History: How It All Began

Interestingly, the idea was born, not in a canoeing setting but at a Comrades “aches and pains ” party at Mike Pengelly’s notorious tavern, the “Athetes’s Foote” on the first Friday, June 1979.

The writer and Graham Wampach, whilst spilling their umpteenth Castle, discovered they had been thinking along similar lines. Desperately needed was a canoe club in the highway area, given the the rapidly growing interest and growth in the Dusi. At that party was a gentleman, one Andy Sutherland, an ex Pinetown Lad who had returned “home” after many years and who, our host told us, had been responsible for establishing the Lions River Kayak Club in the Midlands and so, he had the expertise!

What a coincidence. After some discussion and more Castles; the guys agreed to give it more thought and get back to each other. On the following evening, at yet another post Comrades party, this time at at Pinetown and Districts Athletic Club, fate had it that the same three vis Sutherland, Wampach and Tomlinson were all seated at the same table (until they were lying on the floor, that was). What a coincidence!

There was no looking back. The following Friday and at Lahee Park Club pub the inaugural meeting of “interested persons” took place amidst typical Umzinyathi squabbling, the meeting adjourned to the following Friday to see whether the enthusiasm might still be there.

Please forgive the writer if any names are omitted but he certainly recalls a “dirty dozen” at the first meeting and this doubled at the second meeting. In no particular order they were: Andy Sutherland,(elected chairman), Dale Tomlinson, Graham Wampach, Guy Tomlinson, the late Bruce Fryer, Steve and the late Andy Black, Doug and the late Alister Knox, Mike Pearson, (he’s never been late), Cotty Petterson, Fred Cocks, Emil Johnston, Mike McManus, Mike Pengelly, Trevor Nel, Dave Jones, Neil Wareing, and Graham Muller.

Apart from Steve and Andy Black who had just won the Dusi Novice prize earlier in the year, a definite bunch of social canoeists drawn from beach bums, road runners and and rugby players; all looking for some off season adventure and who felt they would find it in the Dusi and canoeing.

The Club Colours? We figured that most guys would wear their Pinetown Rugby Club jerseys anyway so it had to be “the green-with-a white hoop”.

The Club name? Somewhat humorous and lewd suggestions were put forward. These shouldn’t go into print butmight be divulged over the braai fire, for a small fee. If the idea was born in Mike Pengelly’s pub in June, surely the spirit had been born around Umzinyathi Rapid in the Dusi, January 1979. Prior to the ‘87 flods, this rapid was exceptionally mean, especially in high water. We had all gathered in a huddle after monumental swims and at the inaugural meeting, we reflected that if there was one place and time we could count on getting a quorum for an annual general meeting, it would always be at Umzinaythi rapid on the third day of the Dusi!

So the legend began and in the July following, we were warmly welcomed into the canoeing fold by that giant of a man in canoeing, the late Doctor Curson, Chairman of the Natal Canoe Union. We had arrived. Then followed many great contributors tp Umzinyathi and again at the risk of commiting the sin of omission (for which the writer sincerely apologizes), one is compelled to name in no particular order , Jack Bolton, Neil Tupper, Kelway Tanner, Alister Maynard, Rick and Colleen Whitton, Dave and Megan Lowe, Graham Wilson, Geoff Feldon, Kim Parton and Tony Hind. To name but a few.

But their story is for another time and another chapter!

We welcome any input from Umzinyathi members to add to this.