Well-known paddler and Berg River Canoe Marathon icon Giel van Deventer is still missing and is presumed to have drowned while taking part in a canoeing race on the Breede River on Saturday.
72 year-old Van Deventer was paddling in a K2 with Lodewyk Rabie when they ran into trouble in a tree-block close to the race finish outside Swellendam and he disappeared underwater.
Race officials and police divers searched until dusk to try and locate him, without success, and returned on Sunday morning. The level of the already full Breede River had risen overnight making conditions for the search very difficult.
It is now presumed that he has drowned. The search is ongoing.
Van Deventer held the record for most number of finishes in the tough Berg River Canoe Marathon, becoming the first person to earn fifty medals in 2021, and added another finish to his remarkable Berg CV in July this year.
Van Deventer was an avid paddler who took part in most of the major events on the national calendar and also played a vital role as a keen statistician.
“This tragedy has left a huge hole in Western Cape and South African canoeing,” said Canoeing South Africa president Kim Pople.
“Giel was a trailblazer, both on the Berg River Canoe Marathon and as a leading light in the masters paddling community.
“His contribution off the water as a diligent and thorough statistician who kept track of every single paddler’s results in major events like the Berg and the Fish was remarkable,” she added.
Pople paid tribute to the race safety team and police divers who worked in extremely trying conditions to locate the missing paddler.