Sue Liell-Cock was a part of the IRF founding group who met in Augsburg, Germany in May 1997. She became Secretary General in 1998 and has been holding that position since then, working with three Presidents – first Peter Micheler, then Rafael Gallo and now Joe Willis Jones.
We spoke to Sue to find out more.
Short history of your rafting experience
I spent most of my guiding time in two-man Indian canoes doing 6-day trips up on the Orange River (Class 2/3) which is on the border of South Africa and Namibia. I loved those trips in the desert, far away from everything. In winter we also did some trips in Crocs (2-man, inline) on the Doring River (Class 3/4). A few years in and I became part owner of the river company. My first experience guiding actual rafts was on the Petrohue in southern Chile. My first racing experience was in the Hunter’s Gold Women’s team at the Zambezi River Festival – only women’s team and we came 16th out of 32 teams against some well-known canoeist’s predications that we’d get injured and have to be helicopter lifted out :-D
After I sold the river company I became part of the Camel White Water Challenge organising team and shortly after that became a part of the IRF administration.
Why did you get involved with rafting?
After graduating with a BSc I worked for one year and realised I was not a 9 to 5 person. A friend recommended river guiding and so I worked as a “handlanger” (helper) on a trip and was totally hooked!
What do you hope to achieve in your time on the BOD in the next few years?
I hope to see each section of the IRF becoming more independent and able to run their own administration and finances, and reach their objectives. I’d like to see more women involved in all aspects of the IRF. I’d like to see the IRF becoming even stronger on the sustainability front.
What plans have you developed for the next two years?
My main aim over the next two years is to get the IRF to be financially secure enough to do what it needs to do to take rafting forward in the direction it needs to go.
Are there any other activities / sports you are involved with? How does this influence / impact on your time with rafting?
Living in Cape Town I have access to so many sports. I mountain bike, rock climb, hike and surf, although the surfing has been getting too little attention recently. There is very little rafting near me so I don’t do it very often these days.
What is your favourite rafting destination and why?
A 6-day trip on the Noordoewer section of the Orange River is my favourite – I love the multiple days, the warm weather, the tranquility, the stunning scenery, the fun with family and friends, sleeping under the stars, cooking over the fire, floating rapids … the whole package!
Which is your favourite WRC or ERC and why?
WRC 2000 on the Futaleufu definitely stands out! The river was awesome, the scenery was stunning, the racing was excellent, the closing party was one of the most incredible I’ve ever been to – the police turned off the music at midnight and everyone just kept on dancing :D. But it was the people that made it extra special. It was the last Camel White Water Challenge (CWWC) I attended as I was 8 months pregnant during the 2001 CWWC in Zambia and so could not fly there. The seven people that made up the core of CWWC organising team were amazing, special people – we worked incredibly hard, but had such good fun and laughs as well.
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Rafting of course! But never enough of it. All types of cycling is next, especially those mad Downhillers.
What TV series did you binge watch during the pandemic?
Not a binge watcher, but we did introduce our late teen kids to many great movies they hadn’t seen yet ranging from classics like Shawshank Redemption, to Touching the Void, District 9, Good Morning Vietnam, A Fish Called Wanda, Burn After Reading, Sixth Sense, Snatch, Cinema Paradiso, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Truman Show, The Silence of the Lambs and the one they liked the most, Memento.
If you could host a celebrity dinner party, which five guests would you invite and why (they can be living or deceased)?
That’s quite tricky – do I just go for key people I’d like to meet, or do I think about the actual vibe at the dinner table?! I’ve decided to have a mix of both:
- Nelson Mandela – I grew up when even waving a picture of him around was not allowed. He was an incredible leader, and to have no bitterness towards those who incarcerated him for so long is incredibly admirable.
- Desmond Tutu – he was such a wise, compassionate, interesting person, with a great sense of humour!
- Miriam Margolyes – she’s led an interesting life with many battles in it, and succeeded, and she is hilarious! The Guardian puts it very well, she is “Gleefully outspoken and bursting with hilarious anecdotes”.
- Kelly Slater – the GOAT of surfing
- My Mum – she’s an amazing woman and would love an entertaining night out!