Paarl – Amongst some high-profile novices, South African surfski star Kenny Rice has confirmed he will be tackling his first Berg River Canoe Marathon from 5-8 July.
The Cape Town local isn’t a stranger to the Berg River, but has never been able to take on the full four-day journey from Paarl in the Cape Winelands to the West Coast.
Entries for the iconic four-day event close on Sunday and among the entrants is the current Canoe Ocean Racing World Champion who finds himself in a position to take on the gruelling task — but it won’t just be a goal to finish, he’s using the event as he plans his second half of the year.
“I’ve got two really big races at the end of the year, and I’ve been told that the Berg is a good race for base training,” Rice said.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been sick since coming back from the Molokai so haven’t been able to train, but I’ve been given the all-clear from the doctor to start paddling again so I will be on the start line.
“I’m usually in North America at the Canada Surfski Champs and the Gorge Downwind so I can’t paddle the Berg, but I opted not to do them this year, so it opened up the Berg for me and I’m excited to give it a go.
“It was always a good chance for me to live in the USA for their summer, so I would always take that opportunity.”
Rice spent a lot of his formative paddling years paddling in the pre-Berg races so has a good idea of what to expect from certain sections of the river. He’s also looking forward to getting back onto the Berg River.
“I’ve always enjoyed being out there and paddling on the river. It’s tranquil and gives me a chance to rewind which I am looking forward to,” the Euro Steel/Orka star commented.
Rice recently leaned on the race’s most decorated paddler in Hank McGregor and following their chat he got a better understanding of what to expect physically and mentally from four gruelling days of racing.
“Hank told me you can eye up the competition as much as you want, but you will never think you are going to win the race.
“It’s a race that will push you to your limits and Hank said you will blow once or twice a day, and it’s how you manage those situations that will determine how well you do.
“If you can deal with being in the red then you are in a good position.
“I’ve always been a better long-distance paddler because it’s all about efficiency and consistency and I know the distances are daunting, but I think they won’t be too bad.”
With the current water levels in the Berg River, the race is expected to take place on a high-water level, and Rice thinks it’s going to make things more manageable.
“40 Cumecs for the first two days will be a fun level and make things a little bit easier,” he said hopefully.
“Obviously day three isn’t really going to be affected with the dam, but the race is going to be exciting for sure.
“I will be racing for sure, because there is always someone to race,” he laughed.
Entires for the 2023 Berg River Canoe Marathon close at midnight on Sunday. More information can be found at www.berg.org.za