Umko Goes Global in 2020Submitted by Graham Daniel
The Stihl Umkomaas Marathon 2020, happening on the 28th & 29th March, will be targeting both novice and international paddlers who will tackle the Umkomaas River for a unique paddling experience.
Stihl International have confirmed their backing of the race once again and are keen to raise the awareness of this unique event amongst the paddling community outside of South Africa. “The river is untamed, but safe” says Race Director Terry Drummond of Kingfisher Canoe Club, the organisers of the race.
“We are wanting to see more novice paddlers on the water, including juniors, and of course to give any international paddlers a truly novel African experience on the river. We will be looking at providing transport, boats and managing the land logistics to accommodate these paddlers,” Drummond added.
The race has a proud tradition and history amongst the paddling community but is now shaping itself on a more “user-friendly” model to allow novices, juniors and female paddlers to feel safe and comfortable in the river. There is a one-day event option from below Rapid 8, which is also open to under 16’s, and takes out the 1-8 rapid section, making it open to all A grade paddlers. This is an opportunity to experience the race and river and then step it up the following year to the full 2 day experience. Finishers of the 1 day race are still credited with an official Umko finish.
In addition to the above, novices are welcome to do Day 1, a relatively easy 35km from Josephine’s Bridge to Riverside, and then do the shortened option as above on Day 2. They are welcome to make this decision on race day based on the water level.
This way, all paddlers will still have a full river experience but allow them to paddle within a safe space where they feel comfortable. Safety is of paramount importance to the race organisers, club members, paddlers and all involved in the event and all the usual water safety measures will be in place. The massive safety system in the past few years have ensured that any incidents are managed efficiently and effectively in as short a time possible. This adds to the feeling of security for the paddlers which will be paramount to ensuring that the numbers continue to increase in the future.
For many top river paddlers in South Africa, this race has been skipped as it has been after a busy river paddling season. With the reshuffling of the race calendar the organisers are convinced that more paddlers will see the opportunity to do the Umko this year, and have embarked on a campaign named #bucketlistrace to attract these paddlers. Any paddler who hasn’t yet achieved the Umko medal is urged to get in touch with the organisers or enter to discover the options and benefits available to them by being part of this truly African experience.