It’s been an absolutely awesome season out here in Meghalaya. A few of us headed out in July, a month or two before the conventional season kicked off, to see what gems were hiding in the monsoon months.
After five years of paddling out here we’re really starting to understand how the rivers work, what gradient to look out for and where to find the good sections of whitewater.
During the rainiest part of this year’s relatively weak monsoon we headed to the Jantia Hills, home to Meghalaya’s steep bedrock creeking. We paddled some great new sections and found a lot of massive rapids and drops that needed a bit more water and the next generation of chargers to come and throw themselves off.
Below a massive set of drops and slides near Rymbai, Jantia Hills
As the rains started to subside we set off on some longer multiday missions, and have found some incredibly high quality whitewater on the Umraw, Umngi and Myntang.
Wah Umraw, by far the most beautiful river I have ever paddled
As the rains started to slow kayakers started to arrive en mass for Meghalaya’s post-monsoon season. We organized the first ever whitewater festival in Northeast India, Megha Kayak Fest. 30 international kayakers as well as 20 paddlers from around India turned out for an amazing weekend on the water.
Patrick showing off his moves during Meghakayakfest’s Expression Session
In between new rivers we stopped by classics and had a lot of great laps and good times on the classics like the Umtrew, Kopili, Rymbai, Wah Blei and Kynshi.
Will Chick getting airborne on Wah Blei
The rains ended as per usual at the end of November, and now we’re getting our heads down and compiling all our photos and information collected over the last five years for a guidebook to paddling in Meghalaya, coming out in Spring 2017.
Last weekend, kayakers from across New Zealand’s North Island made the annual pilgrimage to Rotorua for the 2016 Okere Enduro. This amazing event involves paddling down the Kaituna, running back up to tag your team mate, in a three person relay. The team with the most laps in 6 hours wins.
Top marks to Sandra and Lee for the epic outfits
This was my first time to the event and the amazing Kaituna paddling community made it a wicked day. The race format allowed for lots of time to hangout between laps, catching up with friends and enjoying the awesome atmosphere.
The pain face having a good time deep down. Photo – Alan Ofsoski
The Kaituna is such a sweet river to race down. Warm water, amazing gorges, awesome rapids and a super sweet waterfall to keep you on your toes. The 9r made the paddling a joy; flying off drops, gliding over boils and slicing effortlessly through the flat sections. Pity the run back up wasn’t as pleasurable!
It was great to be racing with fellow brits Sandra Hyslop and Lee Royal which made for a fun and super motivating day. After watching the two favourite teams smash their first laps, it became apparent that we were racing two other teams for third place. This made for a really good competition, with everyone going hard to try and stay ahead. As the 6 hours drew to a close, we knew we had clinched 3rd place and were super psyched to hear that we had snatched 2nd as well.
Go fast leggings powering through the run. Photo – Alan Ofsoski
Beers were then enjoyed in the Okere Falls Store to celebrate a brilliant day of racing.
Thanks to Sandra and Lee for being such great team mates, Ben for organising a fantastic event and Pyranha for their continued support.
The British Universities Kayaking Expeditions have been running every other year since 2005, and the teams selected have chosen all manner of interesting destinations to explore, from Siberia in the north, to Madagascar in south. Venezuela in the west to Vietnam in the east. Students from around the country are invited to submit paper applications which were scored by previous team members, with the top twenty being invited for a 3 day ‘selection event’ in North Wales.
6 years of BUKE expeditions
The selection weekend is organised by previous team members and normally it is fairly simple matter of arranging a long weekend in North Wales, choosing what river to paddle, and herding 20 students, plus the old boys in the right direction. This year however was different. With practically no useful rainfall since the summer, the rivers were beyond low and our usual go-to runs of the Glaslyn and Fairy Glen were not on the cards like they were for our last low water selection weekend.
I arrived in Chile a week before my crew. Mostly because I had nothing better to do but also largely because I was so very desperate to finally get a few days warm up on a trip before I start flying off big waterfalls.
I spent a week training and cruising the classic rivers of Pucon and started dialling in my free fall technique on the perfect but small drops of the Palguin river. As enjoyable as this week was I have to admit that by day 4 I was starting to get a little bit pent up and was eager for the boys to arrive so that we could get down to business.
By Sunday, all of the boys had finally arrived. We wasted no time, immediately heading to the 50ft Tamatita falls and the following day to the 80ft tall Newen falls. This waterfall was only run for the first time last year and since then has seen only four descents.
We got there early in the day and spent most of the morning working to get our photographers, Kevin Kennedy and Melissa Hukson across the river. Once they were across, they were on their own and had a tough time. They had to haul camera gear through dense forest and try to find the faintest of trails that led to the waterfall.
Thankfully they are absolute beasts and made it to the waterfall in quick time. With our photographers in place, we where ready to go.
Our crew split up into teams of two, myself and Dane Jackson were the most eager to go first so we took the first spot, whilst Kalob Grady and Adrian Mattern signalled to the photographers that we where about to drop and filmed from the lip.
On most waterfalls we will set extensive safety but that was not really an option at Newen due to the turn around time to get to the base of the falls and back to the lip again, around 3 hours. Due to this we elected to use the good old “buddy system” and provide safety for ourselves. We would run the falls with only a minimal amount of time in-between each other, which meant that help would either be waiting at the bottom for you or falling out of the sky behind you and on the way…
Unless we both messed up, in which case we would…err, umm, Well to be honest with you, we never did get around to planning for that eventuality! Either way, if all went to plan, it meant that only the first person would be truly exposed and even then only for a few seconds.
The really cool thing about Newen is that it isn’t a park and huck. There are two must run gorges upstream and downstream that are chock full of great class 4 rapids. Myself and Dane rallied down these rapids as fast as we could, joking and laughing about not missing the last eddy, which forms on the corner of a blind bend just before the falls. We made it to the last eddy and took a moment to collect our thoughts.
We hadn’t until his point discussed who would go first, there was an abundance of “No, no, no… after you good sir’s” before we finally reached a verdict. Both of us really wanted to go first but where too polite to say it. Dane elected that I could have it as he had gone first off the previous days waterfall.
Going first is a sacred position to have when running waterfalls or rapids. It is your responsibility to make the line look as good as it possibly can and not affect anyones decision by crashing due to a last minute error of judgement or malfunction of skill. I knew because of our safety setup that Dane would run the drop regardless of whether I styled it or not.
Adrain is absolutely unflappable and would also 100% run it. Kalob however was stepping up his waterfall game by quite a lot that day, with his previous tallest waterfall being 60ft. I knew that he was 99.9% going to run it anyway but I still didn’t want to risk putting any negative thoughts into his head.
Me and Dane high fived, tried to say something cool for the Gopro cameras on our heads but instead managed only “see you soon” and then I was pealing out and staring down one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
I find my best lines off waterfalls are when I have only a loose plan and am not consciously thinking. Just sticking to my core rules and understandings of how to run waterfalls and reacting instinctively to everything that is happening. In the world of kayaking off waterfalls is one of the biggest debates is; whether to throw your paddle or not. Throwing your paddle means that you eliminate the shockingly common problem of hitting yourself really hard in the face, breaking your paddle or wrenching your shoulder out. It also means that you are much more vulnerable in the chaos below, risk losing your paddle and in my opinion it just doesn’t look as stylish. Holding your paddle however is what separates the men from the boys as you must have a good combination of technique and strength. Along with being okay with the distinct possibility of re arranging your face if you get it wrong, thankfully for me, I was never pretty to begin with.
I had my best line of a waterfall yet on Newen, Safely at the bottom with paddle and face intact. I stayed in my kayak to set safety for the others and watched as one after the other my friends laced perfect lines after perfect lines.
United again at the bottom there was numerous talks of “How freaking awesome was that?!?!?!)” and several schemes on how quickly we could do it again. We cruised the next gorge down to the take out in the evening sun, stoked, tired, and hungry for more free fall…
Thanks to Kevin Kennedy and Melissa Hukson for going to hell and back to photograph the day and to Ian Garcia for sharing his knowledge on this waterfall! And Pucon Kayak hostel for taking such good care of us!
See you on the water,
Casey Bryant Jones, Kevin Kennedy, Kalob Grady and Melissa Huckson
I have been told time and time again that I need to have more confidence in my own ability. This has applied to my time playing canoe polo and also white water kayaking. I reached my goal of representing GB at canoe polo in the summer of 2015 which is something I had worked hard but didn’t actually believe that I had the right to be there; I was completely lacking in self confidence. In that environment, you are expected to motivate yourself and to deal with any issues that you have in private. Everyone on the team had their own issues and personal demons to deal with so it was really difficult to approach anyone else for support or advice.
I realised after the championships that my heart wasn’t in it, and I couldn’t carry on training every day for something that I wasn’t enjoying anymore. After a chilly, super fun, high-water weekend on Dartmoor I decided that I needed to get back into whitewater kayaking. I couldn’t stop grinning! Unfortunately this was challenged when my friend Beth Hume sadly died in India, as it made me question that choice. The antithesis was the coming together of her friends and the celebration of her life that made a weekend I’ll never forget and reassured me that I could take control of that decision. It made me realise that friendships have been cemented by the experiences we share, both bad and good. Some of the best times have been on the river and white water kayaking is something I keep gravitating back to.
Why am I telling you this I can hear you ask? I’m telling you as the issues with self confidence extend far beyond the confines of canoe polo for me, and I know that I am not alone. I have given up the relative safety of canoe polo but now often question my ability when faced with new rivers or challenges and find myself doubting decisions I’m making. Again I see this in others and want to explore how we can challenge ourselves and in return build our own confidence.
So how do we define self-confidence?
It is how you feel about your abilities which can vary from situation to situation. It can affect how we perform and how we approach new situations whereas self-esteem is how you feel about yourself overall. You can have have good self confidence but poor self esteem. The two are often confused but it is a lack of self confidence that can hinder progress and stop you from achieving what you are capable of.
Confidence operates in the realm of the known, and courage that of the unknown. This means that we can have a lot of confidence on a familiar run or river, but none when faced with something new.
Now we know the difference what can we do to boost our self confidence?
Cement your basic paddling skills on rivers that you are familiar with and gradually push yourself onto harder sections, but only when you feel ready. There can be pressure from others to do this before you are ready. Go with your gut and remember why we do this. It’s meant to be fun!
If you don’t enjoy paddling grade 4/5, then don’t do it. Do what you enjoy!
Choose the right boat for you. I never thought I’d like the 9R, but I tried it and loved it. It’s narrow and fast, suits my paddling style and also performs really well when fully loaded. Such a good creek boat for the smaller paddler!
Try lots of different boats and make sure that it’s not too small/big. It sounds obvious but we are often told what we should be paddling. It’s definitely a personal choice so go with what you feel good in as long as it’s suitable for what you’re doing. If you’re in the right boat then it should boost your confidence.
Paddle with the right people. This may be difficult to figure out. Try paddling with different people and learn how you operate in different groups. Often we paddle with the same people and end up relying on them to make decisions for us instead of developing our own concept of our own abilities. That doesn’t mean that people can’t try to push you; sometimes that’s necessary, but only in the right time and place.
If you’re paddling with people who make you feel bad for messing up, then they’re not the right people to paddle with! It only takes a small comment or a roll of the eyes to undermine someone’s confidence, especially when they’re having a rubbish time. Picking the right group can make a drastic difference in how you feel about your own ability and how you progress.
Be kind to yourself and to others. If something goes wrong, reflect on it and try not to beat yourself up. Not everything is a competition and you don’t have to do things perfectly every time. Most importantly remember to do things because you enjoy them. Whether that’s enjoyment that you get after a scary run or from surfing or learning to do freestyle or competing. You will gain the most out of whatever you’re doing if you enjoy it and that in turn will give your confidence a lift.
If you experience anxiety then try to realise it in yourself and how it manifests. Try to identify what makes you anxious and share it with others. For example paddling without scouting things makes me anxious and I get snappy, so now I only paddle with people who are happy to stop and look at stuff. Anxiety can come across in many different ways and can turn into panic. Learning what makes us anxious enables us to form strategies so we can manage it rather than letting panic take over. Strategies may include visualisation, planning trips differently or self relaxation techniques; find what works for you.
Don’t be afraid to push yourself to try new things, even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it. Surf things you wouldn’t normally surf, and if you need further support then get some coaching from someone you trust. Say yes to things that you feel nervous but not terrified about. Some nerves are good, it’s when they turn into something more that we struggle. We have to reach a level where they don’t affect our performance. Easier said than done when you’re lacking in confidence, right?! Take things slowly, and take a step back if you begin to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes we can push through and sometimes we can’t!
Seek positivity and take it from the small victories. Love what you do and if you find yourself not loving it for some reason then take a break, reflect on things and talk to people. Relish the challenges that kayaking poses but don’t let them overcome you.
A lot of this might sound obvious but all of these things should help you to build your self confidence when it comes to kayaking. It doesn’t have to hinder our progress or stop us from loving what we do. We just need to take the right steps to make things more manageable.
Now to practice what I preach! See you on the river!
What is unseen and unheard, receives no glory, but it is in these private moments of struggle, courage, and resilience that you decide your truth and your truth is a Brilliance that EVERYONE can see.
Learning to do life while balancing a tightrope between walking and non-walking is a task that requires 100% of my attention, 100% of the day, whether that is seen or unseen by the everyman’s eye.
Looking the part of an athlete and the quiet moments of learning adaptations, PT, strength training, ice, prayers, pep-talks, and daily adjustments; The way I stand, the pace I move, the jobs I can(t) accept, to the constant manipulation of my kayak outfitting to minimize pain, is a behind the scenes grind that few will ever actually notice.
Everyday you take on these discrete, glory-less moments that build into your truth.
When no one is looking, how deep can you dig, how far can you truly push yourself….Tuning out “why me,” “this hurts,” “what am I going to do,” and tuning into “How can I make this beautiful.”
The tip-off came from a friend who had recently flown over a river with enormous rapids in Manitoba. Joel had originally planned this trip for the fall of 2015, however a severe weather system forced the team to delay their mission until the following year.
In August 2016, an eleven strong team of some of the best big wave surfers in the world met up at the Wilderness Tours base camp in Ottawa and made the forty hour drive north to Manitoba with high hopes of discovering new treasures. It is fair to say that this was going to be an unusual trip. As we would be navigating a lot of flat water and would be on the water for ten days we opted to use two motorised rafts which were kindly loaned to us by Wilderness Tours. We also had two shotguns as we would be a long way out in the wilderness and wildlife such as bears and moose were definitely a realistic cause for concern amongst many of our group. Personally, I was worried about neither set of furry animals, as I grew up in Warrington and there are far scarier things to be found in the streets of that town than a glorified deer and a real life Winnie the Pooh.
We arrived in Cross Lake, Manitoba and immediately began unloading the van and setting up the rafts. Cross Lake is a quiet, little, northern town full of wonderfully kind people and we attracted quite a scene as we frantically manoeuvred around eleven people’s equipment. Despite being curious and friendly, the inhabitants of Cross Lake were also keen to warn us of the dangers of this river and regale us in sobering stories of friends and family members drowning. Undeterred, we finished packing, enjoyed a fantastic lunch with the locals and headed out into the wilderness of Manitoba in search of big waves.
Joel had taken a float plane ride over the river to scout out the major rapids and check our route, he had seen five major rapids and lots of ‘small, insignificant rapids’. The first rapid we arrived at was one of the ‘small ones’. Upon dropping into the meat of the rapid, we promptly realised that Joel may have been a tad mistaken on his judgement from 100 feet up in the air. The wave train in that rapid was enormous but thankfully clear of any big holes. Ecstatically happy to the degree that only running a rapid blind and getting away with it can provide, the feelings of doubt and worry as to whether we would even find anything on this trip were replaced with an altogether more pleasing realisation; ‘If this is a “small” rapid, what on earth must the major ones look like?’.
We continued down the river pushing to make it to the first major rapid of our trip, White Mud Falls. This rapid is the biggest and scariest piece of whitewater I have ever seen. A brief scout led us to believe that we could possibly run it, upon further inspection from both sides of the river we quickly reconsidered. The entry into this monstrosity is a tiny curling, surging tongue through two of the biggest holes I have ever seen. The unpredictability of this entry, the likelihood of being ripped from our kayaks by one of these holes and having to battle the whirlpools downstream had us running away with our tails firmly between our legs.
We made camp and continued down the river the following day. We found a small, diagonal wave on one of the next rapids despite not being the size of wave we were looking for everyone was keen to surf something and we made camp at this wave and surfed well into the evening.
The next day we knew we would get close to the ‘Powerline Rapid’. From the air this rapid looked by far the most promising in terms of big wave potential. As we ventured closer and closer to the horizon line, we realised we had found something special. We tied up the rafts and the whole team sprinted down the river bank to see just what we had found. A more intelligent person may well have used a word such as ‘eureka’ to summarise a discovery of this magnitude, all we could manage was a series of cheers, war cries and several words that should probably never be written down.
We had found our dream wave, hidden amongst the wilderness of Manitoba. One of the biggest waves we have ever surfed, an anomaly of whitewater, with a smooth face and huge bowl. I’ll be honest, it was intimidating dropping into this wave for the first time but several surfs later I was slowly relinquishing the death grip on my paddle and had stopped holding my breath while surfing. As we grew more confident and comfortable on the wave the tricks started to flow. We stayed at this wave for the following seven days. Throwing huge tricks, crashing hard and loving life on the island next to the wave.
With food supplies dwindling and everyone’s bodies sore and broke after a week of surfing really hard we packed up one final time and finished our descent of the Nelson river. Arriving back in town we were met by the locals with surprise and relief written all over their faces. Despite our assurances they were almost certain they would never see us again, hence the banquet / last meal they provided before we left.
We had one last celebratory meal with the Cross Lake towns folk before commencing the long drive back to the Ottawa. Each of us, tired but elated and already dreaming of our return trip.
With thanks to Wilderness Tours for sponsoring the trip, the Cross Lake community for all of their hospitality and Joel Kowalski for putting this mission together and inviting me.
This is the second year I have been to Keeners. A typical week here is where you paddle with the coaches Monday through Friday and then on weekends you have freedom to go paddle when and where you want. This past month has been amazing, within one week I was able to learn many skills. We have warm ups on the water every morning for about 30 minutes. During the flatwater warm ups we do many fun things, which include flipping over and seeing how long we can hold our breath to get us prepared for Beatdown Thursday. We also work on flat water tricks and how to help someone in need on the water. After that we have a flatwater paddle every day down to The Lorne, which is a fun section of the Ottawa with many features to play in. All the features there depend on water levels, but the features there are Garburator, Bug Bus, Mini Bus and last but not least Push Button. When we were there, the two features in were Garburator and Push Button. Since we have a flatwater paddle everyday, I went from barely being able to flatwater loop to being able to flatwater McNasty. Since you paddle down with the coaches you get to see all the huge tricks they can do on the flat water too.
Everyday at Keeners is a different day, it starts with Speech Night Monday, Freestyle Tuesday, Race Day Wednesday, Beatdown Thursday aka Big Water Bacon Beatdown Thursday, also on Thursday nights we have Knots for Gnar. Then Friday is Funky Fresh Freestyle Friday. Also each Keener must do a blog each week on something related to Keeners or something that happened at Keeners. During every morning on the weekdays we play a random game like Death Ball, Ultimate Frisbee, or anything Anna ( Keener Mom) comes up with. During the one of the weeks we played a game where you put your average kayak gear at one end of the grass field and you line up in groups at the other end and race down to get all the kayak gear back. Though here’s the catch, you can only get one peice of gear and you must wear it and then once you get back to the group take it off and hand it to the next runner and they must wear that gear and get another other piece of gear and wear that one too. So you can start to see how the game works. In my group just happened to have Tom Dollé, one of the French kayakers here, because he doesn’t weigh much we put him last in our group becasue we had to run and get the kayak and then put him in it with all the gear and then run back down the field. That weighed a lot so we had our entire group of like 7 pick him up in the kayak and run with him in the kayak in our hands down the field. We were in the lead but unfortunately we kinda dropped him on the stern of the boat, so we lost but it was the funniest thing ever.
One of the other games we played was Ultimate Frisbee which is when players on teams attempt to score points by passing a frisbee to a teammate over the opposing team’s goal line, but keener style. Basically just a bunch of just awoken up teeenagers having to play a game that involves running, so for a while we played and scored points, but the fun hadn’t started yet. We started playing the game a little faster since we were finally awake, so one of the Keeners, Holly, started running down the field and was going for the frisbee, and she didn’t catch the frisbee but didn’t see the cement septic tank in front of her and ran full speed into it and fell. We all walked over to her to see if the was ok, she ended up spraining her ankle really badly but after a while it was really funny. She couldn’t paddle but she was able to take a SUP board put the McCoy’s and take pictures of Beatdown Thursday.
On Tuesdays we split into groups of 4 or 5, depending on how many coaches are there. On one of the Tuesdays, after our warm up we paddled down to Garb and worked on tricks. I talked to one of my coaches telling him I have my blunt down on my right and now I want to learn my pan-am , which is an over vertical blunt. He said ok and he told me how to do it and to go try it on Garb. I attempted many times and many times I fell on my face, but that’s the beautiful thing about freestyle kayaking, you can fall on you face many times but the more you fall, the closer you are to getting that trick down. Before we went to paddle down to go get lunch I went for one of my last ride and I carved over to the shoulder of the wave to get on top of the foam pile to come down the wave to take off and thow a trick. Once I got to the top I knew it would be a good pass so I went down the wave and took my powerstroke and I went flying in the air, I went for the pan-am and it went massive. My boat was completely out of the air and I landed the trick too. It was one of the best moments I had at Keeners, I had the biggest smile on my face, I was really excited about my ride.
The next day was Race Day Wednesday, our first race was a relay race at McCoy’s, which is above where the Keeners stay. We paddle the flatwater of to Baby Face and then hike with our boats for 5-10 minutes and then you can put in at the top of the island and paddle the rapid. We were put into relay groups and there were about 5 of us in each group. The first part of the race started on the island and you started running down the island to the water to get to get in you boat and paddle backwards across the river into the other eddy on the other side of the river. Though the catch that the keeners didn’t know was that one of the coachers flipped and switched around the boats so the racers were confused. Once they got in their boats they paddle as fast as they could to get to the other side. I was in the second leg of the race and I had to paddle to the Hero Eddy back on the other side of the river and then paddle back again the other side, but since there are 5 kayakers racing all at once it’s a little difficult. There’s a catch to getting to the other side after you have caught the eddy. You have to catch this glass wave and surf across about a 15 ft of rushing water and above Phil’s Hole, which you very easily get beat down in, and make it to the other side to tag the next person in the next leg of the race to start. I raced to the hero eddy and I was one of the first people there, though not good becasue you have the other boaters paddling into to the eddy which is only a 2 boat eddy. So you have boaters slamming into as your trying to get out, therefore I got stuck on a rock and ended up missing my line and going right towards Phil’s, which isn’t to bad, I just took the line through the center of the hole. Once I finally got to the other side I tagged the other person in and the race went on, surprisingly we came in 3rd with a time of about 20 minutes.
Then on the last Wednesday we took a trip to the Gatineau River in Quebec and it was gnarly. The first rapid is one of the biggest on the river and there’s a hole there called Lucifer’s Anus. This hole is nothing like Phils, this hole will teach you a lesson if you go into it. Basically you wouldn’t want to go into this hole on purpose, but were Keeners so we do go into this hole on purpose. At least some of us do. I did not plan at all to go in but I did, becasue of one of the Keeners, Kaelin. He told Bren Orton that if Bren went into Lucifer’s, Kaelin would. Well, Bren went in and he didn’t get beatdown at all. Of course I just happened to be standing next to Kaelin when Bren walked up and told Kaelin it’s his turn, Kaelin replied with no, I don’t want to, then Bren looked at me and said Cat, go get in Lucifer’s so Kaelin can see how easy it is. I was a little scared but I told myself I have a mile of flatwater and kayakers at the bottom, so what could possible happen. I went to get in the hole and missed, I went again and missed 3 or 4 times but finally I caught Lucifers.
After that I started to walk up the side of the river to try again and I saw one of the other Keeners, Bryce, attempt to go into the hole. I wasn’t really paying attention that much till I started hearing cheering. I turned to look and Bryce is getting the crap beat out of him, after about 45 second of seriously getting beatdown he went to pull his spray skirt and he came out and got body recirculated and as he started to get body surfed his boat hit him on the head and then he went down under water. It had been about 15 seconds he hadn’t popped up and we started to get a little worried, you could here people start to say where’s Bryce, where’s Bryce, we really were getting worried. Then he popped out of the water, he got tunnel vision so he didn’t pass out thankfully. After watching Bryce’s beatdown I decided not to go in, and nobody else went in either.
The next day of the fun Keener week is Big Water Bacon Beatdown Thursday; the first Thursday I attempted to get beat down in Right Side Phils but failed. After our morning at McCoys we paddled down to the lunch site and ate lunch. After lunch we usually have a choice to either go to the pour over and swim into it, swim in the whirlpools or go jump of the the jump rock. I chose to go swim in the whirlpools and it was super fun. I got sucked down for about 20 seconds and it was great, but after a while I open my eyes and realized its dark and I can’t see the light and I got a little freaked out but then I floated back up to the top. Then on another Thursday I went to the jump rock and attempted a frontflip, and this rock is about 17 ft, so I went to jump and I was scared to under rotate, after a little bit of thinking about I finally jumped and over rotated. Luckily I didn’t over rotate so much that I belly flopped but I landed on my face and it was very painful, yet very funny.
Kalob doing a flip off of Stairway to Heaven
On the last Thursday my dad drove up the Canada to watch us on the last few days and he wanted me to get beatdown in Phils and I told him that’s not possible, I have tried for the past 2 years and it hasn’t worked. He said go anyways I want pictures. I went and little did I know this would be the beatdown of my life. As I went in I got beatdown for a few seconds and then I came up for air and as I came up I went back under. I started getting thrown around like I was a feather. After about 20 seconds of getting thrown around I was done and wanted out, well that didn’t happen. I went to pull my skirt and I couldn’t get to it, I was getting thrown around so much I just couldn’t. Finally I popped up after about 10 seconds, I was completely out of breathe because I hadn’t actually got some oxygen. I looked at my dad and I flipped over again and pulled my skirt and got body surfed. On Thursdays we have at least 2 people below Phils in an eddy incase someone swims you can paddle over and help them. Once I popped up I started swimming to the football eddy and Savannah and Rachel came to help me and Bren went and got my boat but I couldn’t breathe and they helped me get to the side and gave me some water and I was good to go. A coach was also in the eddy with them and Rachel told me that he told them to get ready to go help me because I was in there a while, and he thought I was going to swim. He was right.
“Gangster’s Paradise Island”
That night we had knots for gnar; since this was the last day of knots for gnar we were able to go repeal off a tower that is about 160 ft. I was the last person to go and you have to climb up the tower to get the where you can repel. It looks super sketchy but it’s actually really safe climbing up. Once you get to the top you walk over to the guys who help get you set up for repealing, once that is done you walk over to the spot where you drop off of and it’s super scary going because you walk backwards and have to like lean of the tower and just drop. Once you start to repel you calm down and it becomes super chill.
Also the Thursday paddles down the river are cut a little short becasue we drive back up to McCoys and play on Baby face. Though not all of us are in our kayaks. My friends and I went in a raft and attempted to surf Horseshoe, which isn’t commercially rafted, but again we Keeners so we do it. The first week I went on a raft with my friends and another Keener, Ray, as our raft guide. Everytime we went in the raft flipped. It was really fun. Then on another Thursday my friend Olivia and I went out on a SUP board and attempted to surf Baby Face, we tried many times and we caught the wave once after we figured at that the person in the front needed to paddle hard and the person in the back needed to rutter. We only caught the wave for a few seconds till the bow plunged and we went flying forward, this was definitely one of the best times at Keeners.
Now the last day of the epic week is Funky Fresh Freestyle Friday. This is where we go train on Garb or Push Button for the morning and compete after lunch on that feature. I mostly competed on Garb and did my normal ride which was Blunt, attempt at a Pan-Am, and spins. On another week I went and competed on Push-Button. For me Push-Button is a very difficult feature, its wave-hole. That means you can do both wave and hole tricks. After training I asked Bren if I could try his carbon Jed, he said sure. The entire month that I was there I was not able to loop in the feature and once I got in carbon boat I hit my first loop and it was amazing. I was super stoked. This about wraps up this year’s Keener adventure. I can’t wait for many more years to come at Keeners.
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For years I have considered the Pyranha Everest the ultimate big water/multi-day whitewater kayak, however, over the last few months I have come to a sad realisation; it is time for me to retire my beloved Everest in favour of my new favourite whitewater kayak, the 9R Large.
I initially decided to give Pyranha’s 9R Large a go due to its massive rocker for the steeper runs in India; It has been an absolute dream paddling it on steep, low-water multi-day trips and not having to worry about the fact that it had a few days’ worth of overnight gear packed in its massive bootie.
Four days worth of food and camping gear in the boot and still easy to throw around!
What surprised me about the boat however was how well it handles on big water; with less defined rails on the 9R, I suspected I would still prefer the Everest on higher volume rivers, but within a rapid or two on the big water of the Panjshir in Afghanistan I realised the 9R Large is much more than a big-boys’ boat for steep whitewater. The rapid acceleration of the 9R means you can charge across wide, pushy rapids in long, read and run sections and it really goes from zero to hero in no time to get you through any features that sneak up on you on fast flowing rivers.
At around 80-85kg, sitting near the bottom of the weight range for the 9R L, I had a few concerns that it would feel like bit of a barge whilst paddling low water runs, but thanks to the fact it is designed for racing, its sporty nature means even on tight creeks it is still a wicked kayak to throw around.
Back on British low water I suspect I will still chose my trusty 9R Medium (although the Machno looks like it could be giving it a run for its money), but for almost any trip outside of the UK the 9R Large is now going to be my go-to kayak.
Photos by Gull Hussian Baizada, Callum Strong and Jamie Conn