Irish Crews invade the land of Shaka Zulu – Extreme Canoe Marathon.

The 16th February 2017 saw the start of the legendary DUSI Canoe Marathon, which took place over three days and 125km of river and bush portages through the magnificent Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu Natal Provence, South Africa. The idea of racing down the uMsundusi and uMngeni Rivers was born during World War II when Dr. Ian Player, sitting with friends around an army campfire in Italy, proposed the idea of travelling by kayak from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. After an initial expedition was abandoned halfway in 1950, eight paddlers set off from Alexandra Park on 22 December 1951. Six days, 8 hours and 15 minute later, Dr. Player was the only paddler to finish, having survived two days of low rivers, a flash flood and a bite from a night adder. Ref: This unique race has taken place every year since and is now the subject to a movie ‘Beyond the River’, to be released in April 2017.

K2 crews William Irwin and Jim Mescal and brothers Jim and John Morrissey became the first Irish crews to brave the rigours of this extreme three day event, and in conditions that have since been described as the most difficult in 20+ years.

Day One saw both Irish crews start among a “batch” of paddlers with at least 20 completed DUSIs. As veterans of the Liffey Descent, the Irish crews were deemed by the organisers to have comparable experience. However, disaster struck a mere 800m from the start when the Morrisseys broke a paddle on Ernie Pearce weir. After clambering up to the road and standing in the middle of the bridge waving the broken paddle, eventually securing a replacement from a passing supporter’s van, they resumed some 20 minutes down on their compatriots. Further trouble included a 40cm split seam between the cockpits on Taxi Rapid. John, in the rear, spent the rest of the day manning the foot pump, an interesting challenge for a calf muscle under rehab since Christmas. The DUSI River from Pietermaritzburg to DUSI Bridge is a narrow river interspersed with rocky rapids of grade II to III level difficulty, the closest Irish equivalent being the Avonmore; a challenging course for fibreglass racing K2s. One of the main concerns on Day One was overcrowding at choke points, where more than one boat tried to access a narrow line down a particular rock garden. With the heat on Day One around 36°C, keeping hydrated was a real challenge, especially on the longer portages such as the 4.5km Campbell’s Farm and 4.0km Guinea Fowl portages, where re-supply from the support team was vital. William and Jim had a good run on the portages, but also endured considerable damage on the water requiring overnight repair. A pit stop facilitated a quick rudder repair on the Morrissey boat, while the brothers were sponged down by the support crew. Both boats would exhaust two full rolls of Gaffer Tape over the race’s first two days.

I  thought our race was over. Big thanks to Jim Mescal for getting the boat back together to allow us to finish Day 2.

William Irwin


Day Two started with the crews collecting their K2s from the (very busy) repair shop, where the damage  from the previous days carnage had been fixed. The start was at DUSI bridge just after dawn giving both crews the option of a running start on the bank or a quick 500m paddle to the first portage. With 45k of river and bush portages ahead of them the crews had to focus on guiding their fragile craft through the myriad of river obstacles such as floating hyacinth weed islands and hidden rocks and boulders, with the constant search for clean lines down the dozens of rapid systems and weirs. As the day progressed, both crews, who had been paddling strongly at the racing end of their batch, experienced further damage to their boats with the most serious incident experienced by William and Jim when they wrapped their K2 around a rock, thankfully close to the end of the day’s white water section. Having repaired the substantial damage by means of using their spare set of blades as splints, secured by lashings of Gaffer Tape supplied by the support crew, they limped on to the Inanda Dam finish in high winds and exhausting heat. The Morrissey crew, with a more intact boat, revelled in the wild winds on Inanda Dam, reeling in some 30 crews on the 10km flat run to the finish.

“That wasn’t just a race; it was a physical and cultural assault. The journey thorough the Valley of 1000 Hills was magical. ”

John Morrissey


As dawn broke on Day 3, both crews again retrieved their boats from the kayak hospital and prepared for the early start. The transformation of Willie and Jim’s folded boat was incredible –   somebody had been hard at work throughout the night – while the Morrissey boat sported its third new bow of the week. With an accrued time deficit of some 30 minutes on their compatriots, Willie and Jim knew that they would have to put in a very big day to make up the time. Encouragement came with news that there would be no water release for Day 3, which added 21km of gruelling portages through hilly bush country and dry river beds to the proceedings. Anything could happen in 40C heat and 95% humidity. Straight from the gun, they were off and running, with the Morrissey crew taking the more conservative decision to walk the portages, after the initial 5k paddle, in excellent conditions, across Inanda Dam. The psychological and physical pain of this forced march was excruciating and the paddlers had to be constantly re-supplied with up to 10 litres of liquids and sponging to reduce the risk of exhaustion and dehydration, in particular during the infamous Burma Road portage. The portages were up steep river bank slopes, climbing several hundred metres, up and down lesser hills, over rocks through thorny bush, down gullies, through Zulu settlements and farms and up rough dirt tracks. Paddleable water was only accessed again when the river became tidal long after Pumphouse Weir, normally a torrent of clear flood water but now a desolate dry river bed.

By the start of the tidal section, Willie and Jim had made up most of the elapsed time gap on the Morrissey boat. Was this enough to make up for their disaster on Day Two or would the extreme effort on their 21km portage come back to bite them? Both crews hit the very windy tidal section with a vengeance and in true Irish style put their heads down and hammered into a near gale to the finish at Blue Lagoon on the Indian Ocean coastline just east of Durban.

First across the line were Willie and Jim, exhausted but elated on having completed such an epic DUSI. All eyes were now on the clock. The time gap between the two Irish boats after some 125k of racing, including 38km of difficult portages, and an elapsed time of 15 hours 57 minutes and 30 seconds was **** 7 seconds ***** with the Morrissey boat ahead by a whisper.

Commenting after the finish, Jim Mescal said that “this has been without doubt the hardest event I have ever taken part in”. When questioned about the effect of the very strong head wind from the Indian Ocean that seemed to unsettle the South African paddlers over the last 10kms, Jim Morrissey quipped “sure it’s normal for us Atlantic Ocean paddlers; we just put the head down and got stuck in”.

Both crews were backed up by their support team of Olivia Mescal (Moy Kayak Club), Mark Clinton (Salmon Leap Canoe Club) and the generous support and hospitality of Zoog Haynes, Stu Waterworth and Zulu-speaking Derek Howe from Pietermaritzburg. Support crews generally travel along the route with 4 * 4 off road vehicles supplying the crews with replacement hydration packs and sponging with ice water to assist recovery in the 40°C heat. While direct support is not allowed, repair materials, spare parts and replacement paddles can be provided.

Commenting on the event, seventh time race winner Andy Birkett proclaimed that this was his toughest race ever due to the drought-related lack of a Day Three water release from Inanda Dam. This resulted in paddlers being required to portage a 21km section of the day’s 36km, including the infamous Burma Road portage through the surrounding hills. What would normally be a 5km hike with the boat became an ordeal for crews through thorny bush country and dry river bed.

Mark Clinton and John Morrissey

References:                Youtube:


Sad loss of Respected Paddler – Eamonn O’Donohoe

Canoeing Ireland has learned with great sadness of the passing yesterday of Eamonn O’Donohoe, a much-respected and well known member of our paddling community.

A passionate canoeist who was involved as a keen competitor in many of our sport’s disciplines including marathon, wildwater and slalom, Eamonn lost his life as a result of a paddling accident on Lough Ree, despite the valiant efforts of those involved in the rescue effort, particularly Lough Ree RNLI, Athlone Sub-Aqua, the Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter crew, Garda and ambulance emergency services personnel.

Our thoughts are with his grieving family and close friends at this very difficult time.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Notice of Marathon EGM – Sat 25th March 2017


Notice of Extraordinary General Meeting of

Canoe Marathon Ireland on Sat 25th March 2017 at 7pm

in the Canoeing Ireland Training Centre, Strawberry Beds.


At the AGM of Canoe Marathon Ireland in January 2017, no committee was elected.

In the absence of a CMI Committee, the Board of Canoeing Ireland have decided to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting of Canoe Marathon Ireland. The EGM will be run in accordance with the Canoe Marathon Ireland constitution which is available on the Canoe Marathon section of


  1. Proposed amendment to CMI Constitution – changes in italics / strikethrough / underlined below:

3.1 Marathon Racing General Meetings

  • An Annual General Meeting (AGM) shall be held at least every 14 months and at least 1 month before the first race of the season
  • The secretary shall notify the general marathon population of General meetings at least 21 days in advance using email (if provided), the Marathon website, the ICU website, via letters to club secretaries, via text message or any other useful or applicable means of communications
  • Proposals should be submitted to the Marathon committee at least 14 days in advance of the General meeting
  • Proposals shall be posted on the web site at least 7 days in advance of the General meeting
  • Extraordinary General Meetings (EGM) can be called if a minimum of 10 marathon paddlers sign the request for an EGM.
  • All registered members of the Irish Canoe Union over the age of 18 years are entitled to attend, vote and run for committee positions.
  • 1 member of the ICU is entitled to 1 vote, no proxy voting is permitted.
  • The Marathon committee reserves the right to request evidence of membership of the ICU.
  • Junior paddler over the age of 16 (on 1st of Jan of the year of the General meeting) can vote at general meetings or as per ICU rules
  • A minimum of 20 people will be deemed to be a quorum for a General meeting (AGM & EGM)

The two alterations (one addition, one omission) are to bring the voting procedure in to line with the ICU Rules and the Terms of Reference for Technical Committees.

  1. Election of Officers
  2. Chairperson
  3. Secretary
  4. Treasurer
  5. Race Records Officer
  6. PRO
  7. Committee Member 1
  8. Committee Member 2
  9. Committee Member 3

Nominations for positions should be sent by e-mail to on or before Friday 10th March 2017.

Paul Donnelly


Paul Donnelly


Canoeing Ireland


3rd March 2017

I-canoe Alps trip 2017

I-canoe Alps White water 2017

Suitable for Level 3 paddlers looking to spread their wings and experience Alpine Grade 3+ white water in a safe, enjoyable manner with expert tuition. It is ideal for those who wish to progress their white water skills on a classic Alpine Grade 3 – 4 river    


         Dates          Location:  Places  Price:
Intermediate White Water June 26 – July 1 Bourg St Maurice 8 €1150
Youth Alps Kayak Adventure June 24 – July1 Bourg St Maurice 8 €900
Week 1 Week 2
Over 18 years old Over 16 years
Eskimo roll on flat water Some experience on whitewater
Level 3 Kayak Skills holder Level 3 Kayak Skills training course completed



* Price includes

  • 5 Day white water kayaking programme
  • Optional white water rafting trip – supplement will apply
  • Full board and accommodation in comfortable Youth Hostel
  • Highly experienced and qualified Guides
  • Full in-course transport including collection and return to Lyon airport and all transport and shuttles during the week
  • Extras include – Travel to France and boat rental/transport


             To reserve a place please forward €100 deposit to: 

  I-CANOE   Hills Industrial Estate Lucan Co Dublin
PHONE: +353-(0)16205666       EMAIL:


        For further details contact Conor Ryan 085 8506025

Resignation of Karl Dunne, CEO

Canoeing Ireland statement on resignation of Mr. Karl Dunne with effect from 14/2/17

Canoeing Ireland wishes to advise that Mr. Karl Dunne has resigned from the post of Chief Executive Officer with Canoeing Ireland.

Karl was the most senior employee of the organisation for the entire period of his service with Canoeing Ireland since 1 March 2012, and as such oversaw a series of exciting and innovative developments in the sport of canoeing. He served as company secretary, high performance director, designated person in relation to child protection and as Canoeing Ireland’s Anti-doping officer.

As Chief Executive Officer of Canoeing Ireland, Karl discharged a wide range of responsibilities to develop and drive the strategic goals of the organisation and for fostering and promoting contacts with stakeholders and the media in order to promote the profile and interests of Canoeing Ireland and the sport of canoeing in Ireland.

Karl was responsible for the organisation and running of the International Liffey Descent; Canoeing Ireland’s flagship event.  He also oversaw the High Performance strategy for the organisation and served as Team Manager for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

We wish Karl every success in the future and thank him for his efforts on behalf of Canoeing in Ireland.

Olympic Council of Ireland EGM results

At the Olympic Council of Ireland EGM held this evening, a new Olympic council have been voted into place by the national Governing bodies. Canoeing Ireland’s interests were represented by Paul Donnelly – President, Neil Fleming – High performance Representative and Executive board member – Ike Jacob.

These are the results of the votes for the IOC:

President: Sarah Keane

1st Vice President: Colin Barrington

2nd vice president: Robert Norwood

Hon General Secretary: Sarah O’Shea

Hon Treasurer: Billy Kennedy

Executive: Robert Johnson

Executive: Denis Toomey

Executive: Lochlann Walsh

Executive: Georgina Drumm

Executive: Ciaran Gallagher

Executive: Patrick John Nolan

Executive: Darren O’Neill

Athy Rowing & Canoeing Marathon, Half Marathon & 10k

Sunday, 5th March 2017.

Marathon (42k approx.) – €10.

(Start window – 9.30 to 11.30am from Athy)

Athy (start – above the lock at the Stradbally Road Bridge) to Monasterevin via the Grand Canal; Portage from canal to river (two stage portage); Monasterevin to Athy via the River Barrow

Read more

Local Sports Partnership Workshops



The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in partnership with Local Sports Partnerships is organising a series of workshops on How to make an application under the 2017 Sports Capital Programme.  For information on the seminars and to make a booking click on the links in the table below.


Once you have made a booking you will receive a booking confirmation email and you should bring this with you to the event.


Location Limerick Athlone Dublin Cork Sligo
Facility Thomond Park, Conference Centre Athlone Institute of Technology, Main Building, Business Section Conference Centre,

National Sports Campus

Cork Constitution FC, Churchyard Lane Sligo Regional Sports Centre


Dates Monday, 06/02/2017 Tuesday, 07/02/2017 Wednesday, 08/02/2017 Friday, 10/02/2017 Monday, 13/02/2017
Time 7-9pm 7-9pm 6.00-7.30pm &


7-9pm 7pm-9pm
To make a booking



The Sports Capital Programme (SCP) is operated by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and provides grants to assist in the development or refurbishment of sports facilities and the provision of sports equipment.

The Programme aims to foster an integrated and planned approach to developing sports and physical recreation facilities throughout the country. In particular, its stated objectives are to:

  • Assist voluntary and community organisations, national governing bodies (NGBs) of sport, local authorities and Education and Training Boards and schools to develop high quality, accessible, safe, well-designed, sustainable facilities in appropriate locations and to provide appropriate equipment to help maximise participation in sport and physical recreation.
  • Prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of sports facilities.
  • Encourage the sharing of local, regional and national sports facilities by clubs, community organisations and national governing bodies of sport.

Grants are available to sports clubs, voluntary and community groups, national governing bodies of sport and local authorities.  Third level colleges, Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and schools may only apply for funding jointly with sports clubs or organisations.


All applications must be made online at


The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 24 February


For more information on the Programme including a YouTube guide to application process and a sample application form visit



To be removed from these notifications, please click here.