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04
Dec

For the Children…


There are some new youth programs being born in the Gorge! I can’t be more excited to be part of their genesis. One of them is the continuation of Rivers For All.

Watch this video, and if it pulls at your heartstrings, give our facebook page a like:

https://www.facebook.com/GorgeEcology/

and donate to our river program! No donation is too small or too big, and we are forever grateful!

Educating and empowering our youth is one of the most meaningful things in life. The more kids we get on the water, the more river stewards we’ll get advocating for our special places, and the more passionate soul brothers and sisters we’ll have in the future.

Stay safe out there, have fun, grow our sport, and be the mentor you were lucky enough to have, or the one you always wanted.

02
Dec

A Season in the USA: Part Two

California

Unlike its northern states, California got hammered with snow all winter long. This provided a large snowpack which, combined with the mellow spring temperatures, made the rivers come in later than usual and led to an extremely long season on the Sierras.

I managed to make the trip down from Washington and partner up with my brother, Aniol, as well as Scott Lindgren and my Pyranha Team-mates from Gradient and Water (Ari, Jordy, and Barny), plus a few other friends, for an amazing couple weeks of boating on some of the best rivers I’ve ever paddled. 

We started off with Yuba Gap on the South Yuba; an epic section of continuous whitewater with really fun rapids running between massive granite boulders. We did two laps with perfect flows, but during our third lap the water was turned off (it’s dam controlled); this meant we had to finish the lap with a lower flow, but actually made the last big rapid, ‘the Crane’, a lot more appealing to run. All in all, it was amazing to get to paddle this world-class section which doesn’t run that many times a year.

From there we drove to the North Fork of the Mokelumne River, better known as Fantasy Falls, for an amazing 2 day trip at perfect flows through some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen; huge granite domes to the left and right, and some of the highest quality whitewater I’ve ever paddled! There were so many cool rapids with epic moves, one after the other.

Fantasy Falls has everything; mank, huge granite slides, some scenic flats, boulder gardens, waterfalls, and a big water feel towards the end… oh, and don’t forget about the paddle out across Salt Spring reservoir to soak it all in. Once at the takeout, we just wanted to go again, so the next day we did it again in a single day. Knowing the lines a lot better this time, we went really fast and only took some time to scout the bigger rapids. It was an amazing day with my brother, Aniol, and Michael down one of my new favourite rivers.

After Fantasy, we drove straight south to get a few laps on the Kern, which was still holding at around 3600cfs. An epic place in the middle of the desert, the Kern is the continuous oasis that nourishes all the trees and vegetation around it and has endless rapids. We had a great time on the Thunder Run and the Cataracts. Thanks to fellow Team Pyranha paddlers, Evan Moore and Carson Lindsay, for the lines and beta; there were so many cool and stout rapids, with many lines to choose from. We did some great laps before the time arrived to head back up to the NW, having had one of the best weeks of kayaking of my life.

No doubt, California is one of the best places for kayaking on the planet and I cannot wait to go back! Thank you, everyone, for the lines, safety, and good times on and off the water; kayaking is the best!

19
Nov

Park Jam 2019

Another year of the Park Jam has come, the kids I met for the first time have gotten older, taller and better at kayaking but best of all there are new people popping up throughout the countries whitewater parks.

The first years tour was a bit of an impromptu rush to make it happen, nobody knew what to expect – especially myself but it was received well and in the second year we ironed out some creases and the local kayakers knew what to expect. Now in it’s third year and with more help in the planning and running of the tour, I really feel like it is growing into what we had first hoped it to be. A way to connect with the local kayaking community at each park and to inspire the next generation of mini senders.

There were a lot of awesome moments and highlights from the past two weeks but by farmy biggest highlight was to see the countries Whitewater parks surrounded by great communities of people and so many talented youngsters, the future of kayaking in the UK is very bright indeed.

15
Nov

24th Annual Green River Narrows Race, Saluda NC

The notorious Green River Narrows Race is well known in the whitewater racing community here in the US for being one of the steepest sprint competitions in the country. With the course being just under a mile long and choked with steep and shallow rapids such as go left, chiefs, and gorilla, pacing yourself is key but you also must paddle hard the entire time if you want to crack the top 20. Some of the most respected kayakers from all over the world show up to put it all on the line. People such as Eric Deguil from France and Marcelo Galizio from Brazil are just two examples.

This year, we had a great turn out of team representation for the race. We had some fresh talent just added to the team competing, with Nic Williams competing in the short boat class. US Director Mike Patterson decided to make a surprise appearance this year, coming into the race with no practice laps and laying down a time of 4:52 to take 41st place. Fresh off paternity leave, Jared Seiler dusted off the cob-webs but unfortunately missed the finish line gates, docking him some serious time. He shrigged the crowd several times and won the show but finished with leisurely time of 5:17.

KLCG showed up to compete and party this year, all having great laps on race day. Howard Magley had a few seconds on Patterson, finishing with a time of 4:44 seconds to land him in 32nd place overall. Benny’s Drew just barely held off Howard with a 4:42 which earned him a 29th finish. Bernie Engleman almost broke the four-and-a-half-minute mark, coming into the finish line at 4:35 and a 22nd place overall. Billy ‘Reverend’ Jones demonstrated that living at the takeout may give you an advantage over the rest, coming out of rapid transit hot and through the gates at 14th place with a time of 4:31. Returning 2018 Green Race Peoples Champ Holt McWhirt showcased again why he is a premier athlete on the rise in the competitive field, finishing in 8th place with a 4:23.3, just behind Matt Anger who clocked a 4:23 flat. Young gun Jeremy Nash took the fastest time for Team Pyranha this year, finishing 5th with a blazing fast 4:22.8.

In 4th place, Daggers Junior Isaac Hull made a solid impression finishing one tenth of a second behind Liquidlogics Pat Keller who placed third behind Michael Ferraro, with Dane Jackson setting the new course record at 4:04.

Big congrats to all of our Team Athletes who showed up and represented the brand this year! You make us all proud to be apart of this big family of talented paddlers.

14
Nov

Expedition Rippering

I spent a good while looking for a word or phrase that best describes purposely using something for an intention that it was not created for and being pleasantly surprised, but couldn’t find one. This means that the creation of that word or phrase is up for grabs, and I would like to stake my claim to it with “Expedition Rippering”.

I fell in love with the Ripper from the first day I used one of the prototypes, early on in the development process it was intended as a kayak to make your local run more fun and teach you some things about body position and edging. We then found that it works exceedingly well on hard whitewater if you are willing to work hard to keep it under control and deal with the occasional backloop / chundering.

The skill increase and the progression from using the Ripper as my primary kayak has been exponential and I am generally astounded at how well it performs, even in situations that it was not fully intended for. I feel I have used it across almost all the ranges of kayaking out there, except one. Multiday kayaking.

Arriving in India I did one of the day runs first to feel out the type of whitewater we would be on and was immediately impressed with the power in the water. A loaded Ripper on this type of whitewater was going to be sporty to say the least.

Warmed up on the day run we headed out to the Kinchi river, on the way we stopped off to purchase our food for the multidays. I genuinely didn’t look for food I liked or that would typically be good to have on a multiday, I looked for the lightest sources of calories possible and walked away with several packs of biscuits.

My overnight gear was pretty light, sleeping bag and bivvy bag and some dry clothes for at camp. No roll mat on account of my sleeping habits and my tendency to have really vivid dreams, move around a lot and invariably end up rolling off the mat and sleeping in the dirt anyway. My packs of biscuits were also relatively light. The camera bag was what piled the weight down on the kayak as I had a drone, Dslr, spare batteries, a battery pack for the batteries and some big lenses. Still if you are about to do something questionable, you might as well get it on camera.

At the levels we had the first big rapid on the Kinshi river arrives in the form of a boulder pile on the left. A pretty messy rapid with a tight left turn to make in order to not get smashed into the rocks. I had been hoping for more of a warm-up but whatever, I saw my line and felt good about it. Dropping in, the loaded Ripper handled pretty well and I was able to keep the kayak flat and mostly in control, it behaved like a normally loaded kayak – slower than usual and harder to make quick adjustments but all the characteristics of the kayak remain the same.

We continued down the river, enjoying some awesome class 4 rapids along the way. I was pleasantly surprised that the Ripper even with a good chunk of weight in it still kickflipped relatively well.

Reaching the biggest piece of whitewater on the run a massive volume 50fter I really wished that I had my 9R II with me. I could see my line but I could also see that there was enormous power in the water at the bottom of the waterfall and for this reason, I adjusted my line mentally and decided to try and bring the nose up and try and stay on top of the water.

I paddled up to the edge and flew off the lip, got forwards expecting a big hit but instead felt nothing until the curtain of falling water landed on top of me. And then I felt myself going really deep and getting ripped out of my kayak. I got a double hold down with just a small breath in between the two but my mind was firmly on the welfare of my kayak. This river is exceedingly exposed and hiking out would likely be a nightmarish week struggling through the Jungle. I got to the side and could see that the kayak was about to go over the next 20ft waterfall, I commandeered my mate, Frazer’s kayak and took off sprinting down the next drop. I got to the next rapid and couldn’t see my Ripper but could see that the next rapid ended in a huge hole. “Eurgh, I can’t swim again and lose another kayak – that isn’t mine”. I peeled out and took off down the bank only to see that Gareth Lake had gotten ahead of me and was well on his way to getting his hands on my kayak. Which had saved itself and eddied out in a pocket at the bottom of the rapid and somehow hadn’t been destroyed on its solo trip full of water down the river.

I thanked Gareth, the lads and the river gods, got back in my kayak and we headed downstream. Fortunately, I had the forward-thinking to assume that a swim could happen at the bottom of that waterfall and had taken all of my drybags out of my kayak before sending it. Which meant I still had all of my gear with me. Stoked!

The next day was chock full of rapids, some big, some small, some hard and some ea- well actually, in a loaded Ripper there were very few “easy” rapids but I did have a great time on all of them. A part of using the Ripper on hard whitewater is accepting that there will be times were you are vertical and the kayak can surprise you and I certainly had my fair share of backloops and rolls. However, with that comes awesome potential to use such a manoeuvrable kayak on this grade of whitewater and have the potential to move down the river differently, find new lines and be left grinning ear to ear on the water.

In summary, I give using a Ripper as a multiday kayak an 8/10.

8 times out of ten it’s great.

1 time out of ten it’s scary.

And the other 1 time out of 10 I was swimming.

Please note that this blog is largely sarcastic and there are a plethora of better Pyranha kayaks to take on Multidays… Make good choices and enjoy your time on the water!

Bren

Watch the video of our trip here

02
Nov

12 Steps to Get Long Hair and Not Care

It’s that time of year again, at least if you live on the west coast, and if you are like us you are officially in the off season. There are no big boofs or giant holes within a 2 days drive and the urge to quit work/school, buy a sprinter van, and default on your mortgage to chase after the whitewater season is growing every day. Fortunately for you, we have come up with a 12 step training program to get you through those dark, dry days. 

  1. Throw away your scissors. You won’t be needing them where we are going.
  2. Get a ripper, it will make you way better at kayaking than sitting on the couch watching all those videos of Aniol cobra flipping. 
  3. Buy the Lizzo album Cuz I Love You—make sure it has the bonus tracks, especially Boys. Learn every word to the aforementioned album and practice your singing voice in the car. 
  4. Get a gym membership and watch Robert Frank’s Passion of the Gainz. Happy Gainzvember.
  5. Instead of waiting around for the Little White to come in (or insert any other world class run that’s close to you), take your new slicer to the class 3 run and rip it up. Practice your splats and stern squirts, flip over a bunch and maybe carp a few rolls. Try things you aren’t already good at, maybe even that cobra flip…
  6. When you get back out on a challenging run in your creek boat just remember that you aren’t in that super squirrely small Ripper anymore and be grateful. 
  7. Start subjecting your kayaking squad to Lizzo and your ability to sing along to every word in the car.
  8. When your friend looks at you in the eddy above a big rapid with terror in their eyes, just bust out a bar of your fav Lizzo banger and peel the fuck out.
  9. Get out at the bottom and hold a rope for your friend who was hopefully inspired by your confidence and lack of taking yourself too seriously. 
  10. Buy a brush and some conditioner, by this time your hair is gonna need it.
  11. If you haven’t already, name your kayaks. See previous post.
  12. Reflect back on how far you have come in getting long hair and not caring. Note how much stronger you are going into the rainy season and how much more fun you had staying swole during the dry season. 
Gettin squirreled on the South Yuba

23
Oct

The Young Rippers of Balto Kayak Club

Having a teen in the family creates a different dynamic, so what do I do in my spare time? Well, quite often I decide to surround myself with teens and young adults 😊 Luckily, we have a shared passion for paddling.

Balto Kayak Club, based in Wicklow, Ireland has been running now for 9 years, and we have a solid bunch of paddlers pushing their way onto more challenging rivers.

We use a simple tool with the guys at the start of trips – they simply rate how they are feeling on a nervousness level with ‘one’ being cool as a cucumber and ‘ten’ being a cat on a hot tin roof. We check in regularly as we go down the river. It’s a simple way of everyone sharing how they are feeling, the goal is to make sure it’s a safe environment to share and aim to either keep the low numbers low or bring the high numbers down through the day. My daughter, as you can see below, started this day as a ‘one’ 😊

We had two combat rolls, 1 small swim, and a few unexpected rock-spins, but a great day was had by all and the guys were buzzing. We finished with a quick chat, where everyone agreed that the drills we practised on flat water during the summer really paid off.

I think it’s important to take time on the river for yourself (a lesson only learnt this past year). I rarely get to paddle with my peers and take the 9R out, but I’m happy to keep leading and guiding the club as I have my Ripper; the volume at the front makes sure I get through everything, the boat speed is incredible, and the slicey stern allows me to have a play and mix it up on familiar stretches. My daughter has had an “extended loan” of a small Ripper from the awesome team at I-Canoe in Dublin, and she loved it so much we have just put an order in for one in custom colours – can’t wait to see it!

Thank you Pyranha – your boats are making a huge difference to our club and in our own personal paddling lives. Keep designing awesome boats!

Chris

18
Oct

Summer Fun

2019 has been the best year in my short kayaking experience. I’m 14 and this year has been the one where I finally started to push myself to try new disciplines and develop my white water skills.

First off was the National Boater X series. Boater X is summed up by British Canoeing as “Fast-paced and full of energy, Boater X racing pits the best white water kayakers in a tough, head-to-head format. Nothing is certain as competitors charge down a white water course, negotiating obstacles such as gates, buoys, or even a kayak roll zone – all the while fighting other racers for position.”

📷: British Canoeing

Before the National Boater X Series, I’d never done Boater X before. I’d barely started slalom and only seen videos of carnage from Galway Fest and other events, so I was sure I was going to have some fun and only entered for a laugh and because I was at Cardiff International White Water (CIWW) Paddle Fest anyway.

I ended up winning the first event at Cardiff, which was really surprising, and won a free year of park-and-play at CIWW (the first cash-saver for my parents!). Unfortunately, I was away for the Lee Valley event and missed it, but managed to make the last event of the series at Paddle in the Park at HPP (Nottingham).

I was a little nervous about the HPP event as I was competing against a friend, and placed fourth due to a massive mistake (I tried paddling up the eddy to the obstacle we had to touch and was smashed out of the way by everyone else – but that’s Boater X for you!) We all learn from mistakes, and having entered two of the series, I ended up placing first in the youth male rankings and won the national series.

If that wasn’t lucky enough, every entrant from throughout the competition was put into a prize draw and amazingly I won a Pyranha Ripper. This was the boat I’d wanted for over a year so I was ecstatic and I got to choose custom colours – even better!

In August I travelled to the one and only Pyranha factory in Runcorn where I picked up the Ripper. I was shown around the factory and learnt all about the design and manufacturing process of a kayak which was really cool. I was most impressed by the number of quality checks every kayak goes through and the measures taken to try to reduce the environmental impact of the process. Pyranha have an industry-leading position on recycling with almost all their foam waste being re-purposed, and even some waste from other industries being brought in for re-purposing by Pyranha in fish sponges and shipping protection.

The Ripper is the best boat I’ve ever owned. Just a week after picking it up from Runcorn, I was off to Scotland with the CIWW Kids Academy. It was the best 5 days of kayaking I’ve had with the chance to tackle rivers such as the Etive, Morriston, Gary, and Orchy with wild camping on the shores. The coaches Eddy Mead and Lyndon Williams taught us loads, whilst the Ripper made pushing my limits a lot easier. I did my first Grade 4s and 5s with runs on classics like the Cheesegrater, Crack of Doom, and Right Angle Falls, and was still able to muck around surfing and throwing tailees.

📷: EaglesNest Photography

I can’t wait for river levels to rise and have the thrill of pushing myself on winter flows this season.

Check out the CIWW Kids Academy Scotland Trip video below:

04
Oct

High Water

As we transition from summer flows into the winter storm season our river options (here in the UK at least) widen. There have been a few posts on social media, both of boats and kit lost on high water runs, as well as questions from folk looking for alternatives to their usual runs, as they reach high flows.

Ian Salvat on a high water run in Tomalino, Spain. Photo: Jan Larrue

The level of skill to visualise and stick the line with high consequence is built up over many years of experience, and with a deep understanding of the river environment.

This is NOT a ‘do not go floodwater boating’ public safety announcement, rather some ideas for paddlers looking to have safe days out on the water, based extensively on my failings when I was younger. If you see me on the river feel free to ask about the time 8 of us got on a river, and after 500m there were 6 swimmers… we were still collecting boats from the estuary as darkness fell!

Some terminology first…

High – The river is above its normal paddledable level.

Bank full – The river has filled its normal channel, and there is no gap between the water and the bankside.

Flood – The river out of its banks and flowing through the trees on the edges of the river.

Tim Burne, somewhere in Indonesia. Photo: Chris Eastabrook

Tim and Chris had camped on the river during a multi-day expedition, and experience an overnight storm. The river rose 4ft overnight, and lead to some ‘type 2’ fun during their descent.

All of these levels provide excellent sport for us as kayakers, provided the team and environment that we choose to go into are in balance. Here’s some tips for ensuring this balance…

1. Check the forecast

Check the weather forecast (sounds obvious right!) and know what has happened the few days before in the local area.

If the river is already high when you go to get on, and there is more rain in the forecast, we can assume that the river will continue to rise. This is due to the headwaters (catchment) being already saturated, and so any rise can become exponential – water has nowhere to soak into, and so runs straight into the river.

Flow chart from the RIver Lledr, North Wales.

The rainfall of the days previous meant that the catchment was saturated, and so when the next band of rain came across there was an immediate and severe effect on the river flow.

2. Head up the valley

So, we’ve got to our planned river, and it is running high. We are not lemmings – we can make rational decisions! One option is to head further up the valley, lessening the impact of the rain on our drainages. A classic example of this is the River Findhorn in Scotland – the lower gorge goes most of the time, but the upper section of river only becomes paddleable in high water.

3. Turn the grade down

As the rivers are so much more forceful, and things happen much faster on high rivers, then lessening the grade we are paddling increases our margins for safety. I have had some of my favourite days paddling down big wave trains on grade 2 rivers, surfing waves that don’t normally form (and dodging trees as they float down!). A great example of this is the Dee, in North Wales. Last weekend it was huge, but the section below the normal ‘classic’ run would have been incredible fun.

Jonny Hawkins on a high volume descent of the Alaknandar, India. Photo: Rory Woods

Knowing that they were faced with a very high water season in the Himalaya, the team were seeking out lesser paddled runs and making the most of their paddling days!

4. Change drainages

In the UK we are often blessed with being close to a multitude of runs, with rivers in one valley being off the scale, yet two valleys over there being a normal flow (or no water!) in the rivers. I’ve been on a very high Mawddach, and yet when we’ve passed the Eden confluence there has been little more than a trickle coming down!

5. Drink coffee

Our gut instinct is a very powerful thing. If we’ve spent a couple of hours trying everything above, and still haven’t found anything we feel like we want to paddle then go and drink coffee or mess about in the park. It rains a lot in the UK, so the rivers will be up again soon…

Dan Wilkinson, first descent of the playpark, Callander, Scotland. Photo Luke Kemp

It had been raining continuously for 10 days in the Highlands of Scotland and everything was in flood. In search of more appropriate activites we ended up mucking about in the park at the get on of the Teith, before a very high water run down a classic grade 2!

If you want to read more about the background to these ideas of good decision making then my good friend Tom Parker has written this about Heuristics for paddlers here: Link to Heuristics for paddlers article

01
Oct

Keldua | A Journey Down an Icelandic Gem

All kayakers are driven to find the perfect river, and in my own pursuit I sometimes wonder if it’s a fantasy i’ve built up or if that quintessential river really exists. From what I gathered about the Keldua, it was a great candidate. Only successfully paddled by one team, the Keldua held a reputation for top tier waterfalls and rapids. I couldn’t get it off my mind, and it was the main thing that drew me to Iceland.

Photo — Dylan McKinney

Our team consisted of Johnny Chase, Evan Moore, Carson Lindsey, Taylor Cofer, and me, and we began our journey by bushwhacking toward the river beneath the endless Icelandic sun. After a time, we reached a dream-like glaciated landscape that seemed to be at the top of the world. Unsure of what to expect, I peered over the canyon rim and took in a waterfall paradise.

It took five long, slow miles of stumbling down the loose and muddy hillsides to arrive at the river banks. Greeted by endless horizon lines falling off into oblivion, we knew our effort would be well-rewarded. These were the rapids we had dreamt of. The back to back 20’, 25’, 40’ and 50’ waterfalls that awaited us would require the utmost composure and focus. 

Photo — Carson Lindsey

Exhausted, we carefully made our way down the dreamy stairstep section. Beginning with Carson and Johnny, they both demonstrated how it was done with inspirational lines down the drops. Evan, Taylor and I followed, the apogee of both this river and our journey to Iceland. As we paddled out of the canyon with the piercing wind whipping at our backs, it felt surreal to have completed the crux section of the river. Evening was fast approaching, so we decided to hike back to camp, rest and complete the rest of the river the next day. 

Photo — Johnny Chase

We awoke to a tempest. Facing 60 mph winds, we bunkered down inside our tents to sit out the storm. The next day, still battling relentless wind and water levels that continued to drop, we made our way out of the canyon and completed the Keldua. The low water forced us to portage a few world class drops, but we’ll just have to wait until the next descent. The Keldua is truly one of a kind, and we finished our incredible journey with the assurance that even the most far-fetched dreams can come true.

See you on the water,
Dylan.

The Keldua staircase section | Dylan McKinney

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