Our journey to Lienz in Austria had quite an urgent start. We’d been training in Plattling, Germany. There is free camping all along the riverbank in the nature reserve there, the water level was high but not too bad but in the night whilst we’d been sleeping the level had risen dramatically as storms across Germany had thrown down heavy rain.
We awoke to find the bridge off the big island where we were parked completely covered with water, at this point it was only slightly too high to drive the van through. Normally police & officials come when a flood is coming to warn all campers to leave before they open the dam upstream. This time however even they got caught unawares as the whole construction site for building a new bridge, cranes, containers, sand, wood, and portable toilets were all flooded and being washed away.
We were fine and since we had our kayaks we could get most of our stuff to the side but the van looked a bit doomed if the levels rose. Anyway it took a few hours for rescuers to arrive and with the level now nearly a meter deep over the bridge two huge trucks came to lift us out and rescue our little van. We made it (obviously) after a very exciting morning and thought that now would be a good time to head to the mountains of Lienz. As the news showed the week after, it was a good move as Germany had the biggest floods of this century!
Lienz is a beautiful mountain town in the Dolomites popular for cyclists, hikers, climbers & kayakers. It’s also been the site of numerous European competitions, this year they were holding a smaller event but it would still attract quite a few international paddlers coming to compete.
The hole used to be quite sticky but over the winter it looks as if the rocks have shifted creating a challenging flushy wavey hole. It’s difficult to do full rides here but moves go very big. It’s also very good training for Worlds here I think.
The competition started on the river Drau amidst glorious sunshine, with a jam session format for prelims and normal rides for finals.
In the womens final girls did better than I expected given the challenging nature of the hole and all got big loops and some other moves too, Nina Csonkova was 1st, Katya was 2nd and Lucie Horka was 3rd.
Katya with the biggest loop I’ve ever seen!
In the mens I was really fired up and have been treating all comps as warm ups for worlds so I was really wanting to give my best. So I did I won with 300 or 400 points difference, the first win for my new Carbon Dagger Jitsu! 2nd was Martin Koll from Germany who’d had very sick moves in prelims and 3rd was GBR’s Matt Cooke a very good friend who came out of retirement for the competition! It was great to paddle with Matt again in competition, as he was one of the paddlers I really looked up to when I was younger and who helped me loads in my progression as a freestyler.
Thomas Zimmerman the organiser & owner of the La Ola shop here really knows how to put on a good event. Even though it was a small rodeo, we had everything you could wish for. Sun, good friends, big moves, good prize money, free camping, free dinner & drinks all evening, it really made it one of the most fun events to be at. Organisers of World’s should copy this
The locals also showed us one other spectacle as many of them had climbed up all the nearby mountains to light fire beacons of crosses and Christian symbols in memory of the Austrian war with France from years ago which coincided with the prizegiving party so it all added to the great experience!
My new Carbon Jitsu is really flying, now I’ve got it all outfitted and am getting used to it, it’s just getting better and better, I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out, we’ll be finishing off the promo video for it in the next few weeks so keep a look out!
Video from my training & competition: http://youtu.be/uDO6JEzn_Wg
A quick wrap up: I have been in the White Salmon, Washington State, for ten days now and I have yet to see a single cloud. I hit a big jackpot this time. Well, I have been on a roll for quite some time now I guess. I spent a winter in Slovenia, which had one of the longest coldest and snowiest winters in a long time. I spent a lot of the time skiing, but in the end I just couldn’t wait for the kayaking season to start. Prospects were just amazing and when that one rainy and warmer day came in March, the season started big straight away. My first run of the season was the elusive Učja creek, which felt like a gift from above. Ever since then Soča has been running on high flows and I presume it will continue to run high well into June. If you’re around the place, now it is time to go!
I have been so lucky to live in Bovec for the last two years, but it felt like a time for a change. To make it short, me and my girlfriend moved out and we are moving to Squamish for the summer. It has been amazingly hard to move in the middle of the great season, so I really wanted to do as much paddling in Slovenia as possible, before I left. Everyone who has ever done the Soča knows how magical that place can be. Of course it is a lot more than just a place that I was leaving. All my kayaking buddies and other friends made it that much harder.
Except for an annual SRT course where I teach, I was lucky to be able to go kayak once or twice almost every day. I am posting some pictures from the last week I spent in that amazing valley. Thanks to Fabian A. Bonnano and Francois Hemidy for the photos. Thanks to Francois for a great video memoir of that week as well. He really caught the atmosphere of it and I’m so happy to have such a good reminder of how things were that perfect springtime. Thanks to all the friends for all great time we spent together. You know who you are.
Weather on our yearly SRT course was cold, windy and rainy. Stikine drysuit made it quite bearable.
Vertical descent in a canyon of Soča.
Now… I guess I really am still on a roll. I’m doing laps on the Little White Salmon and White Salmon rivers and I met so many good people. Thanks especially to Max Blackburn for taking care of me. This place is amazing and really helps me do the transition with a smile on my face.
Thanks to Fabian and Francois for great video and photo work – and some great times we had together.
The Soča Broken Bridge – start of the Katarakt section.
With alpine adventures under way and expedition season fast approaching, this months Coaching Dispatches looks at big waves.
Photo: Tim Burne | Location: Sweden
Posture is the key to everything, without it we would capsize. When dealing with big waves upper and lower body separation becomes even more important. As the boat rides up and over the wave we must be ready to let the boat pitch upwards and keep our centre of gravity over the front of the boat.
When riding through a long wave train, our vision might be limited, we might only be able to see on top of the peaks. If we then want to change the way we are facing to change river position, we must think tactically about when this can effectively be done. In tight smaller wave trains, we might not be able to turn effectively in the trough of the waves because of the resistant from the peaks around us. We can’t push the boat through a wall of water. On big tall waves we might not want to travel up the wave facing sideways, in order to maintain posture and boat speed for anything unexpected behind the wave.
Posture is Key. Photo: Adam D | Paddler: Matt Tidy | Location: Nepal
As we see a big wave approaching, the obvious reaction is to hit the power and charge. We get that shot of adrenaline, tense up (effecting posture) and stop thinking about our strokes. As you get more used to this environment you’ll find you generally need less speed than you think and you’ll then find you have more control.
Remember you can’t take a big stroke off the top of a wave because there isn’t much water about. Two common mistakes I see regularly, is to take a stroke at the peak and the last half of the stroke just fires through the air or reaching behind a wave. In both cases we are not anticipating the change in water level through the waves. Slow, even powered strokes. This is a great time to play with changing blade pressure.
Nick applies even blade pressure as he rides over a wave in Switzerland.
Don't forget to turn around and play on those waves! Photo: Tim Burne
Chris Eastabrook Coaching offers bespoke personal coaching covering a range of skills and mental preparation designed around your white water kayaking goals.
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
* 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)
Last weekend was full of exciting antics in Dartmoor, Devon, and I took a break from working in Oxford and made my way down. Two days of paddling, filming and partying (sometimes at the same time, no word of a lie) all summed up in this short little video I’ve put together.
Big thanks to Hugh Graham for his mad filming skills throughout the weekend, DJ Fromage who’s deck maneuvers made the party and to Simon of Gene 17 for hosting such a great weekend event.
I’m going back to work now, but at the end of the month I’ve got to catch a flight to Chile, which should be a real hassle.
Yesterday a small team of us went on a mission to get this boat out of the Mawddach. It was pretty well wedged!
Two pig-rigs and a snapped rope later (not a Palm line a hasten to add)… we got it! It’s a bit warped and bent, the whole back end was full of rocks and the airbags were shredded – but all things considered I think if faired quite well!
To find out how we did it and see more photos and video, check out the FlowFree blog.
As the good(ish) weather officially comes to an end here in Europe, I thought i’d put up a post with some of my favourite pictures of the spring/summer season. I managed to squeeze in two trips to the Piemonte/Ticino regions, before heading north, as ever, to Norway. This season we did some more exploration, both in central Norway, and further north, as well as paddling a number of rivers which have been secretly documented in some detail over the past few years, and since the publication of this online guidebook are set to become classics.
These are some of my favourite shots, huge thanks go to the photographers, as well as the people in them!
First up – I finally caught the Devil’s slide at the perfect level, in the right mood. Huge thanks to Adam Dumolo for taking this photo whilst simultaneously doing safety for this one.
Next, an excellent shot from Tom Parker of a sweet boof in the Lower Sermenza Gorge. I’ve been absoulutely loving my Harlequin Fuse Jacket, definately the comfiest shell garment ever, and coloured to match everything!
Lakeside camping in Hattfjelldal, Norway. Is this the best paddling destination in Europe?
Next up a shot by Hugh Graham, of Finn Burrows lining up for a rinsing. Dusj-boof (Shower-boof in Norsk)on the Susna. One of the most fun rapids anywhere, especially in high water, when it becomes Wipeout-boof.
This shot was taken by a friendly local, who regularly fishes the pool below this fall. Yours truly, on the first descent of Storfossen, on the Herdalselva, near Valdal.
Due to the trees being harvested on the right hand bank of the Mikkemus-elva, there was excellent light for photos for the first time tis year. Here Hugh Graham hits the perfect line. Watch out for Hugh, he’s one of those people who makes everything look a bit too easy.
Finally, a shot of Finn I took on the incredible Tverraga, another first descent and a true gem of a river way up inside the Arctic Circle.
I’m now back in the UK for a while, waiting for storm fronts to roll in and dump their goods in the hills. The new Mambas will be arriving soon and I can’t wait to get mine out and flying.
We’ve had an epic trip involving Lemmings, stitches, hiking, driving, and of course, lots of paddling!
We’ve enjoyed first descents in the Baieraaga, Tverraaga, and Graataaga (the rivers up north are called aaga, not elva), and lots more!
The above photo is of Jasper Polak on the first descent of a big slide on the Tverraaga.
We camped for several nights on the shores of lake Krutvatn:
This year was a lemming year; every 3-4 years the population explodes leading to mass panic and bizarre confrontational behaviour from the lemming population. This means regular hilarious standoffs with a brown furry ball the size of a hamster.
One of the highlights of the Hattfjelldal (Hat-mountain-valley) area of Norway was the Upper Susna, with its classic pool drop fun.
It features one of the most fun drops in the world, the Dusj boof (shower boof) which involves boofing and disappearing completely into a white curtain. here Hugh Graham prepares to take a rinsing…
After a few days in Hattfjelldal we headed further north to Beiardalen in search of new adventures and first descents…
First up was a river called the Graataaga, which involved a beautiful clean, bouldery class 3 – 4 gorge, a perfect warm up.
After some further scouting, and a couple of projects to save for higher/lower water, Hugh and Jasper stumbled across an absolute gem, in the form of the Tverraaga. This involved a steep hike in the baking sunshine, but we were rewarded with a steep continuous selection of amazingly fun slides, boofs, and a picturesque swimming pool at the takeout!
A super clean, fast slide – I claimed 1st run on this baby.
A bouncy number – some carnage on this one, but nothing major!
My run of the big slide!
Catching some air off a kicker half way down. This one is pretty fast!
Finn Burrows at the exit of a tight gorge:
Stay posted for more pictures to come soon! There will also be a mini movie with footage of all of our adventures!
Big thanks to the team, which was Finn Burrows, Hugh Graham, Jasper Polak, Tom Parker, Sarah Nash, Yours Truly (and shuttle bunies/chefs Em and Tebb).