A paddler’s paradise
With a tidal area of approximately 20km² the Knysna lagoon is the largest of its kind along the southern coast of South Africa. It is the ideal place to train for any paddling race with varying conditions in which to hone your strokes and develop the perfect form. With superb accommodation in Knysna, fantastic restaurants and other great activities, this favourite town on the Garden Route is the best place to base yourself while training for race day. Here’s why…
Train for salt- and freshwater conditions
The freshwater Knysna River flows into the saline estuary that opens into the Indian Ocean through the iconic Knysna Heads. You can train on the lagoon where the saltwater offers more buoyancy, or higher up on the river where the fresh water makes for more drag on your craft.
Train against the current
As it is a tidal estuary, you can dial up your training intensity by paddling against the flow of the current. Avoid paddling near the Heads in the outgoing tide.
Bigger than London’s Heathrow Airport or Los Angeles’ LAX, the roughly 20km² of the Knysna lagoon means that you can paddle until your shoulders give out (just keep enough vooma to get back to shore). You can also paddle up the Knysna River for approximately 10km from the Red Bridge.
Shelter from the storm
Although the estuary seems like an expanse of open water, the curving coastline means that certain coves will be sheltered from prevailing winds. Buckle down and power into the wind, or find a sheltered stretch for a more comfortable paddle. Alternatively you can head for the channels of Thesen Island on very windy days.
With air temperatures rising to the mid 30’s in summer (degrees Celsius) and hovering around 20°C in winter, Knysna’s weather is ideal for all sorts of water sports all the year ‘round.
There are many spots from which to safely push off, from the beaches of Leisure Island to the jetties of Knysna Waterfront. You can also set off along the western shore at Belvidere or Brenton-on-Lake, and you’ll find easy casting off sites along the river.
Location, location, location
Knysna is only a five hour-drive from Cape Town and three hours from Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha). Within close proximity to the races of the Western and Eastern Cape, Knysna is the perfect training spot to fine-tune your technique and focus your mind.
Unless the wind is really howling, the estuary is mostly a calm body of water, making it a firm favourite with professional and recreational rowers alike. So, after a hard training session, load the rest of the family in for a leisurely, relaxing outing on the Knysna lagoon.
- Always tell someone in which area you are planning to paddle and approximately how long you’re planning on training for.
- Remember the sunscreen.
- Avoid the area near the Heads when the tides are turning or going out.
- When parking your car in quiet places along the river, place any valuables in the trunk/boot and remember to lock the car.
Paddle with the Knysna Canoe Club
The Canoe Club in Knysna has a strong paddling fraternity and they take part in various disciplines including surfski, canoeing and canoe polo. There is also a junior section for kids to join.
Based at the Knysna Yacht Club formal paddle time trials are on Tuesday evenings at 17:30 and out of town paddlers are welcome. They also do longer informal training paddles over the weekends.
Surf ski paddles are arranged on an informal basis and are dependent on weather conditions and paddlers’ experience.
For more information regarding Canoeing, contact the Knysna Canoe Club.
The Canoe Polo section is very active and many of the Knysna players have been selected for the South African teams in their various age categories. Also based at the Knysna Yacht Club, practice is held on Thursdays at 17:30 at the Knysna Quays and is great fun to watch! For more information please contact Nelson on 072 277 7664.