As entries for the Freedom Paddle surfski race around Robben Island on 27 April passed the Western Cape record, an unusual S3 triple team has entered comprised of experienced local paddlers John Standley and Ant Lake and media celebrity Liesl van der Westhuizen.
The crew is one of four triple skis entered, representing the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, using the brand new S3 Carbonology triple skis that burst onto the paddling scene last year.
While 39 year-old Standley and his partner Lake are both seasoned surfski paddlers, Van der Westhuizen is no canoeing rookie, having taken part in the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in the past.
She connected with race organiser Richard Kohler at a speaking engagement and expressed interest in the Freedom Paddle, which gives the surfski community a chance to contribute to the national dialogue around Nelson Mandela’s legacy on Freedom Day.
Kohler paved the way for her to join Standley and Lake in the Cape S3, but as Standley explains, it will come with some challenges.
“We only get the S3 a day or two before the race, so we won’t be able to train in it together!” he explained.
Van der Westhuizen returns from travels to Italy less than two weeks before the race, and will spend time training in a double ski with Standley and Lake.
Both Standley and Van Der Westhuizen, who is affectionately known as “The Giraffe”, are both very tall, dwarfing the stocky Lake, leading to the team being labelled “Two giraffes and an ant”.
“It is such a great way to get involved in an iconic event,” said Standley. “We aren’t going to shoot the lights out or try to get onto any podiums though!
“I can paddle well enough to get us around the Island, and I am sure there will be more than enough in the engine room,” he added.
“The idea of paddling the S3 is something totally new, and we are all up for a challenge. It will be fun to see how it handles the conditions on the day,” he said.
While the race organisers are keen to set up a race-within-a-race by offering the four S3 skis to crews from four different provinces, it seems clear that these new long skis will form a social part of the big race on Freedom Day.