Underberg’s Stew Little, pictured, makes little secret of his desire to one day win the the N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon.
“I learnt to paddle on the Umzimkhulu. I love this river and I would love nothing more than to be on the top step of the podium,” says the 20-year-old Varsity College student.
A second-place finish at this year’s edition of the race may have gone a way to helping him realise that his dream may not be too far away, but standing between him and that goal is friend Andy Birkett, who has won the last six Drak titles.
Birkett spent three days before the race last year tripping the river with Little. Afterwards, he said he had learnt a lot from the youngster in terms of his knowledge of the Umzimkhulu and his mastery in lowish water conditions.
“Lower water conditions suit me because I paddle this river whenever I can,” said Little. “No matter what the water level, I would far rather train on the river than on the dam, so I get to know the every level.”
Weighing in at less than 70kg, Little has an advantage over some of the heavier paddlers in low technical conditions that have defined the race for the past two years.
Since his second-place finish, Little has found that locals are putting pressure on him to go one better and finally become the first Underberg local to win their canoeing major.
“The pressure is quite funny, actually I would really like to win this race one year and I now know that there are people in the area that are hoping I can do it, too.
“Right now it would mean beating Andy, and that is a very big ask!” he said.
The N3TC Drak Challenge, in association with FNB, takes place in Underberg on February 1 and 2.