Traditional canvas Dusi in memory of legendary founder

Pietermaritzburg – With the 2015 Dusi Canoe marathon being held in honour of the late Dr. Ian Player, two brave paddlers have opted to paddle the Dusi Canoe Marathon from 19 to 21 February in replica canvas canoes to replicate the pioneering early days of the race in honour of its founder and original champion.

74 year old Pietermaritzburg paddling enthusiast Hugh Raw will partner 72 year old Gauteng paddler Ian Ross in taking on the tough three day race from Camps Drift to Blue Lagoon using canvas and wood craft that they have hand made for the race.

In keeping with the early Dusi tradition they will compete as a pair of singles, and will share the arduous portages carrying their craft between them with canvas slings. They will wear khaki shorts, branded khaki shirts, long socks and bush hats to replicate the attire of Dr Player and the early Dusi pioneers.

Raw said he had been inspired to take on this tough task by the iconic Dr. Ian Player, who passed away late last year.

“He was such an inspirational man,” said Raw. “He had a profound effect on me and both of my children, who have gone on to pursue careers in conservation based on his passion for protecting our natural environment.”
“He amazed me right from the start. He had this incredible ability to stick to his guns, no matter how severe the challenge was. I hope that we can do the same.”

Raw, who has done numerous Canvas Dusi expeditions in the past, using the original Dusi route that cut out some sections of the modern Dusi Marathon route, is in no doubt about the severity of the task that lies ahead of them.


Hugh Raw and his canvas canoe for the Dusi Canoe Marathon. Photo: Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media

Hugh Raw and his canvas canoe for the Dusi Canoe Marathon. Photo: Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media

“Look it is going to be tough, there’s no doubt about that. Our craft, which we are still building based on the original Griffin plans, will be heavy and the portages will be pretty tough.

“The modern boats can be damaged by rocks and can be repaired with fibreglass and resin, but we will be carrying contact adhesive and spare canvas to fix any damage along the way.”

“Just finishing this Dusi will be a huge challenge. All three days will be long days for us, but then we want to do something that shows the character of Dr. Player properly,” said Raw.

Raw said the ever increasing likelihood of low water conditions was appropriate for a Dusi that was being dedicated to its pioneer and the man who established the race in the 1950s.

“In those days there were no water releases, and the river was only full if there was a fortuitous storm. I think it is apt that we are going to take on the Dusi as we find it on the day, which is the attitude that the early pioneers championed.”

The pair will be seconded by 75 year old Dicky Edwards, taking the combined age of the team to over 220.

“This was our small contribution aimed at keeping alive the name and memory of one of the greatest activists in animal conservation.

“Dr. Player never ever gave in and overcame tremendous difficulties and always soldiered on, just as we plan to do!” added an appreciative and motivated Raw.

The pair will be starting in E batch, with some of the race’s stalwarts and Dusi rats.

The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 February 2015. More information can be found at

Dave Macloed

Photo: Dave Macleod/
Gameplan Media