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28
Aug

Getting the nack for the Mach – Pyranha Machno Review

One cold dark day in Wales I got my first try in the Pyranha Machno. My initial opinion was “this is either worst or best kayak Pyranha have made in a long time.”

Flying over Sticky Hole

After paddling the 9R Medium and Large for the past few years it was very strange stepping into the Machno. I’ve become accustomed to paddling long, fast kayaks that require a lot of active paddling and as a result I started out by over compensating in the Machno.

It wasn’t until I got on the Fairy Glen, the river where the Machno was regularly tested in the design process, where the penny dropped. Andy Bulter, seeing me paddling hell for leather (which resulted in a lot of talky talk with the fishes), told me to try paddling less, focusing on key strokes. The results were immediate. The Machno is the ideal kayak for the more laid back kayaker – I still remember gently paddling down Sticky Hole, the first rapid on the Glen, cruising up to the crux boof, planting my paddle and… PEW! I flew, skipping out like never before.

Since then I’ve been refining my technique to paddle the Machno, moved my seat back a bit and have been enjoying the rewards since. It has an incredible ability to skip over every hole that you put in its way. I took it out to Norway after a short debate as to swapping back to my trusty 9R and I am so glad I went with the Machno. Anyone’s first trip to Norway is a nerve racking experience, the whitewater is massive, and in my case I was following locals who knew each river like the back on their hand, so ‘follow me’ was often the method taken down the rivers. The fact that you can cruise about and only at the last minute put in a few power strokes to get you over features that are coming at you at high speeds is what makes the Machno so special. That and the fact that it can boof everything.

Check out this video of my first run down the Lower Myrkdalen

Lower Myrkginity

Getting ready for a big week of filming at Ekstremsportveko. Got my first ever couple of runs down the Lower Myrkdal yesterday. Stoke levels were up at around 11. Cheers to the locals for showing me the lines, this run would take forever if you didn't know where you were going.

Publicado por Joe Rea-Dickins Aerial Imagery en Jueves, 22 de junio de 2017

So, the big question, does the Machno top the 9R? No. It is on par in a different genre of kayak. For big water runs and overnight trips I will be sticking with my 9R Large, for steep and hard rivers the Machno is now my go-to kayak, and for everything else – the trusty 9R Medium.

The Machno on some of my favorite British rivers:

Photos from Andy Butler and Rowan James

12
Jun

2017 GoPro Mountain Games – Steep Creek Challenge (Homestake Creek Class V)

Pyranha Team Paddler - Henry Hyde

Pyranha Team Paddler – Henry Hyde

Well, I finally got my butt in gear and confronted a run that while I have ran most of it in the past, I finally raced it in my new Machno. You can see a small indentation in the bow. That happened on my second run, I had a piton on “Leap of Faith”. It should be easy enough to knock out with some hot water and a closet dowel.

Pre-race lecture

Pre-race lecture

No, I don’t have a headache. I was trying to replay in my mind a mistake on the drop into Birdbath. I missed my boof stroke and gave everyone a good scare 🙂

Safety Meeting ARGH!

Safety Meeting ARGH!

My goal for competing in this race was to A) Not get killed B) Run clean lines and C) Not get killed (that would be awkward). Really though, just to be able to do this race is pretty amazing. This isn’t like paddling Shoshone or any other milk run. This is serious stuff and after last year, when people got hurt and lost boats and other assorted gear, you really have to be on your “A” Game.

I thought I was the only Pyranha Team member racing, but Gerd Serrasolses was there too. I couldn’t talk Rowan Stuart into it, so I still had to represent and at least finish it.

The start of the upper mank

The start of the upper mank

The upper mank section is always a little bit weird, depending upon the level. I’m still not sure if I like it lower or higher. Either way, you’re going to leave some plastic on the rocks to appease the River Gods. The trick to this section is to study it well beforehand and know where the green water is. Even then, you’re likely to run afoul on a rock somewhere along the way. The middle of the upper mank is where you need to establish your line to the right and start to set up for coming into the top of Goal Posts. At the level we raced at, a mistake anywhere in Goal Posts will cost you either time, or your elbows, or a nasty pin that could have epic consequences. Safety set up is marginal at best as there aren’t really any good spots for assists.

Goal Post Section

Goal Post Section

Slightly below Goal Posts

Slightly below Goal Posts

Coming out of the Goal Post Section

Coming out of the Goal Post Section

Coming out of the Goal Posts section leads you into the the drop into Bird Bath. Nothing super tricky here, but you need to watch your line and where your bow is pointing. A good boof stroke here with your bow pointing slightly left is going to help you keep your speed up for when you hit the slow water in Bird Bath. From there you need to drive hard across it.

Leap of Faith

Top down on Leap of Faith

Leap of faith pretty much sums it up. At the level we raced at, there is a nasty rock at the bottom. I happened to get a bit off my line and pitoned it. The dent like I said before isn’t too bad and I can fix it pretty easily. Coming off of Leap of Faith, you need to have a few hard driving strokes. You don’t need a ton of them, just precise and clean strokes. I took a couple of Duffek strokes in here and it helped immensely.

I’m sure I will be racing it again next year, likely in my 9R Medium. It’s a bit faster than the Machno, though I love paddling both of them.

SYOTR

Henry

31
May

Help Save Our Rivers!

Kayaking has given me so much. From friendships cemented with epics in far-flung places, to a way out of inner city London as a youngster to experience a different way and pace of life in the French Alps. It’s provided me with a sport I am good at (I definitely didn’t excel at football at school!) a passion for the great outdoors and a love for being in new and exciting places, as well as a career sharing all this with the next generation of paddlers.

pic by Tim Burne

First Ledge on the Wnion, a North Wales classic run. Pic by Tim Burne.

I currently live and work in North Wales, in one of the most accessible National Parks in the United Kingdom. In the area we have some of the most famous whitewater rivers in the UK. Boaters cut their teeth paddling the Llugwy and Glaslyn, develop on the Upper Conwy and Wnion and test themselves on the Ogwen, Mawddach and Fairy Glen. There is a river for everyone to enjoy, and this is one of the things I love about the area.

Like most paddlers I mainly spend my life ignoring politics, and campaigns, but my eyes were opened a couple of years ago when a multinational corporation tried to dam one of the most iconic British Rivers, dig through two kilometres of ancient woodland and build a small scale hydro scheme that breached several environmental guidelines and would have caused unknown damage to an exceptionally fragile ecosystem. This was stopped by people power alone, and being involved in this opened my eyes to how we can all make a difference.

The Afon Cynfal. A rite of Passage!? Pic by Tim Burne

It is these experiences that have caused me to stop and write a passionate plea to all of you. I believe in our collective power, and want to help to protect these places that have given me so much so I can share them with generations to come.

The Welsh Government are about to debate adopting a new report detailing how all the National Parks in Wales are to be managed in the future. The Future Landscapes Wales (FLW) report was leaked in draft form in March, the week before assembly members were due to debate adopting it (Note – prior to having even seen the report, Assembly Members were due to adopt the report – that should set alarm bells ringing…), and a huge public outcry was raised by saveourrivers and other conservation bodies, including the British Mountaineering Council and the Snowdonia Society. Cue backtracking by the Welsh Government, postponement of the debate and assurances that the report was only in draft form.

There was such an outcry over the initial draft as it failed to mention the Sandford Principle, a key conservation safeguard, enshrined in law as one of the defining characteristics of a National Park. The final version, despite assurances to the contrary, also fails to mention this key principle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the already murky history of the FLW, the Welsh Assembly has timetabled the debate to adopt the report on the 6th of June, two days before the General Election, whilst attention is elsewhere.

Pic from Save Our Rivers / Patagonia

If the Future Landscapes Wales proposals go forward unchallenged, we will be heading not only for the destruction of the purpose of National Parks, as we have known them for over 60 years, but also leave the Welsh Parks without any legal protection from unadvised development.  Without a clear restatement of the Sandford Principle, and without a clear commitment to the conservation of landscape, natural beauty, and wildlife, the National Parks in Wales will be relegated to a lower tier of Protected Landscapes as defined internationally by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Welsh National Parks could become “hub” areas for the development of intensive tourism, renewable energy, and economic development, at the cost of protected landscapes and the promotion of quiet enjoyment that the national parks were established for.

Multiple hydro schemes in all of our rivers anyone? Canalisation of rivers, as in the Alps? Even more limited access to the rivers, as commercial interests close out responsible independent adventure tourists? We can’t let this happen. Our National Parks surely mean more than a badge, a marketing brand, and a commercial asset to be exploited by faceless multinationals.

Pic from Save Our Rivers / Patagonia

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING TO HELP!

Action is needed before 6 June!

 Actions if you live in Wales:

Write to your five Assembly Members (that’s your constituency Member and all four of your regional Members) and ask them to help.

Click on this map to get the email addresses of your Assembly Members.

 Tell them:

  • Why you love the National Parks of Wales – Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast and how you benefit from their existence
  • That you hope they will be seen to stand up for National Parks in the debate on 6 June, which will be broadcast live on senedd.tv

Ask them to:

  • Stand up for proper protection, management, and resources for National Parks and AONBs in the debate on 6 June
  • Make landscape, natural beauty, wildlife, quiet enjoyment and cultural heritage central to the debate
  • Insist on a Sandford-type conservation principle so that, when there is an unavoidable conflict of purposes, conservation has the higher priority
  • Insist on full public consultation for any proposed changes to the purposes of National Parks
  • Point out that key conservation and recreation organisations, including the BMC, the Wildlife Trusts, Alliance for National Parks (Cymru) and many others are unable to support the FLW report because it excludes the Sandford Principle.

Make your email short and positive. Assembly Members are genuinely extremely busy people and short emails are more likely to be taken notice of.

 Actions if you live outside Wales:

Write to Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs  at Correspondence.Lesley.Griffiths@gov.wales and copy your message to the other party spokespeople for environment – Simon Thomas (Plaid Cymru) Simon.Thomas@assembly.wales and  David Melding (Conservative) David.Melding@assembly.wales.

Tell her: How much and why National Parks in Wales matter to you.

Ask her: To show that she understands the importance of protecting, conserving and managing our last big areas of unspoilt countryside. Ask her to move beyond the narrow and old-fashioned view that getting more benefits from National Parks means ‘freeing them up’ to more development and more concrete.

Thank you so much for doing your bit to protect our National Parks.

You can read more about the campaign to save our rivers here.

16
May

Learning the Little White

The Pacific North West has earned itself a reputation as one of the best destinations for kayaking in the world. Home to a diverse selection of rivers, slides and waterfalls, the area is a geographical paradise for all level of kayakers but especially those looking to pursue the art of free fall. The waterfalls in this area are among some of the tallest (run-able) waterfalls in the world and several world records have been broken here. There is no limit to how big you can go with waterfalls in the PNW but it is also home to one of the most legendary sections of river in our sport, the Little White Salmon.

I first went down the Little White early on in my river running career, at exceedingly low water levels and thought it was one of the hardest, most continuous and best sections of river I had ever run. Three years later I returned and the river was running at just over five feet on the gauge, over two feet higher than my first lap. On some rivers the difference between a few inches makes little, to no difference, on the Little White however you can feel every single incremental notch up, as the river becomes increasingly powerful. I was not planning on immediately dropping into the river at these flows and was hoping to build up slowly throughout the rivers range. But life rarely goes to plan, and when I was given the opportunity to follow one of my kayaking heroes (Ben Marr) down the river, I took it.

That first lap blew by in a series of breathlessness, lactic forearms, occasional glimpses of Benny’s kayak in the distance and several moments where I was concerned about involuntarily ‘decorating’ the inside of my Fuse suit. Whilst I made it down the river that day, I was absolutely on the limits of what I am capable of and it was in no way a stylish lap. We committed to running the Little White every day after this and I slowly grew slightly more comfortable with the river at high water, learn’t the lines and pushed my river running further than I ever had before.

Almost all of our laps where around the five foot mark, except for one notable morning lap where the river was at 5.5 feet. To my knowledge this is the highest descent of this river, though I am more than happy to be proved wrong. The river that day was a whole other animal and I felt genuinely relieved when myself and my crew made it to the bottom.

I will forever be grateful for my time on the Little White this spring. There has never been a river push me in the way that this river has at high water, there is simply no other section I have come across that requires you to be as skilled in a kayak, in shape and mentally prepared.

Whilst the Little White was our go to for daily jedi training we also ran the Truss at huge levels almost everyday and went out on several missions to the local waterfalls. Sadly I got hurt (subluxed shoulder) before I could run some of my dream waterfalls but we still managed to run several classics in the area.

Money drop. A sixty footer with an intimating lip and the potential for huge impacts at the bottom. Photo Dane Jackson

Punchbowl and Metlako. Two of the sickest waterfalls in the world, Punchbowl is a dynamic thirty footer with a curler move off the lip and Metlako is possibly the gentlest eighty footer in the world. Photo Austin Jackson

Outlet falls. An awesome seventy footer with a cool lead in rapid. Photo Tyler Roemer

I cannot wait to come back to the PNW next spring for more Jedi training on the Little White and to run more of the waterfalls in this area. Hope you all had a great spring!
See you on the water, Bren

27
Apr

2017 Brush Creek Race

The first time I raced at Brush creek was probably five or six years ago and there hasn’t been a race there since until this past weekend. The southern end of the Sierras were hit hard by the California drought, and there hasn’t been enough water to make this amazing creek run. Maybe that’s why there was such a great energy in the air at Brush Creek last weekend. Not only did it have runnable flows for the first time in a long time, but it had high flows, making it super fun and a little more challenging.

brush creek (1 of 18)
This year, the race was of particular interest to me. I mean sure it is a really fun creek with drops and steep slides. Yeah, I did get to paddle it with some friends that I haven’t seen since last year. That was like the icing on the cake, but for me, this year, the best part of this event was getting to take “the kid” (his new nickname) that I have been paddling with the past year. For him it was his first time running this style of continuous drops and big slides. I’m beyond stoked to report that he killed it. By his third or fourth run down the creek he was leading others. This trip really highlighted how much he has grown as a paddler in the past year. When we first paddled together he’d be out of his boat before his head got wet if things didn’t go to plan, but not any more. On the occasions where he got himself stuck in a recirculating eddy, or flipped over in three inches of water with only one hand on his paddle, he kept his calm and sorted himself out without needing any assistance from anyone else. For him maybe more than for me, another highlight may have been him beating me in the race. I always knew it would happen but I really thought I had more time. Maybe if I hadn’t taken a beating and swam in practice the morning of race day I might have done better, but more on that story in a minute.

brush creek (11 of 18)

Ethan Howard falling in love with the Machno

If you know me as a paddler, you know that I prefer kayaking where the water is deep enough to put paddle strokes in and drive my boat. If you say the word rock in your explanation of what it means to boof, I will disagree. I go to great lengths to keep my boat from making contact with solid objects in the river. Maybe that’s because I started out in composite boats. Whatever the reason, I’m especially picky about not beating up my 9R. My 9R is hands down my favorite boat to paddle, and let’s face it, if you had a Ferrari would you rely on the guard rail to steer you around the corner? Not wanting to abuse my Ferrari on the steep low volume creek, I rode the new Machno for the trip and I couldn’t be more stoked with how well it rides. It’s not quite as fast and dynamic as the 9R but it isn’t supposed to be. It is very predictable, stable, and forgiving. It’s easy to boof and runs over everything you put in front of it. This boat just became my go to for multi day and or steep low volume runs.

brush creek (16 of 18)Ok I guess you’ve waited long enough. You’ve probably seen the pictures and video already. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this much media coverage on the internet for anything I’ve ever done, but sure enough I take a swim and suddenly I’m famous. So, for those wondering here’s how it went down. Dave drove into town Friday evening having never paddled Brush creek before but planning to race the next day. It was already too late to go up that night so we got started early the next morning. I had already done six or eight practice laps the previous couple days so I went up to show Dave what I thought were the fastest lines for the race course. We’re coming into a rapid called triple drop, which oddly enough is a series of three ledges. There aren’t many eddies so I look over my shoulder on the way in and say “justrun the all down the right.” Upon looking back downstream I note I’m a little late getting right. No problem. I can use that small eddy to help me get there. I made a slight miscalculation and suddenly found myself spun out in the eddy and drifting out the back of it. I took a quick look at the approaching ledge and decided there wasn’t enough time to spin back around. “I definitely don’t want to drop in sideways,” I thought to myself, “I’ll have to run it backwards.” I took my best attempt at a switch boof stroke, but alas it wasn’t good enough. Perhaps that majestic California Boof Stork was lurking somewhere near by. I fell into the hole and was immediately locked into a side surf struggling to keep upright. Dave and Ethan both landed on me and I didn’t budge. I tried going forward and backward but was unable to move an inch in either direction. I tried flipping over but to no avail. With noting working at all I new I had only one option left. Swim. Reluctantly and all too aware that my padawan learner was just down stream I pulled the yellow tab of surrender and was quickly removed from my kayak. I was lucky in that I came right up to the surface and was able to swim into a micro eddy and a small hold on the icy granite before swimming the following ledges. It would have been four years in June, but I guess we all must swim sometimes. At least I got a free beer out of it.

 

23
Apr

Hidden Idaho Gems – Jarbridge and Bruneau Canyons

 

The Jarbridge is a low volume, fast moving river that flows through stunning vocanic canyons from Jarbridge Mountains on the Idaho-Nevada border. The Jarbridge flows into the Bruneau River near Indian Hot Springs where the canyon opens into Idaho sage brush planes before descending again into the red-walled canyons of the Bruneau. The flows on the Jarbridge are highly variable and difficult to predict, but if you get the opportunity to do this run from Murphy Hot Springs to Bruneau you should jump on it.

The entire run is 70 miles, 30 on the Jarbridge and 40 on the Bruneau. The shuttle is not too bad (the road has been fixed!) if you camp near Bruneau the night before and use Ed Geiger’s Bruneau Shuttle Service right out of Bruneau, ID. The weather can be harsh (typical spring in Idaho), but also lovely down in the canyons.

We spent one night on the Jarbridge and two nights on the Bruneau. There’s plenty of whitewater on both sections. The Jarbridge is more technical and has three of the most difficult rapids. We portaged two of the rapids because they are relatively new slides with sieves and wood, but we ran Wally’s Wallow. It’s technical class four and probably would have been a little easier with more water.

After the confluence with the Bruneau, the river substantially increases in volume. There’s a great read and run continuous class four section the last day on the Brunuea. It’s about five miles and really fun. Even with a loaded 9R, I had a blast hitting little boofs and eddies down that section. The whitewater is a bonus, the scenery is really the main attraction. It’s amazing. The canyon walls come straight down to the river in many places with hoodoos towering above. The canyons are remote and there’s lots wildlife sign, such as elk, cougar, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn on the sage plateaus above.

We had time for a few hikes up the side canyons, and the views were as spectacular as those you would find in the Grand Canyon. Go with a good group who all love wilderness rivers, whitewater, camping, multi-days out of their kayaks, and a good time! You can always squeeze in extra beers in a creek boat! These canyons are truly and Idaho hidden gem.

13
Apr

2017 Northwest Creek Comp

Last weekend was the annual Northwest Creeking Competition put on by Next Adventure and Alder Creek kayak shops. The NWCC is held at the Sunset Falls Campground in Washington about an hour north of Portland. It consists of two races. Saturday kayakers race down the East Fork Lewis. The race starts with a short sprint to a 10 foot waterfall. After the initial drop there is a lot of calm water with class III rapids spread throughout. The section of river is really pretty and makes for a fun trip when you aren’t trying to see how fast you can get through it.

Dave Fusilli on the initial drop of the EFL in the Machno

Saturday Top Finishers

Men:

  1. Dane Jackson
  2. Brenden Wells
  3. Colin Hunt
  4. Dave Fusilli
  5. Kyle Anderson

Women:

  1. Nicole Mansfield
  2. Beth Morgan
  3. Tracy Tate
  4. Anna Wagner
  5. Jordan Slaughter

Demshitz lifestyle

Demshitz followed up their domination in the race by indisputably  winning the party Saturday night. It might have been freezing cold and raining but that didn’t stop us from building a fire, turning up the music and raging into the night.  It was a great time to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while. There was a definite excitement in the air about the upcoming runoff both for Washington and California. The past few years have been less than ideal for both regions as far as snow pack is concerned, so we’re all super stoked for this year’s melt. A lot of plans were made for the upcoming Cali season over perhaps a few too many beers. Unfortunately I can’t really remember the details all that well the next day.

Sunday morning everyone is off to a slow start for the hangover race on Canyon Creek. This course is really fun and a bit more challenging than the EFL. I had only paddled this course twice prior to the race so I was pretty happy to only get lost once and take just one hole ride. Not conducive to going fast but fun none the less. The highlight of this race for me was landing a smooth line off the 20 foot waterfall in the middle of the race course. I’d like to learn the course better and be more competitive in the future but for now I’m stoked on the small victories and having a great time going fast against my friends.

Sunday’s top finishers:

Men:

  1. Isaac Levinson
  2. Rush Sturges
  3. Dane Jackson
  4. Greg Lee
  5. Sam Swanson

Women:

  1. Nicole Mansfield
  2. Anna Wagner
  3. Tracy Tate
  4. Beth Morgan
  5. Jordan Slaughter

 

The girls showing off all the bling they earned this weekend

What do you do when you have driven 12 hours to get there and the race is over and you’re in the Columbia River Gorge? You go kayaking, of course. We’ve had some time to hang out and enjoy the goods of the area post race. We’ve gotten Farmlands, Upper Wind, Middle White Salmon, Ohanapecosh, surf session on the Deschutes, and we have a couple more days to go.

Anna Wagner sending Lava Falls in her 9R

Beth Morgan in the Machno on the same

We’re off to have more fun. I hope to see yinz at the Kern River Fest next weekend. Cheers!

06
Apr

2017 Goshen Race: “Kicking a$$ in Goshen Pass”

It’s been a riduculously dry spring in Virginia, but the rains on April Fool’s Day were no joke. Rivers and creeks reached levels we have barely seen since last year. The rain opened the door for the 10th annual Goshen Race on the Maury River near Lexington, VA. The mass-start on this scenic class III-IV is always a spectacle as 20 to 50 paddlers fight for the head of the pack before dropping into the depths of the Pass. This year’s race landed on a gorgeous day – sunny and warm – with a great water level for racing. Veteran paddler and Goshen-racer, Tate Huffman of Charlottesville, VA snatched the 1st place trophy by a strong margin. Last year’s champ, Adam Freeman, took home a slightly smaller trophy this year, with 2nd place. Ciaran Brown, from nearby Buena Vista, rounded out the podium in 3rd place. It was a kick-a$$ day in Goshen Pass!

Above: Ciaran Brown, Tate Huffman, and Adam Freeman on the podium

Above: Andrew Epperly rocks the “Carnage Panty” (on his helmet) – the least coveted of Goshen “trophies.”

Every single racer and volunteer left the awards ceremony with a prize and a smile thanks in large part to the generous support of Pyranha Kayaks. Thank you Pyranha! 

For full results, boof on over to Appomattox River Company’s page .

29
Mar

5 Must Dos for Kayakers in New Zealand

New Zealand has been on my radar as an epic paddling destination for years; 15 months ago, I was stoked to arrive for a year and a half of work and play. The country has totally lived up to my expectations with amazing scenery, great people and awesome rivers. Here are my 5 must dos for the white water hungry:

Enjoying Kaituna laps in the sun. Photo – Amy Kinkaid

1: Paddle a Multi-Day
Although the South Island is famous for its amazing multi-day rivers, the North has gems to be explored too; draining the east of the North Island, the Motu River combines wilderness, wildlife and whitewater in a stunning 3 day, Class 3/4 trip, ideal for kayaks, rafts, and lots of goon bags (bag o’ wine).

Rafts, kayaks, and topo-duos all enjoying life on the Motu.

2: Enter a Race
Kiwis are a pretty speedy bunch, so they’re always psyched for a race! A particularly notable race to get involved in is the Okere Falls Enduro; this 6 hour event is held on the must-do Kaituna River (Class 3/4), and combines paddling laps and running in a 3-person relay. Expect an awesome atmosphere, range of abilities, and top folk giving it a crack.

Aiming for smooth, fast lines at the Okere Falls Enduro in the 9R. Photo – Alan Ofsoski

Go-fast leggings helping me through the run. Photo – Alan Ofsoski

3: Attend a Festival
If there is one thing that kayakers are good at, it’s partying, and Buller Fest has plenty of that! Based in Murchison, this 3-day event has slalom, boatercross, and rafting competitions, but for most, it is a chance to have a few beers, catch up with folk, and enjoy some sunny whitewater.

When in Rome… Paddling the iconic Maruia Falls during Buller Fest. Photo – Amy Dunis

4: Go Heli-Kayaking!
In the remote Southern Alps, helicopter is an awesome option for accessing some of the amazing rivers that drain these steep peaks; for $150pp (£80), we flew into the Kokatahi River, which has 16km of awesome, unrelenting Class 4/5 whitewater set in stunning scenery. NZ is one of the cheapest countries to heli-kayak, and with a huge range of rivers on the West Coast, there is something for every paddler.

Receiving the boats at the top of the Kokatahi, Hokitika.

5: Paddle a Classic
Unless you’ve been hibernating in a cave, you’ve seen iconic images of Huka Falls, Nevis Bluff, and Maruia Falls; these visually stunning pieces of whitewater put a fire in my belly. After missing levels for Huka Falls, it was awesome to paddle Maruia Falls during Buller Fest, and the Nevis Bluff rapids. Don’t be put off by the Nevis Buff’s volume; at low flows, there is time to make the lines, and the holes become a lot less intimidating.

I was blown away by my time in New Zealand; kayaking took me off the busy tourist trail, allowing me to see the real country, make good friends, and have some brilliant adventures; I would totally recommend a trip out here, whether it’s a 2 week ‘smash and grab’, or a 2 year working-holiday visa-odyssey; get involved!

Friends enjoying stories and laughs round the fire deep in the NZ wilderness.

Thanks to Pyranha for their much appreciated support, and to Long Cloud Kayaks in Christchurch for shipping my 9R out!

Jonny

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”!

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