After their emphatic win at this year’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon The Paddle Mag was just dying to catch up with Jordan and Cana Peek and find out more about how they did it! As luck would have it, big sister was busy checking up on her little sister and had come down to Stellenbosch, so while they took me on an wonderful tour of the coffee shops I managed to ask them a couple of questions.
How did the race go – any anxious moments?
Jor: Yes a couple, on day one we broke our boat just in front of the front cockpit and while going through a rapid just before the cabbage tree portage the whole nose bent upwards. We fixed it that night but that was the start of the troubles as on day two I went down a rapid and the nose of the boat literally looked at me – shew that was bad. Luckily the boat was not taking on any water. I think that is thanks to the Kevlar.
Cana: There were little dramas along the way but the only thing that really slowed us down was the swim at Ernies. Apart from that we had a really good race.
What did you think of the water levels?
Jor: it definitely played in to our favour. The river was medium to low and day three was definitely low low. So we were able to make up a couple of seconds here and there. When the other teams got stuck we managed to get through.
Cana: but also my sister knows the river so well so with her driving and her knowing the channels that we could get through meant that we had extra energy to keep going rather than trying to get going again.
How did you decide who should drive?
Jor: So originally my sister was going to drive for the Dusi. Then we did a few races when we got back to Durban – the first being the Ozzie Gladwin and ja she is not a bad driver but I just think that pressure wise I know the lines a little better and can deal with the choices because I know that river backwards.
Cana: Also my navigation skills are terrible. So it is better that Jordan drives because she is confident in which lines to take. And it was easier because I was always going to carry the back of the boat for the portages. So we decided that it was less admin if we were both in the right place at the entry and exit anyway.
Did you shoot everything or take a more cautious route?
Cana: We never thought that we had the luxury of a cautious route or that we had ‘time in the bank’ coming in to day 2 because we really expected them to catch us on day 3.
Jor: So apart from hippo we shot everything else rather than take the double down the main channel. We judged the water level at Tombi and we rubbed our boat but there was just enough water for us to get our boat over. Then the main channel at Hippo is a tight bend so I did not want to risk our boat there. We did look after the boat – for example we coasted over Gauging Weir with our paddles down, leaning back and only when we got to the bottom did we start paddling again.
Best part of the race?
Cana: I love dragging the boat down Ngumeni – that is my best. I love dragging my boat and running on the portages. For the two of us – we laugh at my sister’s clumsiness. We wiped out properly at the bottom of Campbells when Jordans’s shoe got caught on a rock and we fell head first. That started it, then on day 2 we fell some more. The funny part is that we were doing our best to look professional and yet we were falling all over the place and at the put in’s we were distinctly wobbly.
Jor: When I could see the team in first place. At the end of the hole in the wall portage when I realised that we were going to catch them (Bridgitte and Kristy) after the swim. When we finally did catch up to them – I felt invincible!
How many Dusi have you done? J 9 C 4
When did you decide to do the Dusi together?
Cana: Jordon asked me if I wanted to do Dusi and it took me about a month to agree because I knew that if we were going to do it – it would require dedication and commitment. My sister said that we should do one competitive Dusi together. Last year we were both here (SU) and we were running together already and fit so it seemed like the ideal time as we are not sure when we will be together again. So we started the running training and then used the Fish River Canoe Marathon to test out our paddling together. It worked out so we went to gym and run together and when we got back to Durban in December we paddled every day.
When did you realise that you had this race in the bag?
Cana: for me probably only at Blue lagoon, but in my mind and going in to the race I knew that we had done everything possible to prepare for the race, there was nothing more that I could have done to prepare. I had never been that fit in my life.
Who is the one that jumps out of bed and who sleeps in until the last minute?
Jor: Some days you do want to sleep in and on other days you are amped but in this case we were both keen especially for this Dusi because we did not want to let the other one down. So we motivated each other.
Who coaches you:
Jor: We do not really have a coach, but we are both studying sports science so using that we drew up our own programme. In particular, there is this subject called periodisation in third year and that is the course that we really applied when drawing up our own programme. What we did is we noted the date of Dusi 2018 and then worked backwards from there. From July onwards gym was a major component of our training for core strength.
You were up against some really good sprinters and marathon paddlers – how did that feel?
Jor: Shew, I thought that they were going to catch us on the dam which would then lead to a ping pong for day 3. I thought that we might be able to catch them on Burma and then it would be a really tough race in to Blue Lagoon.
Cana: Going in to the Dusi – I really thought that the whole race would come down to Blue Lagoon. On the dam I kept looking over my shoulder expecting them to be right behind us.
How did you get in to paddling?
Jor: It started at school (Epworth), I had been doing upper Umgeni races since grade 8 but we did this tour in grade 10 (2011) where we paddled around Mauritius for two weeks with your school mates. After that I did a couple of river races and did pretty well which inspired me to take it up more seriously. I did all sorts of sports at school but I was looking for a sport that I could focus on. It finally came down to choosing between squash and paddling. I chose paddling because we are outdoors, on a river and seeing new places all the time. In Grade 11 I was sponsored by Kayak Centre and Best 4 Sport which was great as I went on to win the U18 Fish. In the following year I won the U18 Dusi with Biana Haw.
Cana: Also started while I was at Epworth. Started paddling and doing the races with a view to doing the tour. Then did my first Dusi in 2014 and came first in the U18 with Camilla Pennefather. Then in 2015 it was a singles year and I can second overall and first U18. In grade 11 I also managed to go overseas and paddle with Donna Hutton. Donna is an amazing sprinter and I was a river paddler so and we worked well together and complimented each other in the boat. We were just not as strong as the European girls that focused on marathons.
Where to from here? Rivers, sprints, marathons, surfski perhaps?
Cana: The difficulty with marathons lies in the finding the time to train for these events and one has to be able to get to the dam. It would be very difficult to get back in to that again. Personally I do not enjoy flat water paddling at all. Trail running is much easier – you just put on your shoes and away you go. Paddling you need to find your kit, get to the dam; it is just much harder to do.
Jor: We did a couple of surfski sessions in the build up to the Dusi but it a different ballgame in terms of reading the swells and catching a run. I am moving back to Pietermaritzburg now that I have completed my degree and will soon take up an exciting position a with a trail running event company. I also have a sports massage qualification so I hope to pursue that too one day. Dusi 2018 worked for us as we were together but we will just have to see what the future holds for us.
A lot of top paddlers seem to swop partners after a season – would you paddle together again? Last year worked for us because we were both here (SU) and you spend every day with that person and we had fun together but we are not sure when we will be together again in order to train. Next year is a singles year and it is really quite lonely trying to train on your own.
Euro Steel was our major sponsor, they sponsored the boat which is fantastic. We certainly could not afford to buy a new boat so we approached them and thankfully they agreed. So we were able to order a new boat which gives one the confidence to race hard.
Max Paddles: He gave us our paddles. We have always used M3’s from the Max Paddle range but in the run up to the Dusi we thought that we would try a bigger paddle in order to compete with the other teams that are all strong paddlers. So then we tried the M333 but it was too big for either of us. So a week before Dusi we finally settled on going back to the M3 blades. But our paddles were finished from all the races in the run up to the Dusi. They had been filed down from all the rocks so we had to go back to Brendon and ask him to make us new ones a week before the Dusi.
Jor: I also got nervous in the run up to the Dusi so I asked Brendon to make me an M333 in carbon which I tried in a time trial but it was too big for me. So finally I phoned Brendon the Friday before Dusi and asked him to build me a whole new paddle (M3, 50/ 50 glass, carbon shaft). Picked it up from him on Tuesday and it was perfect. And he organised us spare paddles as well.
Waterra OCR: They helped with funding and were our super fit seconds for the race. They were so good at motivating us for example on the cabbage tree portage one of them was right next to us giving us motivational jibes.
Nature Zone: They gave us loads of fitness water which was excellent to hydrate before and after each day which is great because they understand what athletes need in terms of hydration and the pharmaceutical requirements.