MARTIN DREYER (South Africa) - Nominee for a Foundation Award.
Born: 1968, Represents: South Africa
As a seven-time Dusi Kayak Marathon champion and leading South African endurance adventure athlete Martin Dreyer founded the 'Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy' in 2008 to help change the lives of young Previously Disadvantaged black people deprived of the opportunities to get ahead in life. His vision was to create a program, instilling valuable Life Skills, training youngsters in KwaZulu/Natal’s remote Dusi Valley to become competitive kayakers.
After historically winning the Dusi Kayak Marathon with the first ever black paddler, Thulani Mbanjwa, Martin saw first-hand the Talent potential in this rural impoverished region, where no running water or electricity was the norm. Thulani’s friends trained with them, running barefoot and paddled old leaking boats. Six months later Martin pitched his tent in the rain in the Dusi Valley where he began training 10 rural youngsters, who showed enthusiasm and talent. Unbeknown to Martin at the time, he was never to race Dusi again as his Change a Life Paddle Academy became his entire focus.
After four hard months of training these young men, who never had any support structure in paddling before, they went on to achieve the impossible. Two Change a Lifers (Eric Zondi and Lucas Mthalane) came home in the top 10 Gold medal positions at that Dusi Kayak Marathon in 2009 and 10 placed in the top 43 overall out of 1600 paddlers.
Martin is their coach, mentor and friend. He leads by example and provides them with the same blueprint that gave him success in river paddling – equipment, nutrition, clothing, shoes and physio if they get injured and is there to help wherever possible. Through paddlesports he has helped pave these children's futures.
Since the beginning his athletes have performed at a high level and they continue to improve every year. Eric Zondi [Sbonelo Kwela] has even gone on to win the prestigious Dusi Kayak Marathon with partner Andy Birkett in 2014. Martin’s Change a Lifers have continued to excel, fast forward seven years to the 2015 Dusi where an amazing 18 Change a Life Zulus came in the top 50 [that’s an incredible 36%].
Also the 2015 South African Canoe Sprint Championships will forever be remembered as a magical two days for Martin Dreyer’s Change a Life Academy after Under-18 youngsters Thabani Msiya and Msawenkosi Mtolo claimed three gold medals and a silver at the National contest.
“Msawenkosi and Thabani’s success was an unexpected, yet a very welcome surprise to all of us, including themselves!” beamed an ecstatic Dreyer. “It shows that hard work pays off!” “For them to have won SA Sprint Champs gold medals is just incredible and goes down in history as the first ever Black Development Paddlers to have won a SA Champs Sprint title!”
His athletes have also branched out into other sports including mountain biking and trail running.
Martin’s enthusiasm for changing lives has left an everlasting legacy in the Dusi Valley. The ‘Change a Lifers’ involved in his Academy have gone on to become heroes and role models for their communities and have even had the opportunity to provide food and some income for their families. The sense of achievement and pride the Change a Life Academy has brought to this region is immeasurable.
Martin’s other memorable achievements on and off the water:
- Seven K2 Dusi Kayak Marathon titles
- Seven Non-Stop Dusi Kayak Marathon titles
- Winner of the Vaal Kayak Marathon, Breede Kayak Marathon, Cape Point Surfski Challenge [K2] and Australia’s premier 2 day Avon Descent Kayak Marathon
- 2300km Freedom Challenge winner
- Winner of the Land Rover G4 Challenge final in 2006
- When he isn't training, he competes in endurance adventure events, does motivational speaking, and works as a corporate adventure guide.
This is a 2015 archived nominee. Voting has closed.
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