Pietermaritzburg - Caroline
Henderson is preparing to become
the first woman over 60-years-old to finish the 2017 Dusi Canoe Marathon in a K1.
She wants to, at the same time, spread the message to other women that canoeing is a sport to
be enjoyed beyond the perceived age barriers.
With 12 Dusi finishes under her belt, she is far from a novice, however
breaking the mould and taking on the Dusi in a K1 at the age of 60 was an easy
decision for her as she had a number of motivating factors.
"With this year being a K1 year I needed to motivate myself so I decided that I
would take on the race in a K1," she mentioned.
"I did my first Dusi in a K1 and then I won the Sub-Master's category in a K1
and did one other so it is not foreign to me.
"At my age it is quite difficult to find a competent partner because I'll be
slow but they don’t realise how good a river paddler I am!
"I was also hoping that I might get a pensioners discount," she mentioned
tongue firmly in cheek.
Despite competitive women's paddling in South Africa experiencing a renaissance
at the moment the general numbers of women paddlers is not encouraging for
Henderson and she is hoping that her 2017 Dusi finish will have a two-fold
"When you get to 60 you think that the slope is getting steeper and steeper so
I want to counter that by proving that I can still do a race like this after
"I've long been concerned about the fact that so few women stay paddling,
unlike the men who seem to be in it for life, and keep on coming back until
they've got one foot in the grave, it seems!
"I do think it's an indictment of the social-sporting system that probably
hundreds of old men over 60 have done Dusi, but only about three women over 60
have done it at all, and always in a K2.
"I do want people to realise how much determination, in the face of
biology and of social norms, it takes to keep at it and of course hope to
inspire/encourage younger women to follow," a passionate Henderson
The three day journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban takes its toll on all who
race it at some stage or another, this is a challenge that Henderson embraces
and is looking forward to the most.
"I love the 'afkak' of it all, the sheer adventure and challenges that the race
provides as well as the adrenalin of the big rapids with only myself to be
"The adventure, the endurance, the history, the combination of sporting skills
needed, the longevity of people coming back every year. It's a community, like
Comrades, that’s what makes the Dusi such a special race.
"On the other side the portaging is the worst part for me with a buggered knee,
a dicky shoulder and asthmatic lungs - it's going to be a challenge!"
Training for the Dusi can be a difficult process for some with work and family
commitments curtailing the long hours in the boat and on the road however
Henderson isn’t too concerned by her disrupted training regime.
"Training's been more erratic than would be ideal, after going away for
the holidays. The running training remains a challenge, but I should be fine on
"After the years of experience on the event I know I’ll get through it
unless a big accident happens or something like losing a paddle."