Pietermaritzburg - The huge field of paddlers that will converge on Camps Drift
on Thursday morning for the start of the 64th Dusi Canoe Marathon will unite in
honouring its pioneer, founder and first winner, Dr. Ian Player.
Player, who passed away on November 30, 2014, came up with the idea, while
sitting around a camp fire in Italy during World War Two, of a canoe race from
Pietermaritzburg to Durban as a vehicle to unite and forge camaraderie amongst
Player drove the project passionately and was one of eight men who started the
first ever Dusi on December 22, 1951. One by one the pairs fell away until
Player was the only man left in the race, after his partner Miles Brokensha was
forced to quit at roughly halfway.
On December 28, a small group of journalist was on hand to witness "a
small blue, battered canoe" paddled by a "bedraggled and exhausted
figure" reach Blue Lagoon after six days, eight hours and 15 minutes.
Player went on to compete in two more races, winning both of them, to remain
the only paddler with a perfect unbeaten record of wins in the Dusi.
He was respected worldwide for his tireless work as a conservationist, and in
particular he was passionate about the serious threats facing the future of the
rhino population. Player founded the Magqubu Ntombela Memorial Foundation in
tribute to his lifelong friend and guide to encourage conservation awareness
amongst the youth of South Africa.
That foundation has been adopted as one of the official race charities of the
Dusi Canoe Marathon and the annual Dusi Charity Batch has been renamed the Dr.
Ian Player Memorial Charity Batch to support the drive to raise funds for his
The paddling community will come together 10 minutes before the race start at 06:00 on Thursday to pay special tribute to Dr. Ian Player and, after a moments
silence in his honour, the build-up to the race start will begin with a
recording of his famous imitation of the Fish Eagle's cry.
The Dusi race committee plans to make this a regular feature of the race start,
in the same way that the recording of Max Trimborn’s cock crow is used to start
the Comrades Marathon each year.
To add further impetus to the fundraiser for the Magqubu Ntombela Memorial
Foundation, paddlers will be encouraged to buy a black ribbon to wear during
the race as a gesture of respect for Dr. Ian Player.
Each Dusi paddler will be given a special white paddling cap to wear during the
race that carries an embroidered inscription paying tribute to Dr. Ian Player.
"Just as important is to bear in mind the attitude that Dr. Ian Player
brought to this race," said Dusi Canoe Marathon General Manager Brett
"He saw the race as a metaphor for life and an opportunity to continually
examine oneself and strive to become a better human being. That is something
that he would be really pleased to see continuing in the race that he
started," he added.
Player famously said of the Dusi Canoe Marathon: "No man who has ever done
the 110 gruelling miles can ever be the same again."
The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in
Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21
February 2015. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za