The Dusi Canoe Marathon
27 February 2020
The Dusi Canoe Marathon was founded in 1951, and covers roughly 120km between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal on the East Coast of South Africa. It is the biggest canoeing event on the African continent, and one of the world’s most popular river marathons, attracting between 900 and 1600 paddlers each year.
Paddlers can choose between normal marathon K1s, K2s or even K3s. These boats need to be of robust construction to be able to take the knocks dished out by the rocky river, and must have an overstern rudder. Paddlers must wear a splashcover (spraydecks) and lifejackets (PFDs) and, if very full river conditions occur, will be required to wear helmets. Paddlers traditionally make provision for their own hydration, and carry enough fluids for each stage of the race. The organisers provide 3 hydration stations each day.
The race is held in February every year, to take advantage of the summer rainfalls. Temperatures can be extreme, often exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in the valleys. The race starts on the Msunduzi River that runs through Pietermaritzburg and includes a number of weirs and Grade 1 to Grade 2+ rapids using water released from Henley Dam. At roughly the halfway point of the race the Msunduzi River meets the far larger uMngeni River and the river becomes more challenging, with some rapids rated Grade 3+, and some of the trickier rapids like Island 2 is portaged by most of the field. Most of the large rapids can be portaged if desired.