The hype was big, the prizes were bigger and with the promise of the biggest party ever, the Pyranha fest 2014 was going to be huge! Every year in mid September the Pyranha fest is held at Bala in North Wales with a range of courses, events, competitions, paddling, mayhem and of course a full demo fleet on offer too. The weekend has something for everyone, with many paddlers simply coming to catch up with old friends on the water and to attend the legendary Saturday night party!
The morning of both the Saturday and Sunday of the event kicks off with the coaching sessions, with Team Pyranha’s top coaches passing on a range of skills and expertise to the paddlers that had signed up. On offer were courses covering a range of skills from boofing, to beginner sessions, sit on top fun, to freestyle and even finding out how to paddle like a Jedi!
I delivered the river rescue session on the Saturday and the downriver freestyle course on the Sunday. What completely struck me during both sessions was how passionate everyone who attended the event was about paddlesport. Even during repeated dunking and swims for throwlines during the river rescue, the participants had beaming smiles throughout and just wanted more and more! During the freestyle course everyone was wanting to push themselves to be better and better on every single run, but it wasn’t about beating everyone else, it was just about being the best that they possibly could be. The smiles and the enthusiasm I saw throughout the courses was a really positive reminder of the ethos of the event and also why I love paddling and coaching.
After the courses the “competitive” side of the event got well underway with the extreme slalom up first with paddlers flying down the course, catching specific eddies and passing paddles through cockpit rims that had been strung up across the course. Skillful paddling was certainly rewarded, with the fastest paddlers negotiating the course in a slick, precise way, intelligently overcoming all the obstacles.
Next up was the retro rodeo, with paddlers dusting off old kit and equipment and pulling mouldy boats out from behind garden sheds to show who really is the rodeo king or queen. Not since the late 90s has such a seamless display of air guitars, shudder rudders, paddle spins and hand surfing been displayed in a competition format. Team Pyranha’s Matt Cooke came to the competition in style to give the crowd a showcase of the early freestyle moves, he really was in his element! However there was a new contender for the retro rodeo crown in the form of Oli Margetts who brought a confident selection of moves with real flair, any onlooker would think that he had been practicing!
The final event for the Saturday was the cardboard race! Teams had minimal time to put together a cardboard kayak and to nominate a paddler to be the captain of their ship. There was certainly some variation in the quality of the build on some on of the boats, which meant that there was certainly some submarine and also plenty of swimming action too.
This led onto the Saturday night party, which cannot go without a mention. Everything seemed very civilized, with plenty of quiet paddling based chatter and a fantastic talk from Matt and some of the team on the Team Tour of the Summer. With only a few people up dancing (and some people dressed as Kangaroos boxing outside the party tent) it seemed as though we were heading for an early(ish) night. However at midnight something happened, was it something in the water, or was the moon in the right phase? Either way, the party erupted! The tent was bouncing and there wasn’t a single person in the room without an ear to ear smile and their hands up in the air!
Sundays competitions were in the form of the sit on top slalom and boater cross. The new Pyranha Fusion sit on top was available all weekend for paddlers to try out, with the feedback coming back resoundingly positive for this new boat. Paddlers were given a fun course to paddle down a section of tricky whitewater, with many paddlers sitting in the fusion for the first time ever in the starting eddy! This led for some comedy moments and some very questionable lines. A special mention must go to Niamh Stack and Lowri Davies who entered as a tandem crew!
Most of the sit on top competitors then made their way down to the start of the boater cross. This was an intensely fought competition, with paddlers showing real stamina and strength throughout, fortunately there wasn’t too much carnage!
Most of the paddlers throughout the weekend took the opportunity to have a paddle of the new Pyranha 9r. This is Pyranha’s new race orientated kayak which has already gathered a big following in the initial stages of its release, I had a paddle of one too and I can certainly say that it was a big surprise. When you look at this boat, its obvious that it is going to be fast downriver and punchy and quick through waves and holes. What isn’t so obvious is how unbelievable nice the boat is to paddle as an all round river boat too. With it being narrow the edge to edge transitions are super smooth and help it to feel really nimble on the river. That high bow rocker keeps it riding dry and seems to make it accelerate over all of the holes it hits. I think that this could well be the river boat of choice for a lot of paddlers in the future. Safe to say I’m excited, initial impressions are spectacular! A full review will be on the way from me soon.
During the final presentation, there were a couple of very special awards and prizes to give out. During the courses the coaches had been giving the task of identifying paddlers who showed enthusiasm, talent and real spirit to be put forward for one of the special prizes. Zach Marston won the “spirit of Pyranha Fest” prize, with Zach’s coaches saying that he is really determined, brave and extremely enthusiastic with great skills. A special mention went to Ifan Hewitt because his enthusiasm throughout the weekend was so great, that simply could not go unrewarded. Finally the main prize of the one off “zombie Shiva” went to Eve Whitley. Eve had never paddled White Water before Pyranha Fest, by the end of her course, she was having a go at Grade 3. She’s very keen and enthusiastic and was rated the most deserving. What a start to a paddling career, coming with no moving water experience and leaving with a brand new kayak!
The final results for the event
1st – Oli Margetts
2nd – Dave Burne
3rd – Beth Hume (all the way from Norway, especially for the weekend!)
Boater X Mens (we had some ladies enter too!)
1st – Dave Burne
2nd – Niamh Stack
3rd – Lee Royle
Boater X Ladies
1st – Lowri Davies
2nd – Niamh Stack
3rd – Louise Fingleton
King of the Wave
1st – Dave Burne
Sit on Top Slalom
1st – Dave Burne
2nd – Lee Royle
3rd – Graeme Benson
1st – Graeme
2nd – Rebecca Jones
3rd – Rebecca Harris
IR Extreme Slalom
1st – Lee Royle
2nd – Dan Yates
3rd – Rob Moffat
Pyranha Fest 2014 was the best ever and it could not have been possible without support from the following people
The Sun Trevor in Llangollen for some great food and the bar, Go Kayaking North West for helping us set up and pack away each day and providing some awesome prizes for the BoaterX, Canolfan Tryweryn for allowing us to hold the event at their invaluable venue, Bala Canoe Club for letting us camp, drive and party all over their field, Extreme Events for bringing a barrage of audible delights, Panic Circus for providing the big top for us to dance the night away under, Big Bounce Castle Hire for the epic kangaroo suits and giant games, Immersion Research Europe for providing some great prizes and running the Extreme Slalom event, The Welsh Rivers Guidebook for donating some of their books to the prize packs, all the Pyranha Staff and Team Paddlers for everything they do to make this happen, Rach for taking a LOT of awesome photos and everyone who came and made it as fun for us as we hope it was for them (especially Beth Hume for flying in all the way from Norway just for the event!) Andy Butler and Altitude8 for putting together a film of the event which will be premiering soon on vimeo.com/PyranhaKayaks
Bring on Pyranha Fest 2015 See you there!!
All photos by Rachel Burke