When the entries opened online for the 2018 Berg River Canoe Marathon, there should have been no surprises that the first entry lodged came from the evergreen Giel Van Deventer, aiming to extend his record as the paddler to have completed the most races in this iconic event’s history.
Van Deventer, now 68 years old, will win his 49th Berg medal should he reach Velddrif on Saturday 14 July, and edge his staggering record of finishes closer to that elusive 50 medals milestone.
“A few years back while I was doing my fortieth Berg Bruce Clarke paddled past me and asked why I keep coming back to do another Berg year after year,” said Van Deventer, who now works for the Berg River Irrigation Board.
“On the mental side I suppose one should do another test but we leave that topic for another day!” he quipped.
Van Deventer has been a hearty supporter of the new team format adopted by the Berg and co-opted fellow Great Grand Master Lood Rabie as his team mate for the 2018 race.
The duo raced the recent Orange River Marathon, and while many paddlers are adopting a wait-and-see approach given the four year long drought that has ravaged the region, Van Deventer has his sights firmly set on the race.
“My Berg team mate Lood Rabie and I have just done the Orange River Descent and we both agreed that there is nothing else that gives you as big a thrill as a fast moving full river.
“The Orange was flowing at 650 cumecs (cubic metres per second). We wished we could just divert a small fraction of that big water down to the Berg!” said Van Deventer.
“The Berg has now been low for three drought-stricken years in a row. In the past hundred years we never had three dry years in a row so we are confident that 2018 will be a normal year again.
“Never mind what the weather prophets predict, statistically it should be a normal year again.
“So far in 2018 we had much more of the normal Western Cape weather patterns, with lots of south-easterly wind storms in summer and rain during Easter weekend.
“Global warming gets blamed for our lower rainfall over the past three years. I don’t agree with this theory because warmer temperatures may just as well cause more evaporation from the oceans which will lead to more moist air in the atmosphere which could cause even higher rainfall.
“My gut feeling says we will get normal rainfall this winter with good water levels and Lood and I are looking forward to an exciting Berg 2018,” said Van Deventer.
“I will try to get to at least 50 Bergs and thereafter I will consider stopping if I feel that the old body is taking too much punishment,” explains Van Deventer. “But 50 Bergs will allow me to rest in peace!”