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23
Mar

Albert Kerr Wins Gold at the 1977 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, Spittal

In July, it will be 40 years since Albert Kerr from Carlisle Canoe Club, won the World Slalom Championships in Spittal Austria, using a Pyranha Elite Equipe.

Albert’s super-human performance was a surprise to many, though not to those of us who knew him; the local paper the next day was headlined, ‘Mr. Nobody Wins the World Championships’, but Albert was far from that, proven by his 11 second winning margin.

Only once before, in 1959, had a Brit won a Worlds when Paul Farrant won in Geneva, and since then we had some great paddlers with Dave Mitchell gaining a Silver, but German manufacturers had a stranglehold on design, with the British Team often only getting last year’s models from Klepper, then Prijon and Lettman.

I had been to the annual Easter slalom at Grandtully with my early slalom designs in 1974, and said to a friend, Tony Young, that I would make a world competitive Slalom Kayak, and set about a development programme with annual design evolution (an approach which has remained central to Pyranha to this day).

In 1975, we had developed a new design, the Elite, which we cut down for the Elite SS, and I supported Nicky Wain, Alan Edge, and Peggy Nutt (later Mitchell) with Nicky and Alan coming a great 7th and 8th in the Skopje (Yugoslavia as it was then) Worlds.

For 1977, the design evolved to the Elite Equipe, and to try to ensure it was right, Nicky Wain, Alan Edge, Albert Kerr, and I drove the Pyranha van out to Spittal to recce the Worlds course.

The boys were on form, and we thought we had the design right, though Albert, the strongest, and occasionally the most inconsistent, wanted a bit more volume, so we added an inch (25mm) in the gunwales for his race boat. Made of Kevlar and Vinylester Resin, they weighed 17 lbs (7.7kgs) with their red glitter decks.

On race day, Albert went very early on as he was not one of the favourites; his speed and clean run was a shock to many, and one by one they tried to beat him. Albert made one break out in particular which nobody else could make, setting a very high bar for the others.

The spectators lining the road along the course and in the grandstand roared encouragement to their local heroes.

The British Team supporters ran down the road following their athletes cheering them on, ‘UP! UP! UP!’, trying to make up for the lack of noise and encouragement from the other spectators.

When a gate was hit, the spectators would fall silent; when the time wasn’t fast enough, they would fall silent, and cheer again when the next hero started. One by one they failed; Dieter Forstl, Germany’s great hope failed, and then the super local hero, Austria’s great Norbert Sattler, Olympic Silver medallist at Munich 5 years previous, started his run; the crowd roared louder than before, willing him on. His time was close to Albert’s, gate after gate was clean until close to the end, he hit a pole; the crowd went silent, for a split second you could hear a pin drop, and then the British supporters went berserk.

Albert had won, and the Slalom world shifted on its axis.

I remember looking up at a blue, cloudless sky, and thanking God; I was totally drained. Countless people and manufacturing competitors congratulating me; our design was good, but it was Albert’s day, and I will always be grateful to have helped.

After Mike Jones and his team’s Descent of Everest’s Dudh Kosi the year before, Albert’s win was massive for Pyranha, but it was also massive for Slalom in Britain; it gave others confidence to achieve the same, and this then led to Richard Fox’s domination, and many other paddlers becoming World Team Champions alongside Albert and then Richard.

Pyranha went on to see our Kayaks and Canoes win at the Worlds for the next decade, until we retired to focus on polyethylene production and river running designs.

I have witnessed the feats of some great athletes since then, worked with great people, made great friends and many great memories, but that day at Spittal is still “The Day”!

23
Mar

NSR and Galway Fest

This year, for the first time since I can remember, the National Student Rodeo and Galway Fest were organised to be on different weekends, which meant I had no excuse to not attend both. Galway Fest’s reputation precedes itself, with a rumour of one year someone getting so wasted they drank a candle! I have my own reputation at NSR for winning the party and last year I ended the weekend with my arm in a sling. I was a bit scared for these two weekends to be back-to-back, especially so close to my next adventure, so set myself a solid aim of no hospital visits which I very thankfully managed to keep!

Mud glorious mud! – Tom Clare

A few heavy storms in the run up to NSR meant that the water level of the Trent was too high for the course to be running. Although this was a real blow to the competition side of things, the organisers did a fantastic job of sorting flat water events and the party was as epic as ever. The Pyranha stand was packed out for the whole weekend with people demoing boats and vying for a chance at the Pyranha prize – bringing us food and pot plants to aid in our fight against the zombies. Portsmouth University were the very worthy winners after filling the van with flowers, wearing Pyranha stickers on their faces and keeping us entertained on and off the water.

What an awesome collection of flowers and even a gnome for the Pyranha garden – P.Y. Photographic

During the film competition, I helped present a cheque for £5000 to Kingfisher Canoe Club on behalf of River Legacy. The money will be used towards a new club house for KCC, who have been evicted from their current premises. It’s awesome to see the bar proceeds from NSR and other events going towards such a good cause. You can read more about the donation here: http://river-legacy.org.uk/donationkcc/

Donation of £5000 from River Legacy to Kingfisher Canoe Club

After a couple of days of rest and recuperation, I was on a plane to Dublin. We were blessed all weekend with glorious sunshine, which I understand is a rare occurrence on the west coast of Ireland. The event ran impressively smoothly given that there were 200 competitors, 6 events and the added time pressure of the incoming tide. On the Friday night we watched Callum and James talk about their trip to Afghanistan, which sounded like a fascinating cultural experience with the added bonus of fun whitewater. It definitely sparked my desire to explore more of the world.

The first event on the Saturday was the time trial down a grade 2/3 section of the Boluisce river. We just about sneaked a practice run in before the race briefing so I at least had some idea of where to go! My run felt smooth and fast and I was delighted to put down a time of 5.58 minutes, firmly placing as top female and 15th overall. The team race had the added amusement of a running start and finish, but by far the highlight of the weekend for me was the no-decks boater cross on Saturday afternoon. I ended up completely sunk, heading backwards down the final (and hardest) rapid, giggling all the way.

Final push through the last rapid in the time trial – Paul Bradley

After a fun night out on Saturday and a slightly sore head, we headed to the Corrib river in the centre of Galway for the freestyle, mass slalom and boater cross competitions. The slalom involved racing down a tedious flat side channel before reaching the main river, collecting pegs from two eddys and sprinting to the finish line. I volunteered to hand out the pegs for the men’s expert race which was fairly hectic!

Happy and tired faces from the racing ladies – Paul Bradley

Over the weekend there were 19 women racing in the expert category and also a solid turn out for the intermediates. It was awesome to see so many ladies on the water competing but also encouraging each other and having a great time. I was very chuffed to come 2nd overall in such a strong ladies category. It was also pretty cool to be racing through the middle of Galway, increasing the exposure to the general public who were intrigued by the whole thing. Overall I loved being involved in the event and definitely will be back at some point (after a couple of years over the other side of the pond).

Good work and thanks to the organisers of both NSR and Galway Fest for putting on such successful events. Here’s my highlights video from Galway Fest:

 

 

14
Mar

The Octane 175- Pyranha’s New Surfski

When Pyranha came out with their new Surfski, the Octane 175, I was excited to try it out and now after 10 weeks it just keeps getting better.  This ski is perfect for beginning to intermediate paddlers: those who want to learn, play in the surf or try their hand at racing.  I wanted a ski for fitness training during the winter and eventually out in the surf when the weather warms up.  Paddling a ski will give you a full workout- you are rotating with every stroke, pushing/pulling with your legs and using all of your core muscles.  For me, it also allows me to keep my legs straight and reduce the amount of torque on my knees and ankles.

 

I had been trying out other surfskis for several months prior but I had not found one that fit me best.  My  main focus was stability, especially since I was using it for solo workouts on the lake or the bay.  The primary stability of the Octane is hard to beat, until you feel the secondary stability kick in.  Performance is always a key feature- with over 17′ of waterline, the Octane will generate plenty of speed while the rocker allows you to make sharp turns on flatwater and quick turns between waves.  My third focus was durability, it is incredible to have a boat under 30 lbs, but after trying to carry a 20′ long boat without hitting an end, having it launch off your shoulder with a sudden wind burst or simply dealing with shallow water and rocks, the composite idea faded away.  Plus, while others were repairing their skis on the weekend, I was still out there paddling.  Overall, all of the features of the Pyranha Octane make it an impressive surfski.

The variance in paddler size is very generous-  although the Octane 175 was designed for medium to large paddlers, I have found that it also suits smaller paddlers as well.  At both ends of the spectrum, there is still room for more/less- I tested this ski with a paddler who was 6’5 and 210 lbs and found the ski to fit him comfortably while allowing for 4 more inches of leg room.  On the other side of the spectrum, at 5’6, I still had 8 inches of room to move the foot pegs towards me.  Adjusting the foot pegs is quick, a simple turn of a screw allows you to slide the pegs into place and then lock them in a slot.  The boat is so stable that you could even do this while on the water.

The paddle entry point cutaway allows you to make clean catches and adds to the ergonomics of this ski.  The narrowness allows you to plant the blade alongside the ski and then naturally widens back out.  It has significantly helped me improve my forward stroke, especially when using a wing paddle.

One of the best and simplest details of this ski is the self bailer- this may seem insignificant but for those who have paddled a ski know how easy it is to knock out a plug.  To open the self bailer, you simply pull it back with your heel and close it by pushing it forward.

 

The CoreLite construction creates a highly durable, incredibly stiff and lighter weight ski in comparison to other polyethylene skis.  I was worried about the weight of the boat, it was projected at 57 lbs (52 lbs with an understern udder) but mine weighs under 48 lbs, even with the overstern rudder. The large side handles make it easy to carry, I can easily lift it on/off the car and down to the water.

On the water, the performance of the Octane is dynamic.  With a waterline of almost 18′ and a narrow beam of 20″, this ski can pick up speed fast.  It is an incredibly stable ski as well, the primary stability alone is impressive but the secondary stability is outstanding.  You will find that the semi-hard chines that start at the midpoint and end at the stern allow you to carve and surf while maintaining stability. The Octane has a ton of rocker, which you will love when you are riding a swell or making quick turns in between waves.  If you are using the over stern rudder, you definitely need to have it down at all times but you will be amazed at how well it tracks- I only find myself using the rudder on tight turns, otherwise the ski follows your line of vision.  The Octane turns on a dime- it is amazing how fast the ski turns with the rudder alone, then add an outside edge to tighten up the turn even more.   You can choose to have an overstern rudder or the understern rudder, or both.  They are easy to change out and you can carry the other one in the hatch.  I prefer the overstern, it is one less thing to worry about plus in the winter you can drive the ski all the way in and keep your feet dry.  The overstern can quickly be raised if you find yourself in shallow or rocky water and it drops back down with a simple pull of the cord.

After 10 weeks of paddling the Octane, I simply love it.  It continues to allow me to keep pushing my skills, explore new waterways and more.  If you have ever been intrigued by a surfski or wanted to learn, this is the ski for you.  The stability of the boat will make you feel comfortable while learning, then you can keep adding to your skills when you decide to take it out on a river or in the surf.

07
Mar

Summer Dreaming

It’s March and the weather can’t decide if it is still winter or if it’s spring here in the mid-Atlantic USA. Either way, this time of year we can’t help but think, “What rivers will we get on this summer?” As I day-dream about summer adventures I think back to last year’s summer safari. So here’s some Rocky Mountain paddle-porn to help you through the late-winter blues:

SWIFTCURRENT CREEK EXPLORATORY: I can’t believe how much “unknown” whitewater there is in northern Montana. McDonald Creek in Glacier promises to be an awesome class IV-V river roadside experience at June flows. I was gearing up to put-on it’s glacier-silted waters when we found out  the creek is closed until late summer due to waterfowl nesting. Shutdown by baby ducks! Not to be denied, we headed over the divide on the Going-To-The-Sun road and found ourselves beside Swiftcurrent Creek as it drains scenic Swiftcurrent Lake. This creek offers a short section of super-steep, scenic goodness. As I hiked back I got to watch a cinnamon bear graze past at 50 yards. The first of several bears I’d encounter that day.

YOUR National Park: class-V federal hucking!

MIDDLE FORK FLATHEAD OVERNIGHT: Before dipping into Glacier,  I managed to squeeze in a  solo wilderness overnight self-support on the M. Fk. Flathead River. This river flows through the Great Bear Wilderness – a remote wilderness set aside in part to protect world-class Grizzly Bear habitat. If spending a few travelling through a wild mountain forest filled with large, dangerous omnivores sounds fun, this is your ticket. This one is hard to access and most folks pay for a small plane ride to a grass airstrip at the put-in. I opted to hike my Burn III to the river on an 8-mile forest service trail. Sounded like a good plan… in theory. Things went as well as a hike with a 100-lb boat-pack can go until I came across a forest service crew clearing the trail with handsaws and axes. They politely informed me that I was “screwed.” Turns out the routewas blocked by blow-downs across the trail about every 25 yards – for the next 5 miles. So for the next few hours I dragged myself and my boat/gear through fallen pine tree “hells” on my way to the river. Finally I found a spot to lower my boat down to a tributary creek and (barely) paddle my way the last mile or so. All those years of low-water east coast knuckle-dragging payed off! The next two days were well worth it: good scenery, decent whitewater, great fishing, solitude, and fun camping. A few days after I got off the river a park ranger was killed by a grizzly along the same river, so if you go take the appropriate precautions (carry bear spray and make noise when hiking).

Earn your turns.” A little hike in the woods, with “boat-pack.” And grizzly bears!

Some A+ camping on the Middle Fork Flathead.

Welcome back to ColoRADo! 


Tent-life. Waking up beside the river.

COLORADO PLAYBOATING: After another week of exploring Montana we headed south to see some friends in Colorado. I’ve paddled just about everything I can find in Colorado but have never gotten on the Yampa River. Our route put us right there, so we detoured in there and I snagged a sunset solo run through Split-Mountain Gorge in the Loki. Found a few good waves in there, but mostly I was just happily surprised at the magnitude of this cool little canyon. Check it out if you’re in the area!

DCIM101GOPRO

 We love some deep canyons!

Now it’s time to plan for Summer 2017. This will be a primo year for the Rockies and California. Who’s in?

26
Feb

Nile air | Bren’s top 5 moments from Uganda

When I was younger and hatching plans to run away from school to pursue kayaking full time there was one place at the top of my list, The White Nile in Uganda. Home to perfect waves, huge rapids and warm weather this river will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have now been to this White Water dream word six times and have collectively spent almost a year of my life here.

I have written about my experiences in Uganda numerous times before and I am wary of trying to spin out another story on the same old topic; “I went to Uganda and had a really, really great time”. Instead, here are my top 5 moments from the trip.

5) Running Hypoxia
It had been 4 years since I had last run this behemoth. A lot has changed since then but not the size of this rapid, it remains one of the biggest and gnarliest pieces of white water in the world. The first time I ran it I was 18 years old and almost threw up at the sight of it, I was really hoping that all these years of running hard white water later that I wouldn’t feel the same way. Sadly the levels where less than opportune the day myself and my crew got there, which left me with a lot of questions and unease about the rapid. Mainly whether I could actually hit the main move which is to duck dive through one of the biggest holes in the world. The logic behind deciding if Hypoxia is unable not stems from a golden rule of big water kayaking; “Usually, If there’s a lot going into it, there’s a lot coming out of it”.

However there are certainly levels at which this rule no  longer applies to Hypoxia and you can be relatively sure that if you were to run it you would have one of the most unpleasant experiences of your life and ingest a lot of water… The levels that day were right on the cusp of being good and I decided I would rather give it a try and risk the beatdown rather than go home empty handed and wondering whether it actually was possible or not. I had a great line on the entry, fought the boil on the lip of the ramp and then got to stare down into oblivion.

The impact is unreal, there is so much power in this piece of white water and I had to grip really tightly to stop my paddle being ripped out of my hands. I promised my self that I would hang on for at least 30 tumbles in the hole, I counted three and then could feel my self moving downstream. As I was rolling up there was only one thought running through my head – “ I can’t believe that bloody worked”! My ears broke the surface to the sound of my friends cheering, we reconvened below the rapid and went on a chilled sunset river run. Such a magical moment on a ridiculous piece of white water.


4)  Living in the village
Not everyone understands why I love the village so much but the main reasons are; the proximity to one of my favourite waves in the world, the people; who are super friendly and helpful and the cost of living. My rent for the entire week was a little over £4. You also get to experience a little bit more of Africa than you would when staying in other places, I mean, how often do you see a smiling twelve year old wielding a machete?

3) Crock watch
Late one night I got a phone call to tell me that there had been a big crocodile spotted in the pool where I get into my kayak everyday. I thought at first it was a hoax as there is very little wild life on this stretch of the Nile and almost none of it is dangerous. However it came from two reputable sources and I had no choice but to come to terms with the fact that I may be consumed on my way down the river to surf. You can see the full video of crock watch here :

*Spoiler alert, it is mostly ten minutes of me being a huge sissy about kayaking on flat water*

2) Surfing Cuban
What can I say? It is the biggest, baddest wave on the Nile. Whilst a stout lead out stops me from throwing some of my more inconsistent, experimental tricks I still have a great time simply trying to go as big as I can on all of the tricks that I have dialled in.

1)  Surfing Nile special
One of my favourite waves in the world. Any time on this wave is pure magic but with the imminent drowning of this wave coming due to a corrupt dam project down stream, I feel like every second on this wave is just that little bit more needed, that little bit more precious and that little bit more special.

One of the things that make this wave one of my favourites is because of a young, local guy called Martin. Martin is the kid who will set up the rope system and help you to tow onto the Nile Special wave. He works a fairly dangerous job for long hours and is often in the sun for most of the day. If I had to do this job I would be miserable but he does it with a smile on his face and will even occasionally give me some advice such as “go bigger, do better”. He is a genuinely awesome young guy and thoroughly deserves any help he can get. I was stoked to be able to hook him up with his own set of Orton sunglasses and dewerstone clothes to protect him during those long days in the sun!

To read more about the dam project please head to http://www.savethewhitenile.org/

You can see the full edit of my trip here : https://www.facebook.com/wearesend/?fref=ts

Photos by Hayley Mckee, Martyn Kirby & Amos Nassilarwa

Thanks for reading,
See you on the water,
Bren Orton

25
Jan

A Month in New Zealand

In early December, I left the frigid East Coast and flew to New Zealand into Auckland to meet Boise North Fork boater Ryan Mack for the beginning of what would soon to be one of the most epic paddling adventures of my life. Ryan and I had never met, but we had mutual connections with two friends, Adam Johnson and Brian Kish. I’ve kayaked with Adam and Brian on several trips internationally and both are exceptional paddlers. They arrived in New Zealand two months prior to us and were currently paddling on the South Island.

Ryan getting his boof on at Tutea Falls. Photo by Brenton Petrillo.

Ryan had a friend in Auckland who had picked us up from the airport. She let us stay at her home for a few days so we could take some time to purchase a car and recover from the jet lag. Thank you to Amanda and her family for putting up with us for a few days!

We spent three days in Auckland looking for a car and being typical tourists but we eventually made our way to Rotorua. This is where we paddled the beautiful Kaituna and spent the next few days of our trip.   After a day of running laps on the upper section, we hooked up a group to paddle down the Awesome and Smokey gorges.  Thank you to the local paddlers, Mike Roy and Rhys Elliot, for leading us all down this magical section of river! We waited another two days in Rotorua for our third compadre, Michael Charles, who was flying into Auckland to join our adventure. Michael caught a ride from Auckland to Rotorua and we took the opportunity to show him down our new favorite run. Michael was renting a boat out of Christchurch on the South Island (over 500 miles from where we were currently located) so we found him a boat to use for the day on the upper Kaituna.

The first leg of my New Zealand journey.

The next day we left Rotorua to catch the Sunday release of the Wairoa River in Tauranga. We met up with Rhys again, who graciously showed us down another one of his favorite runs. This river is short but action-packed with some quality rapids. We needed to catch our ferry ride to the South Island so we asked Rhys if there was anything worth running on our way to down to Picton. He recommended Huka Falls in Taupo which was very close to the Wairoa. We arrived at the falls around eight in the evening and took some time to scout our line.  All three of us were able to fire up the falls right before dark, which was the perfect way to end our time on the North Island.

It’s a little hard to see but here I am coming off of Huka Falls. Photo by Michael Charles.

Michael throwing a mean switch wheel.  Photo by Matt Winter.

Over-rotating just a tad too much. Photo by Matt Winter.

We made our ferry ride the following afternoon and secured a boat for Michael to use on the South Island in Murchison. This was all thanks to Ryan’s friend, Allison Dwyer, who flew into Christchurch to paddle with us on the South Island. She strapped the boat to the top of her rental (a Toyota Yaris) and drove it all the way to us in Murchison. Along with Allison, we met up with our friends Brian Kish, Adam Johnson, James Douglas, and Hannah Kessinich to do some boating on the Lower Mātakitaki.  James and Hannah were other boaters from the States and were in New Zealand on work visas. Afterwards, our established South Island friends showed us to Mauria Falls, which is a perfect thirty-foot waterfall that is great for stomping or throwing downriver freestyle moves.

We began to make a move to our next paddling destination, Hokitika, and our radiator unexpectedly cracked. We ended up in Murchison for an extra day but we were super lucky the small town’s only mechanic could get us in right before the holiday. So we didn’t lose a day of paddling, we went to the Earthquake section of the Buller right outside of town while the car was getting worked on.

Coming through the first drop on the Upper Kakpatahi. Photo by Brian Kish.

We continued our trip to Hokitika, which is where the real fun began. We got our fill of class five boating immediately when Adam volunteered to show us down the Upper Kakapatahi. This is a short run with a super steep hike out but totally worth it for the quality of rapids.

The next morning we met up with Burgess, a friend of Ryan’s from Boise, who lives in New Zealand for part of the year. Burgess volunteered to show us down the Styx River which is one of the best runs you could access by foot in Hokitika. This run has a four hour hike in and I was stoked to have a portage pack (a backpack used to carry your kayak long distances) for the first part of the hike.  The rapids on this run were complex and allowed little room for error, but it felt especially good when you would style your line through them.

After getting a taste of the West Coast white water, we decided to try to do some of the wilderness runs we had heard so much about before arriving on the South Island. The team thought the Arahura River was a great one to start with.  We used a helicopter to fly our boats in and hiked up the trail for a good five hours that went along the river.  It was a good move considering the trail was difficult enough without having a boat on your shoulder.The Arahura has a very unique set of rapids which demands you to catch break outs fast and the ability to make your move on the fly. Some of the hydraulics were pretty sticky and would hold you if you weren’t careful.  It reminded me of some of my favorite rivers back on the East Coast in the States.

 

Dent Falls marks the half way point on the Arahura river. Photo by Tegan Owens.

The Arahura has a very unique set of rapids which demands you to catch break outs fast and the ability to make your move on the fly. Some of the hydraulics were pretty sticky and would hold you if you weren’t careful.  It reminded me of some of my favorite rivers back on the East Coast in the States.

 

A much better perspective of Dent Falls. Tegan Owens coming out of the last sequence with Brian Kish following behind getting vertical. Photo by Brenton Petrillo

Hokitika was hammered with rain over the next few days so we were apprehensive to do any runs that required a helicopter to access in fear that the rivers would rise on us while on the water.  Michael and I used our two days off the water to develop a plan for when the rain would subside and scheduled our group a flight to the Perth River for the end of the week.  While researching all potential rivers in Hokitika, we came across a section river that was recently descended by locals a few years ago called Toaroha Canyon. We gathered some beta concerning levels for the canyon from Josh at Eco Rafting, a local rafting company who had ties with the local paddlers in the area. We decided to make an attempt to go in the next morning.

Looking at the landslide we would soon be hiking down. Photo by Michael Charles.

We had severely underestimated how intense the hiking would on the trail into the canyon. The majority of the hike was uphill and after four hours we were feeling completely exhausted. After the grueling hike up, we needed to descend down a sketchy landslide off the trail in order to access the river from the top of the canyon. We eventually came to a dead end where the landslide falls off of a hundred foot cliff with heavy jungle blocking both of the sides.

Feeling defeated and ready to hike back to our car, we suddenly heard a ‘yip’ from the top of the landslide and to our surprise it was a group of boaters! Jordy Searle, Ari Walker, and Taylor Westin were all locals trying to bag their first run of the season. Not only did they lead us to the put-in but they also let us tag along on their run. If you are reading this and considering epic section of white water for your next kayaking trip, I would highly recommend you go in with someone who is knowledgeable of the access and the run itself. Although the run is short, it is also tight, steep, and very hard to scout in certain spots. Huge thanks to those boys for leading us down!

This drop begins with a technical lead in and ends with a fifteen-foot boof to the left. Photo by Taylor Westin.

Getting the boats ready for the flight.  Photo by Brian Kish.

Michael and I were up again early to meet the rest of our team in Whataroa where they were staying for our flight into the Perth. Along with our core group members, we were joined by Tegan, Burgess, and paddling superstar Nouria Newman.The flight to the top was short and sweet. From above it was hard to tell how steep the rapids were actually going to be because everything looks so tiny from the sky.

Burgess nailing one of the best boofs on this run. Photo by Brian Kish.

The flight to the top was short and sweet. From above it was hard to tell how steep the rapids were actually going to be because everything looks so tiny from the sky. The Perth was one of my favorite rivers from the trip. There are so many quality rapids on this run and it ends with one of the most spectacular gorges I’ve ever seen.

 

Adam coming through a unique rapid on the Perth. Photo by Brenton Petrillo

Brian, Adam, and I were completely exhausted after a long day on the water so we spent the majority of the next day recuperating. The rest of the group drove back to Hokitika to catch up on sleep and take a break from all the rain. After two long days of kayaking, my intentions were to spend the day sleeping in the car. To my surprise, I ran into Ari from our Toaroha Canyon mission. He recommended that we should try to get on Tatare Creek. Tatare Creek is Franz Josef’s local high water run and it only comes in after heavy amounts of rain. After an afternoon downpour, Brian shuttled Adam and I to the top. It proved to be a really sweet run with a continuous set of rapids! What started as a day that was meant for recovery had turned into one of the most memorable times from the trip.

The rest of the week was spent making our way down to Queenstown for the Nevis Bluff Rapid on the Kareawu River. On our way there, the group bagged descents down the Moeraki and the Turnbull rivers, which are both very close to Haast (Over 100 miles North of Queenstown). The Nevis Bluff Rapid doesn’t seem like much when you are scouting it from a hundred feet up from the pull-off, but once you are on the river the rapids are massive. The Retrospect Rapid tested what little big water reading skills I had. Joined again by Nouria, our core group of paddlers had a successful descent down the Citroen Rapid.

Coming through the end of Citroen on the Nevis Bluff Rapid. Photo by Brian Kish

We spent the last leg of our trip in Hokitika and Franz Josef doing three more runs down the Whitcombe, Waitaha, and Whataroa rivers. All three runs require you to fly in with a helicopter and have their own unique rapids, spectacular scenery, and beautiful wildlife. My favorite of the three was the Waitaha. Currently, the Waitaha is under threat from a white water dam proposal. It would be a shame if other kayakers were not able to experience this incredible river. Please take a moment to sign this petition to stop the dam that is being put in place on the Waitaha.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION

Brian watching the pilot attach our netted boats to the helicopter for our ride up to the Whitcombe River. Photo by Brenton Petrillo.

One of the drops on the lower section of the Whitcombe. Photo by Brian Kish.

One of the more complex rapids on the Waitaha at the beginning of the run. Photo by Brian Kish.

Adam nailing the line on one of the final rapids on the Waitaha.  Photo by Brian Kish

Michael following me through a long and intimidating rapid on the Waitaha. Photo by Brian Kish.

The last leg of my journey in New Zealand.

Our group was challenged with some of the most difficult white water and portages we had faced yet but in the end, we had all persevered with some incredible stories to remember. Michael, Brian, and I all flew out of Christchurch leaving Adam and Ryan with vehicles to sell. Although I was bummed to see the trip come to an end I was also stoked to get home and see my friends and family.

I have been home for over a week now and am just now beginning to feel settled in again. The weather outside is a little bit colder but not too much different than when we were on the South Island. Hopefully, the rain will bring in some classic runs in Northeast Pennsylvania or West Virginia so that I can prepare for the next adventure.

Cheers,

Brenton

20
Jan

Thoughts on the Pyranha Speeder

Pyranha Speeders on the waterside

“The Pyranha Speeder is a great boat to introduce the wing paddle technique, as it is stable enough to concentrate on the paddling technique rather than on balancing the boat; the Speeder also has good speed on flat water.” – Stefan Siebert, Senior Lecturer German Sport University Cologne

“The Speeder really excels when paddling the busy and choppy River Rhein, even with beginners. Its versatility gives the boat a central role in our multi boat approach to learn paddling.” – Edwin Jakob, Senior Lecturer German Sport University Cologne

For more information and specs, have a look at the Pyranha Speeder and Pyranha Speeder Rapid product pages.

17
Jan

2016, A Year in Review

2016 has been one of epic proportions. This year I went to 12 states and 2 provinces, which is a lot for me. I started off January in Rock Island, TN and Columbus, GA. Back in January  there was a lot of rain, like to the point to where is was flooding all over the South East. Since it rained so much all the waterfalls were running at Rock Island. These waterfalls are amazing becasue they are between 15 and 20 ft. Once you finish running one of the many waterfalls you can climb up the side of a rock and run them again. This is practically a playground for waterfall running.

I also spent a lot of my time this year in Columbus, GA. Since it rained, the river was at flood stage, therefore the rapids were massive. While I was there, there was a wave that was formed. It was a really hard wave to get onto because of all the boils and swirly water. Once you did it get on it, it was really fun. The wave was really difficult to get a pass to throw a trick, but once you did you would fly. I was able to perfect my blunt and make it super consistent.

Then in February, there were the Alabama Cup Races. This was slalom and boatercross, the slalom course was pretty easy, but the hard part was after you just paddled as fast as you could the finish the course, you had to hike your boat back up the river, which was a long walk. Then I did the boatercross race, which was my favorite. I came 3rd in finals and I was pretty stoked on that cause it was my first time racing at the Alabama Cup Races.

In April it was Tallulah Fest. This is definitely one of my favorite festivals in the South East. On the Friday I got there, a few friends and I went to go paddle Section 4 of the Chattooga. It was awesome. There was a really fun 7 foot waterfall, but it was tricky becasue if you boofed it wrong you could go slam  your bow into a big rock, which would probably hurt. Then there is part of the river called Five Falls. It sounds worse than it really is. Five Falls is class IV and V, its starts of with Entrance rapid which is basically a bumpy slide into an eddy above an under cut. Then there’s Corkscrew, which is just avoiding big holes. The next part is called Crack which is a little 4 foot drop between two massive rocks, but here’s the catch. It’s only about 2-3 feet wide, so just barely big enough for a creek boat. Then the next part is Jaw Bone. In this rapid you’re trying to avoid the massive rock that sticks out, but if you hit rock you could break your jaw because it’s the perfect height to wear it would hit your face. Then the last rapid is called Sock em Dog, which is a boof that is about 5 feet and if you miss the boof you get trashed in a gnarly hole and you would most likely swim.

The next day I ran Tallulah. I was a little scared becasue there’s a rapid on there called Oceana which is a massive 50 foot slide. With a huge wall of water and you would think  its a rock, but it’s literally just water being splashed up. I was a little scared to run it, but after standing around for hours staring at the rapid, I finally got in my boat. I paddled up the edge, got the thumbs up that says I am clear to run. Once I got the lip I just started sliding. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride and then you see the massive wall of water. You hit it, then you lift your bow to glide over the hole at the bottom and then when I finished I was so stoked. That was one of the biggest things I had ever run and it was amazing.

In May I trained at the Nantahala 2013 worlds feature for the GoPro Mountain Games, which I was attending in June. I was working on all of my tricks and I was going bigger than I ever have. I was able to get so many combos. I started to get my Loop, to Space Godzilla, to Cartwheel. Then I also got my Cartwheel to Split Wheel to Loop to McNasty. Then once June came, I flew to Colorado. When I got in the feature it was very cold, but I loved it because the feature was very steep. There for I got huge loops and Space Godzillas. Then was the freestyle event. I had a lot of fun competing and watching my friends compete. I came in 11th place and  I was ok with that. It was also my first Pro Women’s competition.

Then in July I went to the OKS Keener Program in Canada. This is one of the things I look forward to every year becasue it’s three weeks on the Ottawa River. I learned so many tricks and perfected many too. On certain days we different things, so on Tuesday we practice freestyle kayaking. I chose to go to Garburator (Garb) that day. I told my coach that I wanted to learn to clean Blunt and Pan-Am. Many times I attempted my Pan-Am and kept falling on my face. I was getting a little irritated about it, but that’s the beauty of freestyle kayaking. You can get irritated all you want and fall on your face a million times but the more fail, the closer you are to completing the trick. Then as we were leaving to go to lunch I went for one last ride and as I carved to the shoulder of the wave and got on top of the foam pile. I came down and I had a huge take off and I threw the biggest Blunt of my life. What made it even better was that if was a left blunt, which is my offside.

Then on Thursdays we have Big Water Bacon Beatdown Thursdays. It was the last Thursday of the session and my dad drove to watch. I kept attempting to get beatdown in Right Side Phils. I kept flushing not getting beatdown, I went to see my dad and he told me to go get beatdown and I said it’s impossible. I have tried for the past 2 years and nothing. I went to go get in the water above Phils and little did I know, I was going to get the worst beatdown yet. As I went in I just tucked and hoped I could get beatdown for at least 30 seconds. Well, actually it was about a minute and a half, but when you’re the one getting beatdown, it feels like a lifetime. At first it was fun, then when I tried to breathe flipped over again. So I swallowed a lot of water and I felt like my lungs were on fire. Then after a while I finally attempted to pull my skirt, but I was getting thrown around too much that I couldn’t get to it. Then I was like launched out of the water. I came up and got oxygen and then went back under. At that point I was done. I pulled my skirt and swam. At first I wasn’t to happy, but then I remembered that I am fine and it’s a safe place to learn how to deal with situations like that on other rivers, so after I could finally breathe, my friends and I laughed about it.

In September I went to  Gauley Fest. This year I took my Jed down and I had a blast. I learned where all the Pogo Stick spots are and I attempted many. I failed a lot, but there was this one spot where I finally got it. There wasn’t a lot of water going over the rock so I had to slam my bow down hard and once I got to edge I slammed my bow down the drop and as my bow hit the boils behind the rock I jumped and threw a huge loop. I was so stoked on it. When we got to Pillow Rock I was talked into jumping off the huge rock at the rapid. I was super scared but I did it and it was awesome.

After that I got into my boat and paddled the rapid; this rapid is one of the biggest rapids on the river. Last time I ran it, I experienced the fun part of doing it, upside down… Haha, not really, but this time I took a better one where I wasn’t upside down. I felt like I couldn’t have had a better line through the rapid and the best part was at the end. My goal through the rapid was to not flip and I didn’t, but I stern stalled out the last few waves of the rapid. It was awesome and I was super stoked on it.

In October I did the Ocoee Race. This was my first year doing the race and its four miles of class III and IV. I didn’t expect to win because it was a last minute decision to go. The Ocoee is about 4 miles and my goal was under 40 minutes and I finished the river in about 35 minutes. I was super stoked, and the fun part was becasue it only took me 35 minutes I was able to go do a second lap for fun.

Then in November and though a little of December there was a huge drought throughout the South East, which meant no rain, so no kayaking. Then in December we had a huge rain and my favorite place to run waterfalls was running. Rock Island; I drove up there to go run some stouts. I took my Loki and my 9r. I had a blast in the Loki. I was hitting perfect boofs. Then at the swirly water at the bottom I was hitting stern squirts and it was awesome. I can’t say how much I love my Loki. I ran the waterfalls about 8 times in my Loki. Then I hiked back to my car and grabbed my 9r. I paddled a new part of the waterfall and this line was pretty tricky. You have to go between a tiny slot and boof it on the right but if you boof to hard you will land flat. Which you don’t want to becasue if you land flat off a waterfall you could possibly injure your back. Though if you didn’t boof hard enough you would over vert and land on you face, which isn’t fun. I finally got in my boat and ran the drop. I did it perfectly, I was so happy.

That was how 2016 went for me and I am super stoked on 2017. Here is my 2016 highlight reel.

Hope to paddle with you on the water,

Cat H.

16
Jan

Racing Round the Indian Sub-Continent

I have recently returned home after spending 6 months travelling the Indian sub-continent; the trip was one of the best I’ve been on and was full of awesome rivers, people, food, and cultural experiences. One of the highlights was competing in three events – the Malabar River Festival, MeghaKayakFest, and the Himalayan Whitewater Challenge. All the events had different challenges but were equally fun and I would highly recommend each one to anyone looking for an exciting addition to their kayaking holiday. Here’s a brief write up of my experiences at each one.

Malabar River Festival – July, Kerala

I flew down to Kerala after an incredible couple of weeks of multiday kayaking in Ladakh. I was due to meet some friends in Cochin airport who were arriving from the UK. About a week before my flight problems in Kashmir kicked off and flights were being cancelled. The internet in Ladakh was also cut off, resulting in a tense few days being unsure if I would even make it to Kerala and totally unable to contact anyone. Thankfully everything went to plan (complete with a few hours sleeping with my kayak on the street outside the airport because I was too cheap to pay for a hotel) and I arrived in Kerala ready to defend my 2015 Rapid Rani title. I was also determined to qualify for the final this year – held on the technical Fire Alarm rapid on the Middle Iruvanji, I would need to place in the top 10 after the slalom, boater cross, and down-river heats.

Flying off the start ramp of the boater cross - Mark Swaroop

Flying off the start ramp of the boater cross – Mark Swaroop

The monsoon was light in Kerala this year, giving us ample opportunity to practice the Malabar Express rapid ready for the down-river race. After a week of fun we were soon parading down the streets of Kodencherry and dancing to a band of drummers; this signified the traditional, if surreal, opening ceremony of the festival. This year there were 5 female competitors which was an exciting increase from 2! During the races the speed and manoeuvrability of my 9R was a real asset, particularly in the slalom where I put down the 2nd fastest time of the day in the heats. I comfortably took the win in the female category for each event and my strong performance also meant I qualified for the final in 8th position. Unfortunately, I got pushed into a boulder halfway down the final course and lost valuable seconds upside-down, but I was still buzzing from the whole experience.

Check out the awesome highlights video from the festival by Neil Productions:

MeghaKayakFest – October, Meghalaya

On a trip to Meghalaya last year I fell in love with the beauty of the landscape and the friendliness of the people. The 2016 season fitted perfectly into my travel plans, with the added bonus of coinciding with the first ever MeghaKayakFest. The event would be held on the mighty Umtrew river, my only memories of which were of being very jetlagged and nervous, so I was keen to jump back on and familiarise myself with the section. It was great to be on the water in Meghalaya and see how much my boating and confidence had improved whilst travelling.

Race face! Taking the slalom very seriously - Elvin Lonan

Race face! Taking the slalom very seriously – Elvin Lonan

The expert category included a down river time trial and “expression session” on the last rapid of the lower Umtrew section. I found myself saying for the 2nd time in only 3 months that this was the hardest course I’d ever raced! I was particularly intimidated by the idea of the expression session on such a challenging rapid, but the atmosphere was incredible and all the other competitors were very encouraging. 2 days later there was an intermediate competition alongside the expert slalom and boater cross races, held on the rapid next to the Shillong Whitewater Village (run by the lovely Vincent family who did the incredible job of housing and feeding 40 hungry kayakers throughout the whole festival!). I was the only female competitor in the expert category but it was great to see a decent number of both local and foreign female intermediates.

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Great turn out of both foreigners and locals for the first ever MeghaKayakFest – Elvin Lonan

Here’s the awesome drone footage by Joe Rea-Dickins of my run from the expression session. (Also, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the new Meghalaya kayaking guidebook which is going to be published and available later this year!)

Himalayan Whitewater Challenge – November, Nepal

This event was a very pleasant surprise during my Nepal trip. Some friends recommended it whilst we were planning to head to the Karnali. Unsure how long the trip would take us and not keen to rush, we decided to enter if we made it back in time. The Karnali was probably my favourite adventure in Nepal – 2 days of fun big volume followed by 2 days of super scenic flat water, thriving with wildlife. After recovering from our long, uncomfortable bus journey back to Pokhara we even had time for an afternoon of practice laps on the very technical slalom course before the festival started.

Super excited to be on the Karnali - Nicole Portheim

Super excited to be on the Karnali – Nicole Portheim

There were 3 days of racing, one each for the down river, boater cross and slalom categories, and 7 female competitors which was an awesome turn out. I felt good during the races – smooth and controlled in my 9R. I managed to get out in front of the crowd in the boater cross and put down a clean, fast 2nd run in the slalom. I was over the moon to come 2nd in the down river and take the win in both the boater cross and the slalom. The prizes were incredible and I even won a free paraglide the next day!

Making the most of my early lead in the boater cross - Steve Merrow

Making the most of my early lead on the boater cross – Steve Merrow

I had such a great time at all 3 events and want to say a massive thank you to everyone who was involved in the organisation and smooth running of the races.

04
Jan

A big day out in the Pyranha Octane

In 2015 Michael Harper and I paddled 120Km on the river Dee from Bala to Chester in one push, taking advantage of high water levels and (questionable) enthusiasm.  It took over 11 hours, It broke me, it was hard, my hands had blisters and I said I’d probably never do it again.  We also chose to do this on the most unlikely day of the year, the one with the shortest daylight.

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Fast forward to the 22nd of December 2016 and once again myself and Mike are gearing up at the start of another big challenge.  To be clear…. this wasn’t my idea…. We had decided that the next stage of our “Big Day Out” challenges would be to attempt to paddle across Scotland, from Fort William to Inverness, once again in a single push.  This trip would be over 90km long and featured several long portages around loch gates too.  Once again following tradition we chose one of the days in the year where we had the least daylight.  I have completed the trip 3 times previously but usually taking 3 days from start to finish!great-glen-map

To keep us moving fast on this trip we chose to use the Pyranha Octane as we knew that it would be able to maintain a good speed but also deal with the harsh conditions we were expecting.  With limited experience in surf skis we made sure we headed out for some training and some paddling in the dark to get used to our boats before the big day.
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We set off at about 6.15am after a little bit of boat set up and packing the kit that we would be taking with us.  Getting straight onto the canal at Neptunes Staircase we had the wind behind us, but it was clear that it was going to be a cold day.

As we started to chew up the miles on the first part of the canal we then moved onto Loch Lochy.  I’ve always experienced challenging and varied conditions on Loch Lochy previously, being able to look behind me and see clear blue skies and sunshine and look in front of me and see a foreboding storm.  Once again Lochy came up with the goods, as the seemingly benign conditions allowed us to paddle into one of the more exposed areas of the Loch just as a storm came seemingly out of nowhere.  The half hour where the storm hit focused us quite a lot, we were separated more than we would have liked to have been and it certainly felt like we were reminded that what we were attempting was not an easy task.  We knuckled down and made it through the storm physically unscathed but mentally we had been pushed.

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After a few hours of improved conditions and with the wind still behind us we arrived at Fort Augustus which is virtually half way on the journey.  Meeting up with our support crew (my Dad and his car) we quickly grabbed a well-earned bite to eat and put back on into the biggest Loch of the day, Loch Ness.

Loch Ness is that big that your mind certainly begins to wander and it is no surprise that legend has it that a giant mythical creature lives in there, after spending a few hours on its dark water you can certainly believe it.

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As darkness fell once again, so did the temperatures and we began to get cold….worryingly cold.  There was certainly a moment where we felt like we could have called it off but it is surprising what a couple of energy bars and gels can do for you when you need a boost.  After a bit of food and with new found motivation to finish the task we carried on, with a drop in the wind once more it felt like we were flying again!

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After 15 hours we finally arrived at the end, beaten, exhausted and cold, the full day out had really taken its toll on us.  We never set out to break any records or to be the first, but we did set out to have an adventure and we most certainly did!

Huge thanks go to Mat Wilkinson from Pyranha, Andy Lees and Will Evans from Go Kayaking North West and Stu Morris of VE Paddles for all of their help and support in making this day come together

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