Chris Greeff – Anatomy lesson: A Collar Bone, A Nose Transplant and A Kaalgat Willy

UMKO Chris Greef, Sunley Uys, Tony Scott

Chris, Tony Scott and Sunley Uys celebrate life . .

And two wins! (for Chris; Six for Tony; One for Sunley).

Chris’ tale:

Bruce Rice was doing National service up in PTA and talked me into doing the race – I think he was feeling homesick for KZN.


  • The saga where Hubby Sandberg jumped on my partner Tim Biggs at the overnight stop and broke his collar bone.  We were lying third at the time, and I wanted to finish the next day to get my count up to 10 Umko  finishes. Doc Curzon strapped Tim’s arm up. My plan was to simply let him sit in the back and I will paddle by myself to the finish. Doc Curzon did not think this was a good idea, and we put a proposal to the organising committee to finish the race with Danny Biggs, who was in a single. We would not be eligible for any prizes, but I would get my credit for a finish.  This was bitterly appealed by Howie Frizelle.  I was eventually awarded perpetuity no. 16 ahead of Howard. He stills begrudges me it.
  • The win with Lance Park was memorable, especially against Tony Scott and Rory Pennefather.
  • The win with Tim Cornish was memorable, as we ripped our deck totally during a swim at Washing Machine. Could not go through any waves – then Tony Scott and Dave McCormack wrapped their boat on flat water – handing us the win. Our boat was in such bad shape we had to portage Goodenoughs weir.
  • Wrapped at Washing Machine Rapid on a practice run and had a 4 hour walk out of the valley.
  • Wrapped with Dave Walker at Robbies Special, and only the front 4ft of the nose appeared. Herman Chalupsky and his partner also wiped, and the front of their boat was smashed. We “lent” our piece to them (duct taped it on) and they finished the race like that – coming 3rd I think.
  • NO Lifejackets.


  • Overnight joke-telling sessions with Trevor McWade.
  • Trevor McWade swimming kaalgat in the pool at the Lido, and only showing his willy (not his face) through the glass to the people in the prizegiving room. Most of the chicks exclaimed “That’s Trevor!”

Hi Pete

You remember David Jones from Atlanta (1984)?

Some correspondence. Regards, CG

From: Chris Greeff
Sent: Saturday, April 30, 2016 10:17 AM
To: ‘David Jones’
Subject: RE: Umko 50yrs now online

(Dave Jones – USA paddler – asked Chris: “How do you keep those 2-man sprint boats from swamping in the big water?”)

Hi Bro

I got introduced to the smaller stuff around 1970 and the “big” stuff around 1976.

Life jackets were for sissies and helmets were unheard of.

When we had to start using helmets (according to race rules), a lot of us used the military plastic liner of your issued metal helmet – everybody was conscripted in those days – called a “Doiby”.

Started off with one spraydeck. (PVC type).

Then water deflector in front of cockpit.

Then two spraydecks.

Then a PVC spraydeck with neoprene on the cockpit rim.

Then water deflector around the front and sides of spraydeck.

Sometimes a waterproof “vest” over the spraydeck to prevent water from entering down your chest.

Some guys even put a rubber strip (bicycle inner tube) around the spraydecks on the rim to tighten the seal (did not plan to get out at all).

Then small foot pump.

Then larger and numerous foot pumps.

Then electric pumps – worked extremely well – later banned.

Before the pumps, some guys had sucking tubes to suck and spit water out – great fun when someone peed in the boat – Three to five hour stints with (later) adequate water intake.

Also – the sprint boats were modified – the hulls were kept the same for speed (very unstable, but you learn to deal with it), but the decks were substantially raised for –

  • Increased buoyancy
  • V shaped to facilitate rising through water.
  • The cockpit fronts were recessed behind the raised decks.

The Styrofoam buoyancy inside (3 inches across) was designed and inserted to add structural strength to the craft- horizontal in the bow to strengthen against later forces when hitting rocks on the nose, vertical between  the two cockpits and under the rear deck to withstand compressive forces.

Extra strengthening of the gunwales – especially the front one – which were weak spots.

Then the guys started racing K3s –down the big water – very stable and became quite popular.

Managed to keep the boats quite dry.

Sit-on-top types (on Sprint hulls) also were used. No more filling up with water.

Great fun and games – until you wipe out in the remote wilderness and you had to walk out. Swimming down the rapids to the end was always an option.

That was until about 10 years ago – the last time I did one of those races.

Cheers, CG


Author: bewilderbeast

It's about life, marriage, raising kids, paddling rivers, travel in Africa . . . re-posting thoughts written over decades - at random, I'm afraid.

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