16 May 2017 – “Beyond the River”, a movie about canoeing and how two men from completely different backgrounds team up to chase gold in the world famous Dusi Canoe Marathon, has been making a very positive impression on movie-goers and critics alike. What few realise is that it is strongly linked to an Old Andrean.
Steve Jourdan (class of 1965) was a driving force behind the movie and, even more so, he has been a massive presence in South African canoeing, helping it become arguably the most integrated sport in the country, and helping South Africa become number one in the world in marathon paddling after serving for 14 years as the manager of Team SA.
The question, therefore, had to be asked: “How did a boy from Saint Andrew’s in Bloemfontein become so involved in canoeing?”
How it began
He shared the story: “In one of my many marketing careers, I ended up as the Commercial Director for a large liquor company and a bunch of canoeists came to me about 20 years ago and wanted me to sponsor them to go and compete in the Zambezi Whitewater Festival. They were just the nicest bunch of blokes I have ever met. They wanted R2 500 to cover the cost of their petrol. I said ‘Let’s do this thing properly. Instead of R2 500, I gave them R10 000 and went up with them and got some amazing branding and ambush marketing. It got amazing coverage and I got totally locked into the sport.
“Then we came back and there is a big canoe marathon in Cradock, the Fish River Canoe Marathon, and they had just lost their sponsor and they said ‘Steve, won’t you please sponsor it?’ Once again, it was for nothing. I said ‘We’re in’. Then they said to me there is no way that you are sponsoring this without paddling it. I ended up getting into the boat.”
The bug had bitten and in 2002, Steve was included in the South African Masters team to compete in Spain. “Then I became manager of the Protea team, which I did for 14 years. I paddled in 14 World Marathon Championships and got a couple of medals for myself.
Steve Jourdan (right) proudly wears the green and gold of South Africa at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships