The Market Road Bridge in Paarl will be a hive of activity on Wednesday morning when the 2023 Berg River Canoe Marathon gets underway with paddlers set for an exciting four-day journey to Velddrif on the West Coast.
The Western Cape has experienced intense rainfall and flooding in some parts of the province in a winter that has filled the province’s dams and rivers, and the Berg River is no exception with the river hitting its 100-year flood line.
The rain seems to have subsided, and paddlers will have a dry run through most of the four days to the West Coast, but they will have the assistance of a full river behind them which will be a welcome advantage for some.
240km from the Winelands to the West Coast looks likely to end with a first-time winner, or the race could celebrate a man who last won the race in 2004.
Jacques Theron, who has won the Berg on three occasions, is one of the names that stands out on the entry list, however the sub-master will have his work cut out for him with a bunch of up-and-coming Under 23 stars hoping to claim a maiden Berg title and the corresponding SA title.
Amongst those youngsters is 2022 Dusi Canoe Marathon champion David Evans – who is also paddling in his first Berg.
Jeremy Maher and Cape locals Daniel Jacobs and Dyllan Farrell are also amongst the challengers for the coveted title and the 2023, the SA K1 Marathon Championship title.
Surfski ace Kenny Rice is also amongst a group of strong novices at this year’s race and will be a boat to watch throughout the four days of racing.
In the women’s division it is almost impossible to look past three-time champion Bianca Beavitt when searching for potential winners.
Beavitt last won the race in 2017 but will be determined to get her name back on the winners roll in 2023.
Once again the Berg welcomes back a number of legends, however this year will be the first year without Giel van Deventer who passed away last year.
This year’s race is a dedication to a man that was passionate about paddling and the Berg.
Amongst the legends batch is Jannie Malherbe, Rene Boehm, Johan van Rooyen and another over 70, JT Basson.
The legends and the slow batch will head off at 8:45am, ahead of the A batch paddlers that will race off at 9:00am on Wednesday morning.
Interestingly, there are three entrants that are going for the coveted Peninsula Iron Man for 2023. This includes cycling the Cape Town Cycle Tour, running the Two Oceans ultra-marathon and then completing the Berg.
At the moment going into the Berg, it’s Carel Botha who leads Barry Muller and Schalk Smit, however there’s just a ten minute gap between Botha and Smit.