New date confirmed for Drak Challenge

Underberg - Into its 27th year, the popular Drak Challenge canoe marathon has been moved two weeks later in the season to February 1 and 2 to take better advantage of the changing weather patterns.

The two-day, 75 kilometre classic on the Mzimkhulu River has quickly become one of the most popular races on the national canoeing calendar but it is entirely dependent on rainfall to provide river conditions suitable for paddlers.

The last two editions of the race have been held on low rivers as the regular summer rainfalls in the past few years have moved later in the season.

The race organising committee took the bold decision to move the race a few weeks later in the year to try and coincide with better summer rainfall.

"The last two years we have been frustrated to race on a low river, only to have the rains come literally days after the race," said race committee head Lloyd Riggien. "The pictures going out on social media of the full river set this process in motion.

"One of the realities of climate change is that the summer rainfalls patterns are changing," he added. "Most of the local paddlers are farmers and they monitor the weather systems very closely.

"There is no point fighting it, we just have to adapt and moving the race a few weeks later in the year should bring us into a better rainfall window," he added.

Riggien added that the old date seemed to coincide with the first week back at school, which complicated some family decisions.

"It was also a week or two into the new work year, and so soon after the December holidays it was difficult for some people to take time off work to come to Underberg.

"This new date should suit the school paddlers as well as the parents," he said.

The race is part of a trio of sporting events that make up the Drak Adventure Weekend, along with the Drak Music Experience concert at the Underberg Club on the Saturday night.

The Drak Challenge canoe marathon takes place in Underberg on February 1 and 2.