Pietermaritzburg - The canoeing community is rallying behind conservationist Greg Vogt as he sets out to paddle 67km at Shongweni Dam on Mandela Day on Thursday, August 18, with multiple world champion Hank McGregor and his father Lee committed to joining him in the tough endeavour.
Vogt paddled the 67km with his girlfriend Sara Agostini last year on Mandela Day, but this year he is forced to paddle the distance in a K1 as she is away overseas representing the Conservation Guardians organisation that has been pivotal to turning around the welfare of the Ntshongweni Reserve.
Vogt rallied support from all over the world for his 67km paddle last year and wants to repeat that success as a fundraiser and, more importantly, for the innovative conservation and community upliftment programmes that he is running.
"It is a privilege to have Hank McGregor and Lee McGregor coming to paddle part of the way with me," he said.
"They will be going a lot slower than they normally train at but their presence will add so much to this endeavour."
Vogt will be joined on the water by 67 development paddlers later in the day as the long paddle builds towards its climax with a combined Umzinyathi Canoe Club dice at 16:00.
"We are so excited about our 'Africadamy' that we have going at the moment. We have a big core of younger paddlers that we are involving in education and lifeskills, but it is all based on their common love of paddling," he explained.
Vogt will be joined on the day by fellow Durban paddler Garth Schonewolf who is planning to paddle 100km on Mandela Day to add his weight to the fundraiser, paddling 20 laps of the 5km course on the day.
Many paddlers will be joining in at various stages in the day including the likes of Stew Little, Hamish Lovemore, and Hamish Mackenzie.
Canoeing South Africa president Kim Pople is encouraging paddlers and backers to rally behind the Shongweni Dam project.
"We have seen over the years that this area is a hotbed of canoeing talent, starting with Dusi champion Sbonelo Khwela, and there are now dozens of future stars training there every day," she said.
"But what makes this project so important is that it takes a holistic approach to these young men and women's futures.
"They are getting quality education and lifeskills training, including a learn-to-swim programme. The skills training is leading to employment for locals as well, either on a part-time or a full-time basis," she pointed out.
The venue is setting itself up as an ideal training venue for European paddlers, particularly during their winter months.
Anyone keen to support the fundraising initiatives can use the online links below. Paddlers keen to join in the marathon paddling effort are welcome to join in at any stage in the day.
For more information visit www.canoesa.org.za