So ya, it really all began when Pops gave us the CooNoo and from there we went on to trip the likes of the Hunyani and the Pungwe Rivers in Zimbabwe before joining our respective Canoe Clubs in our University days. Neil went to Wits and started in his winning ways while I went to Pietermaritzburg, failed to finish in my first attempts at both Dusi and Umko and soon worked out that I was only of ‘Fish ‘n Chip’ calibre.
Neil and I were never far apart as we grew up, nor were we when we started our own lives, got married and had children, primarily because we were twins, but also because of our paddling, and perhaps also because we played at different ends of the field. We had both entered the sport for adventure, excitement and fun but then Neil’s quest became the podium steps while mine remained unchanged. He was never one of South Africa’s so-called “Canoeing Greats”, but he did win the greatest of South Africa’s races. On the other hand, I won nothing and as Copper liked to tell me, although he is a has-been, at least he was, whereas I was a nobody, or at best, ‘Neil’s brother’.
When Neil stopped racing, we got to enjoy a window of 4 or 5 years of paddling together again, but he couldn’t stop himself from competing; for him the sense of accomplishment then waned, he had achieved all he could and so he, like many of his peers left our little sport, going like the others to the ‘dark side’ of cycling. I too almost left our sport after suffering from some disillusion following my 20th Dusi but fortunately the Ithala and Lowveld Croc kept me interested until I made my return to the likes of the Fish and the Dusi. Subsequently, I also got involved in what was for me the previously unchartered waters of Marathons and Surfski, plus I’m still having fun paddling on rivers as-well-as going around in circles at Emmarentia; and in this sense I like to think that here I really am a winner.
I say this not just because of how much I enjoy our sport and how it has taken us around our beautiful country, but more so because of the amazing camaraderie we have in our paddling community and particularly at our club. The litany of names in my protracted story is because of the wonderful people I have met and befriended along the way, so thank you to one and all; and if you are one who left, please come back and get your friends and family involved too. Whether you are a Coo who wins in play or a Noo who plays to win, our sport will welcome you. As a final note, should you choose to join Dabulamanzi, the finest club in the whole dam universe, you will meet some interesting people, hear lots of good-hearted banter out on the water, and most importantly, get to enjoy the reward of an ice-cold Hansa after Time Trial with them, while taking in one of the finest sunsets in town.
Clive, aka Coo, twin brother of Noo, the kids who Pops gave the gift of a canoe named the CooNoo.
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