Andy Birkett. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE
Andy Birkett. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE

As entries poured in ahead of the deadline on Thursday, marathon canoeing world champion Andy Birkett and his wife Nikki have entered the Bamboo Warehouse Push And Pull Paddle on the Berg River from August 9-11.

Birkett, who is preparing for the defence of his K1 and K2 world crowns in China in October, says the whole package of the event appeals to him.

“We are so looking forward to this event because it is not just a paddling race, it is a complete long weekend package,” he said from his East London home. “Nikki has been on my case since the first announcement came out about this race, saying this is going to be the best race ever.”

He added that the event is in line with a major new trend towards shorter events that take into account recreational athletes looking for a complete lifestyle package at races.

“Races don’t have to be long to be fun,” he said. “Shorter distances make for exciting racing and it also makes it more accessible to the average paddlers.”

He said that he was looking forward to the weekend away camping with his one year-old son David as they have booked one of the fully equipped tents in the overnight race villages.

“We have only been camping together once before as a family, and it didn’t go all that well. I ended up sleeping the night in a camp chair.” said Birkett.

The multiple Dusi, Drak and marathon world champion has promised to bring his best racing form to the event. As a former winner of the Berg River Canoe Marathon he understands the demands of the tree-lined river running through Paarl.

“Yes I am looking forward to an awesome weekend away but I am competitive and when the gun goes I will be racing my hardest. The same goes for Nikki, she is fit and just as competitive as I am,” said Birkett.

Birkett will be eyeing the AQRate bridge prize just 3,3km into the first stage of the race which has a R5,000 hotspot prize for the first male and female paddler under the bridge at Val de Vie estate, with the possibility of the husband and wife bagging both hotspots a reasonable possibility.

Birkett will be joined on the start line by a strong field of elite paddlers, including Berg champion Graeme Solomon, Andrew Houston, Dusi winner Lance Kime, Mark Keeling, Anders Hart, Simon van Gysen and Berg solos winner Evan Knight.

Bianca Beavitt will be sure to use her extensive experience on the Berg River to keep Nikki Birkett honest in the women’s race.