The excitement is building with the SA Canoe Champs this weekend

St Francis Bay canals will be awash with paddlers this weekend as the South African Canoe Marathon Championship kicks off in the biggest paddling ever to be held on our waterways. With 300 entrants in different categories competition for a medal will be rife with some of South Africa’s finest paddlers competing.

Andy Birkett – Photo by Graham Daniel – Clik to enlarge photo

Undoubtedly one of the hot favourites for the main race is recently married Andy Birkett, especially as his greatest rival, ten-time Marathon World Champion and defending K1 and K2 worl champion, Hank McGregor, will not be contesting the K1 rather choosing only to compete in the K2 category (with Andy as his paddling companion)..

Here are some of Andy’s paddling achievements:

  • Dusi Winner 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • South African Marathon Champs winner 2015/17
  • Senior World Marathon Singles – 2nd 2016 (Germany) & 2017 (South Africa)
  • 2x Fish River Marathon winner- 2015/2017
  • 5 x Drak Challenge Winner 2014-2018
  • U23 World Marathon Champion- 2013 (Denmark)



Giving Andy Birkett competition for top spot will be Jasper Mocke, himself a world champion. Capetonian Jasper is three-time K2 World Champ, current SA K1 River, Surfski and K2 Marathon Champ, and is Surfski World Series Champ. Jasper who is married a local JBay lady and adds a bit of local flavour in what promises to be a mouth-watering duel with Andy.

Jasper Mocke

Greg Louw

Adding some local Eastern Cape talent is and hopefully back to his best after some recent flu is “Mr Fish River” Greg Louw. Greg could well be on top of the podium on Saturday, after the 30km marathon on the canals (7 laps of the 4.2km course).

Just some of Greg’s paddling achievements:

  • Multiple SA Sprint and Marathon Team member,
  • 2x Fish River Winner,
  • 3x SA Lifesaving double ski champion.
  • Multiple SA sprint golds in 200, 500 and 1000m sprints.
  • Multiple King of the Kromme winner.


Stuart MacLaren


Another contender from Cape Town, Stuart MacLaren will also be looking to stand on the podium at events end. Stuart boasts a grand pedigree of top event finishes,

  • SA Surfski Team to World Champs 2017
  • 3rd K2 SA Marathons 2017
  • 4th K1 SA Marathons 2017
  • 1st Umko 2017, 2018
  • 1st Breede 2015, 2016, 2017
  • 2nd Fish 2017



Kenny Rice

Favourite for the u23 category is yet another Cape lad, Kenny Rice who finished on the podium here two weeks ago at the East Cape Marathon Champs. He too has an amazing paddling pedigree:

  • – 1st Cape Point Challenge 2017
  • – 4th Surfski World Champs 2017
  • – U/23 Surfski World Champ 2017
  • – U/18 Surfski World Champ 2013
  • – U/23 SA Surfski Champ 2014 – 2017
  • – 3rd U/23 K1 SA Marathon Champs 2016/17
  • – 3rd Snr K2 SA Marathon Champs 2017 with Stuart MacLaren



Nicholas Notten

Another in the Under 23 category is  who should be on the podium is Nicholas Notten. Here are a few of this waterman’s achievements:

  • 2nd SA Canoe Marathon Championships (u/23) 2016 & 2017
  •  Silver Medal, World Marathon Champs 2017
  • Surfski: 3rd Cape Point Challenge 2017
  • Lifesaving: SA Champs Iron Man and Competitor of the Competition Senior Male: 2017 and 2018, National Lifesaving Squad for World Champs
  • Member of the SA National Canoeing Team

With some over 300 competitors already showing their intention gather at Cape ST Francis Resort on Friday to register for the event at to  there are certain to be as many three, four, even more supporters and family members per competitor descending on our town this weekend. Having hosted both the men’s and ladies SA Seniors golf in recent weeks this is certainly another great boost to our tourism and economy.

All we need as a town now need do is to show our support for this prestigious by welcoming our visitors and showing them what a wonderful town we have  as well as lining the banks to spur these athletes on.

The start and finish is at the river mouth, watch this video by which shows the 4km lap, where paddlers (including me) will race between 18km and 30km depending on their age category.

The canoe championship course