Hendri Coetzee meets Pete Meredith, who immediately hires him to guide rafts on the Zambezi, the world’s premier commercially guided big-water Class V run. Coetzee has never been in a raft or a kayak. Within three weeks Hendri runs Number 9-considered a mandatory portage-in a borrowed kayak.
Hendri walked into my office a couple of years ago, asking for sponsorship. By that time we knew about each other for a while already, but hadn’t met yet. My answer was an obvious yes—his reputation for running the hardest stuff was already growing. Since then a close relationship grew between two paddlers who discussed everything except paddling.
In C&K’s latest issue, the 2011 Whitewater edition on newsstands now, we rolled out a number of remembrances and tributes to the late Hendri Coetzee. This post is one that does not appear in the magazine—as it’s a video teaser for the forthcoming film, “Kadoma,” chronicling Coetzee’s final adventure before he was pulled under by a crocodile on Africa’s Lukuga River, in December.
The fall of 2004 at the Nile Rivers Explorers bar had a Never Never Land feel, and Hendri definitely had that Peter Pan demeanor. I don’t recall the moment we met, but I’ll never forget the first time we paddled together—straight off the ski jump from the bar, and through the center of the ‘Hump,’ a giant Class V rapid right in front of Speke Camp.
Hendri had never been rafting or kayaking before I hired him. The Zambezi is pretty full-on, especially in the beginning of the season when the water is high. We threw him right into the deep end. Within a month he was taking some poor unsuspecting customers down the river, and long before that he kept telling me, ‘I’m ready, I’m ready.’