Found amongst sheets of paper and covered in ink, Sid Dhlamini
works diligently at printing company Printlink (who print Capital magazine).
Don’t be fooled by his softly spoken manner. He may not seem like an adrenaline
junkie but Sid lives a double life as an extreme kayaker.
‘Only a handful of my colleagues know that I am a professional
kayaker,’ he says. He’s shown a few people photos and has taken a couple of
friends on the odd kayaking trip. But otherwise Sid just likes to get his work
done and save the fun for afterwards.
Born in Lupane, Zimbabwe, and growing up in Victoria Falls, he
stumbled upon kayaking at the age of 18
when bird watching on the bank of the upper Zambezi river. ‘I encountered a
group of kayakers who were having lunch and asked if I could try one of their
kayaks while they ate,’ he says.
He quickly mastered eskimo rolls and within a few weeks he was
knocking on doors of rafting companies asking if they were taking trainee
kayakers. Manager of adventure company Safari Par Excellence agreed to train
Sid on the condition he supply his own kayak and paddle.
‘I learned the hard way, I
went kayaking on the Zambezi river for the first time using a canoe paddle’ he
chuckles. Gear wasn’t the only barrier to learning the sport. ‘My instructor
explained the hazards in broken English. I didn’t even know what he was saying
or what a rip was’.
A natural talent, it wasn’t long before he was kayaking
professionally and when the Red Bull Carmell kayaking challenge bought him to
New Zealand 16 years ago, Sid knew he wanted to stay. He travelled around New
Zealand before settling in Petone. At 41, he now competes in ‘casual’ festivals
riding class 5 rapids (such as the Huka Falls) and on his days off he enjoys
kayaking to Some’s/Matiu island or tramping with his two children.
The same company that taught him to kayak, Safari Par Excellence,
still assist him with high-risk trips by supplying helicopters, walkie-talkies
and safety equipment. ‘My most memorable trip was flying by helicopter over
Skippers Canyon and kayaking the Shotover River,’ he says.
He’s paddled over 50 different rivers in New Zealand and has
recently learned how to rescue other water users who find themselves in tricky
situations. At over 6ft tall Sid still struggles to find a comfortable kayak.
Taihape company Bliss Stick created a custom-sized kayak just in time for Sid
to compete in Buller’s Festival in Murchison in February. Running over two-days
it’s New Zealand’s premiere white-water event, which has been running since
‘The prizes for kayaking competitions usually aren’t great but I
do it for the love of adventure’.
This month Sid’s heading off to
the East Coast with friend from Florida, Mark. Sid has invited him to come to
New Zealand to experience the world class paddling in the North Island, and
Mark will teach Sid how to surf using a long board. The pair are also planning
a five day rafting trip on the Zambezi River. ‘We looking at
going midyear,’ says Sid. ‘The reason we want to do it soon is because the
government of Zimbabwe and Zambia are going to go ahead with damming the
Zambezi. That will flood most the rapids I grew up enjoying and the landscape
will change forever.’