The first Dusi was started on the 22nd of December 1951. Unlike the current race the first race was held on a continuous basis, with the racers only stopping when they reached the finish. Only eight paddlers took part in this first race. They were: Ian Player, Miles Brokensha, Ernie Pearce, John Naude, Basil Halford, Willie Potgieter, Fred Schmidt and Denis Vorster. Only Ian Player finished the race in a time of six days. This was despite having being bitten by a night adder during the race. The canoe that he used to complete the race was made from wood and canvas and weighted roughly 70 pounds. It also held all the supplies he needed to complete the race.
The following three races were all held on a non-stop basis, before it was decided in 1956 to hold the race over three days. The reason for this change is the danger involved in paddling at night. Before the change was introduced, the winning time had been reduced to 1 day, 3 hours and 28 minutes.
The first known trip down the dusi was not in fact on the race itself, but rather by two Pietermaritzburg men William Foley and Paul Marianny in 1893. They covered the distance in seven days
The race is currently held over a period of three days, with each day having a defined beginning and end. The race is referred to as the Hansa Powerade Dusi, after the two principal sponsors Hansa and Powerade. The first day is 45 km which includes roughly 15 km of portaging with the canoe, with shorter portaging sections on day 2 and 3. Day 2 is also 45 km and ends with a 10 km stretch on flat water on the Inanda Dam. Day 3 is 35km of clean cold water let out from the dam. There are several sections with large rapids, particularly on day 2 and 3.
Competitors have a choice to either compete in a K1 or K2 canoe.
The current record stands at around 8 hours (over the three race days).