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  • Lisa Martus


According to the Haenertsburg Rowing Club Founder, Valentine Blacking, the Ebenezer Dam probably has some of the best water in South Africa to row on. It can be windy at times but often there is an hour or two in the early morning, when this great mass of water is completely still, without a ripple. He says that on the occasions when there is a slight mist and you hear the Fish Eagle’s call as you head out on the water, it is truly mystical… a spiritual experience.

The rowing club currently has a small fleet thanks to friends of Valentine’s in Oxford who donated the boats as well as the funds to build the boathouse. The club is able to accommodate the coxed four, the eight and a lightweight scull (single). At the moment, the four is the only rowable boat but the cost to complete the equipment is negligible compared to the cost of new or second-hand boats.

Valentine says, ‘I would like to have a rowing club in Haenertsburg where all of these boats are on the water every weekend. We don’t necessarily need super athletes, just committed individuals because it can take a while to learn how to row well. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy your first outing - one good stroke is an incredible experience.’ The club is hoping to attract outdoor enthusiasts (18 or older) who are keen to train together regularly and make sure that the expensive rowing equipment is kept in perfect condition, but also those who would love to gather together for breakfast in Haenertsburg after a row or meet for a beer on occasion.

Valentine has a long history in the area. He joined St. Benedict's Abbey in Subiaco, not far from Moria, in 2010 and, the following day, was introduced to his wife-to-be by the Prior of the monastery at the Haenertsburg Catholic Church. After spending a year living in the monastery, he moved to a lovely wooden cabin rented to him by Linda Halkon and then married Clarissa Unterpertinger and moved to Tzaneen.

Valentine explains, ‘I was introduced to rowing in 1985 by Rick Melvill, who encouraged me greatly to pursue the sport. Rick rowed at St. Andrews and Maritzburg Varsity where I was planning to study Agriculture. Cow Preston (coincidentally a good friend of Nipper and Sylvi Thompson) was the guy who taught me how to row. We were up at four every morning, rowed for an hour and then returned for lectures. It took us about three months of solid rowing to master the sport which we did in a coxed four. In spite of our relative inexperience, we went on to win the Inter-varsity event where we were up against crews who had trained in rowing schools.’

It’s clear that Valentine has a passion for rowing and the joy of being on the open water. Of course the scenery around Ebenezer Dam is absolutely beautiful and is a magnificent stretch of water for rowers - perfect for races of a different kind to the conventional regatta.

The cost of becoming a member of the Haenertsburg Rowing Club is probably the cheapest in South Africa with an initial joining fee for the Haenertsburg Trout Association of R1000.00 and annual subs for the HTA / Rowing Club of R3600 with special rates for pensioners and juniors.

Connect with Valentine on for more information or inspiration.

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