With a big field assembled for the inaugural Bamboo Warehouse Push And Push Paddle on the Berg River from 9 to 11 August, the organisers have afforded special privileges to all the female paddlers on the first day of the race that coincides with national women’s day.
The three-day event starts with a 16 kilometre stage from Val De Vie Estate into Paarl and the first batch onto the water will consist of all the female paddlers.
“It will be a great moment for women’s paddling when the first Push And Pull paddlers to come under the bridge at Val De Vie will be the women, on Women’s Day,” said race organiser Alan Houston.
“We recognise that women are a vital part of our sport and we jumped at the chance to give them the first batch on Women’s Day,” he added.
The batch will include a number of the country’s top elite marathoners and will also include women’s racing in a wide variety of age group classes as well.
Dusi podium finisher Bianca Haw will be on the start-line and is excited about the event and the plans to put the spotlight on the women on the first stage.
“We don’t often get a chance to pay tribute to the role that women play in canoeing and the plans to honour women on Women’s Day are exciting,” she said.
“I am so looking forward to this event. The organisers have worked so hard to give every paddler a unique and memorable experience,” she added.
“They have gone out and secured equal prize money for men and women, which is cool,” said the Underberg-based athlete, who will be travelling to the Western Cape for the event with her boyfriend and top paddler Andrew Houston.
“If you are a woman and can paddle a boat, come and join in and support women in sport by getting in a late entry,” she added.
Kim van Gysen will be in that women’s batch too, starting ahead of her husband Simon van Gysen, fresh from his second place finish in the recent Berg River Canoe Marathon, and says the event is recognising the female athletes on Women’s Day in several ways.
“It is awesome, and the girls – all the girls not just the elite girls – will feel very special,” she said. “There is a big field of women entered – way, way more than we ever see at races in the Western Cape.”
“Equally importantly women are being recognised as athletes and as mothers. The event has laid on child carers and is going out of their way to accommodate families at the overnight villages,” she added.
“People don’t realise that even seconding with kids is exhausting. I would have loved an hour after a race to hand my kids over to a child carer and just chat with my husband.
“That’s just another example of why we are so looking forward to this event, even though we are leaving our kids with the grandparents for the weekend. This really is the way that paddling events should be going,” she said.
Van Gysen says she might be low on training but promises to be as competitive as ever.
“I will give it a proper go, even though my training is way behind the other girls. It will be fun to be starting ahead of my husband though!” she chuckled.
“It is an awesome opportunity to put the spotlight on women’s canoeing,” said current surfski world champion Hayley Nixon.
“Getting to start in the first batch in an inaugural edition of the race, to be the first paddlers at the hotspot and even taking the line honours on Women’s Day will be a great showcase of women’s paddling.
“It comes at a time when the depth and strength of our women’s paddling is particularly encouraging, and while they won’t all be there on Women’s Day, it will still be a great tribute to our female paddlers. I really wish I could be there but sadly I have a pretty full plate at the moment,” she said.