July 01, 2017
Standing Up for Rhinos
The Zambezi - famous for whitewater rafting and kayaking - had never seen standup paddleboarders, and we were attempting the first SUP descent on the section below Victoria Falls. First descents are nothing new: in this early stage of exploring the sport, surges of paddlers set out to attempt different first descents every year. To me, it felt like those first descents were losing their meaning. Does it really even matter if you're the first to paddle rivers that have been paddled by kayakers and rafters alike? I wasn't sure. But it wasn't the prospect of a first descent that drew me into this trip: it was the plight of Africa's rhinoceroses.
Every day in 2014 more than three rhinos were poached in Africa for their horns. These horns are shipped to places like Vietnam and China where they are superstitiously believed to have medicinal properties that can heal a wide range of conditions, from cancer to hangovers. Several species of rhinos are critically endangered with population numbers well below 100. Many of those poached rhinos leave calves behind that must fend for themselves.
Two African paddlers wanted to do something about it: Shane Raw, a legend amongst the world kayaking community and Bertrand van de Berg, a long-time kayaker turned south African SUP advocate. They organized a team to draw attention to the plight of the rhinos through a stunt: paddle the Class III-V Zambezi on standups, something that many paddlers thought was impossible. Doing the unthinkable tends to draw an audience and we hoped to direct the audience to the bigger issue of poaching and those calves left behind.
Article published by SUP the Mag.