Lindy Taverner

Swimming around Australia

2011-09-10 13:45
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

I‘ve had the good fortune of meeting the extreme South African adventurer Riaan Manser, who has recently returned home from his toughest and coldest challenge yet - navigating the coast of Iceland by kayak. He is a vibrant and humorous guy with a serious zest for life!

Deep down we all want to achieve something great and unique, and we vicariously fulfill these desires through following the feats of people like Riaan. Only a few of us have the tenacity and determination to accomplish phenomenal physical  and mental feats and are able to organise our lives in such a way that we can be away for months at a time on adventurous trips.

Riaan, accompanied by Dan Skinstad who suffers from cerebral palsy, successfully became the first men to circumnavigate the Icelandic coastline in a double kayak, covering an epic 2 000km since March this year.

“Our goal was not purely physical,” explained Riaan, “Dan proved that with guts and determination, anything is possible, and to have him on this journey, to see what he has achieved and to hear his hopes and dreams, has been a unique experience. This trip has been far more emotional than the others I’ve done.”

They are the type of inspirational role models children (and adults!) need. The compassion shown by Riaan in supporting Dan in this challenge and the resolve of Dan to battle out the conditions, no matter what,  is an inspiration to all of us.

There was certainly no shortage on extreme encounters. The guys got up close to a pod of killer whales, with a juvenile coming up right beside them and its dorsal fin at least two metres high! They also met an inquisitive whale shark that bumped into the kayak and then came spinning round and stopped to face them.

“I thought he was going to ram us, but he just sat curiously looking at us. Another time the Grimsvotn volcano was erupting about 20-30 kilometres away from where we were, and being so close felt like a doomsday scenario!”

Riaan rose to prominence when he became the first person to cycle around the entire perimeter of Africa. For over two years he pedalled a mammoth 37 000km through 34 countries, some of which rank as the most dangerous places on Earth. Riaan’s mammoth journey saw him imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea and being held captive by drugged teenage rebels in Liberia; on both occasions securing his own release through his exceptional powers of persuasion and amicable charm.

In July 2009 Riaan again set another world first when he became the first person to circumnavigate the world’s fourth largest island of Madagascar by kayak; another expedition achieved alone and unaided.

This colossal journey, 5 000km in 11 months, was considerably more demanding, both physically and mentally. Daily, Riaan had to conquer extreme loneliness whilst ploughing through treacherous conditions such as cyclones, pounding surf and an unrelenting sun combined with up to ten hour stretches in salt water.

He travelled around Madagascar during a period of the country’s most significant political turmoil, which gave him unrivalled insight into the exotic island’s psyche and even earned him two nights in prison on suspicion of carrying out mercenary activities. Not just any ordinary person can survive these sorts of situations.

Riaan’s perseverance and unrelenting resolve were rewarded with the ‘Adventurer of the Year’ title for 2006 and 2009. My vote is on him for the 2011 award.

I’ve heard his next endeavour involves swimming around Australia! Some people talk adventure, Riaan is adventure.

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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