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At the age of 13, Rudy Hanse joined the guppy development program offered by the Milnerton Canoe Club in Cape Town. There he learned to paddle a canoe and to swim.

For Hanse, the weekly outing to Milnerton Lagoon was a way to escape the poverty and cacophony of Dunoon Township, where he lived with his parents. A taxi, organized by the canoe club, picked him up with other children to spend a few hours on the water every week.

It was not boating that first attracted him, but the opportunity to escape the township.

“From the outside, it was a sport to do, a way out,” Hanse said. “It took me two to three weeks to get used to it, but after two or three months I started to join the mastery group and had to come to the training twice a week.”

He later took a lifeguard course, while continuing to paddle at the club and train with other members for the grueling Berg River Canoe Marathon. After graduating from high school, he applied for a lifeguard job in Dubai. Although Hanse didn’t get the job, he says it led him to another job in the hospitality industry.

As a result, Hanse was able to pull himself out of the poverty and unemployment that permeates Dunoon and start earning a decent income in customer services in the UAE. “If it wasn’t for [that training course]I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said.