Adventurer Manser to compete in Berg River Canoe Marathon
When organisers of the Windhoek Berg River Canoe marathon that starts in Paarl on Wednesday publish their list of entries, much of the talk will centre on the inclusion of a Berg novice, but one of Africa’s most celebrated adventurers, Riaan Manser.
Manser was catapulted to global fame after his epic bicycle journey around Africa in 2006, which he followed in 2009 with an equally tough solo kayaking expedition around Madagascar, a 5000km paddle that took eleven months to complete.
No-one will dispute Manser’s tenacity and ability to endure hardship, but the popular Betties Bay resident could not resist the opportunity to take on a canoeing race widely regarded as the toughest river marathon around, covering 228km over four tough days through the middle of the Western Cape winter.
“I crave adventure,” says Manser. “This is one humungous challenge for me because I am basically a novice, and I know that what awaits me next week will be a massive, massive challenge.”
Manser has been fortunate to have a number of experienced Berg paddlers take him under their wing, including Herbert Conradie, the chairman of the Paarl Canoe Club and the likes of hardened river racer Daantjie Malan.
“The paddling community in the Cape has been so unbelievably supportive and helpful,” says Manser. “They know what a massive challenge I am facing, and most of them think I am mad.”
Armed with a stable K1 provided by race sponsors Windhoek, Manser completed his first river race on the weekend, and was stunned by the technical difficulty of the thick tree blocks that line the route.
“Gee I swam a lot!” said Manser. “I couldn’t believe how difficult it was trying to get through those trees on the river. I think I came second to last in the race, but I was learning all the time. Every time I get into the boat it is a big learning curve.”
“River racing is so totally different to kayaking on the sea,” he added. “The obstacles on the river like the trees and rocks make it a totally new challenge for me as a paddler.”
“I know I can manage the pain and suffering that will be involved – I guess that is one of my talents. I am not bringing any ego baggage into the race, and I will probably spend quite a bit of time with the sweeps at the back of the race,” said Manser.
That solitary paddle will probably suit Manser. “I’m a solo adventurer, and what worries me the most is being part of a bunch of thirty paddlers racing to get through a tiny bottleneck in the river
“It’s the 49th edition of the Windhoek Berg, and it is a privilege to be involved. I’m not too sure what my schedule will be like next year but I would love to be part of the 50th edition. But right now I just have to cut my teeth on the race next week,” he said.