Playboy South Africa – Whitewater Feature

Lifebywater.com just got a 6 page feature on the similarities of work and whitewater published in South Africa’s local edition of the world’s best-selling monthly men’s magazine; Playboy. This article which compares Craig’s experiences on the water with those from working as an economist, focuses on a recent mission to the old Transkei region  of South Africa and particularly a descent of the Hawespruit river.

 

Kayaking in Playboy SA
Kayaking in Playboy SA

 

Kayaking the Hawespruit in Playboy
The Hawespruit in Playboy

Just before publication of this issue, the editorial staff at playboy decided to pull their scheduled cover and replace it with one with a very strong message against women abuse.

 

March 2013 Cover
Playboy SA March 2013 Cover

A free online version of this magazine is available here. Please be aware that, despite its wide range of content, this is an adult magazine.

 

Good Lines

Shark! A Close Encounter

Spending time in the ocean, especially around the greater Cape Town shoreline, one periodically toys with the notion that you may have a run in with a ‘man in a grey suit’; a shark. This notion is always fleeting as you seem to figure that your chances of any form of contact are so unimaginably low and you always seem to assume that, if a shark does get overly inquisitive, it will be someone else who bears the brunt.

While Scott and I have seen sharks while surf kayaking and, at the time were terrified at the sight, we have never been overly threatened by them. Plus you are likely to be a little safer in a kayak than you would be on a surfboard.

Fluid Element Surf Kayak

I am no surfer…. But Scott, and my brother Sean are.

Sean Surfing in Cape Town
Sean Surfing in Cape Town

This last weekend, Sean, who spends a fair amount of time surfing, had one of the more terrifying shark experiences, short of an actual attack, I’ve heard about in a while. After some coaxing I managed to persuade him to write about it for LifeByWater.com.

This is his account:

Sean in the Maldives earlier this year
Sean in the Maldives earlier this year

A few months ago I attended an art exhibition in London by Damien Hirst. His work is macabre and chilling, with the overtone of the exhibit being that of the circle of life with a profound emphasis placed on its end. My favourite piece in the exhibition was literally a fully preserved 14-foot tiger shark suspended in liquid contained in a large glass box. The shark had been positioned to look like it was about to attack, with its mouth wide open and eyes closed. The name of the piece was, ‘The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living” and the point was for the observer to stand, looking into it’s mouth and try and imagine the situation where by it was attacking – this would, according to Hirst, give them the feeling that someone who was about to die would feel.

Of course, I tried and unfortunately I didn’t experience the horrifying emotion that one is believed to experience when they have the realisation that they will probably die in the mouth of a shark, but on November 4th 2012, I felt it.

As one could have expected, there were loads of surfers out at Muizenberg that day. Most of whom seemed to be beginners. That was the norm at Surfer’s Corner on a calm, sunny Sunday when the waves were as consistent and small as they were. I noticed that the black flag was flying from the Shark Spotters cabin – this meant that spotting conditions were poor. Very rarely had I seen any other flag flying there, with a red flag – high shark alert – flying only when there is a immanent risk, and a white flag, signalling the sighting of a shark in the bay, being raised with a siren from the beach as the alarming call to the shore. I put on my wetsuit, took out one of my boards, gave my keys to the car guard, and headed in.

Sean on a wave in the Maldives
Sean surfing in the Maldives

I had been surfing for about half an hour, when I noticed a huge set coming through, I didn’t want to be caught on the inside of it and so I started paddling as hard as I could out to sea. The first wave of the set broke a few meters before me and so I ducked under it and carried on paddling flat out to sea. I made it over the second wave and immediately sat on my board to be more mobile in case I could catch the third wave of the set, which came past me much too flat still to catch. I noticed then that I was the furthest person out by about 10 meters. I had not thought about how far out I was paddling and was only focusing on not being caught on the inside of the set.

I glanced out to sea, which had flattened out completely after the big set had come through and stared directly at two fins. My initial thought that they were dolphins dissolved into adrenalin fuelled panic when I noticed the fin moving from side to side as opposed to up and down. I looked at it as I tried to turn my board, but I can remember not being able to grab the nose of my board to pull myself into the lying position. I can also remember saying to myself over and over in my head, ‘don’t panic, don’t panic’.

At this point, the fin turned toward me and started cutting through the surface. That was it. I would have screamed if I could breathe.

Sean on a wave
Sean enjoying the warm water

Our two basic adrenal instincts, as humans, are fight or flight. Survive by attacking your attacker, or get away. In this case, flight was not an option and so I remember being filled with an urge to splash the water in defiance of the shark whose fin was creating a rippling wake in the surface. I kept saying to myself in my head, ‘don’t panic, don’t panic’.

The shark covered the 15 meter distance between it and I in the blink of an eye and when I could see the whole shark through the surface of the water I was about to jump off my board so that it would bite it instead of me. There was nothing going through my mind at this point other that the fact that I was about to die.

As the shark was about 1-2 meters away, it dived under me. I watched it glide through the water below my feet and turn towards the shore. It was only then that I saw that it was definitely a great white about 1.5 – 2 meters long. I tried to keep a visual on it to prepare myself for if it came again, perhaps it would change it’s mind about not making me it’s lunch. I watched its tail disappear into the murky water. I looked around me for a few seconds, expecting it to be circling me – but saw nothing. The fear that it would come and attack me at any moment was far worse than when I had seen it coming.

I struggled to find balance on my board even though I was lying down on it
I kept looking around to check for the creature – I could feel it was still close.
I picked my feet out of the water by bending my knees, and looked at the shoreline.

I have heard stories of surfers who had been attacked by sharks and had legs bitten off and didn’t know. Apparently your foot just feels warm, but it would have been completely off in the mouth of a shark. The possibility that the shark had taken my foot without me noticing seemed unrealistic but reality was a very relative word to me right now. I rubbed my toes against each other as they pointed to the sky. I could feel something – Good enough for now.

Great White Shark
Great White Shark
(Image from National Geographic)
Click here for more information in Great Whites

I stared dead straight at the shore now. Pulling the water with my arms with all my strength, each stroke bringing me that tiny bit closer to the safety of dry land. I would have shouted that there was a shark but I still couldn’t speak.

Paddling in, I passed a surfer, who must have noticed by my urgency that something was wrong. He asked me why I was panicking and finally I could muster a word, “Shark”. He turned his board around in an instant and joined me in escape. He calmly told the surfers around us to turn around and get out.

Feeling the sand beneath my feet on the beach was the most incredible feeling. I sat down on the beach, still out of breath, and as the siren screamed out to sea, the white flag was raised.

I will never understand why the shark did not attack me, and it will probably torment me for the rest of my life, but to have gotten that close to death and come out completely unscathed is something I will always be thankful for. I am truly lucky.

Sean Rivett
Table Mountain
Cape Town, South Africa

Sick GoPro action on the Dwars river

“Sick GoPro action on the Dwars river”? Truer words were never spoken, because as awesome as this river is it really is a dirty one. I think Adrian Tregoning had it right when he said it is the “ugly duckling” of the Cape rivers. That said, if you’re brave enough to tackle the polluted waters then you’ll be rewarded with some exciting and challenging rapids with a fantastic waterfall to round off the day.

The Dwars

On every South African kayakers list of rivers to paddle you are likely to find names like the Zambezi, Orange, Witte, White Nile, Thrombi, Umko, Vaal, and Tsitsa. One name you are not likely to see is the Dwars. The Dwars River, situated just outside the one horse town of Ceres, is one of the more underrated rivers in South Africa. Maybe it’s the frigid, heavily polluted water which gives it a bad name but the river, as Scott Reinders, Doug Bird and myself came to realize last weekend, holds some of the more challenging and enjoyable rapids around. It also holds one of the only real kayakable waterfalls in the Cape.

Doug and Scott
Doug and Scott fetching me for the Dwars Mission

I have kayaked the Dwars waterfall at a very low water level once before, but this time, with more water, we ran the section from the Golf Course down to the falls. This walk-as-far-as- you-paddle section involves no shuttle, easy walking and a few km’s of gorged in whitewater.

Getting back onto the water after the portage
Getting back onto the water after the portage

The first rapid of the day reminded both Scott and I of a rapid we ran a few years back on the Sabie River. It was tight and riddled with undercuts. As the river was at an awkward level and being the first rapid of the day we all decided to give it skip. The portage was tricky and involved a leap of faith over a pot hole.

Doug on the first few rapids
Doug using the Rails on the Fluid Detox
Doug styling the first whitewater section

The next few km’s involved some extensive scouting, eddy hopping and a number of tricky moves. The first rapid after our portage was long and technical, we scouted from the right bank and were sad to see that the best line into the rapid was on the far left. Not to be put off Scott made the trek back upstream, ferried across and ran the rapid from the top. He claims it to be one of the most enjoyable rapids in the Cape. Beware of a siphon half through on the left, near a pinnacle type of pourover.  

We spent time at the following rapid. This rapid had a difficult entry leading up to two large holes; the second of which would likely recirculate a swimmer. The line down the rapid was fine and with an undercut on the river right just after the hole; this rapid was stressful. I decided that I was going to give it a go so Doug set up safety just after the second hole and Scott took up the camera. My run down this rapid was textbook. Scott followed with an also close-to-perfect run. As Doug had carried his kayak around the rapid to set up safety and as it was basically impossible to carry it back upstream, he wasn’t able to run this one.

Craig running the rapid with the big holes 1
Craig running the rapid with the big holes 2Craig running the rapid with the big holes 3Craig running the rapid with the big holes 4Craig running the rapid with the big holes 5 Craig running “Thunder Alley”
Scott on thunder alley

Scott Scott in “thunder alley”

The final waterfall turned out to be as eventful as always. Doug fired it up first, landing with a slight over rotation. Scott followed with a stomped landing. After passing the camera down to the other two, I went for it. The sliding entry took me a little by surprise and knowing that there are rocks behind the curtain I boofed a little too hard, launching off horizontally. It was one of the harder landings I have had. A mistake I will not like to repeat.

Here are some photos from the day on the water and the walk out along an old redundant train track. To view the video from this paddle CLICK HERE

Doug on the waterfall
Doug on the waterfallDoug on the waterfallDoug on the waterfallDoug on the waterfall
Scott with the line of the day
Scott with the line of the day
Not a happy place

Not a happy place
Not a happy place Not a happy place
Just before impact
GoPro video still: Just before impact
Scott climbing out
Scott climbing out
baboon prints on the track
Baboon prints on the track
Walking through an old train tunnel
Old train tunnel

Good Lines

Craig

Here Comes Summer

The only problem with living in the Western Cape is that while the rest of South Africa enjoys kayaking on warm rivers, we have no water. This means that as the days get warmer most of us need to find new hobbies or take our kayaking elsewhere – like the ocean.

Summer Sunset
Summer Sunset

Despite its notoriously chilly water the cape has some awesome ocean kayaking, surfski paddling and surfing. There are also ample places for world class SCUBA diving and snorkeling. So as summer heads our way Scott and I will continue to become more and more involved in other watersports. Scott is a very keen and active surfer and surf kayaker and I spend some of my time in my composite element, on my surfski or diving.

This last weekend, with the rivers bone dry, I decided to dust off my composite Fluid element and my surfski for a paddle. I spend the weekend and Mondays “braai day” (heritage day) at Blouberg Strand (Blue Mountain Beach – Because of the view of Table Mountain in the distance).

Blue Table Mountain
Blue Table Mountain

I had completely forgotten how much fun the surf really is. Here are some photos from the weekend on the beach (Click on an image to view a larger version) and a timelapse video of Table Mountain and the sunset over Robben Island.

Heading Out to Sea
Heading Out with my Fluid Element
Small Blunt
Small Blunt
Over Wave
Launching Over a Wave
Flashback

FlashbackFlashback
Flashback
Back Blunt
BackStab
Heading out with the Surfski
Heading out with the Surfski
On a Run
On a Run
GoPro image from the Surfski
GoPro image from the Surfski
Seagull
Seagull Sunset

See you on a beach

Craig Rivett

Foam party on the Tradouw river pass

This winter Cape Town has been battered by storm after storm. Conditions have been windy, cold and very wet. Not the usual picture one sees in post cards with blue skies, white sand beaches and tanned bodies. When the weather is foul and those tanned bodies are hibernating under layers of clothing, paleness or desperate fake tan lotion, there is a core group of people who are frothing to get outdoors and into the mountains. Those people are mostly part of the CWWC.

Enjoying a Redbull on the Tradouw

After the largest storm the Cape had seen in two years there were whisperings of a river running in a pass bordering the Karoo desert near a one-horse town known as Barrydale. It is a three hour drive from Cape Town on a Thursday. By Saturday the river would be gone (or at least dry). Luckily for us the Government of South Africa had decreed the 9th of August to be Woman’s Day – a public holiday. And luckily for a few of us, there were girlfriends who were quite understanding. So off we went.

Blue skies and Craig on the Tradouw

Enroute we passed much devastation, floods had all but destroyed the pass leading to Barrydale, with the town of Montague having been an island for the past two days. Disaster management was everywhere. Needless to say we were a little worried the river would be too high to run. But we pressed on.

Scott on the first rapid

The river was full, perfectly full. And we put on in sunlight, something quite rare in the Cape of Storms. Our group consisted of myself (Scott Reinders), Craig Rivett, Stefano Sessa and the Swanepoel brothers, Pieter and Stefan. The river was pool drop in nature with rapids that were steep and technical, with a number of slides and shoots. Because of the high flows there were also a number of sizy holes to avoid and contend with. Something which stood out for everyone was the amount of foam in the eddies, I’m not sure what causes this, all I can say is that it was natural and clean. Quite a lot of fun actually. Take a look at the pictures and if you know what causes it feel free to e-mail us or comment below, we’d be interested to know. I won’t bore you too much with my ramblings, I’ll let the pictures below do the talking. Enjoy.

Stefan pointing the way
Stefano in the thick of things
Pieter choosing his line
Stefano in the shoot
Scott’s view on the Shoot
Stefan firing it up on the Tradouw
Scott charging into a meaty one
Stefan dropping in
Have you ever seen foam like this on a river?
Scott on Hospital bend Rapid

[flagallery gid=3 name=Gallery]

“By Krom!” And Upper Witte

On Saturday, 21 July the Cape whitewater season really came alive.  The plan was for the Cape Whitewater Club to have an annual overnight somewhere, granted the rain gods provided us with some water. And provided they did. Craig had been devising a secret a plan of his own, one to run a big drop in the Du Toits Kloof mountains – it would require us to make a longish hike and make a number of river crossings. At 09h30 we met at the Du Toits Kloof Lodge, the usual meeting place for paddlers running the Molenaars river.

Our hike began at the Molenaars put-in, where we acquired a small entourage of paddlers who came along for the entertainment, probably keen to see us hurt ourselves on a big waterfall. The walk was mellow, but we ran into trouble when we had to make a river crossing about half way. We managed to get everyone across with some nifty rope work and ferrying. However, we hadn’t covered more than 250m when we came to the next crossing. This one proved to be much trickier as it was above a nasty looking pour over. A decision was made; the entourage would turn back and those with kayaks would carry on.

Our quartet included myself (Scott Reinders), Craig Rivett, Doug Bird and – and a random German – Tobias Nietzold, who seemed to appear out of nowhere. After hiking for another 40min we came within a few hundred metres of the drop but were faced with another river crossing. This one, though, was impossible because of the now raging nature of the river. Happy with the knowledge that the river below would provide plenty of action, we abandoned our hopes for the drop and put on the “fastest river in the world” – the Krom, no doubt named after Conan the barbarian’s own god.

There was no easing into this one, once our boat hulls hit the water it felt like we were on a roller coaster careering out of control. Eddies were few and far between, and there were a number of horizon lines which made our hearts skip a beat. Swimming on the Krom is not advised because the first time you’d manage to claw yourself to shore is where the Krom enters the Molenaars. The hike took us over two hours to complete, the trip back only 15 minutes. We all agreed that this was one of the funnest rivers we’ve ever paddled.

We made our way down the Molenaars to the lodge for a well deserved beer and some lunch. It had been an action packed day for the whole club as levels for the Molenaars were superb. Tales of good lines, bad lines and general action were exchanged before we all made our to the Bainskloof lodge, the famed put-in for the Witte river, for the club overnight. The evening was superb, club members were treated to a wonderful evening by Hassan and his partner, Linda. Some were treated to bootie beers after the day’s action,  kindly warmed at the fire by a, somewhat giggly, Stefano Sessa.

Sunday greeted us with a perfect water levels on the Witte. The LifeByWater team set their sites on the upper stretch of the river, a section run quite rarely. We were joined by Doug Bird and Karl Martin. The goal was to do a short section so that we could be off the water early.

Instead we got off two hours after the others finished the longer, main section. One tends to forget how demanding a technical stretch of river can be when there isn’t anyone in the party who knows the river. Despite the day turning into an epic, the river was fun with us paddling rather conservatively. We’ll have to tackle the section again where some of the more challenging lines and rapids still wait for us.

All in all, a few thank you’s need to go out. Firstly, to Hassan and Linda for putting up with the CWWC for jubilant night. To Mother Nature for providing us with the means to paddle both days of the weekend, something quite rare. A big one to Ant Hoard for organizing a fun weekend for the boys and girls of the club.  And to the boys and girls of the CWWC for an action packed and humorous weekend.

Until the next one enjoy the gallery below. [flagallery gid=1 skin=default name=Gallery]