FEAT Jo’burg, 04 Oct ’12

The speakers at FEAT Jo’burg on Thursday, 4 October 2012 are:

  • Christo Smeda – ‘SUP around Zanzibar’
  • Ed February – ‘Is this really mountaineering?’
  • Elizabeth de Speville – ‘Walking into adventure’
  • Elsie Bezuidenhout – ‘I’m not a mountaineer’
  • James Lea-Cox – ‘How to travel Africa by bicycle’
  • James Pitman – ‘Talk title TBC’
  • Keith Jones – ‘South America, the wrong way’
  • Martin Dreyer – ‘Finding Freedom’
  • Rob Thomas – ‘Rescued!’


Christo Smeda
Winner of the first FEAT Award (together with Regardt Botes and Flip du Plessis), Ironman competitor, adventure racer and all-round outdoor enthausiast, Christo was part of a trio that successfully circumnaviated Zanzibar by stand-up paddleboard (SUP). In training they paddled to and from Robben Island – another first for SUP. Christo tells us how they came up with the concept, planning elements and all the craziness that made their seven-day, 12-hour-a-day trip such a adventure.
Ed February
Ed has been climbing for more than 30 years. Within this time he has made major contributions to South African rock climbing having being on the opening ascent of more than 200 routes. The most recent of these being a 10-pitch aid route ‘Mediocrity’ on Milner Peak (24, A3) with Andy de Klerk opened in January 2001 and several sport routes graded between 14 and 23 on a new crag in Montagu in 2011.
Ed enjoys all aspects of mountaineering from Alpine (Mount Kenya, Chamonix) through to big walls (Yosemite, Zion) and sport (Thailand, Verdon). He has appeared in or been mentioned in a number of National and International magazines and TV programmes and he has climbed extensively around the World.
Ed is a lecturer in UCT’s Botany Department where his research focus is on providing a better understanding of climate change in the summer-rainfall region of South Africa.
Elizabeth de Speville
In February 2011 Liz decided that she needed an adventure. Within three days she’d found ‘Camino de Santiago’ on the internet and that week she began walking regularly for the first time in years. Liz landed in Spain six months later to begin this 760-kilometre walk from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela. Was she prepared? She found the first five days to be torturous but after a week on the road she settled in to what would be the most remarkable experience of her life. Liz is now a firm believer that the only way to see a place is to walk it. She has her heart set on a couple of adventures for the future.
Elsie Bezuidenhout
A systems analyst by trade, Elsie has imagined herself on the summit of Everest since she was under a meter tall. Her mountain journey started with Kilimanjaro at the turn of the millennium. She then notched Aconcagua and Elbrus in 2005 and, just as there are seven days in a week, she thought it would be cool to join the Seven Summits queue – only Everest remains. She has also climbed Mt Ararat and Mt Damanvand. Cho Oyu – the 6th highest mountain at 8,201m – is her most recent summit success. Between summit adventures, Elsie is a regular competitor in adventure races as well as trail running and mountain bike events – especially multi-day stage races. She’s always fit and ready for that next summit opportunity.
James Lea-Cox
James likes a bit of adventure, whether it’s close to home or somewhere wild, remote, and exciting. And he likes to organise things himself; no adventure tourism operators please. After doing the ‘London thing’ for a while James got a little tired of the weather and started planning his next adventure, one that had been in the back of his mind for years. The concept? Return home to South Africa but to do so in an interesting way. On a bicycle. Destination Cape Town. James, together with a friend, Mark Yetman, embarked on what became known as the ‘Big Ride Africa’ taking in 19 countries and clocking in 15,458km over six months. An adventure of a life time? Definitely! Scary, hard to organise and intimidating? Not as bad as you would think. James answers all those ‘how to’ questions he’s regularly asked.
James Pitman
James grew up on a farm in the Kwa-Zulu Natal midlands and from a young age he developed a deep love of the outdoors and adventure. He has also always been a keen climber and traveller. A qualified lawyer, James worked as the VP of a mining exploration company that listed in London and Toronto. Following the successful sale of the mining business, James was able to give expression to his love of flying by becoming a partner in The Airplane Factory. He was one of the three-person team to fly their South African designed-and-built light aircraft, Sling 4, around the World. This included a 30-hour flight from Brazil to South Africa across the Atlantic Ocean.
Keith Jones
Keith ventured overseas for six months in 1984, returning to South Africa 13 years later. Whilst living in landlocked Brussels, he bought a boat and in spite of qualifying as a Yachtmaster managed a dismasting in the Caribbean, blew his engine in the Patagonia canals and again in the Falklands and set a record for the slowest crossing of the Southern Ocean (seven weeks). Upon his return in 1997, Keith started an IT business which listed in London in 2009. Most recent skills include breeding (three children – 3,2 and 1), whisky (Chairman of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of South Africa), motorbiking (completed the Cape to Cairo in 2011). Whilst in Ethiopia, Keith snapped his Achilles tendon specifically to annoy his wife who was at home with two small children and heavily pregnant. His current day job is Business Development Director of Unison Communications.
Martin Dreyer
From commercial fisherman to adventure athlete and creator of the Change a Life Academy, Martin’s achievements have been nothing short of exceptional. He became a household name and earned the title of ‘Dusi Duke’ after numerous Dusi Canoe Marathon (and Non-Stop) wins. Martin transitioned smoothly into international expedition adventure racing and also added the International Land Rover G4 title to his list of wins. Most recently, Martin set a new Freedom Challenge record after an exciting 10-day duel with Alex Harris – no more than seven hours separated the two men throughout the race. On the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean Martin realised that there had to be more to life; and he’s shown that there is.
Rob Thomas
Rob has been in the mountains ever since he can remember. He grew up in Cape Town, spending his early years running around on the slopes of Devil’s Peak before going to boarding school in the Eastern Cape. The school was very lenient (in those days), allowing the boarders out onto the mountains unsupervised. Rob he spent many weekends exploring the hills surrounding the Queenstown, occasionally getting into trouble and, in the process, learning to anticipate, avoid and solve problems.
In 1994 got involved in the training of mountaineers and other people going to cold places. Since then he has accumulated numerous climbing, mountain, outdoor, guiding and instructor qualifications. The go-to guy for mountain rescue, Rob trains others in mountain- and wilderness-rescue skills, including rope-rescue, wilderness and helicopter-based rescue techniques.