CRADOCK paddling star Greg Louw is relishing the chance to tackle one of the year's toughest river marathons – the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon which takes place in Cradock on October 5 and 6.
With the event doubling as the 2012 SA K1 River Marathon Championships, most of the country's leading river paddlers – many of whom have recently returned from the World Marathon Championships in Rome – are expected to take part.
"The Hansa Fish is the ultimate river marathon race and the only one that really counts," Louw said.
"It's basically a championship race every year, whether it's given the title of SA Champs or not. Having a local win the Hansa Fish would be amazing.
"It will be a tall order, though, because when the guys get back from World Marathon Champs, especially Hank [McGregor] and Len [Jenkins], it will be a battle."
The last Eastern Cape man to win the race was the legendary Daniel Conradie in 1997. Since then the only person who has been able to keep a major trophy in the Eastern Cape was Michele Eray when she won the women's K2 race with Robyn Kime.
Louw said the marathon was a true paddling test of the highest calibre.
"You've got the same amount of water each and every year. It's a true paddling race almost the entire way and everyone knows what they're going to get every time they race, so no one's disadvantaged," he said.
"It will be super competitive this year and guys from all over will be there, so one little swim can push you right out of the top 10.
"It's also good to be racing K1 again this year. With K2 you've got half the number of opposition and K1 is always fun. It will probably be about just staying in your boat until Keith's [Flyover] and then that's when the real racing will start," he said.
After a fourth place finish with Mike Arthur in last year, Louw said both he and his brother, Ryan, would look to push hard for a top 10 finish, possibly even getting themselves onto the podium this time round.
"As far as I know, there aren't any international guys coming out this time, but the Eastern Cape guys will obviously still be very strong. I haven't spent all that much time training, but I probably have done more distance work this year than I have ever done for a Fish previously," Louw said.
"Ryan [Louw] has not had quite as much time to build as big a base, but if he can have a clean race then who knows, he may well get into the top 10.
"A top 10 in the Fish is always hard."