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29
Jul

Battle for Rivers in the Balkan Peninsula – Vjosa: The Last Intact Gem

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The basic idea behind the establishment of Leeway Collective in the start was to bring Nature closer to people again in order to feel the empathy towards her – something that is in every one of us but unfortunately gets distracted in these crazy times when everybody is chasing their dreams underlined with numbers…

After less than a year we got engaged into something that is summing up all that we so much care for – we are lucky and proud to be an ambassador of amazing campaign that is fighting for the rivers in the Balkans, called Save the Blue Heart of Europe.

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Soon after initial meetings we realized that people working for the campaign are honest, enthusiastic and nature-loving bunch of guys and a that this is going to be a wonderful story in which we can all learn something from each other and above all – join forces to help preserve the last pristine river ecosystems in Europe against insatiable appetite of some. Rivers with their waters are for sure the most intimate part of Mother Earth and preserving and letting them be what they are is something that we are more than capable of doing. After all, we still believe than humans are more than just energy collecting species!

After a week of talks we decided to go to action with the most pristine river in the whole Europe, the only river that has no dams on her way from mountains to the sea. She is the river that flows from Pindus Mountains of Greece all the way to the Ionian Sea in Albania. From canyons in Greece to alluvial plains in Albania she changes not only her character but also her name, from Aoos to Vjosa. With 270 km of Wild River this is something we have a duty and right to protect as now she is in danger of being stopped with 33 dams…

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Our plan was to paddle the river from source to sea and it turned out that this was one of the best plans we realized so far. Kayaking class IV-V is something we adore, but paddling on a river that goes from class IV to class II is just as amazing, you just have to give her the time to show at her best – once this happens an experience of its own kind shows up. Having time paddling, going on from day to day, getting to know all aspects of the River is something that can’t be experienced when rushing from one classic run to another.

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Together with our media part of the crew; Anze and Nejc, me and Zan had a great time paddling this amazing river that surprised us many times – I am not referring only to whitewater; wildlife, scenery, local people, sad dam projects and passionate decision to do everything we can in order to help her made this trip very special.

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In order to be efficient and loud enough in efforts of protecting a river we believe that joining forces of like-minded is the way to success. This is why we came up with idea that connected communities that are most intimately connected to rivers; kayakers, fishermen and scientists for the first time.

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Me, being a kayaker, biologist and a fly fisherman helped a lot, but without the help of Patagonia, Orvis and enthusiastic researchers from Balkan Trout Restoration Group we would never make it. I was lucky enough to catch and take tissue samples of 5 indigenous trout in the deepest of the canyons in Greece and genetic analyses showed amazing results. Three lineages of brown trout in only 5 samples was not something we expected and further research from the region are now needed in order to establish a better picture about genetic diversity there…

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Once we paddled out from the canyons in Greece a true journey begun – now we were travelling on a nearly flat but amazingly interesting River. Albania is a special country and not only scenery makes it so nice, it is the local people that do the big part of that. We were lucky enough to get invited to their places and shared a story or two about the river – hand gestures can speak more than thought before…

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Shepherds with their stocks are living a simple, but rich life and there is more than one thing we can learn from them. Among them admitting that they need the River is the one that points out in the modern world where most people see rivers as something that has to be put in channels or pipes so that they can’t bother us…

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The last leg of our trip was spiced with threats at the dam construction site and night paddling into Ionian Sea, where we were as lost as sheep without a leader, but fortunately found our way back with the help of the media crew that lit a fire on the shore…

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Jeff Johnson once wrote; ‘If you love a place you have a duty to protect it.’ We can not agree more, this is why we started to work on the project of showing this to the world the day after we came home. Now, after the premiere and the official release of the documentary it is time for you to see what the wildlife and people down there still have.

Please visit our webpage to see the photo story with text that describes the river and the 30-minutes long documentary that shows the river from the eyes of a kayaker.

One For The River: The Vjosa Story from Leeway Collective.

Campaign is doing great on Vjosa and idea of having this river protected by a National Park is now more alive than ever. Correspondence with Albanian Prime-Minister is established and there are more meetings to be held in near future. Anyhow the River will need your help too. Follow our social media and get notified when actions will take place.

Lets prove that even in these days we are able to step together and make a difference where everybody says we can’t! Together we will save amazing rivers we still have and bring the ones with dams back to life!

Please consider visiting the biggest event for rivers in Europe this year; Balkan Rivers Days in Belgrade from Sep. 25-27th. Register for the event, get connected with Leeway Collective on Facebook and get some of the travel costs covered for you! It is time to show that kayakers are the ones that don’t just give up but fight even when the going gets tough!

See you on the Wild and Free Rivers,
Rok

Photos by: Anze Osterman

22
Jul

The Snowdon Kayak Challenge

This year our charity, The Children’s Kayak Charitable Trust based in Evesham will be completing their latest fundraising event by doing something that has never been attempted before….. Running to the summit of Mount Snowdon carrying a 40lb kayak.

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On the 11th October our group of volunteers will begin their run in the Steam Railway car park at the foot of Snowdon, they will then make their way up the 8km Llanberis Path in the fastest time possible.

Pyranha UK are supporting the event with the donation of a brand new 9R kayak along with a Portage Pack carrying system, both of which will be auctioned after the event to raise funds for the Charities continued work.The chairperson David Shortell met with Linton Mackereth an employee in the Go Kayaking shop in Runcorn to receive the boat.

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The team have been developing a carry system for the group to run with and this week they got to test it out in the first training session of many, they have also been testing out the Portage Pack provided by Pyranha.

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There will be regular updates about the training process for the event on the Charities Facebook page and you can follow us on twitter by typing in TCKCT.

To see what we are all about as a Charity please visit our website at www.tckct.info

25
Jun

The North Fork Championship 2015

The second weekend of June was the date, the IV North Fork Championship was going down in Banks, Idaho. The North Fork of the Payette is an awesome river that has 15 miles of amazing roadside whitewater. The water is warm, big and pushy making for lots of great rapids and hard moves. With the road on one side and the railway on the other the river is full of rock boulders that help create those rapids making them shallow and pretty dangerous at the same time though.

The North Fork Championship is a three day event that features a time trial, a boaterX and the biggest race of the weekend a Giant Slalom down whats considered the hardest rapid on the river, Jakes or jacks Ladder.

On Thursday, over 80 racers participated in “The Expert Race,” an over 7 minute time­trial from the top of “Juicer” to the bottom of “Cruncher” on the Lower 3 miles of the North Fork Payette. The top 5 finishers of those that weren’t already qualified for Saturdays race would become Elite members and have the chance to race down jakes so everyone gave it all they had. I was happy and surprised to take first after not really pushing it too much, good start!

The Melt Awards are that same night in downtown Boise where new movie were premiered and the qualifiers announced. We were happy to take second place for the second year in a row at the Cinematography Awards with our new SBP reel.

On Friday we did some training at Jakes and there was a BoaterX in S-Turn which I didn’t attend not to get too tired…

Saturday was the day! After a couple practice laps I was feeling good and ready to put down a fast time on my first run. Went off and immediately missed the second gate… it was over, I just floated the course to the finish and tried not to get too pissed…

I tried to forget about it and give it all again on my second run, only one chance. Started off the ramp and charged, luckily barely made the first second gate combo, kept on going and put together an ok run. After the race we all floated downstream and had a good time padding under the summer heat.

Everyone was nervous at the awards, no one knows anything until its announced… I was super stoked to take first place! Even if my run wasn’t as good as I could have paddled I’m really happy I managed to put it all together for that second run and made it count, the pressure was definitely on!!

It was an amazing experience and a great time! Completing the podium were Dane Jackson and Isaac Levinson and my brother was 4th so super proud and stoked for him too!!

He had an amazing party and spent the next few days paddling TB on the North Fork, going to the hot springs and hang out, good times!

 

Thanks to James and Regan Byrd, the organizers, for putting this event together year after year, its an awesome event to be part of and it gets keeps getting bigger and better, can’t wait for next year!

Also thanks to the best girlfriend Ali for being there all the time and helping me with everything!

Photos by Mike Leeds and Tait Trautman

19
Jun

University of Bristol hit the alps swimming!

It’s here, we’re here, finally the long wait is over and our annual summer trip to the alps has begun!

We’re now one week in and loving the french alpine lifestyle with more baguettes and salami than we know what to do with…

After settling in and the first night we took the beginners for their first taste of alpine rivers with a nice swim down the slalom site at L’argentiere la bessee. On the water we saw a full range of emotions, and as Steve shows below not many were loving it!

This isn't like the pool! Steve finding the swim test interesting...

This isn’t like the pool! Steve finding the swim test interesting…

Successful swim test past!

Successful swim test past!

After the swim test we gave those who felt brave a quick blast on the slalom site, with only one one swim (Steve proving once more he can swim) we wrapped up and called it a morning.

Louis' Mk 1 burn still going strong at L'argentiere slalom site

Louis’ Mk 1 burn still going strong at L’argentiere slalom site

With the sun blazing one option besides kayaking was to take a quick drive down to Embrun lake and enjoy the views…

Joel sporting the branded club snap backs at Embrun Lake

Joel sporting the branded club snap backs at Embrun Lake

With a beginner’s trip down to the Rab Wave planned we lightened the dreaded anticipation with some messing around on the slide at St Clements.

The St Clément slide never dissapoints

The St Clément slide never disappoints

With a taste of ‘playboating’ at the Rab the previous day, we headed up the valley to sample the Upper Guisane with nice levels meaning no rocks and a speedy flow ‘S Bend’ was passed with no hitches, although swimming in the eddie below did make an appearance.

Upper Guisane - Freshers first real taste of alpine paddling

Upper Guisane – Freshers first real taste of alpine paddling

Being in the alp’s the sunshine last long into the evening, BBQing being a popular choice with the guys and girls.

Pre BBQ, Post river!

Pre BBQ, Post river!

After a couple of beginners orientated days it was time for the ‘Advanced’ paddlers to go have some fun, below are some snaps for our day on the Guil from Upper through to the reservoir at the bottom of the middle section (III-V). The day before we headed to the Ubaye for some truly spectacular scenery and some fantastic paddling at a med-high level. Getting on at Les Thuiles for a bit of a warm up (III/IV) before hitting La Fresquiere (V) and a warm down on the Race course section to finish (IV)

Chateau Queyras - Some lines were more successful than others...

Chateau Queyras – Some lines were more successful than others…

Middle Guil - Just after Triple Step

Middle Guil – Just after Triple Step

Middle Guil - Scenery is just spectacular

Middle Guil – Scenery is just spectacular

Middle Guil - Sam hitting a sweet line

Middle Guil – Sam hitting a sweet line

Middle Guil - The whole team

Middle Guil – The whole team

Bottom of the Middle Guil - Far below

Bottom of the Middle Guil – Far below

Bottom of the Middle Guil - Sweet Lines, Fun Times

Bottom of the Middle Guil – Sweet Lines, Fun Times

See you on the river!

Dougal

17
Jun

Fear(Not)

I have always thought that a little fear is a healthy thing to have, it can keep you safe and can keep you sharp.

But sometimes I think that fear sounds its loudest alarms when you are about to do something uncertain, something that’s going to make you uncomfortable.

More often than not we find ourselves on different ledges through out our lives, with different heights, different views, different landings (some we can see, some we can’t) and different widths. Sometimes we sit down on these ledges because we’re scared, we’re tired, we’re unsure, and hell why jump? -It’s actually pretty comfortable up here.

For me as I pack up my car to leave the safety of my parents’ home, after identifying for so long as an injured human, this being the first time out without a plan to return…Fear has been ringing out its loudest and most powerful “what if” doubts I have ever heard. As the clock ticks closer to ‘Go time,’ Fear has been making me feel the urge to cling to the ground as if a hurricane is sweeping past.

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Staying here would be easy, safe, and certain. And by certain, I mean I would NEVER miss an episode of ‘The Bachelor.’

If we let Fear dictate the opportunities we do or don’t jump into, we will stay right here, safely on the ledge.

Passions, opportunities to use our gifts, find our gifts, and moments of great faith can only happen when you are willing to get a little uncomfortable.

As I drive away today, I will surely be scared. Repeating to myself for the first couple hours “Oh shit.” But if we are going to be fearful of anything, shouldn’t it be the “what ifs” as in, “what if I didn’t try?”

Time to get a little uncomfortable, I know this life is worth it.

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14
Jun

Grizzly Creek, Glenwood Canyon, CO USA (V-)

Wow, don’t know where to start on this one. Grizzly Creek had been on my radar for a few years. I remember my Dad paddling it when I was 7. We had a friend who came out and stayed with us for a few weeks by the name of Devin Morton. I think he was 12 or 13 at the time and he and my Dad did laps on this creek and it just looked so fun. It’s pretty short as there are a couple of major log jams that need clearing, but you can still do like a 1/4 mile run on it and do laps. It drains into the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon.

This is my first run down with both my Mom and Dad shooting photos and video. I ran this in my Nano and I have got to say, this is one of the best creek boats in the world for runs that are tight and fast.

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This run is located at the Grizzly Creek Rest Area on I-70 inside the canyon. The photo below shows the pedestrian foot bridge that you may or may not have to duck under when going under it.

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A little boof over one of the continual drops you face. Oh yeah, there are ZERO eddies on this run.

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Ah, the fun of it all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SYOTR

13
Jun

Yampa River Festival

We first came to Yampa river festival last year with no idea of what to expect. It took place in a small mountain town, we knew very little about the local white water and there where conflicting dates with bigger events throughout the state of Colorado but two old school legends and active kayakers in the area (Chan Zanzwig and Kurt Casey) convinced us to visit despite our doubts. What we discovered is that it is one of the best festivals of the summer season and has since become one of the highlights of the Colorado Pro Tour for us. Now celebrating it’s 35th year, Yampa river festival continues to protect and raise awareness for the 270 mile Yampa River in Northwest Colorado and provide kayakers with a great opportunity to meet new friends, compete on some great white water and hang out in one of the coolest mountain towns in Colorado.

The first event is the creek race and it takes place just a couple miles out of town on a river called Fish creek. It has various sections to it but the part we race on is the middle. The previous year we arrived late and had little time to practice or learn the race lines. This year we made sure to take plenty of practice laps and dial in the fastest lines. Lower levels made the river and race far more technical and you had to focus less on putting the power down and having good solid clean lines. The extra practice laps where fully worth the abuse we put on our boats as we watched numerous racers get hung up on rocks throughout the course. I took first and Matt Anger took second but we are still waiting on the full list of results to find out who finished third.

Saturday morning rolled around and we decided to take part in the Slalom race just for kicks. Despite the banter we regularly give to Slalomers I have a lot of respect for the guys that race hard and if it wasn’t for their insistence on tight neoprene shorts and rules I think I would take part in the races more often. Luckily this race kept with the Yampa river fest spirit and there was not a single pair of (gross) tight neoprene shorts insight and no rules…. asides from the usual time penalties for missing or hitting gates. The course was really chilled and I was stoked to see so many kayakers getting out on the water and giving it a go. This guy however was by far my favourite for just rocking the old school look… We later learned he traded 5 beers for this boat just a few weeks before the event… Which further cements him in my mind as the coolest guy on the water this weekend

The endurance race happened a few hours later and it was pretty brutal. It took place on the town run which is mostly flat water with some class 2 rapids. I went as hard as I could until it felt like my head and fore arms might actually explode then went some more. I finished third overall and first in the short boat class (with the two people ahead of me in marathon kayaks). It did however come at a price as I was in serious danger of being run over while hiding from the mid day heat and recovering from the race. Sprinting at this altitude is no joke.

Boater cross consisted of one round, a 20 person mass start and mandatory use of a freestyle boat. I have taken part in some rowdy boater cross starts before but this one was next level. Paddles, boats and people flying in every direction. Matt Anger took the win with local hero Marty Smith in second and myself in third.

The freestyle event took place later that evening in the heart of downtime Steamboat on a great little wave. It is small, flushy and can surge at times but still offers up almost every trick in the book and you can generate some surprising height on the right pass. Another reason I like this event so much is that there are no scribes or scoresheets, the judges are just looking for rides or tricks that look cool or impress the crowd. I hit the ride I wanted almost every time and was stoked to take first place with my bro Matt Anger just behind me in second.

That evening while partying at Kurt Caseys talk of the North fork of the Fish came up. A rarely run section of river that you reach by hiking 2 miles past an abandoned Uranium mine, reports of long boulder gardens and several good sized drops where enough to tantalise our imaginations that evening and despite the warnings of walled in gorges, trees and siphons we made up our minds to go check it out the next day. Overall it was one of the sketchiest days on the river we have had in a while, Tiny last chance eddies above log jams, some truly horrendous portages and chunky holes. With some serious wood removal work this run could be opened up and become another great addition to the local white water runs in Yampa but at the moment it remains a steep, sketchy, wood filled creek.

We had another great year at Yampa and I can’t wait to see everyone again in 2016, Big thanks to all of the volunteers that work hard to make this event happen and the local white water community for all the hospitality .

See you on the water,

Bren

 

10
Jun

Kayaking round and about Rishikesh

After 10 weeks in Nepal paddling the Humla Karnali and Thuli Bheri, then helping out with the earthquake relief effort, it was amazing to arrive in India for some more kayaking.

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A very beautiful but busy Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh during the Indian summer hollidays

I had 2 weeks with Rory woods and Lee Royal before I flew home and left the guys to continue their Indian tour.  With some good beta from Daz Clarkson-King (among others), we headed to the Rishikesh area which sounded great.

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All you can eat dal bhat for 70p was a total winner

We warmed up on the Ganga rafting run, a nice class 3 (4) which finishes in Lakshman Jhula, famous for Yoga and Hindu pilgrims that come to meditate on their way to the headwaters of the Ganges.

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Jonny enjoying the big water of the Alaknanda. Photo – Rory Woods

We then headed further upstream to paddle the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda which join to form the Ganga at Devaprayag.  Both of these runs were big volume 3(4) play runs with loads of amazing waves.

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Lee styling the harder rapid on the Mandakini

We popped into Shivanandi River Lodge owned by Shalabh who is the oracle of Indian kayaking knowledge (definitely worth a visit) to get some more river info.  Unfortunately he was away but friends and internet gave us more rivers to check out.

The Pindar has an awesome 50km stretch of fairly continuous, boulder garden 3/4 down from Tharli.  The Alaknander from Chamoli to Rudrapayag offers big volume grade 3/4 again with some 4+ to add some amusement.  The smaller Mandakini starts out as a lovely tight technical 4 (5) gorge from Rampur and over its 70km, gains volume into a nice cruisy class 3/4.

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Jonny enjoying one of the countless awesome rapids on the Mandakini. Photo – Rory Woods

The Pindar has an awesome 50km stretch of fairly continuous, boulder garden 3/4 down from Tharli.  The Alaknander from Chamoli to Rudrapayag offers big volume grade 3/4 again with some 4+ to add some amusement.  The smaller Mandakini starts out as a lovely tight technical 4 (5) gorge from Rampur and over its 70km, gains volume into a nice cruisy class 3.

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Rory soaking up the sun on the stunning Tons river

With a few days left we headed further west to check out the Tons which received many recommendations.  This beautiful pristine river flows for about 125km from Netwar through amazing pine forests and towering gorges with some awesome rapids dotted throughout.  It starts out as 4/5 down to Mori, then mellows out and picks up again after Hanol before the get out at the dam.

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One of the harder drops on the Tons. Photo – Rory Woods

This area of N. India runs from April-July and works well when stuff in Nepal starts to get too high, or as a two week holiday from the UK flying into Deli and hiring a jeep.

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More fun on the Tons

Here is a link to a short guide I have writern for the area – Upper Ganga and Tons PDF guide

09
Jun

2015 USA Freestyle Kayak Team Trials – Glenwood Wave

Okay, had a lot of fun in the sun after GoPro Mountain games in Vail, Colorado. This is the first year in a long time that I have focused back onto freestyle, so team trials didn’t end up the way I had hoped. I have to give a lot of props to all of the competitors in the Junior Men K1. It was pretty cool seeing all of the big air tricks being laid out. I had some great rides (well, 3 out of 4 anyway).
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I did learn a lot and I think with some more coaching and training, I will definitely be in contention at the next team trials. I have never had so much fun on such a world class wave like I did in Glenwood. It is truly one of a kind. My JED is really an awesome wave boat. I spent a lot of the time in the toilet bowl that was jacking up most of the boaters. E.J. was announcing and I could hear him freaking out a little every time I was playing in the TB. :-) It’s okay E.J. – I can handle that and a lot more.

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09
Jun

Spring Flings 2015

Below: Adam Goshorn running the low water line on the first drop of Cable Falls on one of several snowy days on Little River Canyon early in the spring.  Photo by Shannon Goshorn.

Adam Goshorn on Cable Falls by Shannon Goshorn

The spring of 2015 was not a high water year in and around north Alabama, but luckily for those of us who live here, below average spring rain is still better than most places anyway.  The ever reliable Little River Canyon (LRC) stayed at runnable levels almost nonstop from December to April and provided consistent, high quality paddling between the few bigger rain events that we did have.  When the rains did come we were able to take advantage, getting some great days on a variety of great creeks and some hucks off Little River Falls, our local favorite.

Below: A compilation of shots from of a variety of runs friends and I paddled from February to April of 2015.  Edited by Adam Goshorn.

Below: Adam Goshorn in the run-out below Mr. Bubbles on Little River Canyon just as the leaves were starting to come out.  Photo by Shannon Goshorn.

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Until Next Time…

Adam Goshorn

Below: Hiking in for a solo lap on the Upper Two section of Little River Canyon.  Photo by Tom MacMichael.

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