Inanda dam development paddlers ready for Dusi debut

Pietermaritzburg – Amongst the 1800 paddlers taking part in the Dusi Canoe Marathon that starts on Thursday 13 February at Camps Drift will be eight Dusi novices, all from the brand new Inanda Dam branch of the Change A Life Academy started by Dusi icon Martin Dreyer.

Dreyer, after calling time on his paddling career having won the tough three day race seven times, committed his energies to starting the ComputerShare Change A Life Academy at Nagle Dam, deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, and in a short space of time produced Dusi stars Thulani Mbanjwa, Loveday Zondi, Sbonelo Zondi and scores of others.

Encouraged by this success, Dreyer turned his attention to Inanda Dam outside Hillcrest, which hosts the second overnight stop of the Dusi Canoe Marathon, and established a mirror project with the backing of the South African Marine Safety Association (SAMSA).

“It started with visits to five schools in the Inanda Dam valley, and we were overwhelmed by the response from the youngsters,” said Dreyer. “They see paddling going on all the time, they have noted the successes of the guys from the Nagle Dam branch of our Change A Life Academy and so they jumped at the opportunity.”

From a squad of over sixty youngsters who started their basic introduction to canoeing, together with swimming and safety training, Dreyer has eight paddlers qualified and ready to tackle the Dusi. They are coached by Mhlonishwa Hlongwana, a seasoned Dusi paddlers with a 27th in last year’s K1 Dusi to his credit.

“They are so excited, it is a huge adventure for every one of them” said Dreyer. “It is so invigorating to see because they are self-motivators. They understand the nature of the challenge and they are doing it purely to achieve a goal that they have set themselves, not to impress anyone else.”

Dreyer is simply hoping the four crews will finish their first Dusis and remain inspired to continue their growth in canoeing, but he has been pleasantly surprised by some of the results he has achieved from this project, with Mmeli Ndimande and Patrick Canham bagging a 44th overall in the tough Campbell’s Farm to Dusi Bridge qualifier a few weeks’ ago and a 66th at the Inanda dam to Durban race last weekend.

He stressed that the SAMSA Change A Life programme was more about personal growth and development that simply canoeing.

“It’s about setting goals, and working hard to achieve them,” said Dreyer.

The SAMSA Change A Life programme also extends to supporting the athletes in other areas of their lives, from education to nutrition to getting their drivers licences, and learning key life skills.

Dreyer was buoyed by the success of his new programme at Inanda dam, and in particular by the involvement of the South African Marine Safety Association.

“Their mandate essentially covers safety and small craft in oceans and all inland waterways in South Africa, and safety education is a key part of their function, so the fit with this new project at Inanda dam is superb,” said Dreyer.

Dreyer said plans were afoot to get the families of the eight paddlers together to watch their sons race, and to be at the finish of the second and final stages of the race.

Dreyer, who became known as the “Dusi Duke” for his meticulously executed campaigns to win the Dusi, said working with the youngsters at Inanda Dam had been an eye-opener as he had been able to keep track of some of the top contenders training.

“In my day we used to train at Inada Dam to get away from all the limelight, but now that we have this core group from Inanda training, we get feedback on the top crews training here all the time. We know what they doing. There is no more flying under the radar at Inanda Dam!”

The Dusi Canoe Marathon 2014 starts in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday 13 February and ends in Durban on Saturday 15 February 2014. More information can be found at


Preparing for their Dusi debuts are members of the SAMSA Change A Life Academy at Inanda Dam (front, from left) Patrick Canham and Mmeli Ndimande (back, from left) Sifundo Gumede, Martin Dreyer, Spamandla Shozi, Mhlonishwa Gcwensa, and Nduduzo Shozi. Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media


Mhlonishwa Hlongwane (left) and Nqobile Makhanya of the SAMSA Change A Life Academy at Inanda Dam negotiate Tops Needle Rapid during the final Dusi qualifier race earlier this month. Hlongwane is the coach of the new development project, which has eight paddlers entered for the Dusi Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media


Patrick Canham (back) and Mmeli Ndimande of the SAMSA Change A Life Academy on the Pump House Portage on the final day of the Dusi Canoe Marathon. The pair are part of a group of eight paddlers from the fledgling development programme gearing up for their Dusi debuts. Bart Fokkens/Gameplan Media