The inaugural Bamboo Warehouse Push And Pull Paddle from 9 to 11 August has attracted a highly competitive field of elite male paddlers, eager to test themselves over the race’s unique format and contest for the numerous prizes on offer.
Stu MacLaren, who retained his King of the Oliphants title last weekend, has added his name to the entry list, but will find the going very tough at the front of the race on all three days.
Current marathon K1 and K2 world champion and nine-times Dusi champ Andy Birkett has entered as he prepares for his double title defence at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in China in October.
One of the many speedsters that will be looking to dethroned the current marathon king is Nicky Notten, who was in sublime form at the recent SA Marathon championships and came within a fraction of a second of pipping Hank McGregor to the second place in the national senior men’s K1 marathon team.
The likes of other young turks like Mark Keeling, Stew Little, Luke Stowman, Anders Hart and his brother Uli, Bartho Visser, Luke McNish, Evan Knight and Zach Preyser and Paarl local Jermaine Pietersen are making no secrets about their desire to get in amongst the prizes and a spot on the podium.
At the other end of the elite spectrum the stalwarts who have consistently starred on this river have all put their hands up, with Heinrich Schloms, Louw Van Riet, Ernest Van Riet, Edgar Boehm Jnr, Paul Marais, Mynhardt Marais and Waldo van der Linde set to make their experience on the Berg count.
Simon van Gysen, fresh from his second place finish in the Berg team competition with Paul Marais cannot be underestimated, no matter how much his routine interferes with his training opportunities.
Graeme Solomon remains an iconic pacesetter on this river and the 46 year old was on track to a third Berg title in July before being upended by illness talking down his Hungarian partner Adrián Boros halfway through the race.
Former double Dusi champion Lance Kime was one of the first to enter and, while he has been away from competitive paddling for a few years, there is no sign of any dimming of his competitive flame, and the shorter distances may well suit him.
Add to this mix Andrew Houston, who will travel from KwaZulu-Natal for the race, bringing his well-documented base of fitness and paddling skills to the Berg River.
Another former marathon world champion to have entered is Shaun Rubenstein, who made something of a canoeing comeback at last year’s Breede Marathon.
Day One in particular will be intense as the Friday afternoon 16km leg from Val de Vie Estate to the Berg River Brewery in Paarl has two hot spot prizes, the first being the AQRate bridge prize at the new bridge over the river at Val De Vie, just 3,3km into the first stage.
The second hot spot on the short, sharp first stage is the Paarl Web Design hot spot at the compulsory portage around the weir just below Market Street Bridge in Paarl. All the hot spot prizes and the overall prize money for the winners are equal for men and women.
The second stage start will be frenetic as every single batch will have a hot spot for a new Gara paddle at the Dal Josephat weir, less than a minute from the start of the stage.