At Core Merino, we obviously love our products and tell you all about it. However, we believe the best way to show you how our product performs is to have it tested in real outdoor activities by real people. Our Core Merino Field Testers are customers and athletes who put Core Merino to the test in races or in their normal training schedules. Afterward, they report back to us about their experience with the Core Merino product.
Once a year, canoe enthusiasts gather to race The Fish, a two-day canoe marathon. The race starts on the Grassridge dam above Cradock and finishes in Cradock itself. On day one the athletes complete a 48 km stretch and on day 2 around 36 km.
Karoo Wool Grower Geoff has completed the race 19 times before and we accompanied him on his 20th race.
Tell us about the Fish River Canoe Marathon
I entered the race with my good friend in a K2 (2 men Kayak) but you can also do it in a single (K1) or a K3. Each boat competes on its own and does not form a team with other boats. I think there were about 650 boats this year. The water is part of an irrigation scheme so always available despite the drought. The contrast between the natural veld and the irrigation down the river was particularly great this year.
How did you prepare for the race?
Not very well this year, due to the drought there is no water in the dams in the Karoo. The Graaff Reinet dam where I was able to train last year is also dry. I did some good amount of cycling training for a different race I was preparing for which did help. I trained twice on the water when I was in Port Elizabeth. In good years when there is water in the dam at Grand View I can train at home. I went to the Fish river 2 weekends prior to get some training in there.
How long did you take to finish the canoe marathon?
We finished the race in 6 hours and 30 minutes. Despite the lack of water to train on we beat our last year’s time by a few seconds.
What was your favourite moment during the race?
Shooting Cradock Weir, as you can see here on the photo. We tried to shoot Keith’s Flyover (I haven’t done this since my 20s) and if we had made it that would have been the highlight but we unfortunately swam.
Was there a scary or dangerous moment during the race or all smooth waters? If yes, what happened?
Keiths is scary. In the end, the swim was not bad and we did no boat damage. Saltpans rapid is also tense because if you fall out at the start of the rapid it is a bad swim where you hit a lot of rocks. Most of the dangerous spots are manned by lifesavers and that increases the safety.
Were you able to enjoy the scenery or were you more focused on your body and canoe?
I definitely enjoyed the scenery. The first day the river is narrower with a lot of Willow trees in the river. The leaves hang down to the water and form curtains which can sometimes cause a little concern when you can’t see through them and see what the river is doing behind the curtain… The last third of day one and day two the river has joined a bigger river and the willow trees are replaced by Karoo thorn trees (Acacia Karoo). On some of the bends in the river, there are also cliffs that are very beautiful and add to the scenery. Other than in a rapid where you are focussed on the water you definitely enjoy the scenery. We had wonderful cool weather and no wind so practically perfect conditions.
Will you aim to participate again next year?
Yes. I think I still have a few left in me.
What did you wear during the race?
On day one, I wore a short-sleeve Core Merino top. On day two, we had an earlier start at 7 am in the morning, which is why I chose to wear my long-sleeve Core Merino top. We wore double layered paddling shorts which prevent chafing on the seat. Over the core top comes a splash cover then the life jacket.
How do you think the merino wool worked to support you? Have you felt uncomfortable at any point, if yes, why?
Merino is the best (in my opinion only) garment to wear when paddling. You obviously get splashed wet and wool still keeps you warm when wet and even if it had been hot I would still have worn merino and not felt hot. We have had hot races in the past and I still found the merino perfect. I have also never had any chafing when wearing a merino top.
Did you wear the same garments on both days or change them?
Normally I wear the same one. This year I wanted a long sleeve on the second day so I changed. Odour is not a problem in paddling as the water from the rapids would wash the sweat away. The only challenge is to ensure the wool garments become dry overnight in order to wear them again as putting on a wet top on a cool morning is not fun. I also use the Core Merino tops for cycling and there I comfortably wear the same top at least 2 days in a row. I simply air the merino top overnight and there is no odour in the morning.
Congratulations from the whole Core Merino team to Goeff and his teammate for completing the Fish River Canoe Marathon successfully. What a wonderful achievement!
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