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30
May

Racing down the Lariang – Sulawesi multi-daying in a 9R

It’s an interesting feeling, launching onto a big volume, multi-day river, that you haven’t paddled before, in a boat that hasn’t been designed for the purpose. It’s a whole series of unknowns, swirling around in your mind and creating butterflies in your stomach.

Start of the Lairiang - River Flair Coach Dave Kohn-Hollins       Entry gorge of the Lairiang        Sea Kayaking Anglesey Coach Phil Clegg

Thankfully, despite having not been designed for it, the 9r turns out to be a great multi-day kayak. Having packed the boat full – with a tarp, hammock, sleeping bag, stove, food, camera and emergency kit – it still paddled and handled as well as I’ve come to expect from my favourite Pyranha boat.

Overnight camp on the Lairiang     Minor incident of the petrol bottle catching fire....

On the Lariang, we paddled some of the biggest volume rapids I have ever run, and the 9r still felt as fast, stable and precise as it had on all the other rivers we paddled in Sulawesi.

Big volume, technical white water with the river rising all the time!      River Flair Director and Coach - Dave Kohn-Hollins

I can also report that both the 9r and the Burn are as transportable by scooter taxi as they are by car…

Transport back to the proper take-out of the Lairiang Locals getting a good look.although sometimes they’re not as useful as the local version…

Phil taking the ferry for a spin.

Our descent of the Lariang was so fast that we had plenty of time to check out the local wildlife…

Water Buffalo!  Monitor Lizard  Praying Mantis!  Fungi or little aliens?

and for the locals to check us out as well.

Sunset finish on the Sadan river.

Sulawesi is a fantastic country to go and paddle in. If you get the chance then definitely take it!

24
May

Kern Fest 2016

Late March of 2016 marked the 52nd annual Kern River festival in the small town of Kernville, California. The festival was created as a fundraiser for the Kern river alliance. It features some great activities for paddlers of all skill levels including clinics, SUP events, a slalom race, and a downriver race.

For the past few seasons, the drought in CA has negatively impacted the festival and last year it was cancelled due to the lack of water in the drainage. This year, a cold spell locked up the snow in the headwaters, which caused the flows to drop some. However, boaters from all over the west coast still made the trip down to the Kern despite the below average flow. The low flows led to the cancellation of the highly anticipated Brush Creek race, but there was still plenty of events and sections to boat to keep paddler’s stoked. The local boaters were more than welcoming to those of us who were new to the area, and were excited to have both water and paddlers back in the area.

What was unique to me about this festival was the fact that all of the events were on a section of the Kern that is class II-III. It reminded me of a festival of the same caliber of Cheat fest, and that to me was really cool. The great thing about having a festival like Kern fest is that it encourages more paddlers to take part in events and push themselves a little. Witnessing paddlers who would generally stay away from events on harder runs take part in races and try new things was really cool. I think there needs to be more festivals and events like this.

After three days of hanging out at the Pyranha booth, paddling with both old and new friends, and hanging out with some awesome people, I was stoked by all the things the Kern Fest had to offer. If you’re around California in March, plan on stopping by the Kern Festival. It’s a fun event with some really awesome people. I want to extend a huge thanks to Sierra South, Kern River Brewing Company, Kern River Alliance, the people of Kernville, and everyone who attended Kern fest. You all made this cool event possible. I’ll be back next year!

11
May

White Salmon ‘Get The Girls Out’

Thanks for the edit Ali Casas Zaragozas!!!

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Jenny Brown & Kristin Alligood chilling at CaveWave on the Lower. Photo – Cat Looke

The White Salmon area in Washington is undoubtedly one of the best kayaking hubs on earth, attracting paddlers worldwide of all ability levels.  The number of quality rivers and the diversity of whitewater is incredible, but what really makes this place so special is the paddling community.  There is always someone to paddle with, including an uncharacteristically large number of female boaters.  But, regardless of gender and ability levels, everyone is exceptionally supportive of each other and paddles together here.

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Regan Byrd watching others on the White Salmon. Photo Cat Looke

Last Saturday SheJumps and TiTsDeep hosted a ‘Get the Girls Out’ paddling day on the White Salmon River.    Organizing an event of this nature is almost unnecessary in this paddling community where there is a plethora of paddling ladies and hitting the river with an all female crew happens naturally everyday.  So, Saturday was all about gathering friends together.  The event targeted ladies, but we decided to include boys because it’s all about community and friendship, and we certainly would not appreciate if the boys excluded us from their paddling adventures.  Several guys joined us, but the ratio was overwhelmingly female. The day started with 13 kayakers hiking into the Class 4 Orletta Section of the White Salmon River.  As we paddled downstream the stoke float crew grew in numbers as more people joined for the Middle and Lower Sections.  More organized then most days on the river, it all culminated with a take-out BBQ with delicious local beverages provided by Naked Winery and Everybody’s Brewing.  It was great to see so many people out on the water together and awesome to meet a couple of new friends who made treks from Portland and Seattle.

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Thanks Laurie Rogers & Naked Winery!!

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And for the delicious beers, we give a huge shout out to Pat Velten & Everybody’s Brewing!!             Photo – Adrienne Levknecht

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05
May

Allow Me to Reintroduce the Z.One!

Owning just one kayak seems a thing of the past; in the days of kayaks becoming more and more specialised, many paddlers have multiple boats and a range of options depending on what kind of water they want to paddle. Having observed the transition from paddlers doing everything from rodeo to waterfalls in the same boat, to paddlers now selecting a particular boat to match their wave/waterfall/race, you might think that the “all river” type boat is a thing of the past.

This isn’t a new boat to Pyranha’s range, but it certainly is one of the unsung heroes; you won’t see it winning freestyle competitions or being used to break waterfall records, but you will see it out there every day on the water, earning its money with paddlers, enthusiasts, clubs and coaches. From entry level to pro, this is one kayak that everyone can get something from; allow me to reintroduce… the Z.One!

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Fast, dynamic, precise

The Z.One is fast, agile and so much fun to paddle. The hull is incredible with enough rocker to keep your bow dry when moving over waves and holes, but enough length and edge to make sure you keep your speed and stay on line when flying around the river. With one boat you can carve the river, surf waves and play in stoppers or holes. The Z.One is also a perfect training boat for intermediates and experts developing their skills on the river. You’ll have more fun in this on your regular grade 3 run than you will in your creek boat!

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Chris Brain going old school! (to be honest stern squirts never went out of fashion did they?)

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For many Pyranha paddlers, this boat has become their first choice for anything that isn’t at the extreme ends of the sport; for all-round river performance that puts a smile on your face, it is up there with the best.

I have used the Z.One on a full range of rivers and have seen it excel at punching through holes, tackling big water and of course technical whitewater where you need to be able to make quick corrections to avoid rocks and features.

Team Pyranha paddlers love it too

“For me, the Z.One gives me the sneaky opportunity during coaching sessions to have a little tail squirt whilst no one is looking.  In the past 18 months, I’ve paddled little else. When coaching the boat gives great demos, movements are clearly visible to students and encourages me to paddle well, demonstrating good technique all the time.  When paddling for fun I can catch lots of waves on the fly, run some great lines with quick changing momentum and it keeps me on my toes on harder stuff.  What’s not to like?”

Chris Eastabrook -Team Pyranha

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Chris Eastabrook showing how much fun you can have on the river in his favourite boat

Chris Eastabrook showing how much fun you can have on the river in his favourite boat

Driving through stoppers with ease

Driving through stoppers with ease

“As a recreational paddler I find the Z.One a really enjoyable boat to paddle. It’s fast, playful and fun on Class II/III water and provides the ideal craft for me to look after club paddlers, whilst also coaching river skills.
The Z.One really comes into its own on the surf too. I always look forward to taking it to Cornwall several times a year where I can ride the waves, practice my rolls if need be and just have some quality fun with my fellow Z.One paddlers, who are also smitten with the way it performs.
Long live the Z.One is what I say!”

Clare Morgan – Team Pyranha

Our students love it too!

“I love my Pyranha Z.One Kayak because even when the water levels are low I can still practice my stern squirts >> This boat is clearly the superior of all kayaks!!”

Ellie Selley, 2nd year outdoor leadership student at UCLan.

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Even when there's no water Ellie still has fun in her Z.One!

Even when there’s no water Ellie still has fun in her Z.One!

“I love my Z.One as it is not only a reliable river runner, but also a great boat to play around in. As well as being even easier to roll than a burn!!  Since swapping to a Z.One, my balance and stability in the boat has improved and has helped to better my overall kayaking.”

Bethany Wilson

Beth Wilson loves her Z.One that much she keeps it in her bedroom!

Beth Wilson loves her Z.One that much she keeps it in her bedroom!

So If you are finding that your creek boat isn’t responsive enough for your local river run,  or you are wanting to catch every eddy,  make every move and surf every wave then you really should take a look at the Z. One,we love it and we know you will too!

Thanks to Chris Eastabrook, Claire Morgan, Bethany Wilson and Ellie Selley for having fun in their Z.One and their input. Thanks to Rachel Burke and Dougal Gray for photosIMG_0230

Chris Brain

04
May

All You Need Is Ecuador

On Christmas day I flew to Ecuador to spend 3 weeks doing what I love most; white water kayaking! Fall had been incredibly busy, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to make a paddling trip happen this winter. Last year, I had my first international kayaking experience in Ecuador and it changed my life, I was eager to go back!

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I was thankful to make it home to spend Christmas Eve with my family, the next day I was off to SeaTac airport with ziploc baggies of turkey and cranberry sauce from my Mom which I thoroughly enjoyed while I eagerly waited to board my flight.

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As I sat there reality began to set in, I was exploding with excitement to return to Ecuador!! My friends dropped me off at the airport and my mind started to wander. I had flashbacks of being in a foreign country, paddling everyday, exploring new runs, and warm water!

10623354_10153980145299994_6782367841831414603_o-3When I arrived in Quito, I found my way to Baeza where I met my friend Marco Collela. I don’t know if I would have been there had he not encouraged me in the first place, so glad he did! I came without much of a plan and I honestly didn’t know what to expect this time. Having no set expectations allowed me to challenge myself freely and really enjoy every moment not wanting to take anything for granted!

The next day we hit the water!!! We paddled the Cosanga and Bridge to Bridge section of the Quijos. The high water almost got the best of my overtired and jet lagged body as I surfed several holes!

Ecuador is a truly remarkable place. Last year, I learned to boof and really hone in my class 4 skills here. This year, I focused on paddling technical and challenging runs while building on those foundational skills necessary to paddle them well! Ecuador has everything one could possibly desire, from world class steep creeks to big water rivers to easy logistics, it is inexpensive, and attracts some of the most inspiring individuals you will meet. For 2 weeks I paddled everyday with great flows progressively stepping up my comfort levels and challenging my skills on a variety of creeks and rivers. From the Oyacachi, Quijos, Piatua, Papallacta, and Jondachi there was never a dull moment.

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My favorite run? That’s a tough one as they are all so different and special. Probably, the Cheesehouse section of the Quijos river. Not only because it is a continuous big water Class V run full of big holes, moves, and boofs, but I overcame a lot in there. As we drove to the put-in I could see the water was a dirty brown color. I knew it was on the high side, but I didn’t say anything as I knew I could do this and I really wanted it. I took a deep breath when we put on and as Marco led me into the first Class 5 rapid ‘Made in Ecuador’ I dug real deep; I was nervous. I made it to the eddy I needed to be in and from there we broke down each rapid; I began to calm down.

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Photo by: Niko Peha

The rapid I was most nervous about was ‘Das Boof.’ I had been having trouble staying forward and I knew if I leaned back or didn’t boof the wave in the right spot, I was going to get beat down. But where was this fear coming from? That is a great question. Turns out it had nothing to do with my ability to kayak. Sure I didn’t want to swim, but more than anything it was a mental game for me that day. As I entered my final year of University this past fall, I found myself a bit anxious and unsure about what the future held for me. Sure, I’m looking forward to graduating and as an eager soon-to-be college grad isn’t the world supposed to be limitless? I want to travel the world and have a successful career on my terms. So what does any of this have to do with my mental state in the middle of a class 5 rapid? Well, when these thoughts are flying through your head you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. You wonder if what you are doing is going to provide you with what you truly need. I know in whatever I do in my life it needs to be meaningful, honest, and spark genuine passion for me to find value and be willing to commit 100%. Through my travels I have begun to realize rather than trying to figure forever out, why not live with a curiosity for it all? I don’t have to know where I will be a year or even a few weeks from now. After all it is the uncertainty and unpredictability which attracted me to white water in the first place. Having curiosity reminds me to live in the moment, because that’s the space in which the very best things in life happen.

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Photo by: Niko Peha

The innate beauty of the Andes mountains, very active volcanoes, wild jungle noises, sudden rainstorms, kamikaze taxi drivers, and the many beautifully butchered Spanish conversations I had; I loved it all!

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Photo by: Graham Lavery

I took a short break from paddling to spend some time at Canoa beach where I learned to surf! While I spent the majority of my time getting swirled and diving head first into the waves, I kept at it and eventually caught a few amazing surfs making the struggle well worth it!
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I spent my last week in Ecuador on the Jondachi river in Tena where I learned how to paddle my first low volume steep creek. The put-in tributary for the Upper Jondachi, Urusiqui creek, was particularly memorable as it had more rocks and sieves than water. I certainly feel the most comfortable in big water so this was a new challenge. I learned to use the rocks to somewhat gracefully manoeuvre through the rapids without getting stuck or pinned too much. One day we spent 7 hours completing a full descent of all three sections of the Jondachi into the Hollin river. Wow! I find it hard to believe there are 3 projected dams in the approval process to be constructed on this river. After spending a great deal of time here, I cannot imagine this beautiful sacred place and ecosystem being harmed by man and machine.

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I also had an incredible opportunity to compete in Jondachi Fest with 30 other paddlers from all over the world in an effort to raise awareness of the projected dam to dewater this magical place. With miles of free flowing whitewater through a breathtaking jungle, the Jondachi is one of the most beautiful rivers I have ever paddled. Losing this river would be tragic for Ecuador should the hydroelectricity development move forward, show your support for Ecuadorian Rivers Institute and help protect this river.

Jondachi Race

Photo by: Graham Lavery

In life as on the river, I love being challenged and pushing my limits. Why? Because it scares me and evokes a fierce determination that I have only ever felt while I am paddling. Because it’s fun and just thinking about it makes me smile!

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Photo by: Wes Howland

Because it’s beautiful to be strong and skilled at something I really love even though it tests me at times.

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Photo by: Niko Peha

Because it’s not going to be easy and I love a challenge. Because I can and I am able. I live for those moments in which I must give my very best and I am mercifully humbled. Because I want to be inspired and inspire others.

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Because this is where the best friendships are forged. Because even though the struggle is endured independently, it is a battle fought side by side with friends who are overcoming their fears and doubts too. Because we want to witness each others achievements and celebrate each others successes as if they were our own.

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Because not too long ago I was overwhelmed by all of the things I thought I was not and all the things I thought I had to be. Because taking things too seriously and being too hard on myself can cause me to lose focus on the things I know I am. I set goals for myself to focus my energy. For the things I will learn about myself and what I will learn in the space outside of my comfort zone. Because it just keeps getting better and better!

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Because from my experience life is far too short to do anything you are not passionate about. When it comes to my heart pounding through my chest, the courage to have a wild and adventurous spirit, the unpredictability of the future, and being the very best me I can be, a little is not enough.

You may be able to see the river on a map, but there is no guide to the experience. That experience is everything! It will shift your perspective, break you open, uplift and expand you, and make your heart beat fast! Challenge yourself sure, but focus on having fun! If you are having fun you will feel a contagious energy reverberate through every part of you reminding you that you are limitless!

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Everyone defines success differently. I see success not as an individual accomplishment, but as a process taking constant work- an attitude, a lifestyle, and talent itself. I do my best to think, act, work, and live in a way that will help me achieve my goals. 10 years from now I want to be able to say I chose my life, I never want to wonder what if? When it comes to success, in my experience the challenge is almost always worth it. I never want to let the fear of not succeeding stop me from growing, evolving, and progressing in life or my sport.

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Photo by: Andres Reyes

How will you define your success? #shegoes

AL

20
Apr

Get The Girls Out!! (White Salmon edition!)

Calling out all the girls in the Pacific Northwest for a fun day of kayaking on the White Salmon River in Washington!!  If you’re not in the PNW… Well, it’s not too late to buy a plane ticket!!

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There’s a misprint in the flier, so don’t go to Alyeska!!  Read these details.. & check out this link for further details https://www.facebook.com/events/243338469350527/

Come join the gals of TiTs Deep and SheJumps for a day of kayaking on the White Salmon River. We will start paddling at the Orletta Section, meet another wave of girls at the Middle, and then join up with a third group of gals to collectively paddle the Lower. There is something for everyone and all lady kayakers of Class 2 and up skill level are encouraged to join. It will be a great day to meet other ladies paddling at your skill level and rally together the gals of the kayaking community. Get the Girls Out on the White Salmon!

Regardless of which section you choose as your put-in, we will all be taking out together after the Lower stretch. There will be a BBQ, so plan on grilling and chilling at the Northwestern Lake Park. Everybody’s Brewing and Naked Winery will be providing beverages, but bring something to throw on the BBQ or picnic
table!

Details

10am – meet at Northwestern Lake if you plan on running the Orletta – (Class 4 skills)

1:30 pm – meet at BZ Falls to run the Middle White Salmon – (Class 3 skills)

3:30 pm – meet at Husum Falls to run the Lower (Class 2 skills, prior experience necessary)

5:30 – BBQ & hang out at Northwestern Lake Park

19
Apr

Tallulah Fest 2016

Tallulah Fest is definitively one to go to, and it is personally one of my favorites. If you think the Tallulah is fun to paddle, the festival makes it even better. I got there Friday morning and paddled  Section Four of the Chattooga with my friends and we had a blast. It was my first time on Section Four, it was amazing, not only was the river rad, but the scenery was beautiful.  Then on Saturday I went with Team Pyranha to paddle the Tallulah.  The only bad part about the Tallulah is the hike into the gorge. It’s about a 600 stairs down into the gorge.

IMG_9520Oceana is a known rapid on the Tallulah. It’s about a 50 foot slide. Its very deceiving in pictures, it’s super steep and very scary. Once the Pyranha crew got to the rapid we pulled over and got out of our boats to look at the rapid. I was really nervous, but so many paddlers talked to me and told me just to keep your right paddle blade in the water and you will be fine. After a bit of thinking, I got in my boat and went to the lip, and took and paddle stroke and I was going down the rapid. It was really big and fun. It was a bumpy ride and it had a fun hole to boof at the bottom.

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Bren Orton doing a kick flip on Oceana

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Team Pyranha at the bottom of Oceana

The next couple of rapids were pretty easy, there was a one like Oceana, it was a slide, a little shorter and not as big. It had a sick boof at the bottom too. Then came one called Tom’s Brain Buster. It feels just how it sounds, if you flip, and if you don’t it is just a fun rapid. There is big rock to the right of the middle of the rapid. While paddling the rapid you obviously want to avoid the rock, and paddle down  the ride side.

I paddle and tried to go right but ended up slamming into the rock and going down the right, but upside down. I was on the back deck of my boat and I needed to be tucked, so I tried to move and tuck on my boat. I did do that, but I felt every groove, rock, and ledge. I finally rolled up when the rapid was over and I was not a happy person, thankfully my shoulder and elbow was only bruised. I was using a new full face helmet and it was blue, so when I rolled up the back and top of the helmet didn’t have any blue paint and the part the goes around my face to protect it didn’t have any blue paint either. Which meant the helmet got really beat up. Then I went to reach for my Ultra Pro X Camera and it was not there. I was again not a happy person. I didn’t really mind losing the camera, but all my footage was on the SD Card. I got over it, but the rest of the river was really fun.

Then after everyone ran, the festival began. There was a pretty rad band. The music from the band was awesome. Then the raffle began. Some really sick stuff was given away at the festival, like Sweet Protection shorts and a gear bag, Mountain Khaki gift cards, Watershed dry bags, and Pyranha Shirts and Hats. Then the best prize ever. Pyranha Kayaks gave away a new Loki. The winner was really stoked to get the boat.

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Then there was a 5 minute paddling video award. The winner got 1,000 dollars cash and a new Sweet Protection Dysuit. Dylan Mckinney won, and it was a really sick video. He worked so hard on it. Then the after the award we all went back to out hotels, campsites, and RVs. Tallulah Fest is definitely one of my favorite festivals and its festival you should go to. I plan on going back next year and going to the festival for years to come. Huge thanks to Big D who made this years Talulah Fest happen.

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Hope to see you on the water,

Cat H.

10
Apr

A Plea to the Outdoor Industry

Growing up as an enthusiastic female kayaker and learning to paddle with family and friends of all genders and ages, I didn’t really realise there was a gender inequality in the sport until I went to University. Despite a number of inspirational female paddlers having been through Leeds University, I still often found myself alone with the boys on the river and even earned myself the nickname “Token Girl” after a club trip to Scotland. However, as the years go on, everywhere I look there are more and more female kayakers. At an event which previously has been nicknamed “sausage fest”, last year there were more women than ever and each time I get on the river I end up bumping in to more awesome and talented ladies. I also feel very lucky to have competed last year in the first Adidas Sickline World Championships where the women’s places sold out and we had our own category!

But now the time has come for me to start looking for a new drysuit. Amongst the confusion of zip styles, breathable materials and hydrophobic properties, there really is only one question on every discerning female kayaker’s mind…

…do I want pink, purple or baby blue? It’s a difficult decision and one that any woman buying outdoors kit has had to struggle over – not because we really care about whether petal pink or orchid purple will make our eyes pop more, but mainly because I am not really sure why I have to be distinguished as a woman just from the colour of my kit (plus I really, really detest the colour pink!)

Why is it that outdoor retailers insist on making our kit in “girly” colours?  Are they worried that we’ll be so busy charging lines and surfing waves that we might forget we are the proud bearers of ovaries? I’ve heard the argument that it costs too much to manufacture in a range of colours but to me that just further proves my point: surely if you are buying material to be used for the men’s kit then the cost effective choice is to simply use it for women’s kit too? If so, why not offer the same colours to both men and women? I am pretty sure I know some guys who would look fabulous in pink, and I know plenty of women who covet the greens and oranges that are popping up in men’s ranges across various outdoor clothing manufacturers.

In the end, I settled for a men’s drysuit from a company who does not make women’s specific kit. It’s a shame that my shiny new drysuit will not fit as well, but I can understand that for smaller companies the amount they would need to spend on research and development is not justified for such a small market…

But is the market really still that small?

 

Excited for some lady boating. Photo - Mark Mulrain

Excited for some lady boating. Photo – Mark Mulrain

 

I constantly hear the view that kayaking is a “male dominated sport” and although this may still be true at the moment, times are definitely changing and we need to make sure we are keeping up. It is a constant source of frustration for me that despite more women coming up through the sport, the industry is still making it hard for us.

When you look at kayaking events you see examples such as “King of the Alps”, “King of Asia” and “King of New York”. Time and time again I find myself, like Eddie Izzard searching the back streets of Thailand, screaming into the online entry pages “Where are the Queens?”. I have been to events which do not even have a women’s category, despite having 15 female competitors. How much extra time would it really take to have a top 5 final? Why would I bother coming back when I don’t even have a chance of getting into the final, let alone winning a prize?

Prize money is a constant cause of frustration. So many times I’ve been told that of course I can win the prize money, I just have to beat all the men.  Given that I start with a genetic disadvantage, is this really fair? If I am paying the same entry fee as the men then I should have the same chance of winning a cash prize. I get that if there are fewer women and the prize money is equal then actually I have a higher chance of winning, which I agree is also not ideal. In that case why not try setting a proportional prize to encourage greater participation or introducing a handicap to scale the times so everyone competes on an equal playing field?

I also think that the media coverage of the women’s competitions is often very poor. I sincerely hope that at Sickline this year they televise the full women’s final rather than spending their hour of airtime purely on setting the scene for the men’s race. Equal coverage has the potential to particularly help women who are just starting in the sport, introducing role models and proving that your gender is not something which should hold you back.  There are female paddlers out there and they are good!  We need the stories of these women shared loud and proud so that ladies of any age know that they can paddle too.

For a few years now I have grumbled in the background, but given the clear evidence I have seen of the increase in women on the river, at events and in races, I decided that now is the time to speak up.

So here is my plea: there are many awesome women out there in kayaking and in the outdoors in general, so let’s make it easy for them! Give us a better choice of kit, let the racing “Queens” have a shot at some decent prizes and shout about it when we win!

 

“Girls just wanna have fun” during an expedition in Indonesia. Photo – Beth Hume

“Girls just wanna have fun” during an expedition in Indonesia. Photo – Beth Hume

 

03
Apr

The River Motu – North Island’s classic multiday mission

The New Zealand guidebook encourages paddles to “jump at any opportunity” to paddle one of North Islands finest multiday rivers. So, with 4 days off over Easter, I joined a 21 strong crew of friendly North Island kayakers to enjoy this jem.

IMG_0207The river flows through the Raukumara Range which was the last area in New Zealand to be mapped, so the rugged and remoteness of the surroundings makes this a river to be remembered.  The length and continuous nature of the river is rare on the North Island, so combined with a lack of roads and people, creates a really adventurous trip.

 

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The group consisted of many people from all over the place that didn’t know each other, but as is the nature of kayakers, by the end of day one, stories and laughter accompanied the fire like we were old friends.

IMG_0261Red dear, wild goats and swooping hawks watched over us as we paddled endless read and run rapids. We only spotted a  handful of fisherman and hunters who got helicoptered in to enjoy the wilderness.

IMG_0268Awesome campsites dot the river banks, ranging from pristine beaches, to established hunter’s camps and the abundance of firewood kept us warm, as the stars and moon shone overhead.

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IMG_0314This was the first time I had paddled the 9r on a multiday and it handled the extra load admirably.  A simple re-adjust of the seat kept the weight forward and there was ample space for; stoves, tarps and the all important bag of wine.  The speed was awesome for punching holes and hitting big lines, whilst the sculpted edges allowed for accurate boat positioning down the endless, boulder garden rapids.

IMG_0326_stitchThe Motu is a must for any paddler wanting to experience the quality and remoteness of North Island whitewater.

IMG_0387Thanks to Cameron Birch for some epic organisation and to Pyranha and Long Cloud Kayaks and Outdoors for sorting me out with my awesome vessel.

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18
Mar

Nass – The Sacred Headwaters

The Nass, what a mission this one turned out to be! 19hr hike in, 5 days on the river and a 250km hitch. This river is one of three veins flowing undisturbed off the pristine wilderness of the Sacred Headwaters Plateau.

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As most epic missions begin, a few quick phone calls, some minor talk of logistics, then commit. This trip was a little different to most. Myself, Hector Darby MacLellan and Louis Geltman signed up.

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Rumours of a ‘hike in’ route (as opposed to the usual float plane) were heard on the grapevine. Todd Wells, an up and coming expedition legend, managed to plan what seemed to be a ‘do able’ route from the end of the road that follows the Little Klappan to Nass Lake. From A to B, roughly 20 km stood between the two.

Having heard it has been done, we unanimously decided this is the way to go, screw the floatplane! Todd armed us with a photo of a napkin on which he drew a ‘Lord of the Rings’ style map. This turned out to be very open to interpretation! Let’s just say the Topo maps we carried with us did not match exactly with Todd’s artistry.

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The crux… we had 3 tributaries to choose from. These marked the start of our descent into the Klappan drainage. We decided to go with the obvious choice, the largest. That way it would make for good boat dragging, or even kayaking. Our choice was average at best. As we dropped deeper into the canyon and the walls grew taller overhead, we started to truly feel the remoteness, the exposure. This climaxed with a sequence of gnar waterfalls that were un-portage-able. Our only choice was to hike back up stream and climb through the thickest BC hell f*@# I have ever experienced and onto the ridge.

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Once past this section we met up with the river again, once all creeks met we were able to kayak. Hey, it wasn’t bad with some nice class 3-4. The next part of the puzzle was to find the meadow marking the divide between the Klappan and the Nass. We found it! By this point it was about 5pm, 9 hours into our second day of hiking. The only catch was (after analysing the Topos) that Nass Lake sat on the distant horizon as far as the eye could see. Our 80lbs boats by this point were starting to feel really heavy. We crushed it, 4 hours straight of pushing through oil infused, thigh deep marshlands.

We were at the lake! 13hr day done. Only now it was pissing down with rain and we were all exhausted, cold and suffering from mild trench foot. Louis by this point had really not been feeling well for some time. We called it, we made the controversial decision to delicately break into the hunting cabin on the lake. This shed like structure provided us with shelter for the night. We left the cabin the next morning as we found it. The owners none the wiser other than the confusing $20 bill pinned on the wall. Thank you.

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The river is stunning, put simply it boasts endless pristine wilderness for as far as the eye can see. There is a lot of classy class 4 with enough 5s to keep you on your toes.

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This river is home to some of the biggest log jams I have ever seen! 100s of 1000s jammed at all angles making a beautiful spectacle.

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A first for me was eating a perfect, fresh salmon that a Grizzly we disturbed left twitching on the riverbanks. River bounty, perfect. That lunch, we cooked it up on a flat slate over an open fire. Delicious!

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This was the first time I took the 9R fully loaded on an expedition. It paddled beautifully! That thing still flies fully loaded. I have to say a few years ago I did not think the 2010 Burn could be improved, it was my perfect boat. Now the 9R has taken that title!

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