘seconds’ or ‘shuttle bunnies’, these are the people that provide support for paddlers. Their role typically involves taking a vehicle to the take-out point of a trip, or in the case of river races, meeting their paddler/s at multiple points along the river to offer refreshments and spare parts. More often than not, though, their unofficial duties extend to that of being a cheerleader, cook, navigator, paramedic, psychologist, physiotherapist and emotional punch bag. The list of tasks is endless.

For these reasons, a more apt name for them would be ‘unsung heroes’. They are the true legends of the sport. Paddling can easily become a very selfish pursuit, and a very common manifestation of this is that paddlers take their seconds for granted. I mean, face it, why are they called ‘seconds’ in the first place? Second to what?

Heading for the Orange River
Heading for the Orange River

Our lives as paddlers would be quite miserable without sacrifices from shuttle bunnies. Here are some suggestions to keep the shuttle bunnies in your life on your side. (more…)

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Me and my kids on a recent multiday trip through the Tiger Eye canyon on the Orange river - ages 10 and 13

Start them young

Most paddlers would like their children to paddle. Most paddlers are unsure of how to go about it, but they give it their best shot. Sadly, most paddlers fail.

Paddling is one of those rare sports that can be enjoyed from a very young age to a ripe, old age. For many, it is a lifestyle as much as it is a sport. Why do so few children get into paddling, and why do so many of those that do stop paddling when they finish school?

I have given this a lot of thought over the years, especially after my own children were born. The first question I often get asked when it comes to kids is: How young can they start?

There is no perfect age to start paddling. However, you can literally start getting them on the water as toddlers, as long as you do it safely. This may be an extreme example, but both of my kids went on their first six-day Orange River expedition – in a large raft – when they were 16 months old. For them, spending time on rivers is the most natural thing in the world.

Ruben helping me row my oar raft on a multiday trip on the Vaal River.
Ruben helping me row my oar raft on a multiday trip on the Vaal River – age 2

(more…)

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