By nine thirty in the morning a small grassy hollow had been transformed to a travelling canoeists camp and a fire pit was under construction. The scene was perfect, the sun was out, the water was clear and crystal and the Mad River canoes pulled up with tarpaulin shelters creating some shade. Jules Burnard of Voyageur coaching was ready for the days activities and all around him other Palm Team coaches prepared their equipment for the wide range of workshops they were running.
The shore line of Llyn Padarn soon became a multi-coloured mass of kayaks, canoes, sit-on-tops and inflatables as families, friends and clubs all took to the water in the demo boats from Palm. With the lads from Plas-y-Brenin on hand to give a few pointers to those who’d not been paddling before, the Big Paddle Llanberis was quickly in full swing.
Outside the Palm Store the Paddle Plugs, Canoe Wales and Llanberris Mountain Rescue teams were busy setting some times on the Ergo Challenge and then challenging others to beat them. Surprise surprise one of the raft guides from Canolfan Tryweryn took home the best time over a two hundred metre dash.
Back down by the waterside, near lunch time, paddlers were taking a rest from trying boats or coming back from sessions. Marshmallows were being roasted on the Bushcraft fire but for those wanting something a little more hearty, Tŷ Newydd Organics were cooking up a some tasty treats. The Harlequin paddler took his turn sitting in his boat raising his hands for help and trying to catch the ropes from the Throwline Challenge contestants.
The sun was now brilliant in the sky and as groups headed back out for sea kayak workshops with Olly Sanders or skills sessions with Chris Eastabrook and Lowri Davies. The strange mountain of cardboard that had been built began to move as construction began for the grand cardboard canoe race.
By mid afternoon the armada of boats were cleared from the inlet, and marker buoys were set out. A motley crew of home made kayaks and canoes lined up for the finale. With names like Undersea Voyageur, Fragility and Sea Serpent the racers lined up for a Le Mans start. Three .. Two … One … Go – off they went into the water. Sitting, kneeling and in some cases swimming straight away the home spun boats set off. Pit crews and fans cheered them on and the racing was fierce until the boats still afloat finally touched the shoreline again and winners were crowned.
And then it was over, as happy paddlers headed up to the shop to take advantage of the sale and say their goodbyes the site quietened down. The trailers of boats were loaded up and the bushcraft fire dwindled and was put out. The Big Paddle Tour stop number one was over.
If you like the sound of this, then please join us next time http://thebigpaddle.com/thames-shepperton/
If you were there, thank you, why not share – https://www.facebook.com/TheBigPaddle?ref=hl
Last week there was sunshine. In the UK. Even in depths of North Wales! Well, what better time to get out and put the new FX PFD to the test?
I’m so impressed with this buoyancy aid, the freedom of movement is incredible and the amount you can fit in the pocket while it stays out of the way blows my mind! OK, that’s perhaps a little dramatic… but seriously, it’s like Mary Poppins designed this!
It’s proper safe too (and not just cos it keeps to the first rule of safety: Look Cool), the shoulder straps are sewn right down to the waist making them integral to the whole system and less likely to fail when you really need them. Most other manufacturers just sow to the top seam, even on their top spec “rescue” buoyancy aids!
And all that for just £74.95! That’s less than a tank of petrol these days…
I’m looking forward to a summer of fun and adventures in mine. Where will you take yours?
Chile is a place I’d wanted to go since I’d watched VHS videos of the Futa and Claro when I was 15 years old. It really didn’t disappoint. The country is beautiful, the rivers are varied and the waterfalls clean. There’s literally a lifetime of paddling and exploring to be had there and I’m sure I’ll go back. If you’ve never been, then add it to your list. You won’t be disappointed.
After an amazing 2 months out there, I came home with bits and bobs of footage from my GoPro; so I made a little video (oh OK, RootDown did most of the editing). It doesn’t show even half of the cool stuff I was fortunate enough to paddle, see or experience out there, but hopefully it’s a little taster and a bit of fun. I hope you like it…
Here’s a few photos from my time there… again, I don’t feel they show the full story of my trip, but take a look and enjoy! There’s more on my Flickr.
Back to work now: FlowFree’s 2013 courses and trips are filling up!
Less than 24 hours after landing in Chile, I was racing head-to-head on the Rio Nuble as part of Nuble Fest. Not quite how expected to be taking my first strokes in the country… in fact it had been quite a strange 24 hours. After a long flight I arrived in Temuco, only to find my boat and bag had inconsiderately not made the plane changes I had. I was met at the airport by a motley crew of paddlers, only one of whom I sort of knew and taken many hours north for a festival I´d never heard of.
My airport pick-up
Without my bag I had no camping gear, but miraculously the airline sent a driver up after us and my gear was delivered to me in the field we were making camp in for Nuble Fest 5 hours north of the airport! Good work TAM.
After a day of racing both in kayaks and rafts, there was a presentation party in the town square with dreadlocked rappers and old men with guitars. In state of jetlagged confusion I was presented with some medals, a bottle of wine and a giant cheque. Not a bad first day!
The next day we loaded up and hauled ass to the Rio Claro where we spent a couple of days paddling the beautiful clean waterfalls known as the 7 Teacups and 22 Saltos. The river was low, but this is a very cool place. Stunning tight canyons filled with a kayakers theme park of slides and drops.
Aside from the kayaking, we saw some cool wildlife… not least this “little” fella…
Soon it was time to head to Pucon, but I´m told no Chilean adventure is complete without some vehicle mishaps. On our 5 hour drive we broke down 4 times within the first 30 minutes (3 times within 500 metres!), the rough dirt road and heavy load having taken its toll on our suspension and tyres.
A couple of hours later another tyre started to warp and we were forced to chase around a random town trying to find somewhere to buy and fit a new one at gone 8pm. After several failed attempts we found a tyre in a big hardware store and a bloke with a roadside shack to fit it as the sun set.
We finally made it to Pucon at 4.30am… Quite the epic journey! So we´re now in Pucon and many more adventures have already been had. But now I should get off the internet and go paddling…
More photos can be found in my Flickr Album
UK – French Alps – Lyon – French Alps – Norway – Uganda – UK – Austrian Alps – French Alps – UK
What a summer! Since May I’ve been travelling around running FlowFree trips, boating with friends, filming for upcoming projects and racing, with a very tight schedule to fit it all in! Last time I updated on here, I’d made it as far as Lyon (that blog post is here and is the reason this is called part 2!). I’m going to take you with me on a whistle stop tour of the highlights from the rest of my epic summer of paddling…
We begin back in the French Alps, around mid-June, when there was awesome river levels which were ideal for the grade 3-4 FlowFree trip – plus a few extra adventures…
Hammer time on the fournel… trying to go tandem with Geraint Anderson had rather mixed results, but was a lot of fun!
One afternoon we decided to go and investigate the top of the Biasse Valley. We looked at the so-called “Teacups” and decided they were a lot of effort for a couple of fairly manky drops, but on hiking up the other trib we found some rather exciting stuff…
Geraint Anderson getting in amongst it
One of my personal highlights from my 2 weeks here was “Guil Day”, where a bunch of us ran from above the Upper Gorge of the Guil, through the Upper Gorge, Chateaux Q, Guardian Angel and into the Middle Guil all in an afternoon. What a blast! This is one of my favourite rivers, especially in good flow.
Staircase at Twilight
Oh and I almost forgot, the annual Student Boater-x… good banter, fun races and a healthy amount of inflatables always make for a good event.
Thanks to everyone who I paddled with in France, it was most excellent. So next stop Norway and Uganda (via a couple of days downhill biking in Morzine and a very special wedding in Geneva)… Epic Summer Part 3 will be with you soon…
If you want to see more photos from the Alps (including more of the Biasse Superslide), check out my Flickr. Dates of 2013 FlowFree trips will be released soon, so if you fancy joining us keep an eye on the website and facebook page, or sign up to our newsletter.
Last week I was running a FlowFree Playboating Development Week in Lyon. We had lots of fun and managed to catch Hawaii-sur-Rhone in good conditions as well as a couple of local slalom courses. Here’s a couple of pics from the week:
One of the students on the course has written up a report of his experiences, which we’ve put on our blog: http://www.flowfree.co.uk/2012/06/trip-report-lyon-playboating-development-week/
For a full album of photos, check out our Flickr page.
I’m now out in the French Alps running more coaching & guiding trips with some awesome levels. Next, I’ll be heading up to Norway for Voss Festival before flying out to Uganda for month of both guiding and play time! Hopefully see you on the water somewhere.
Here’s a little teaser video from our recent Colombia expedition. If this whets your appetite, we’ll be showing more HD video along with telling tales of our epics and adventures on our lecture tour, so check out the dates and venues. And if there isn’t a talk happening near you, get in touch on email@example.com and we can probably get one sorted!
It’s been a couple of weeks since I got back from Colombia and with starting my lecture tour*, I’ve had time to reflect on our adventures. Rather than write a long-winded summary of our trip, I thought I’d do something different and present the highs, lows and hilarity in a “rocks and sucks” run-down.
What Rocks: Paddling 45km in one day through several stunning gorges
What Sucks: The trailer breaking on the way to the put-in
What Rocks: Surfing big waves in 40 degree sunshine
What Sucks: Having to inspect your mate’s nether regions for ticks
What Rocks: Paddling through one of the most impressive multi-day canyons we’ve ever seen
What Sucks: Having to hike out of said canyon at the take out!
What Rocks: Fiestas in Latin America
What Sucks: Our attempts at Salsa
What Rocks: Nailing the line on a big rapid after long deliberation
What Sucks: 8-hour bus journeys while hung over
What Rocks: Going paragliding while your mates are sick
What Sucks: Being sick while your mates go paragliding
What Rocks: Incredible geography & geology
What Sucks: Your 4×4 & trailer sliding 10m sideways back down the hill, next to a large cliff
(OK, we don’t have photos of that dramatic moment)
What Rocks: Huge lumps of meat cooked on an Asado
What Sucks: Spirits that come in cartons
What Rocks: Getting silt beards while paddling the Rio Negro
What Sucks: Big holes & rocks hidden by the black water
(can you see me? I’m in the middle!)
What Rocks: Bar games that involve throwing stones at gun powder!
What Sucks: Spiky, spiny and sticky plants that rip your legs apart
What Rocks: Midnight skinny dipping
What Sucks: Finding the pictures the following morning
(Sorry, they are not going on here!)
What Rocks: Having mules to carry your kayak
What Sucks: Carrying your own fully laden kayak through the jungle
…or through fields, over barbed wire fences, along steep ridges, over huge boulders or down small cliffs…
What Rocks: A bus driver willing to try anything to get your boats on board
What Sucks: Finding that his efforts have ripped a deck, split a kit bag and gauged a boat
What Rocks: Bottom left
What Sucks: Top middle
What Rocks: Unbelievable kindness and instant friendships
What Sucks: Saying goodbye
For the full stories, check out our team blog at kayakcolombia.wordpress.com – or come along to one of our talks!
* Over the next few months I’ll be doing talks about or trip, including some impressive video footage and lots of photos, at various venues across the UK. Full schedule will be released soon, but if you’d like to arrange a talk near you (for a canoe club, group or organisation then please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org)
Myself, Niamh Stack, Dave Hollins and Fran Kohn are two weeks in to our month here in Colombia. We’ve been stunned by how beautiful it is: dramatic moutains covered in thick, lush jungles and huge canyons… a landscape that makes for some very committing sections of river!
So far we’ve paddled some amazing white water, including the big volume Suarez that really got the heart racing and the stunning multiday canyon of the Chicamocha. But the big story so far has been how one river that should have taken us 3 hours ended up taking 4 days – including two gruelling hikes out through the jungle in the dark! (read more about this epic on our trip blog)
The new Mamba is treating me very well and fitted all my multi-day gear plus camera gear in the back no worries. And it handles really well both with and without kit. Its really hot here so my Zenith shortie cag is probably my favourite new piece of kit as it doesn’t let water into my boat but also keeps me cool. That said, with all the jungle hiking we’ve been doing I’ve been pretty glad of how sturdy my Gradient boots are too… you can never underestimate the importance of shoes in the jungle
Surfing a big wave on the Suarez in the Mamba
Getting from one place to another has been an adventure in itself as we are hiring 4x4s and trucks of all shapes and sizes for our shuttles and have been squeezing our kayaks into the luggage compartments of buses for transit between regions.
We spent the past 2 days on buses to reach Villavicencio and paddled a really pretty canyon on the Guayariba today. In the next couple of days we’ll be heading out into the hills to paddle a river that requires hiking for 3 hours, but this time we’ll have mules to carry our kayaks! Pretty excited about that!
Until next time, adios!
2012 is getting off to an exiting start for myself, Fran Kohn, Dave Hollins and Niamh Stack as we are just about to set off for a month of boating in Colombia.
Bags packed and ready to go…
I’m taking the new Mamba 8.1 on this trip which I’m really excited about because it seems to handle really well both with lightweight day kit and a full boat for multi-day adventures. We have a long list of rivers we’d like to get done: some of which may involve jungle hikes and sleeping in hammocks or bivis. We can’t wait!
I’ll be updating the Palm blog as often as is possible on these kinds of trips, so stay tuned and I hope to bring you tales and photos from our adventures!