Tackling the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon with a family member is a special experience for most, aiming to achieve the feat Houston brothers Alan and Andrew have set themselves of challenging for 2016’s Under-23 Men’s crown and claiming top five place overall is as rare an opportunity as there can be.
The USN duo – 19 and 23 years-old respectively – set aside various other offers from talented competitors to take on the 120km race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban together, something they are looking forward to immensely.
“Alan had said he was keen to do Dusi with me a while back and then I had a few other offers too but in the end I decided paddling with Alan would be the easiest option as far as training goes, etc. and I’m really looking forward to racing with him!” explained older brother Andrew.
“Alan won the Under-18 title at Dusi this year and was lying twelfth overall until Pumphouse (Rapid and Weir) which just goes to show what a talented paddler and runner he is.
“Also, when you race with someone it often becomes a bit like a job and when the race is over so is the partnership.
“Racing with my brother will be a massive bonding experience for us though and will be really special!” he added.
While the natural understanding of one another expected of a siblings’ pairing may be an advantage for the Houstons, the likelihood of a squabble between partners occurring would also seem greater.
For the Houstons though, a strong relationship off the water has already led to a positive partnership on it.
“Most of the time we get along really well; if we’d been twins it may have been different!” laughed Andrew.
“One of the keys is accepting when you’re wrong and I think that is something we both are able to do quite well and I’m sure that will help us in the boat come Dusi.”
The brothers may enjoy a strong bond however Andrew does admit that accepting that the option of Alan sitting in the front of the boat was not the easiest thing to do.
“A lot of pride had to be swallowed!
“Eventually I had to try convince him that he was in the front not because he is a better driver than me, but because he was lighter than me and with him sitting in the front I could then be the powerhouse in the back!” laughed Andrew.
Despite the potential joy of winning the Under 23 category in 2016, a top five finish in such a competitive year would be the pair’s ideal.
“We’ve spoken about our goals and we’d definitely like to be in the top ten at least and a top five would be awesome!
“It’s my last year in Under-23 and Alan’s first so trying to win Under-23s is definitely something that has crossed our minds and if we could do that it would be great but a top five overall would still be the ultimate!
“Also, if we’re able to get ourselves into the top five then we would probably stand a pretty good chance of being first Under-23 anyway,” explained Andrew.
While the young pair’s rapid rise through the paddling ranks over the past twelve months will see them go into the 2016 FNB Dusi with a strong chance of achieving their goal, one of the strongest K2 fields in the recent history of the three day race will make their task that much tougher.
“It was competitive two years ago when I was paddling with Ivan (Kruger) but not that competitive; the gaps between boats were quite big.
“A lot of stars – like Ant Stott and Len Jenkins – have made a comeback since then though and this field will be really, really strong!”