These last three weeks of my life have been spent doing everything possible related to the 2014 ICF Freestyle World Cup. The world cup is a series of three different events, in three different features, over a three week period. That means a competition every weekend (sometimes starting as early in the week as Wednesday) and very few days prior to the event for training. There are long lines in the eddies, it´s stressful, it´s exciting, and it has been some of the best weeks of my life.
Kenya creaking 2014
I have always heard good things about Kayaking in Kenya. That there are countless rivers and that the area is almost completely unexplored. In late April 2014 I went over there to see it for myself and what I found was beyond my wildest expectation. Myself, Colin Wong, Timmy Flowers and Rachel Johnson set off on a creaking mission with the goal to run a series of first descents around Mt Kenya. We had timed it perfectly to arrive in the middle of the rainy season to have plenty of water running down the mountain. It was a great plan except for the first time since anyone can remember the rain never came. With very limited water flow we were struggling to find rivers that were big enough to run. But that was not going to stop us. In the end we still managed to tick off 4 first descents but having scouted out the area it’s just a matter of time before heavy rain will fall and we will be back. Having been kayaking in a lot of different places in the world what struck me most about the rivers around My Kenya is the style of the bed rock and the rapids. On every river we ran I found river features I have never seen before. With a mix between volcanic basalt and granite, two of the best bedrock types when it comes to kayaking the rivers we ran were a mix between pool drop style drops and slides to lava tube mini gorges with beautiful clean waterfalls splitting up in countless channels. Imagine running a first descent five times and not run the same channels or rapids twice. With enough rivers and first descents to last for a lifetime in an extremely cheap country I believe Kenya should be on every kayakers hit list.
We left Sjoa on Thursday morning, after attending the infamous Pimp and Hoe party run by Gene 17, and began the 5 hour drive over to Dala-Floda. Using some local knowledge from Anton we found a tiny road leading straight up over the mountain and along a huge plateau above the tree line, the views were epic.
We arrived in Dala-Floda to find a lovely little white water course along with one of the best run kayak clubs I have seen. Our dealer James from Kayaktiv came across to meet us and show us around his shop.
Friday, the first day of the festival saw several clinics run by Kayaktiv staff and ourselves on the white water course and huge expanse of flat water below the course. Dala-Floda has the privilege of also having a beautiful area for kayak touring and stand up paddling, so many people from all disciplines are on site doing their own branch of the sport, and some even doing both.
Saturday was competition day with 20 competitors competing for the Masters of Water title. The competition combined 3 events, with the person collecting most points overall becoming the “Master of the Water’. The first event was the Pyranha Speeder event, which ran in a WWR format sprint race, top to bottom as fast as possible. This brought a new experience for many of the white water paddlers using a boat that is designed to track rather than white water. The results from this were then used to seed for a Boater X event that would take place later that afternoon.
The freestyle event was held next, with young and old all taking part in a multitude of current and old-school boats. The hole was quite flushy, making it tough to stick moves but with a rodeo type format, and the 2 best tricks from each ride scoring, everyone had a fantastic time. We had the Van set up beside the feature so we ran commentary along with local, David Levren.
After a break for lunch from the Kayak Club BBQ burger stand (These guys love BBQs!) and a sleep in the sunshine it was time for the final event, the Boater X. Heats of 4 were lined up at the top of the course, which consisted of 5 gates including two upstream gates beside the decking were the crowd had gathered. The competition was tough, with a good amount of carnage throughout all rounds, making this event a crowd favourite!
The final results saw the positioning from all events being added together for a final score. Due to good results in the racing I managed to take the title with local boys Mats and Eric coming closely behind in 2nd and 3rd positions.
The main event was still to come however; James and his Kiwi companions had organized a big BBQ party in celebration of Kayaktiv’s 20 year anniversary. Loads of people turned up from the event as well as old work colleagues, friends and family. The food was fantastic and both Barney and myself were made up with quality and excessive meat after spending 3 weeks budgeting in Norway. Live music was provided all evening where the kids danced and old friends caught up over a glass of wine.
What I love the most about kayaking is that it enables me to travel the world, see new places and meet new people. But it is always nice to come home and going to US, especially Colorado, really feels like coming home. In Colorado I stay with Max Karlsson’s family and they have really become a second family. So I was really looking forward coming “home” to Colorado as the snowpack was huge and the run off was going to be EPIC.
First event on the Colorado Tour was The Golden Games in Golden, CO. The Golden Games is a smaller local event that attracts the best paddlers from the Denver area competing in freestyle and creeking on Clear Creek . The water level was not optimal as the run off had not quite yet started, but the laid back atmosphere of the event made up for it.
The first big event on the Colorado Tour was CKS Paddlefest in Buena Vista, which not only attracts Colorado’s best freestyle paddlers but also some of the best paddler’s in the world like the Jacksons, Demshitz, Mathieu Dumoulin of France, Tomasz Czaplicki of Poland and many more. What makes this event interesting is that since CKS is the largest kayak retailer in Colorado, every brand known to man was on display.
The next event on the Colorado Tour was Lyons Outdoor Games which normally is a big event. But due to the Colorado flooding last year which devastated the town, there were doubts that they would even hold the event. I am really glad the town decided to hold the event as I hope it was a boost to their recovery as the kayaking community has rallied to support the town of Lyons in their recovery.
After Lyons we went to Vail and the GoPro Mountain Games which is my favorite event on the Colorado Tour. The reason for this is that 50,000 people descend on the beautiful town of Vail to celebrate outdoors activities such as kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, slack-lining and more. The GoPro Mountain Games did not disappoint as we had huge crowds at the events, even though the weather did not cooperate 100%.
FIBArk, or First In Boating Arkansas, in Salida, CO is the oldest whitewater festival in the US and this year the event turned 66 years old. As an athlete this is another fantastic event as the crowds are HUGE. The really high water level made the freestyle event even more to my liking as what normally is a hole becomes more a wavy hole. Sadly I ddint not get the chance to compete as I had to head back to Boulder and sort out my Visa!
As soon as FIBArk was over, we drove back to Maxs parents house and stayed there for a day to prepare for the 14 hour drive to Cascade, ID and the Payette River Games. The PRG has only existed for 3 years, but they have definitely set the gold standard when it comes to putting on an event. They have an incredible feature which consists of a hole and a wave so you can throw any move in the book. The prize money is HUGE and nothing else in the world comes even close. They way they treat the athletes as well as the fans is just incredible. They even streamed the events online allowing my family to watch me though I am thousands of miles away. it was great to place 6th against a huge stack of men! I just cannot say enough good things about this event and I cannot wait to come back next year.
Now I am in Spain competing in the World Cups
Put simply, I love paddling in the French Alps! The water is clear and cool, the sun is bright and warm and the paddling is spectacular and often very continuous. I have been travelling to this region for nearly 10 years now and it was the first place I visited with my boat outside of the UK all those years ago.
The paddling out here is generally fun and friendly with plenty of whitewater to keep everyone entertained. I initially met up with some old friends of mine who had already been out there nearly two weeks and were coming to the end of their trip. They wanted to paddle some of the remaining hard runs and fancied getting on the Durance Gorge on the morning of my arrival. This was hardly the warm up that I was hoping for, but at least I was in good company.
This was the first time in a few years that I had decided to take a freestyle boat out with me too and even though the region is not particularly known for its freestyle it was great to have this option available.
I managed to spend quite a bit of time on the wave at Embrun and even though I don’t think I ever caught the wave in prime conditions, it was awesome to surf this superfast wave and to try and throw some big moves!
After two weeks of personal paddling I then met up with a group that had arranged to have me coach them during their trip. With the Durance being a firm favorite for many of the paddlers, we managed to get through all of the easier sections of the river as well as some of the team tackling the Gyronde, Ubaye and also the Guil.
We did however have a minor epic when we had two swimmers in the infamous Chateau Queyras section of the Guil. Safe to safe everyone came out scratch free, boats were recovered using some ninja rescue skills and one member of the team even got to experience a little bit of the via feratta too! Im sure a video of their footage will follow at some point in the future.
After all this time I still am in love with this area, it just seems to keep giving me some great days out and some memorable experiences, I hope in 10 years time I am still coming back and introducing more people to the delights that this area has to offer.
I’ve just got back from an incredible time in the Alps. If you can’t be bothered reading about it scroll down for the video…
It all started out in Italy, which was great fun. Lots of small slides and drops. I was joining Dom Burrow who had already been there for a while so within a couple of days we hit the road and headed to Argantiere.
I’ve not been to France in 8 years so everything was basically new to me. My favorite run was without a shadow of a doubt the Middle Guil. One of the best grade 4 runs I’ve ever done and now one of my top 3 favorite rivers. At low flows it was an awesome run for the Loki, and with more water an incredible big volume river perfect for my new XL Burn.
The rivers of France were fantastic but by far the coolest thing was the sheer numbers of people who make the trip out. I got to catch up with so many friends I’d not seen in years, make some new ones, and even take Zorba Laloo kayaking – the guy responsible for all of our antics out in Meghalaya. Its nice to see things come full circle!!
After the ridiculous amounts of red wine finally forced us to pack up and leave France. We headed to Austria via the least efficiant route ever. Highlights include our phycho nights out in Thun and Munich.
Also, Thun has a sweeeet wave in its city centre which would be rubbish for any modern play boat, but fortunately we had our trusty Loki’s with us.
The kayaking finished on the Finstermunster section of the Inn, which was both super scary and super AMAZING. The guidebook rates it at grade 5 at 35 cumecs…we had a tad more than that…
Pyranha Team Tour – On a Mission – Croatia
After a long drive from Slovenia, via Trieste airport to pick up Ben, Louise and myself, the Team van finally arrived in the Zrmanja valley in Croatia.
After a warm welcome from the RaftTrek river guides at their rafting base, which included a glass of the fiery local moonshine brewed by the caretaker, we hit the sack, excited for what the next day would bring.
We awoke to glorious sunshine and after chatting to the head guide Philip, made a plan to accompany him on his river trip down the Zrmanja with some ducky clients, with the aim of filming the trip for a promotional video for the company.
The Zrmanja is the perfect river for this kind of trip and a fantastic start to our mission in Croatia; beautiful, clear water, flowing over easy pool drop rapids in a stunning gorge.
After some lunch in an amazing spot (more on that later) we were greeted by a sight reminiscent of Mexico – a clean twenty-five foot waterfall flowing over lush green vegetation.
The river continued to wow us as we carried on down to the take out; if it wasn’t the scenery it was the wildlife that had us scrambling for our cameras.
The next morning we met up with Ivan Safradin, a multi-talented Croatian outdoor instructor who had driven two-hours to come and meet us. He persuaded us to come and paddle his local run, so we loaded up and set off to the Cetina river.
What we found was another grade 2/3 pool drop paradise; an amazing gorge, turquoise water, caves and waterfalls.
After paddling two sections and 19km of beautiful river we were ready for a feast and that is exactly what we got in the old town of Omis!
We said goodbye to Shafra at Omis and headed back North for another night under the stars at our camping spot next to the Zrmanja.
The next morning we met up with Matija and Marko. They told us about a river called the Una that was on the border with Bosnia which had some cool waterfalls. So we packed up the van and headed east. Along the way we got stopped by the police who took an interest in what we were planning to do and decided to escort us to the river!
The Una was everything we could have hoped for. It started with a clean fifty footer, followed by a series of beautiful boof ledges, before the river flowed into a stunning grade 3 gorge.
After an awesome run down the Una the Croatian boys were keen to take us to another river, ‘only an hour away’….
Two and a half hours later we arrived at the Mrejnica! As with all of the other rivers we had paddled though, it was well worth the drive.
Another grade 2/3 pool-drop paradise awaited us, with the obligatory twenty-ish footer half way down to keep you excited.
Best of all the river finished at the campsite, where beers and a BBQ rounded off our amazing Croatian adventure.
The next day the team dropped me off at Rijeka airport on their way back up to Italy for the next leg of the tour.
It had been great to be able to paddle with some up and coming Croatian paddlers, particularly Marko who had achieved his first boof and run his first waterfall on the Mrejnica with us!
We were all sad to leave and with so many rivers still to paddle, we will definitely be back.
As I sat in the airport contemplating my time in Croatia I got to thinking – with all the beautiful, clean, easy pool-drop rivers we had encountered over the last few days, is Croatia the new Slovenia?……
https://vimeo.com/99322831 - video link
Back in the days of being a full grown freestyle from I used to spend endless hours (and still do) watching videos of kayaking, One of the videos that has stuck with me over the years is this one.
Since watching this video I have always wanted to go and fire up Yule Creek, One of the steepest, most uncontrollable runs in the world. Almost 6 years after watching the video the opportunity finally presented itself and myself and Dave Fussilli (co founder of Demshitz) both got to blast down it on our birthdays.
Yule Creek consists of four drops, The first one being around 30ft tall and ending in a tiny pool before the next rapid, Wall ride. It isn’t too hectic but the crux moves comes immediately afterwards by getting left and fading back into the middle to enter wall ride in the right place.
Wall ride was my favourite rapid on this run, Pull yourself over a huge curler and hold on as you accelerate hard towards a slate wall and then at the last possible second drop your edge and ride up it. Such a sick move!
After Wall ride you come up to the third and scariest drop, I can’t quite remember the true name of this drop but we have been calling it the Fussilli f*cker for reasons that are made obvious in this video.
It is the steepest slide by far on this run, the crux move is to get as far right as possible at the top and avoid the piton rock that owned Dace a few years ago. We both had pretty good lines, Dave pitoned slightly again but was fine, I got up on the bank and had a heart stopping moment when I realised how grippy the rock was and thought I was about to crash down the rest of the slide sideways and upside down, Thankfully the rock let go,I brought my boat back to being straight and enjoyed the rest of the slide worry free.
The final drop is a real treat after the Fuslli F£cker, A 15ft autoboof into a huge pool. This is one of the most satisfyingly awesome places I have ever been.
Video of our Yule creek run here.
It’s funny how life works out, i never imagined I would get to drop Yule Creek, let alone on my birthday with one of the guys from the original video I watched as a 14 year old freestyle grom. As always life is good and I can;t wait to finish the last competitions of the Colorado pro tour and spend some more time in a creek boat with the Demshitz crew.
Thanks for reading,
See you on the water,
Pyranha Team Tour – On a mission – Huningue
After a wonderful few days in Austria, we once again set off on our travels towards Hunigune, France. We made a short detour to the beautiful old town of Bremgarten just outside of Zurich, Switzerland. This was a fantastic place to surf and practice our freestyle skills. The water was 21 degrees that made a welcoming change from the chilling glacial waters of Austria and made it a perfect place for an evening session.
On our arrival to Huningue, we met Norbert, our local dealer at Canadian Canoe Shop. The shop was our base for the weekend whilst we worked on the artificial White Water Course just a stone throw from our location. Our mission was to support Norbert by providing demos and coaching clinics for a wide range of abilities, mainly covering play boating and river skills. With a large team presence on this year’s tour, it really allowed us to reach a maximum number of paddlers over the weekend.
By arriving on the Thursday before the event it allowed us to plan a small mission on the Friday over to the Rues River in Central Switzerland. This was just a day mission that provided wide a range of excitement for the team. We arrived back in time for diner at the shop and catch up with our host.
Norbert has become somewhat of a celebrity in the local area due to his well-stocked shop and his Canadian can-do attitude. His shop and courses have done much to foster the development for many local and visiting kayakers. We always have lots of fun staying onsite due to the welcoming atmosphere, facilities and friendly service.
Huningue is an artificial white water course situated on the boarders of Germany, Switzerland and France just outside of Basel and is easily accessible by all modes of transport. The none-intimidating features on the course allow all river users to comfortably develop their skills.
After the very successful weekend with Norbert, it was time to head south for the student boater x in L’argentiere. A great weekend was had by all.
Pyranha Team Tour – On a mission – Huningue
Video link. http://vimeo.com/99177968
Next stop, L’argentiere La Bessee
CKS Paddle fest
After a 40 hour drive from Canada we made it to Colorado, just in time for the first event of the Colorado tour. CKS Paddle fest.
Taking place in the small town Beunna vista home to an awesome freestyle park, I can’t say I was looking forward to completive hole boating after surfing some awesome waves all spring but with 5 sweet little features to play on all day in the sun and not be scared on the water I quickly found my love for hole boating again.
Levels where constantly changing on the lead up and during to the event and it definitely paid to be practising every day.
Our routine for the days leading up to the event was early morning freestyle, Run the local class 4 section called pine creek and then go for another evening freestyle session. Life went pretty quickly with this schedule and the event quickly advanced upon us and we saw some awesome rides in what proved to be quite a tricky little spot.
I made it into finals in 3rd place but unfortunately I just couldn’t put it together again in the finals and finished in 5th place, although for not having trained in a hole for almost 4 months I was pretty contempt with this result, The thing I was most excited about was consistently landing a crossbow Godzilla entry move linked straight into a tricky whu. The boys both threw down in this trickly little spot with Dave Fuslli finishing in 9th place and Matt Anger in 10th.
See you on the water,