River Canoe Marathon Media Release
: Dave Macleod
Giel van Deventer set to extend his own Berg
The evergreen Giel van Deventer will be lining up for his 48th
Berg River Canoe Marathon when the four day race gets under way
in Paarl on 12 July, extending his own record for the most
finishes in the iconic four day odyssey to the West Coast.
“When I was younger I never had a specific goal in terms of
number of Bergs to complete,” says the popular Great Grand
Master paddler. “If asked when are you going to stop my normal
answer was as long as I enjoy the Berg I will be back next
“The year when I completed my 46th Berg we had a terrible windy
and cold third day. It took me 8½ hours on the day. I was
finished and nearly out on my feet. My wife gave me one look and
she said she think it is time for me to quit my yearly Berg
“I said I will give it a thought which I did ...and my decision
was I will try to get to at least 50 Bergs and thereafter I will
consider stopping if I feel that the old body is taking too much
punishment,” explains Van Deventer. “But 50 Bergs will allow me
to rest in peace!”
The 67 year old, who farms outside Paarl, set an example to the
paddling community by lodging the third entry for this year’s
race, despite the reluctance by many paddlers to commit to the
tough race given the drought conditions gripping the region.
The allure of the race is simple for Van Deventer. It is tough,
and widely regarded as the toughest race of its kind in the
“To be honest if you evaluate Berg River as a good river for
canoeing it will surely not be rated as one of the best rivers
from a fun viewpoint,” says Van Deventer.
“There are not many rapids, the water in July is icy cold, but
the Berg as a race has something special which no other race in
South Africa has: it always was and still is a real challenge.
And I love challenges,” he adds with conviction.
He has scoffed at paddlers being slow to enter the race, fearing
it will be extremely low. The master statistician says the Cape
winter always bails the race out of trouble.
“I have rainfall records and river flow records on my computer
for the last sixty years. There were several serious drought
years in those sixty years but there was not a single year where
there was not enough water to paddle in the middle of July,”
says Van Deventer.
“A few years ago we struck a very low level but even at two
cumec flow you can still paddle without portaging. In spite of
the present drought my river flow statistics gave me 100% trust
that there will be enough water for a race.
“The Berg both water level and weather wise has always been
unpredictable,” says Van Deventer. “For example in 1973 which
also was one of the driest winters we ever had in Western Cape
the river flow was at one cumec two days before the race.
"But it started raining non-stop on the Monday morning and two
days later on the Wednesday we started the race on 330 cumec
“Weather wise we had several Bergs in the past where all four
days were fantastic windless sunny days but we also had
horrendous wind storm days. Just be prepared for anything Mother
Nature can present to us.
The race has often been a Van Deventer family affair, and his
son Gert has also entered, which Giel believes will be a tough
assignment for his son.
“Gert and his wife and children are on a two month tour through
the USA. They return to South Africa the week before Berg. There
is no chance that he will be canoeing fit although they are
doing a lot of mountain biking and hiking which will give him a
reasonable endurance fitness. But we will have to see if he can
keep up with the old man!”
The Berg River Canoe marathon
starts in Paarl on 12 July and ends at Velddrif on 15 July. More
information can be found at
(click to download
Click HERE to download
Berg River Canoe Marathon
Horizontal on white - JPeg
Grysbaard. The evergreen Giel van
Deventer will be lining up his 48 Berg in a months time. "50 Bergs will allow me to rest in peace,"
said Van Deventer.
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