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Adventure Travel

Apr 26, 2017

South African Duo Nears Completion of Trans-Atlantic Rowing Expedition

Braam Malherbe and Wayne Robertson want you to “Do One Thing”—anything—no matter how small, to improve the state of our planet.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

To inspire people to action, they decided to do one thing as well, only theirs was considerably bigger: They endeavoured to row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Town to Rio De Janeiro.

UPDATE: On the morning of May 9, South Africans Braam Malherbe and Wayne Robertson glided into port at Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro Yacht Club, thereby concluding their trans-Atlantic Cape-to-Rio rowing expedition. Their 8,200-kilometer journey lasted 92 days and required approximately two million strokes. On a bluebird Brazilian day, the duo was greeted by well-wishers, media and government representatives from South Africa, all offering congratulations on their improbable feat. To view video of Malherbe and Robertson’s arrival in Rio, click here.

On March 9, when South African Chris Bertish arrived in Antigua and became the first person to stand-up paddleboard across the Atlantic, solo and unsupported, another industrious South African was approximately one month into a similarly huge world-record attempt. Braam Malherbe had left Cape Town on February 7, along with partner Wayne Robertson, with the goal of becoming the first team to row from South Africa to Rio De Janerio, Brazil. If successful, their crossing would also be the southern-most rowing expedition ever completed in the Atlantic Ocean.

And so, for the past two-and-a-half months, Braam and Wayne have been rowing their small boat, the Mhondoro, day and night.  The Outdoor Journal caught up with Braam on April 18, his and Wayne’s 71st consecutive day at sea. They were about 1000 kilometers shy of the Brazilian coast, but had deployed their parachute anchor for the day as the currents and winds were pushing them back eastward. Once finished, they will have rowed some 6,700 kilometers.

Braam Malherbe and Wayne Robertson heading out to sea on their boat, the Mhondoro. Photo: Benjamin Malherbe.
Braam Malherbe and Wayne Robertson heading out to sea on their boat, the Mhondoro. Photo: Benjamin Malherbe.

After that long at sea, Braam and Wayne were feeling pretty worked. “Between physical and mental fatigue, and sleep deprivation, you lose it a bit,” Braam explained. But despite having faced considerable adversity, they remain positive, their spirits constantly buoyed by the knowledge that they are rowing for an important cause, perhaps the most important there is.

“DOT. Do One Thing,” Braam said. “The DOT Challenge is an app we launched that we want to get millions of people using—like a Facebook for the planet.” The goal is to get people to start changing behaviours that are detrimental to the environment. The campaign focuses on four main issues: water, waste, conservation (of all species), and energy.

How does rowing across an ocean get people to take shorter showers? Or turn off the faucet when they’re shaving? Or any one of the other “one things” Braam has in mind? “This row is a catalyst to show that ordinary people can do extraordinary things,” he said. “And more importantly, we can do amazing things if we all pull together.”

It is a lofty goal, no doubt. But just as each stroke propels Braam and Wayne’s vessel closer to Rio, each “one thing” done by those to help the planet moves us in the right direction.

Wayne Robertson (left) and Braam Malherbe (right). Photo: Braam Malherbe collection.
Wayne Robertson (left) and Braam Malherbe (right). Photo: Braam Malherbe collection.

Braam is an Honorary Game Ranger in South Africa and sees the plight of the rhino as a perfect encapsulation of the environmental challenges facing the world. “The hunting of rhinos symbolises two things for me,” he said. “Greed on one hand, and ignorance on the other. And the human racewe can no longer live in a world of consumption and greed at an unprecedented rate.”

The two rowers have ample time to contemplate big issues and questions on their journey, as most of their time is occupied with simply grinding out stroke after stroke. They take turns: one rows for two hours, while the other sleeps, cooks and communicates with their land-based support team.

When they’re not rowing, they’re liable to be dealing with snafus of all shapes and sizes. “The boat has capsized four times,” Braam said. “Once in a 40-foot wave. Completely upside down, hatch closed, for a full five minutes.”

In one of the capsize episodes, Braam’s trip nearly came to a scary end. As the boat rolled upside down, Braam and Wayne were spun from one side of the cabin to the other. Somewhere in the chaos Braam broke his rib. “Very difficult rowing for a week,” he remembered. “And I still feel the remnants of it a month-and-a-half later.”

While it’s not the first mega-endurance challenge Braam has undertaken—he previously ran all 2,610 miles of the Great Wall of China in a single push, and ran along the whole South African coastline—it may be the most challenging. Beyond the sleep deprivation and capsizing, other difficulties include maintaining morale amidst the “bland views of ocean, ocean, ocean;” procuring enough potable water with their emergency water pump after their higher-tech, more efficient one blew up after only a few days at sea; and avoiding the path of supertankers, which they have several times come perilously close to colliding with.

Braam and Wayne leaving port in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Benjamin Malherbe.
Braam and Wayne leaving port in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Benjamin Malherbe.

While the end of the trans-Atlantic voyage is in sight, Braam sees it as just the beginning of the DOT Challenge. He hopes the app reaches millions of individuals. And he’s already got his next crazy, endurance project lined up: In 2018, Braam and Peter van Kets will embark on a “15-month circumnavigation of the globe along the Tropic of Capricorn, using only non-motorised means.”

It’ll be a wild adventure, but if he can get enough people to start doing those “Silly, little, tiny, teeny, insignificant things that if millions of people do themlike the movie Pay it Forwardthen we can change the world.”

Check back at The Outdoor Journal for updates on Braam and Wayne’s journey. To learn more about the DOT Challenge, visit the campaign’s website at www.thedotfoundation.org.

 

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Travel

Sep 19, 2018

The Top 5 Whitewater Kayaking Destinations in North America

The five whitewater kayaking destinations in North America, that every paddler should have on their list.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

As a member of the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team, I have been fortunate to paddle rivers all over the world. I have paddled in Europe, Africa, South America, New Zealand, and all over North America. Some of my favorite paddling destinations have been the White Nile River in Uganda, and the Kaituna River in New Zealand. If you get a chance to visit either of those places (especially before the White Nile is dammed next month), I highly recommend it. However, if you are on a budget and can’t afford flights out of North America, or if you live elsewhere and are planning your first paddling trip to North America, here are five destinations that should be on your list!

OTTAWA RIVER, ONTARIO

Big waves, warm water, low consequence.

Brooke Hess kayaks Minibus Wave. High water on the Ottawa. Photo: Andrea Polgar.

Whether you are a beginner, an elite freestyle kayaker, or just looking to run some big volume whitewater and surf some fun waves, you can always find something fun to do on the Ottawa.

Spring melt on the Ottawa provides massive rapids and big waves. Buseater and Coliseum rapids are perfect for elite freestyle kayakers looking to step up their game and test themselves in big water. And with the Gatineau and Rouge Rivers close by, there is plenty to choose from in terms of both river running and freestyle. Be aware though, spring in Ontario and Quebec is cold, and the whitewater isn’t easy. Only go at this time of year if you are 100% confident you won’t swim. And, in case mistakes happen (which they do… we are only human), make sure your drysuit is in good shape and you are fit enough to hold on if you are getting beatdown!

In case cold water, icy banks, and big volume grade 5 rapids aren’t your idea of a perfect kayaking vacation, just wait until summer! August on the Ottawa is the perfect combination of exciting (yet low-consequence) whitewater, big surf waves, small surf waves, warm water, and good weather. Imagine surfing on the world-famous Garburator Wave in a t-shirt, then paddling 50 meters downstream to a perfect sandy beach for a mid-day picnic with your friends, and capping off the day with a beautiful river run straight to your campsite!

SLAVE RIVER, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES 

Like the Ottawa, but bigger.

Leif Anderson going big on Rockem’ Sockem Wave, Slave River. Photo: Natalie Anderson

Located in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, the Slave River is not often listed as a world-class paddling destination due to the amount of driving required to get there. But don’t let this deter you, the Slave River is epic!

The river is three kilometers wide, hosting four different sets of rapids. Due to the massive width of the river, each set of rapids has multiple (more than 5) different channels. Each channel within a set of rapids is the length of a full-day river run. This means, (if I did my math correct), there are at least twenty different river runs to explore on the Slave River. All within ten minutes driving distance of each other. And this number doesn’t even include the smaller side channels, or runs where you combine multiple different channels in one run! This allows any paddler, no matter their skill level, numerous options to choose from. There are grade 1 floats, perfect for canoeists. There are grade 2 options, perfect for beginner kayakers. There are grade 3 rapids with world-class surf waves. And there are grade 4 and 5 rapids that have the potential to intimidate even the world’s most elite kayakers. In addition to the amazing river running, the Slave River offers epic surf waves for anyone from beginner to elite freestyle kayakers.

WHITE SALMON, WASHINGTON

If you love beautiful places.

Darr Soli paddles the Little White Salmon River. Photo: Leif Anderson.

If you are a whitewater kayaker of any sort, I am sure you have heard of the Little White Salmon River. It is a classic grade 5 creek that professional kayakers travel from all over the world to paddle. It is also potentially the most videoed section of whitewater in the world. I have never paddled the Little White Salmon River, but I have seen so much GoPro footage of it on the internet, I am pretty sure I know most of the lines.

What I bet you don’t know, is that in White Salmon, Washington, where the Little White Salmon River is located, there are also numerous other grade 2, 3, and 4 rivers. In fact, the White Salmon River alone has a grade 2 stretch, a grade 3 stretch, a grade 4 stretch, and a grade 5 stretch. Whether you are a beginner kayaker, an intermediate kayaker, an advanced kayaker, or a professional kayaker, there are multiple beautiful, moss-covered, basalt-laden rivers for any skill level in and around White Salmon.

IDAHO

Wilderness, hot springs, big water.

The Lochsa River, designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, flows through the Clearwater National Forest. U.S. Forest Service Northern Region photo.

I don’t have the words to describe how wonderful Idaho is. I grew up two hours from the Lochsa River, spending weekends camping in the woods without cell service. It was my first ever taste of big water and I was hooked from the very start. If you like big water river runs in remote locations without cell service, Idaho is where you should go. If you like multi-day kayak trips through remote wilderness, with sandy beach campsites and hot springs, Idaho is your place. Basically, if you like whitewater and are not a complete weirdo, you will love Idaho.

You have the Selway River, the Lochsa River, the Clearwater River, the South Fork Payette, the North Fork Payette, the Middle Fork Salmon, the Main Salmon, the South Salmon… I could go on. So many remote rivers with beautiful surroundings, I don’t even think I need to say more.

SKOOKUMCHUCK, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Starfish, seals, sea lions, salty water.

Emily Lussin kayaking at her home wave, Skookumchuck. Photo: Brooke Hess.

Skookumchuck is different. It is unlike any other kayaking destination. Skookumchuck is located on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, in the Sechelt Inlet. Yes, Inlet… not river. Skookumchuck is a tidal rapid, formed by the tides as ocean water moves in and out of the Inlet over a rock shelf. The salty water flows over the rock shelf and forms a picture-perfect, glassy, green surf wave. If there was a contest for smoothest kayaking wave in the world, Skook would win.

Despite how epic the kayaking wave is at Skook, I don’t think that is what makes the place so special. To access the wave, you hike four kilometers through a dense rainforest, with green moss and vines hanging everywhere. It feels as if you are hiking through a magic forest with fairies and unicorns. Something you would see in a Disney movie. Sitting in the eddy waiting for your turn on the wave, you will be mesmerized by the purple and orange starfish scattered all over the rocks. Not to mention the sea urchins, barnacles, sea anemones, and seals everywhere!

On my most recent Skook trip, I watched two sea lions play in the whirlpools behind the wave for thirty minutes. I then proceeded to make excuses for why I didn’t want to get back in my kayak until the sea lions were gone (I was scared)… but nonetheless it was one of the best days of kayaking I have ever had. I have even heard of people seeing whales breaching on the other side of the Inlet while someone is kayaking on the wave. The entire setting of Skookumchuck is magical. Even if you consider yourself more of a river runner than a freestyle kayaker, a trip to Skook should still be on your list.

 

Cover Photo: Leif Anderson.

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