Paddlers in South Africa are getting back on the water under unusual circumstances. PHOTOGRAPH: © Cape Point Challenge.


Casting a line and going for a fish has never been so popular within the South African paddling community.

While paddling is still banned for the everyday enthusiast amid COVID-19, fishing is allowed – and that includes doing so from a kayak.

“It’s an unofficial loophole that we’ve all used,” Canoeing South Africa Secretary General Colin Simpkins says.

“We just all went and bought fishing licenses.”

“Officially you’re legal, but no one ever comes and asks you to get off the water anyway.”

It’s the bizarre situation that the sport finds itself in under widespread confusion about the country’s coronavirus restrictions.

The latest development is that ‘elite’ athletes, across a variety of sports, have been granted permission to return to training.

It’s up to the individual sporting organisations to decide who this covers and submit a list accordingly.

Canoeing South Africa’s list is yet to be released, however it stipulated that all included athletes must have their memberships up to date.

Privately, some have expressed concerns over the financial stress this may create in a time of unstable employment.

“We’ve thrown it quite wide and I very much doubt that they’re going to question all of our numbers,” Simpkins explains.

“They’re going to find it very difficult to police because you’re not going to carry your ID around with you.

“Where I live in Durban the main beaches are all closed – you can’t even put your foot on the sand.

“But 500 metres down the road, there’s coffee shops on the beach and surfers in the water.

“One hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing, really.”

Great Minds Like A Think

Although South Africa’s elite paddlers can now get back on the water, there are still questions over how long it will take to return to full fitness.

For some it had been more than three months since they had last trained, and with the ICF World Championships scheduled for September in Portugal at this stage still going ahead, it’s an obvious cause for concern.

Australia’s governing body has expressed its hesitation, but for Canoeing South Africa, its stance is simple.

“We aren’t going to cry about it,” Simpkins says.

“If the athletes were given the vote, everyone would say, ‘let’s go.’

“So what if you’re going to be slightly less fit than everyone else?

“We’d far rather have that than not have the titles at all this year.

It’s one less thing for the organisation to worry about in this time of unprecedented global uncertainty.

“There’s just so much confusion.

“We are jumping through all of the hoops, dotting our I’s and crossing out t’s and making it look like we’re behaving ourselves.

“But at the end of the day, whatever rules they bring out, they’re only as good as the people who can enforce it.”