A big group of Stellenbosch “Turbo Toppies” – as all 50-year-old plus paddlers at the Maties Canoe Club are known – have committed themselves to complete the 62nd Berg River Marathon despite the river bursting its banks recently at its highest level in 100 years.
A total of some 15 older paddlers from the Maties Canoe Club have committed themselves to take part in this year’s Berg River Marathon, a grueling four-day event that starts at the Market Street Bridge in Paarl on Wednesday, July 5 and ends four days and 240 km later on Saturday, July 8 in Velddrif along the West Coast.
“We’ve been lying low with our river training sessions with the recent floods as it can be hazardous as the river flow becomes quite unpredictable and one can easily get trapped under debris and newly formed tree blocks,” says the 75-year-old Johan van Rooyen, the oldest Turbo Toppie in the group which aims to finish his 16th Berg this year.
To Johan, for whom the Berg River Marathon has become a permanent fixture on his yearly sports calendar, the Berg represents an adventure through a winter landscape as only the Boland could offer.
“It took some time to get used to the cold weather conditions, like getting up in the dark to get onto the water, but I cannot imagine not paddling it and will do it for as long as I can.
“The support I have experienced over the years from the Turbo Toppies is significant, and I cannot imagine doing the Berg without them. We always support and encourage each other throughout the year. Their knowledge and wisdom are invaluable, creating a sense of belonging to an environment where one feels at home with our shared experiences. They are indeed an exceptional group of people,” says Johan
The Turbo Toppie group from Maties Canoe Club paddlers who have committed themselves to take part in this year’s Berg with their number already completed are Hanré Streicher (6), Francois Loedolff (37), Francois Meyer (8), Danie Brink (5), Johan van Rooyen (15), David Malherbe (6), Schalk Smit (12), Daantjie Malan (11), Andries JP Smit (25), Stephan du Toit (16), Gert van Deventer (16), Theuns Matthee (15), and Barry Muller (5). Matie students also participating are Ross Leslie, Carel Botha, Luka Koumantakaris, and David Evans.
The whole course of the 240 km Berg River Marathon comprises four days divided as follows: Day One from Paarl to Zonquasdrif 62 km; Day Two from Zonquasdrif to Bridgetown 46 km; Day Three from Bridgetown to Zoutkloof 75 km; and Day Four from Zoutkloof to Velddrif 57 km.
One of the most exceptional paddlers to participate in this year’s marathon will undoubtedly be the 84-year-old Jannie Malherbe, who is attempting to finish his 50th marathon this time. Jannie also participated in the first-ever 1962 Berg River Marathon.