The national canoeing community is responding to an appeal from the Paarl Canoe Club to support its growing development programme and to realise the dreams of fourteen paddlers to compete in the Berg River Canoe Marathon in July.
Having produced successful racers like Ryno Armdorf, Luke Stowman, Jermaine Pietersen and Niklas Tiras, the club, based at Market Street bridge in the centre of Paarl, has attracted a growing number of local youngsters to the club’s development arm run by Wayne August, with more than thirty eager paddlers taking to the water on a daily basis.
“By coming down to the programme the youngsters get to feel that they are part of a team, and paddling helps to keep them out of trouble,” said August.
“They learn discipline and how to support each other. If they learn to work hard at sport they can apply that to their schoolwork as well,” he added.
With stars like Stowman, Pietersen and Tiras getting national recognition, August says many of the younger paddler aspire to emulate them, starting off by striving to complete the tough 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon from their hometown to the West Coast town of Velddrif.
“I’ve been paddling for twenty years now, and I’ve competed in twelve Berg River marathons. Each year presents its challenges, and each year I enjoy navigating them and learning and gaining more experience,” says Niklas Tiras.
“It’s never easy,” he added. “The challenge motivates me to keep going and do better. I am grateful to be able to compete and to have gotten my start at the development club.”
The Paarl Club Development Programme in conjunction with Oasis NPC uses canoeing as a tool to teach children from disadvantaged backgrounds the importance of discipline, hard work and determination. As part of a greater team, whilst still being an individual sport, paddlers learn the importance of applying their physical strength, mental agility, and endurance as they compete in races.
It was started by PCC member Robin Graves, who dreamt of giving children, youth and young adults from disadvantaged areas access to canoeing as a sport and at the same time develop new, young talent for the sport. The aim was to promote canoeing as a school sport amongst learners from the surrounding Primary and High schools in Paarl and the surrounding Drakenstein area
The Paarl development programme currently has 30 young paddlers on the water every day.
The fundraiser can be accessed at https://sportforlives.org/campaigns/race-for-lives-oasis-berg-river-challenge/