Kevin Middleton (Kevlar)
My relationship with the Umkomaas canoe marathon began in my second year of canoeing. By the time I got to the race, the old veterans “Big B” Longley and “Spiderman” Clark, had me in a state of terror. The approaches to No.1 enhanced that terror. It is still present today as pre-start butterflies.
My partner was Cliff Andrews, sometimes called “Sersant” or “Softy”, as he is the original hard man, scary powerful. Cliff has a minor “chink in his armour” though, he has been left with an odd kick in his gallop due to being minus the bottom half of his left leg.
At the start Cliff went off to Tripper to buy new shoes, cheap and nasty blue and white Taiwan specials. Good level, Day 1 Hella Hella to Josephines and everybody camped on the farm at the finish. Can’t remember much of the race until No.5&6. Classic line under No.6. If I had a net with me I could have scooped up the large crayfish resident under that scary rock. Finally we were spat out the other side, our magnificent craft, battered and bashed. We limped to No.7, eventually decided that we need to brace the sides of the boat with some sticks, years before delta cast. While I was foraging for some suitable bracing material. Cliff had an audience of three young locals and the next thing I hear a shriek of terror and the three little mites sprinted past me. I look up to see what all the commotion was about. Cliff had removed his one “Leg” and was waving it at them.
We eventually finished as the sun was about to go down. Our sorry craft needed some serious repairs. That legendary stalwart Meyer Steyn immediately got stuck in and assisted us rebuilding our boat for Day 2. This took some time, the sun had long gone to sleep. What I hadn’t noticed was that the sole of Cliffy’s brand new shoe had parted company with the rest of the shoe. He was not in the best of moods, when we passed the Tripper tent. Manning the shop were two young chaps who had been gulping down diesels all afternoon (as we did in those days) and in a much better frame of mind than Cliff. Cliffy, with his hands on his hips lifted his toes in displaying the offending shoe. In the most pissed off voice he could muster he asked the two drunks “spot the mistake”. Without missing a beat the youngster replied “you only have one leg” and immediately took off in a sprint.