Photos and words by Seth Warren
The inaugural Hendri Coetzee Itanda Falls Race was held yesterday at the 8th annual Nile River Festival (Oct. 12-14). “[Itanda Falls] was Hendri’s favorite rapid,” says Jamie Simpson, a friend of the late paddling legend Coetzee and founder of Kayak the Nile, which hosts the Nile River Festival and orchestrated yesterday’s white-knuckle big water Class V race with the help of the Hendri Coetzee Trust. The goal: “To commemorate and advance the legacy of Hendri through his inspirational philosophy of life and adventure.” It also resulted in a lot of carnage.
“We had many conversations about this race on my balcony in Jinja,” Simpson says. “I always said it was too bloody dangerous to run. Hendri thought it was time we stepped competitions up a notch. He felt all the kayaking competitions were getting too soft and it was time that we created an event that pushed the limits of the world’s best kayakers. The rules are exactly as Hendri envisioned them: promoting style and skill, and rewarding kayakers for pushing the limits of whitewater kayaking. Essentially, points for showing off on the water!”
There were 28 competitors. The qualifier was a series of two-person head-to-head races, with the top six paddlers advancing to the finals. The finalists included both international stalwarts and hard-charging Nile locals: Jackson Okumite, Sam Ward, Julian Stocker, Husef Vidaoguy, David Moor, and the infamous Paolo Babi.
There was a tie for first between British paddler Sam Ward and Ugandan David Moor, so it went into a Sudden Death Round. The hometown hero took the cake in the end though, and the crowd went wild.
Stay tuned to C&K for David Moor’s winning ride and more updates from the 2012 Nile River Festival.