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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 1887.

‘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.’

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