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Adventure Racing World Championship – Behind the Scenes


The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived: AR World Championship is here, and we're inviting you to take an exclusive look behind the scenes of this exciting event!

There has been an enormous amount of excitement, and ample online support leading up to this event, and we want to share everything with you all.

So, join us in hearing from our dynamic race directors, Heidi and Stephan Muller, as well as the diverse teams proudly sponsored by Merrell South Africa, and gain insights from the Managing Director at Merrell South Africa, David Palmer.

Before we dive in, if you're in need of a quick refresher on Adventure Racing and what it entails, be sure to check out our previous blog post titled "Trailblazing Through Nature: Adventure Racing in Mzansi Afrika".

Here’s what race directors, Heidi and Stephan had to say:

1. Can you provide us with an overview of the race? What can teams’ and spectators look forward to?

“800km of unspoilt beauty of the Eastern Cape. Each Adventure Racing course is different and is designed by the Race Director from the beginning. It's a once-off experience and cannot be repeated,” says Heidi.

Our role is to design a course that can be spectacular for the teams but also logistically possible for the event organisers as there are no supporters on the course. The goal was to make each leg look different and let teams experience the vast landscapes and vistas of our beautiful country,” says Stephan.

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2. Tell us about how you got into becoming a Race Director and how long you have been doing this.

“We started to participate in Adventure Racing 25 years ago and after 10 years of extensive racing, we started with family. At this time, we decided to organise our first Expedition race and called it Expedition Africa not knowing that we would continue for so many years later and eventually host the World Championship in South Africa. The Adventure Racing World Championship will be our 11th edition of Expedition Africa, but we have hosted over 250 races during the last 15 years,” says Heidi.

3. How do you plan unpredictable weather conditions, and their potential impact on the race?

Adventure Racing is a unique sport and teams, and event organisers need to continue through bad weather conditions. We can't really plan or predict and just have to take what nature will give to us. Teams are prepared and have compulsory kits with them to ensure they can withstand all kinds of weather. In the case of extreme weather, we will have to stop the race or re-direct the course to ensure safety for all. All these unpredictable situations are adding more pressure on the organisation, but we know that comes with the job and need to be able to make fast decisions during the event,” says Stephan.

4. Can you talk about some of the racing disciplines that teams can look forward to?

“Teams will do the following disciplines in this event: Trekking, Orienteering, coasteering, Mountain biking, Kayaking, Canyoning, and Abseil. The first teams are expected to finish on Monday, 23rd October, and the last teams up to Friday, 28th October. We work on a winning time of 100 - 110 hours and give enough time for the back teams to finish the course. We have 1 cut-off section far into the race where the teams will be re-directed on a slightly shorter course to make the finish line in time,” says Stephan.

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5. Finally, what do you hope participants take away from this racing experience that you have planned?

“The utmost importance is the race experience. We desire for them to have a week of escape away from their normal lives. We created a place where they can immerse themselves into their own world, may it be for survival or for pushing for a top 10 place. But ultimately, we want them to push their minds and body to the limits and in this process see a new world of nature and beauty. With that, the experience from the day you arrive, until the Awards ceremony, must be like a memory you will never forget. We strive for excellence and want our teams to feel the heartbeat of Africa, to see and feel the sunrises and sunsets, and to create a lifelong memory they will never forget. To create this experience, it's all about the details in the event management side of the event and we hope to push the boundaries even further of what can be achieved by passion and love for our beloved sport. We are a close-knit family of adventure racers around the world, and here we come together in South Africa to share the same dream,” says Heidi.

The AR World Championship is set to take place in Kouga from the 16th of October until the 29th of October 2023. This race marks the 18th World Championship event, and notably, it will be the first held on the African Continent. Not only is this a monumental moment for Africa in the realm of Adventure Racing, but it also promises to bring a substantial tourism boost to Kouga.

And of course, Merrell South Africa is more excited than ever. Their involvement with adventure racing began when keen racers approached them to sponsor their team, the Adventure Addicts. “This happened at a time when the brand’s messages of ‘Search & Enjoy’ and ‘Let’s Get Outside’ resonated profoundly," explains Merrell South Africa’s Managing Director, David Palmer. He goes on to emphasize, “The beating heart of the brand has its nucleus in the experiences gleaned from great outdoors, and all that surrounds it.” 

When asked if there was anything specific that he is most looking forward to, this is what he had to say, “Nothing gives greater warmth than assisting others, in a selfless manner. Handing over soccer balls and rugby balls to the less fortunate in recognition of the collective and inclusive ideals of Expedition Africa and Merrell footwear and apparel gives great pleasure. Again, it is team-building, communication, improving skills, and working together for a common goal, which excites me. Furthermore, representing one’s country and bearing the respective nation’s flag is so special, and doing this alongside representatives of 30 nations is beyond belief! All this, on home turf in South Africa in the heart of the hamlet of Cape St Francis, in the Kouga Municipality.”

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That being said, this upcoming event will undoubtedly be memorable and even mark a pivotal point for the future of adventure racing and Merrell South Africa. According to David Palmer, “Adventure racing in its true form is here to stay, given the personal and team investment in this most beautiful adventure sport. It is an adventure of the soul, the spirit, the team, the person, and for this reason, Merrell footwear and apparel will continue to support this wondrous multi-faceted journey of the earth’s gifts.”

After hearing from our amazing event organisers, it's time to get acquainted with the teams that Merrell South Africa will be supporting this season. Head over to our next blog to learn more about our sponsored teams, where we'll delve into their chosen training methods and their aspirations for the upcoming race.

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