Roche’ Schoeman just finished his source to sea riverboarding journey down the Orange river, following on the heels of explorer Ray D Chaplin‘s award-winning first riverboarding descent.
Roche’s journey was different though as he took on the river during the rainy season, resulting in much higher water and a very swift journey covering the 2,400km. But like Ray, Roche’ also used the Fluid Anvil for his descent.
Roche’ was riverboarding to raise money and awareness for the charity Up With Downs, and the kids did some swimming of their own in their local pools to compete with Roche’!
Face Level caught a quick interview with the bearded riverboarder in the midst of his push to the sea.
FACE LEVEL INDUSTRIES: What led you to undertake this mission on a riverboard? And why choose the Anvil?
ROCHE’ SCHOEMAN: It’s always been in my mind since Mike Horn did the amazon,though my expedition is nothing compared to his,there has never since been any attempt to do rivers source to sea on a river board until last year.
I have a real passion for the orange river and when the fluid anvil came out,the idea of doing it on a river board become more real.
I chose the Anvil,cause that’s what I’ve been using and there is a lot of extra time and money involved in designing a custom board.Though the anvil is not designed for what I’m using it for, it has done remarkably well, and has kept me safe until now. A huge thanks to Fluid Kayaks for supporting me 100% so far.
FLI: Where did your desire to raise money for Up With Downs / Bigger Than Us come from? Has this expedition been a success in this regard thus far?
RS: I spend some time in Iceland kayaking and rafting and had a opportunity to take Down syndrome kids on a rafting trip,it was a life changing experience. And since I got involved with the kids from the Up With Down school in my hometown, there is no choice but to do what you can for these kids,I’m their hero and that to me is worth everything!
Most athletes achieve for their own gain,while there is nothing wrong with that, I feel that the reward is so much more when you use your skills to benefit others. We can all change lives!
FLI: You’ve been dealing with high water, quite the opposite of what Ray had to swim through on the Orange. What has your experience been like riverboarding at times in flood conditions on a big river?
RS: People think in flood you just chill and let the water take you haha, but mentally it drains you just as much as flat water. Once in the main current it’s hard to get out with a loaded board and back pack, it’s impossible to scout,and you are really just dealing with the mess as it comes up.
At times the rapids would be a couple of kilometers long, and at the end of the day you are exhausted. Also getting sucked down by big whirlpools and having to navigate huge boils and creases, just staying above the water is very hard work. Also being alone increases the risk factor a lot.
FLI: Do you have a support crew? Who are they and what have they been doing for you?
RS: I got no support crew,doing the same way as Ray, alone and unsupported, but I have been very fortunate to have my fiancé and the kids and teachers come up to visit me and bring me some goodies along the way.
FLI: Have you battled through any injuries on your journey, or any scary moments? What happened
RS: I have also been very lucky in this regard, and compared to Ray’s many health problems, I have had no stomach issues, or major skin problems. I had a lot of infected cuts since the start,for about a month,but I don’t use antibiotics and my body seemed to sort out the problem after a month of maintenance.Im also lucky,being a medic I can take more advanced medication with me,like IV,etc. Other than that the usual wetsuit rash and sores. Scary moment can only be my encounter with a buffalo, people abroad don’t always know but they are extremely dangerous,and kill a lot of people every year,I was surrounded by them at one of my camps and had a stare-off with one. By their nature the fact that they did not kill me that night is nothing short of a miracle.
FLI: It seems you’re making very quick time. Is this due to the water level or are you putting in extra hours, or are you a super fast marathon distance swimmer?
RS: Haha,I have been lucky I guess,I had good water since the start.Many of the sections Ray had to walk, I was able to run,also I had a lot more daytime hours since I started in summer and Ray started in winter.
I also take few rest days,maybe one day a week,and I don’t really stop for lunch,I snack on the board.I must say my Fins from Cetatek (aquabionics)is futurista and really gives you double the propulsion with every kick.But in full flood I was doing up to 60kms a day,it doesn’t get better than that!