Sbonela Khwela

Sbonelo’ Tough Guy’ Khwela

Favourite refuelling snack after training

Straight after training I try and use USN Muscle Fuel which helps me a lot before my main meal at lunch. For lunch I normally have couscous and steamed veggies.

Coach or no coach?

Normally I do not have a coach. I believe in the programme that I drew up in conjunction with Martin Dreyer. Martin helped me a lot with the programme in 2008, 2009 and 2010. From there I have taken it and combined it with what guys are saying and drew up my own training programme. So far it has been helping a lot and working well.

Training alone or as a team?

Yes, I have my friend Banetsi Nkhoesa, we did the Duzi Canoe Marathon together in 2016. We always train together in both running and paddling. Usually we train in a K2. I am lucky to have someone like him because before that I was on my own with training. It is always hard to train on your own and you always need someone who will push you. Sometimes when you start training you feel strong, but along the way you get tired and then are tempted to put the paddle down or stop running. You need someone there to say, “Hey! No come on let’s push it a little bit there:- it is hard to train non your own compared to training in a group.

So how many days of the week do you train?

6 days a week and training trice a day, especially when I am training for the Duzi.

Not only an amazing paddler, but also a family man. How do you balance the two?

I do not want to lie to you. It is always hard to balance training especially to train the build up to the Duzi. It is hard to give the family time. What I normally do is that on my free time I make sure that I keep my family happy by spending time with them. They do understand now that when I am training for the Duzi I do not want to be disturbed, so they give me time to focus on my training. In turn, I give them time once I get the time. I try and take 3 months off to focus on my family, especially my two kids, a son and daughter. They are always jealous when I am going to train, “Daddy can we join you?” and I have to tell them no you cannot. They have even started asking em to train them for paddling. Unfortunately I do not have the time at this moment, I am busy focusing on my own training.

You started paddling with Thulani Mbanjwa, and now you are the front man. Which one do you prefer?

I know my answer will sound crazy but I prefer to be in the back because there is not so much work in the back. You just focus on putting the power. Being on the front you have to make sure you do hit any rocks, and you control the pace. I am a strong paddler and I am strong in my legs in order to push someone up a hill with a boat.

You are also really getting into trail running- we are a bit nervous will may lose you to trail running.

Yes I do like trail running. We do so much training even when we are training for Dui, we do trail runs. It helps a lot when it comes to the Duzi, your legs are strong and they are used to climbing hills with a boat.

We saw you try surf skiing in the Red Bull Beach Patrol- how did that go?

It was my first time this year doing the Red Bull Beach Patrol. I did now know what it was all about. I did not manage to train for it but I did it and I enjoyed it. I just did not have the paddle board experience in order to be competitive. It was not easy to make the transition from canoe to surf ski racing, especially without practice.

Congratulations on your 7th in the Hansa Fish marathon- How have you managed to train with no water in the rivers?

It has been a problem and we were unable to use Shongweni Dam for the last two weeks in the run up to the Fish, as there was a chemical spill which had seeped in to the damn. It was bad and we struggled,, we were trying to paddle but it wasn’t easy. We did more running than paddling.

What are your thoughts on the future of canoeing in South Africa?

To be honest it looks like the numbers are going down. I am not sure why but if we have a look at the number of people doing races each year it seems to be dropping. I do not know if it is a matter of the water or the organisation of the races, but yes the numbers do appear to be going down- it is crazy Part of it may be that we always seem to be struggling to get the sponsors at the right time. I think this is why we also see the numbers dropping- the boats and kit are getting expensive, even the running shoes are expensive.

Who are your sponsors and how do they help?

Eurosteel I have been on board with for 6 years, since the beginning of 2011. They have really been there for me, buying me boats, paddles and kits as well. Every year they do it and it is the main that we need as paddlers is equipment. From my side-I could not afford to buy a boat, especially the special boats that I am using now. Red Bull helps me out in terms of transport; when I am going to the races and especially when I go overseas and they give me a basic salary every month. If they did not give it to me I would not have my wings. I do need my wings-without the wings I cannot fly. Salmon supply my running shoes, and I go through two pairs a year!

Pans to paddle overseas?

 I was meant to do the Avon Descent this year, I have done it once before and was supposed to go again this year. But this year my daughter was very sick (admitted to the hospital for two weeks) so I did not get the chance to train for it, so I decided to not go and to try to train again next year.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

The main thing that I always tell people is that you need to be focused in any sport. You do need to be patient as well because you never know when your time is going to come. I am dying to win Duzi in a K1- I have nto got it right yet but I am always going there and giving it everything I have. I have not given up, and will not give up.

You have an outstanding reputation at Dui, finishing in the top four for the last four or five years.

I have been trying to hit it, but have not got it right yet. I am always happy to finish in the top 3.

Dreams fro 2017/04/12

Win Non-stop Duzi. My record for Non-Stop is 7:48 in a K1 and with Andy Burkitt in a K2 7:30. To win the Duzi in a K1.

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