The ritual of the Dusi

Kevin Davie at the Dusie Canoe Marathon: Saturday

Take this strange event called the Dusi with all its complexities, complications and contradictions and analyse it. An annual ritual for many, the whole is the sum of many small individual rituals that competitors, seconds and organisers perform.

The ritual has evolved considerably since its beginnings decades ago and continues to evolve, but some rituals are observed year after year.

One of my most important Dusi rituals when I finish the first and second day is to head for the doughnut tent. This offers the stodgy-type doughnut with jam in the middle.
I eat the doughnut washed down with a cup of tea with double sugar. This is the only time during the year that I drink tea.

The doughnut tells me that I have finished another day of Dusi paddling.

The third day could be summed up as big water, cool conditions. After low water conditions on day one and two, the river below the Inanda Dam was pumping. The organisers said this was 25 cubic metres a second, a respectable amount of water, but many of the old hands thought the level higher than this. The big water was actually a bit of a shock after two days of low water. You can be a lazy paddler in low conditions. With the river full you have to stay awake and respond quickly.

My partner Mike and I have managed so far to not take any swims, but we are badly off centre in terms of our seating position as we go into Umzinyathi rapid. This is a problem we often have. Being even a tiny bit off centre can mean that the whole boat is unbalanced. Paddlers spend much energy trying to correct the imbalance. This also dramatically increases your chances of swimming.

As we bob down the first part of Umzinyathi, I can barely balance in the boat. We go too near a rock, I correct with a stroke but my paddle is too far underwater and we take a swim.

We have been warned that there are numerous hyacinth blocks in the river and that these could even make the approaches to some of the larger rapids tricky or impossible. Fortunately Little John is clear of hyacinth as we approach. This is a big rapid and you would not want the hyacinth to determine the line of approach.

We have similar balance problems going into Mango, the last real rapid of the day. The rapid is artificial, having formed around the pylon of an overhead pipe. The trick is to approach on the extreme right to miss big, broken standing waves that can both stop you and tip you in.

But we are barely controlling the boat as we approach this rapid, so badly are we out-of-kilter in terms of our seating positions.

We head straight for the stoppers and swim the rest of the rapid, taking an eternity to get the boat to the side and empty it.

One of the rituals of the Dusi that it shares with the Comrades is that after ten medals you get a green number, meaning that this number is permanently assigned to you. I was handed my Comrades green number, 4562, by none other than legend Wally Hayward.

There were quite a few paddlers going for their green number on Saturday. They wore yellow vests to indicate this special status.

We were part of an armada of boats heading for the finish in Blue Lagoon earlier on Saturday, as many as 12 at one time. But nearing the finish line there were four boats, two in the front pulling two behind.

The two in the front both had green number stickers on them and the paddler to my side was just about to earn his green number.

We finished in a bunch and were congratulating one another. Mike, my partner, said: “Well done on your 20th.”

“Wow,” said a finisher. “You’ve done 20. I have done 16 and am aiming for 20.”

That was that. I found myself wondering if I had counted correctly and asked the organisers if their computer showed my number of finishes.

Here’s another Dusi ritual. Tim Cornish, a multiple winner years back with Graeme Pope-Ellis, keeps this data. You phone him.

“Before today, you had done 19,” Cornish told me.

Next year I start early each day, at 7.20am with the other 20-year veterans.

Kevin Davie

Kevin Davie

Kevin Davie is M&G's business editor. A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked in senior positions at most major titles in the country. Davie is a Nieman Fellow (1995-1996) and cyberspace innovator, having co-founded SA's first online-only news portal, Woza, and the first online stockbroking operation. He is a lecturer at Wits Journalism. In his spare time he can be found riding a bicycle, usually somewhere remote. Read more from Kevin Davie

    Client Media Releases

    Durban team reaches Enactus World Cup semi-finals
    IIE Rosebank College opens campus in Cape Town
    Pharmacen makes strides in 3D research for a better life for all
    UKZN neurosurgeon on a mission to treat movement disorders
    Teraco achieves global top 3 data centre ranking
    ContinuitySA's Willem Olivier scoops BCI award
    MBDA to host first Eastern Cape Fashion and Design Council
    Sanral puts out N2/N3 tenders worth billions
    EPBCS lives up to expectations
    The benefit of unpacking your payslip