As preparations for the 62nd edition of the iconic Berg River Canoe Marathon swing into top gear, the four-day race has been confirmed as the host for the Canoeing South Africa SA K1 River Championships for 2023.
The cult 240 kilometre, four stage marathon from Paarl to Velddrif through the middle of the Western Cape winter has built a worldwide reputation as one of the toughest canoeing challenges on the planet, but it has historically not been used as one of the regular events that decide the domestic national river marathon titles.
With the SA K2 River Champs going to the popular Fish River Canoe Marathon in September, the decision to award the SA K1 rights to the Berg has sparked interest in the elite marathon racing community, particularly amongst those planning an assault on the global titles at the world champs and Masters Cup titles in Denmark early in September.
2022 Berg champion Hank McGregor is an avid fan of the Berg, and has made no secret about the fact that the long hours of base training and the four back-to-back endurance days on the Berg have been instrumental in his success at the World Marathon Championships, logic that has been reinforced by the success of other current Berg stars like Andy Birkett and Hamish Lovemore.
For Western Cape Canoe Union head Rob Hart the decision to decide the national K1 river titles at the Berg helps refocus attention on the unique demands of racing the Berg.
“As the premier K1 race in the Western Cape, it is exciting to be able to host the SA K1 champs at this year’s Berg,” said Hart.
“The nature of the Berg means that there is nowhere to hide, and paddlers that have done the hard yards in preparing for the event are invariably rewarded with good results.
“That makes it a great event to decide which men and women will be able to call themselves SA K1 river champs in their age groups for the rest of the season,” he added.
For Pete Cole, the Western Cape Canoe Union marathon committee head, the Berg will provide a premium personal challenge for any paddler hoping to end the four days of paddling with a Canoeing South Africa medal around their neck.
“I think it is awesome!” said Cole. “I have always been a fan of using well established races to decide SA river champs.
“Hopefully it will add another boost to the Berg this year,” he added.