CAPE TOWN – Well-known paddler and Berg River Canoe Marathon icon Giel van Deventer remains missing and is believed to have drowned while taking part in a canoe race on the Breede River on Saturday.
Van Deventer, 72, was paddling a K2 with Lodewyk Rabie when they got into trouble in a tree near the finish of the race outside Swellendam and he disappeared underwater.
Race officials and police divers searched until dusk to try to locate him, without success, and returned on Sunday morning. The level of the already full Breede River had risen overnight, making search conditions very difficult.
It is now presumed that he drowned. The search is ongoing.
Van Deventer held the record for the most finishes in the challenging Berg River Canoe Marathon, becoming the first person to win fifty medals in 2021, and added another finish to his remarkable Berg resume in July this year.
Van Deventer was an avid paddler who competed in most major events on the national calendar and also played a vital role as an avid statistician.
“This tragedy has left a huge hole in the Western Cape and South African canoeing,” said Canoeing South Africa chairman Kim Pople.
“Giel was a pioneer, both on the Berg River Canoe Marathon and as a leader in the master paddling community.
“His contribution out of the water as a diligent and thorough statistician who tracked individual paddler results at major events like the Berg and the Fish was remarkable,” she added.
Pople paid tribute to the race security team and police divers who worked in extremely difficult conditions to locate the missing paddler.