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22
Nov

Congratulations, We Did It!!

We’ve got some awesome news; the Pyranha 12R is officially going ahead, and will enter production in 2018!

Just a few weeks ago, we announced that we were opening speculative pre-orders for the long-awaited Pyranha Longboat, the 12R, and that if enough interest was expressed, development would begin;

We knew we wanted it to happen…

We knew Team Pyranha wanted it to happen (in fact, they wouldn’t shut up about it!)…

What we didn’t realise was just how many other people wanted the 12R to become a reality!

We were absolutely humbled by the response from both paddlers and dealers, and couldn’t be more excited for the 12R to take to the water in Summer 2018, perfect timing to get well acquainted with our new speed machine before the Autumn creek races heat up!

We’ll keep you posted with sneak peeks as the 12R is in development and testing, but in the meantime, if you haven’t ordered yours yet, contact your authorized Pyranha Dealer today as only a limited number will be available.

Follow the Pyranha Kayaks Facebook Page to hear all the latest!

 

#FasterIsFunnerer

14
Nov

How to Load your Kayak for a Multi-Day River Trip

Multi-day trips are one of the best ways to enjoy the river. Kayaking all day with friends, camping, and then doing it all over again—what’s not to love! Although river trips are exciting and amazingly fun, preparing for your trip and loading a kayak with days worth of gear can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Here are some tips to make your next multi-day packing experience a little easier.

Jo Kemper getting ready to load her boat on a float plane on the Klinaklini River in BC

Deciding what to bring:

I am a chronic over-packer, so I try to pair down as much as possible while I’m loading my boat. Basically, I try to bring enough base layers and warm clothes that I will be able to change every couple of days, and will have an extra set in case things get soggy. I also like to bring a change of clothes that I only use at camp like a puffy coat (can double as a pillow), a sleeping bag, and light flip flops or crocs for camp shoes. Depending on the weather, I will also pack a tent or light tarp to stay dry at camp.

It can also be really nice to bring a camera to stash in your lap bag along with some other essentials to use during the day, such as a headlamp, hat, toothbrush, and snacks.

Once all of my layers, sleeping gear, and daily essentials are packed, I start to gather my food and cooking supplies.

 

Darby McAdams testing after a long day on the river 

Food:

Food is usually best coordinated with your group of friends who will also be on the river. Typically, I try to skip prepackaged dehydrated meals and bring real food to cook. Unless I’m on a longer trip where weight is a major issue, I always opt for fresh veggies, cheese, and whole foods that will taste great and keep spirits high at camp. Depending on fishing regulations in your area, it can also be really fun to pack a break-down pole in your boat to use at camp. Fish tacos, anyone?

Most importantly, don’t forget to bring dessert to share with friends, and maybe a little whiskey for the campfire.

 

It’s also important to remember water treatment supplies if you will be paddling on non-potable rivers. Depending on the type of water (silty, clear, etc..) you can choose the most effective purification system for your drinking water. Usually, I use some sterilizing tablets or a jetboil to make sure that my water supply is good to go.

 

(Maranda Stopol loading her drybags for the day)

 

Organizing gear in your boat:

I like to try and distribute weight pretty evenly throughout my kayak. I will typically bring 3 drybags: one long stern float style bag, and 2 medium sized bags. The stern float holds my sleeping bag, layers, and some food. On the other side of my stern, I put my foam sleeping pad and another drybag with my stove, food, and other camp items. I try to pack heavier items so they sit right behind my seat—I find that the boat typically paddles better when most of the weight is centered around me. Then I wedge my tent poles or fishing pole along the inside of my stern so it’s cushioned by the drybag and can’t bend. Finally, I pack my lap bag with all of my easy access essentials. I personally don’t like putting a lot of weight in my bow, but it can be great storage for lighter items like tarps, produce/veggies, and a tent fly or sleeping pad.

Finally, loading all of your drybags in your boat can be a little tricky. If you’re really struggling to fit a bag in your stern, try to repack it and shape it a little so it fits the form of your kayak. It can also be helpful to give bags one final shove with your foot to really pack them in there—don’t forget to clip them in once they’re loaded!

 

 

 

 

 

13
Nov

High Water Raven Forking

“Cave Man” at less than half the flow. photo- Eric Bartl

The Oconaluftee gauge is at 340cfs and +100cfs an hour when I checked it before my last class of the day. Excited, I messaged a few people who I knew would be interested in going. Some people for their first time. “It won’t be over 15 inches,” I thought. Throughout my class period, dreams of the Raven Fork swirled in my brain. Not a clue what the professor was talking about. When the clock struck 1030, I zoomed out of the class, going full speed to my car in the soaking downpour. Throwing my things into the back, I drove carefully to downtown Cherokee where I met up with Levi Rhodes. Levi and I have paddled together some, and it was his first time out to the raven fork. As we drove upstream, I noticed what seemed like a massive amount of water in the Oconaluftee. “maybe it’s 20” I thought as we motored closer to our destination. Upon checking the gauge, it was nowhere to be found. Hidden under the brown nar-nar that had overtaken it. We continued upstream to the takeout to wait for Paul Griffin, a local conissuare of the Raven Fork. Amazed at the volume of water coming downstream the three of us and the generous keeper of the Raven Fork stood in the driveway, frosty beverages in hand pondering what to do next. I started splitting firewood to calm my nervous energy while the river roared, flexing its muscles behind me. After about 2 hours of waiting, Paul and I decided to send. Levi made a wise choice and decided to come back another time at a “human level” for his first run.
Paul and I carefully put on our paddling gear and loaded up in his truck to tackle the 4×4 road. After a quiet ride, we exited the vehicle and continued deeper into the Great Smokey Mountains. The forest floor was damp; our shoes were squishing into the mud and over fallen trees as we dragged and carried our 9rs closer to our destination. Fog hung over the valley and the trees swayed in the wind. Brightly colored leaves fell gingerly to rest on the forest floor. The sound of torrid whitewater that we could not yet see was intimidating. I told Paul “This is going to be legendary.” I remember his response being something along the lines of “ I wish we had a camera” to which I profusely agreed. We started our descent to the base of the valley. Steep, rocky terrain beckons the respect of every paddler who descends to the river. Especially that day because if one of us had dropped a boat, the river would have certainly swept it downstream and made a winter sled out of it. We arrived at the left bank to realize the pebbles we are accustomed to gearing up on were at best a foot below the water’s surface.
After gearing up, we ferried across to scout Anaconda which is one of the fewer run rapids on the river. At this level, it looked as though it were a fire hose on full blast that didn’t stop below the drop but continued directly into Headless Horseman. I spotted two eddies below Anaconda to catch so I could scout Headless. Paul decided to watch me run it and portaged on the right. I meditated briefly before dropping in. Visualizing my line, I yelped to Paul and off I went. Moc 1 down the unforgiving class 5. I whited out after the first boof and was at the bottom in a micro eddy in a split second. I hopped out to scout headless which was a large green tongue with a massive hole guarding the pool below. I waived Paul through with a thumbs up and a brown claw. He zoomed past me and down the rapid, enveloped in whitewater. Then, as soon as he disappeared he reappeared bow first, completely vertical, plopping into the eddy. I quickly jumped back in my boat and ran the rapid with a similar result.

Check out this video of the Raven Fork from a similar lap at slightly lower water. It was still raging!

We continued downstream painstakingly scouting each drop but running everything. When we arrived at Hale Mary we wheel chaired on the left into the turbulent pool below. The pour-over ledge directly below would compare nicely to a low head dam. It was chomping at me as I narrowly escaped the boils and the log circulating within the hydraulic. I hoped out and grabbed a rope knowing this hole had no way out if Paul got stuck due to the walls on both sides. He slid into Hale Mary after I gave him the best beta I could. “Hit it on the left!” I exclaimed. He copied what I said but the pool above was too turbulent, and he couldn’t get his bow up and commenced to a massive beatdown. I yelled, “You want a rope?”. From his side surf, he agreed that a rope was necessary to his escape. I proceeded to toss him a rope and pull him in. Paul swam in the process, but luckily he held on to all of his gear, so there was no chase down the river to retrieve a boat or paddle. Both of us humbled, we sat on the river bank for a while and collected ourselves.
We scouted through Jedi training and peeled back out into the flow. The normal class 3 boogie, transformed into class 5 ledge holes and 4-foot waves. There was a clean tongue down the normal center dome of Jedi. Riding that line was essential. Too far left there was a log jam, and too far right you would smash into the wall. After running Jedi clean we gazed at the horizon line of Mortal Combat, knowing it and Wet Willy were most likely one giant rapid. Our assumption was correct, and the rapid we scouted was steep and stout. We also knew Big Boy was right around the corner. As I was putting on my skirt Paul yelled “good line bro!” and he disappeared beyond the horizon line. At the bottom of Moral Combat Paul eddied out. Laughing and yehawing I flew past skipping the eddy and going straight for Wet Willy. Paul followed directly behind me, and we were above Big Boy in no time. From the boulder on river right, I could look downstream to Mike Tysons Punch Out. The spray shook the rhododendron and left a thick layer of water dripping down the moss, rocks, and leaves. Opting out of Boy Boy we both quickly portaged to the lip of Tysons. We scouted the rapid top to bottom. This rapid too had become demon possessed. The top boof that is usually 8ft high was a conservative 15 feet due to the water that was backed up in the pool above. The slide below was magnified, river bed full of raging whitewater. After some encouragement from Paul, I fired it up. I launched the top boof and began side surfing a small hole just above the 50-foot slide. I worked my way to the river right side knowing the bottom was about to drop out. Bracing for the worst but hoping for the best I dropped in and piloted my fresh 9r straight to the bottom where I skipped across the pool and gave a huge whooooop! whopp! Paul whooped back and portaged on the left. We boogied down to the most iconic rapid on the Rave Fork, Cave Man.

New wood made for a tight but doable line under a log. We fired off of it and continued downstream. One major rapid remained. Mangler. If there was a time to run this rapid its now, I thought. About a month ago Ryan Mcavoy and I had scouted it, thinking of running it for our first time, and left with our tails between our legs as does nearly every paddler who comes across the mess of boulders.

American Whitewater’s description of Mangler states-
“Mangler (Class 5.3, Mile 1.9)- It’s been run a few times, but it’s dumb looking. Big 12 foot boof that lands in a sieve that goes off another big drop that goes into an undercut with wood on the right.
The wood has since washed free, and I had never seen the rapid look so runnable than that fall evening. A green line of water leads directly to the top boof which was more like 7 feet, not 12. Some water in the pool fell through a trapdoor sieve while most of it haphazardly stumbled off of a wide 15-foot ledge. On the left of the ledge is a small hanging pool half way down. The rest of the flow goes into a crab trap slot and out into the large pool below. I left my boat at the top to scout. I looked at it from several angles and decided to give it a go. Paul gave me some words of encouragement and held a rope below. I found a flat rock at the top of the rapid near my kayak and had a brief meditation session. It was necessary for this one. After pushing all of the thoughts out of my brain, I then got into my kayak, put on my skirt and visualized the best line, knowing deep down that I could do it. Giving a brief whistle blast, I peeled out, following the line of green water to the left side of the top drop. With a hard right-handed boof stroke, I landed in the pool. I had time for three quick and powerful strokes before taking another huge right handed left pointing boof stroke with textbook follow through. I was flying wholly disconnected from the drop. I landed like a puzzle piece in the crab trap slot as soft as I could ever imagine. The spray around me cleared. Paul and I celebrated in the pool below.
We quickly kept moving through the high water boogie rapids until we reached the takeout at 5 pm. A mere hour before dark.. I told Paul that even though none of what we had just done was on video, I will remember this day for the rest of my life. He agreed he would not forget that day anytime soon either. We high fived and went our separate ways after running shuttle. Upon checking the gauge at 545pm, it read 23” which is not as high as I thought, however, we were on the water for several hours that day, so it had most likely dropped considerably from start to finish.

 

02
Nov

Prevention is better than cure

A lot of time when we talk about ‘safety on the river’ peoples minds are drawn to heroic images of throw bags spiralling across the river into desperately waiting hands, numerous Z-drags working in cohesion to retrieve a pinned kayak and a live baiter grasping someone from the clutches of a hole. These are all important tools to help rectify dangerous situations on the river but we must also consider what makes a situation go from good to bad and how to possibly avoid it in the first place.

I have spent a very large part of my kayaking career running hard whitewater and avoiding dangerous situations, aside from one notably emotional moment above a sixty-foot waterfall. This is primarily down to making good decisions, working really hard on basic skills and coming from a freestyle background. Sh*t does not simply happen on the river, there are always decisions and actions that lead up to those moments. Below are my top tips on how to avoid dangerous situations on the river.

Make good decisions

By far the best way to avoid getting into a dangerous situation is to always kayak within your comfort and skill level. If you do decide to step up to a harder rapid then do it for the right reasons, which should primarily be that you want to run it and believe that you can pull off a good line. Regardless of the grade, location, crew or amount of cameras there that day, I will only ever run a rapid if I think I can style it. There is very little to be gained from crashing in whitewater – except perhaps a new found appreciation for life and an exuberant joy for that wonderfully essential bodily function known as breathing.

Work on the basics

This has and will continue to come up in my recommendations on how to be better and safer on the river for the simple reason that it is the absolute best way to improve. ‘Practice hard moves on easy whitewater’ – Unknown wise river guru. In terms of being safer on the river, I especially recommend spending time in a freestyle kayak and learning how to surf out of a hole and finding a safe rock/wall/raft to practice working your way off of rocks and along undercuts.

Hang in there

The most dangerous place to be on the river is out of your kayak. No matter how awful a situation is, it is likely to only get worse out of your kayak. Dig deep, keep trying different things and stay calm. Chances are that you will be able to work your way out of most situations.

Get strong

The vast majority of swims I see happen are primarily from an inability to surf a hole and a lack of fitness. Being fit and strong will go a long way in enabling you to ride out those hypoxic situations. I highly recommend adding in some additional training* to supplement your kayaking.

*I should also add here that your training does not have to be monotonous gym workouts, that there are an abundance of other (apparently) enjoyable sports that will supplement kayaking fitness very well and that one of the most important pieces of training (breath holding) is best done lying down. I am planning to write another blog entirely about how to hold your breath longer in the coming weeks but if you can’t wait ’til then, you can download an app called Static Apnea Trainer that will teach you the practical side of training your breath hold time.

Prevention is always better than the cure but I also cannot stress the importance of going on a WWSR course and practicing the skills that they will teach you on a regular basis.

Here’s to being safe, smart and stylish on the river! – Bren

01
Nov

We are all between swims…

I took my first swim for quite some time last weekend, and thought I’d share some musings on it with you all. (If you want to just see a beating, scroll to the bottom of the page, cringe and then go practice with a throw line so you’re as accurate as Jonny was!) As a professional whitewater kayak coach I spend a lot of time telling my students that we are all between swims, and that swimming really isn’t a big deal. I feel I live up to my beliefs, never belittling swimmers, either those who I’m teaching, or members of other paddling groups who I happen to be able to help out. I strongly believe that in order to get better at things we have to make mistakes and learn from them.

My boat, after we parted company…

As this was the first time for a while I had a swim I expected to be frustrated and angry with myself – I’ve been a sponsored paddler for the best part of a decade, undertaken multiple first descents, introduced countless numbers of people to whitewater, led experienced paddlers on challenging rivers and currently train and assess the next generation of coaches. Surely I’m not meant to fall out on a rapid that is well within my comfort level – especially as I had won paper, scissors, stone and chose to go first!

Here’s where the story begins…

Fellow Pyranha Paddler and all round nice guy Jonny Hawkins and I had managed to align the stars and end up with a few days off at the same time, and a promising forecast for a mission that he had been eyeing up for a few years, in the far North West of Scotland, where gauges are far between, and rumours abound of epic rivers not yet recorded in guidebooks. He showed me a few river notes on a well known online UK rivers website of these two runs, the Corriemulzie, a wee burn that flows into the Eineg. He had a friend who had highly recommended them to him, and the flows looked good to go. I’m a big fan of an adventure, and exploring a new run so I was sold.

One of the many tight rapids in the Corrimulzie

To cut a long story short we paddled a couple of classic runs on our way north, and arrived at the Bothy (a remote shelter, kept by a charity for lovers of the outdoors) as light was fading. In the morning we rose to find the overnight rain had bought the levels up to what we guessed was a premium level, so we set the shuttle and jumped on the Corriemulzie. This gave us an excellent 4km of classic grade 4 Scottish burn bashing, with tight lines, small eddies and countless horizon lines. We were paddling well as a team, taking it in turns to act as blind probe, jumping out where we felt we needed to and having a great time. All too quickly the run was over, and we were at the confluence with the Einig, the main event of the trip – 7km of the best whitewater Scotland has to offer.

The Einig certainly didn’t disappoint, it’s a fantastic run, and we were having a great time. The river is bedrock in character and we were enjoying the countless ledges and drops characteristic of Scottish kayaking. We had inspected a couple of times and portaged a small drop that twisted into the wall when we came to a far more substantial horizon line. A scout, quick discussion on safety and the classic game of rock, paper, scissors and I was off…

Jonny loving life on the Einig

I’m not sure how I came to be upside down after the lead in drop (due to operator error with the camera, we’ll never know) but I was. I remember fighting to get my paddle to the surface, and feeling the force of the water forcing it under. Just as I was switching to try a roll on the other side I felt my knee out of the thigh grip and I made a split second decision that I didn’t want to go over the second fall half in and half out my boat. I kicked out, failed to get a breath of air and went over the main event, into a retentive hole.

I remember trying to get a breath of air, and being recirculated for a while. I saw my boat in the hole with me, and pushed myself up off that and looked across to the bank. Jonny had scrambled down to the river & I saw he was ready to throw his line so threw my arms in the air to let him know I was ready. Complete Kudos to Jonny (and I definitely owe him a beer for this one) he hit me first time, in a situation where it really mattered. After we’d gathered all the bits, I had some time to reflect, and draw out some thoughts on what had just happened:

Not where I’d planned to be…

I feel it was the right choice to run the rapid – I have enough experience to know when I should be portaging, and when I can see a line I know I can hit. The decision to paddle a rapid not only from seeing a line, but also wanting to run that line. I’m still not sure how I ended up upside down in the first place, I can only assume that I mistimed my boof and landed in the backseat.

Paddling with someone who you have trust in makes the decision easier, as does knowing that you have a strong partner or team to help you out when it all goes wrong. Practice with throwlines is key to being able to help your buddies out when you really need to. I often preach on rescue courses that when were using our safety kit it’s already gone wrong, but this really highlighted to me the importance of being really good with the kit we carry.

Comfort in the water is crucial. I spend a fair amount of time teaching on safety and rescue courses, and introducing paddlers to whitewater swimming techniques. Whilst getting surfed in the hole I was aware enough to look for weaknesses that may allow an escape, try a couple of different techniques to get out of the stopper and look for my boat to give me a little more buoyancy (and hopefully get a breath of air!). It also meant that I could be aware of what was going on with Jonny, and let him know that I was ready for him to bag me.

I will confess to being surprised as to how little I find myself minding that I swam, despite some ‘playful’ comments from my friends. I think that reflecting on the decisions taken, not just on that day, but in my paddling career leading up to this mean that I’m comfortable with all the decisions that were taken, and the trust in the team and my comfort in the environment have allowed me to consolidate some thoughts, and practice what I preach when it comes to whitewater kayaking. Just remember… ‘We’re all between swims’

 

01
Nov

The Mythical Unicorn of Longboats

You’ve been asking for it for years…

We even pranked you with it on April Fool’s Day…


This time though, we’re serious; with your help, we can make the Pyranha 12R a reality!

The hugely successful 9R has taught us a lot about going fast, so why not take all that knowledge and make an uncompromised, super-fast, super-fun 12ft longboat? Yeah, we thought it was a good idea too!

The 12R is only limited by your imagination; multi-days, attainments, races, vertical miles, challenging and developing your skills, crazy big enders, big booming fun, or simply mixing it up with your crew; if the 12R doesn’t put a smile on your face, you might consider seeking medical attention.

By this point, you’re probably waiting for us to cut to the chase and tell you how you can help make it happen; well, if we get enough pre-orders for this beauty, the 12R will see the light of day in Summer 2018. If we don’t, the 12R will remain the mythical unicorn of long boats, so read on and order today!

FEATURES

  • Fast, asymmetric, Swede-form hull with narrow width and progressive rocker
  • The innovative wave defectors debuted on the 9R will continue over to the 12R to deflect most waves away from the kayak and generate dynamic lift for a dry bow
  • 9R style bow rocker to lift over obstacles, punch through holes, and resurface quickly to maintain downstream speed
  • Rounded edges for forgiveness and to help keep you on line and quickly transfer from edge to edge
  • Powerful cockpit ergonomics similar to the 9R, so more of your energy is transferred into momentum
  • Stout 2 outfitting
  • One size fits most
  • Available in Neon, Daredevil, or Rasta

 
TECH SPECS (pre-production, subject to change)

  • Length: 11’ 11”
  • Width: 24”
  • Volume: 97 gal (US)
  • Weight: 55lbs
  • Paddler Weight: 140-275lbs


 
Pyranha 12R Longboat

MSRP $1249 – Available Summer 2018

What are you still reading for?! Contact your Authorized Pyranha Dealer, or Pyranha USA Customer Service at sales@pyranhaus.com or (828).254.1101 to place your order today, and let’s bring this beast to life!

#FasterIsFunnerer

(P.S. Don’t forget to tell your friends, your family, and your dog too!)

30
Oct

3rd Annual Holtwood Rodeo

The third weekend of October was a great day of paddling on the Susquehanna River for a number of reasons. The sun was shining, the water was warm, and the Holtwood Whitewater Park was running at a great level! It was also the annual freestyle rodeo! It was the third year for the event and this year brought in quite the crowd. Photo by Michael Sheely of MAXImages Photography.

I started paddling the natural features at Holtwood twelve years ago and it is incredible to see how much the kayaking scene here has evolved since the park has opened. While the paddling circle has become much larger, the comradery I experience at Holtwood hasn’t changed.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the event. The photography is courtesy of Deb Stipa of Deb S. Action Photography and Michael Sheely of MAXImages Photography.

Here, local legends and brothers, Topher and Tim Smith, are showing off with some cartwheels and splitwheels in the second feature. Topher and Tim ended up taking 2nd and 3rd place in their divisions.

Jed, Holtwood, Freestyle

Here is Brian Dorsey and the Holtwood power couple, Chris and Christina Evans, proving to everyone that being a local has its advantages.

 

 

 

Here are some shots of Jef West, Andrew Rabinowitz, and Ethan Frangenburg. They all placed first in their divisions!

 

 

Check out this edit Eli Geisenberger made with drone footage of the competition at the first feature.

I left the event early but it looked to me like everyone left with a trophy, prize, or some kind of swag! Congratulations to Jeff, Andrew, and Ethan (sorry if I missed anyone) on their wins! Thank you to Matt Samms and all the other volunteers who helped make the event possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am already looking forward to next year’s event!

-Brenton

20
Oct

A year in the Machno

In September 2016 I was fortunate enough to get the chance to borrow one of the final machno prototypes for a few weeks.  I had seen a version of the boat in the very early stages of development but that looked nothing like the final design that we now all know.  I was assured that the boat was unlikely to change much from this design, with only a few very minor tweaks being made.

 

I took the boat up to the Wet West river festival in Scotland and went straight onto the Moriston.  This was a bit of a gamble, because if I wasn’t going to get on with the boat, it was certainly a tough environment to find that out in!  Its safe to say that I fell in love with it pretty quickly and a few weeks later I’ll admit there was a mini tantrum when I had to give it back.

At the end of my first run in the (nearly finished) Machno

 

Fast forward to 12 months later and Ive now taken this boat on all kinds of water, from the steepest rivers I paddle, to big water, low volume creeking, slides and even the grade 2 and 3 that I would typically run in my Z.One.  In a world where every kayak seems to “boof like a dream”, “turn on a dime”, “resurface quickly” and “needs to be driven fast” what actually makes the Machno different?  I think the best kayak reviews are always done when the person reviewing has actually spent a significant amount of time in the boat, I think I qualify for that so here goes.

 

One of the first things you spot about the Machno is the extreme rocker at the bow.  The more time I spend in the boat, the more I work out how to use this and when to time my strokes to lift up and onto boils and when to pull my boof stroke to lift the bow and maintain speed.  The amount of lift you can generate from the bow is really something and with a bit of work you can really learn how to tweak this depending on what you want the boat to do.  Through some features you can pull the bow up late to really make it skip across the water and on some features you can pull early to really clear the stopper.  Safe to say there were times when the rocker helped me out a little when I didnt quite get it right too.  The font of that boa sheds the water quickly and gets you back on the top almost immediately helping to keep you on your line and maintaining your momentum.  Whenever the front deck of the boat gets loaded with water, it doesnt seem to slow it down or take much from the paddler before you’re off again.  The rocker of the boat and the shape and volume of the bow certainly make it very forgiving and gives you the opportunity to brush off any mistakes easily.

Did I mention the bow rocker?

Photo by Oli Kershaw

 

The Machno is wider than some of the current crop of race orientated creek boats and because of this it feels stable and is very confidence inspiring.  As Im not the tallest of paddlers, I virtually always have to raise my seat up by quite a significant amount so that I can get the most performance out of a boat, which can sometimes lead to a bit of instability.  Ive put the seat right up on the Machno, but it still feels super stable and the boat is easy to control on edge and balance when you’re throwing it around on the water.

 

The volume and the length of the boat all seems to feel spot on, nothing feels disproportioned and even though the boat is nearly 9ft, it doesn’t feel like that to move it around on the water.  There is a confidence inspiring amount of volume at the bow and a generous helping at the stern which feels really balanced when you are coming through stoppers and resurfacing at the bottom of drops.

Photo by Lia Stanway

 

Speed.  The ultimate kayak buzzword at the moment.   Everyone wants to seem to go fast!  Whilst this boat isn’t supposed to be race orientated, it certainly isn’t slow.  The bow rocker and the volume keep it up on the surface and the fact that it is easy to control and easy to lift the bow make it fast for me to paddle.  One thing that you can do with the Macho is to really make it flow between moves.  It carries its speed well, feels great to paddle and rewards you linking eddies, waves and features together.

 

If you know me, you’ll know that Im not a fan of paddling creek boats when Im not creeking or pushing my grade.  I love the z.one (cant wait for the new Ripper either) and I mainly use all round river boats for most of my general boating.  To be clearly  I wouldn’t typically use a boat like the Machno on my average grade 3 paddle.  However For the last 12 months, Ive pretty much paddled the Machno exclusively on whitewater and have found it to be excellent, even in environments where I would usually use something with a slicy stern and a flat hull.  It is actually really rewarding to paddle around the river and breaking in and out, ferrying and catching micro eddies all feel great in this boat.  Of course if grade 2 and 3 is primarily your environment then you might find that a boat that is designed for that (such as the Z.one or the upcoming Ripper) a bit more fun to paddle, but safe to say the Machno can perform on the easier grades too.

Tony Becker upping his game out in Italy this summer

Photo by Oli Kershaw

 

Predictability is a feature that I look for in a boat when I am pushing my grade.  The last thing that I want (when Im scared and nervous) is for my boat to do something unusual or for me to struggle to get it back on course.  I find it very rare with this boat that I can’t make it go where I want it to go or that I don’t make an eddy I was sure I could catch.  It’s a boat where you can really easily judge what you are capable of doing on the river which leads to no unpleasant surprises when you don’t quite make that last eddy before the drop!

Photo by Oli Kershaw

 

Pyranha’s outfitting Is always moving forwards and the stout 2 works really well for me, strong, dependable and durable.  The addition of the optional hooker thigh braces mean that you can get well connected to the boat and any movement or pressure that you make in your lower body is transferred effectively and responsively into the boat.

 

I think it safe to say that I like the boat, but don’t just take my word for it.  I know some paddlers who have been boating for nearly 20 years, but are getting a Machno as their first ever Pyranha boat!  Even Tom Parker (exceptionally committed and long term Everest and 9RL paddler) thinks the boat is special!

 

However, I do know a review from a team paddler will always come across biased, so I asked Tony McCabe who was one of the first people in the UK to get one (who isn’t affiliated with Pyranha) what he thought of it.

 

“I bought one of the first Machnos off the production line, after pre ordering it in September. When it arrived I was really pleased to see the new outfitting which is rock solid, and the improved thigh braces, even the improved angle on the footrest. You could see straight away this was a boat designed by paddlers, to give the best outcomes.

Once on the water I was really surprised by the handling of the boat. It is a long boat with a “planing hull with curvature”, and yet it turns like a small boat(probably due to the rocker), lands and resurfaces like a full displacement (due to the curvature), and will happily surf waves and snap into eddies.  I tried it on the Tryweryn and then waited for the water to come, and waited and waited. Through a dry winter I managed to get a few runs, and have enjoyed paddling what for me is hard water including the Lledr and Fairy Glen, then in May a trip to Italy paddling the Sesia Alpine Sprint and classic, Gronda, Sorba, Semenza, and Egua. These rivers are probably the hardest I have paddled, during this time the Machno hasn’t missed a beat. It skips over stoppers, boofs drops superbly, lands and resurfaces in such a predictable fashion. It inspires confidence, and allows me to push my limits knowing it will not give me any nasty surprises. I have been paddling for about 14 years, and tried many different boats in my search to find something that both suits my style and will look after me when the going gets tough. Finally I have found it. This boat makes me feel good, and puts a smile on my face every time I paddle it.

The Mighty Machno is just such a fantastic fast forgiving boat, boofs like a dream, skips over stoppers and through all the confused water. It inspires confidence and makes it possible to paddle harder water even when you are not completely on it. It is simply the best boat I have ever paddled for the creek/whitewater environment. It is great to see it becoming so popular. Well done Pyranha. I think this will be seen as one of the all time great kayaks.

My wife Jane got a bit fed up of me saying how good it is until we got one for her, now she loves the boat as much as I do. On the Italy trip four of the paddlers had Machnos, and all loved the way they performed and left with big smiles on their faces after a wonderful week paddling, which is what it is all about.”

Tony McCabe

 

However the question on everyone lips is how does it compare to the 9r and the Burn.  Without a doubt the 9r and the Burn are still excellent, I’ve paddled them both a lot in recent years and Im sure I’ll paddle them again at some point too.

 

In comparison to the 9r the Machno feels wider, more stable and more forgiving.  It probably isn’t quite a fast if you are to put them head to head in a race, but it is easy to paddle, which for me helps to make up a bit of speed.  The sitting position is different and the Machno certainly feels like more of an allrounder than the 9r does, where the 9R feels narrower and more speed orientated.  The Machno is also higher volume for the weight range which means it’s a bit more forgiving when running drops and creeking.  Even though a lot of people do use the 9r for steeper water, Im certainly more comfortable in the Machno on that kind of river.

 

When you compare the Machno to the Burn, there is an eerie sense of something familiar.  You really can tell that a bit of Burn has made its way into the Machno design (but Im not 100% sure where!)  The Burn’s flat hull makes the boat feel quite different on the water and the huge rocker on the Machno means that it does paddle quite differently and rewards a different style.  There is still place for an all rounder like the burn, but in many ways the Machno feels like the product of a huge amount of R&D, of which the design of the burn has contributed to.  If you’re after a flat hull, edges and all round river performance rather than performance creek, the Burn is probably still your boat.

 

Well there you go, that’s my thoughts, I like the boat, what more can I say!?  Even though Pyranha has some other designs in the pipeline  that look interesting, (have I mentioned the Ripper???) Im pretty sure that when Im sat at the top of a rapid where I desperately want to get the line right and the consequences of making a mistake are not something I want to think about, there will only be one boat that I’d currently want to be in.

 

Thanks for the photos from Oli Kershaw and Lia Stanway

10
Oct

Bren’s First Year at Sickline

Throughout kayaking history, many races have come and gone, but there is one that has been around almost from the beginning of extreme kayak racing and has maintained its position as one of the top races in the world; the Adidas Sickline World Championships.

Born from humble beginnings almost 10 years ago in Austria, Sickline started out as nothing more than a low-key event between friends with the goal to hold a race on a legitimate stretch of grade 5 whitewater. Since then, the popularity and prestige of the event has grown to huge proportions, with almost every top whitewater kayaker / racer in the world attending annually, along with several Olympic slalom athletes and an abundance of up-and-comers.

The race is held on the Oetz river in Austria, and takes place on the legendary Wellerbrücke rapids. Since the race’s conception, much harder whitewater has been descended, and even raced upon, but this rapid maintains its status as being a classic piece of grade 5 whitewater; it is fast, has multiple, tight, technical moves and is exceptionally difficult to be consistent on.

There are many different types of people that come to Sickline, with various reasons for entering; some want to win, some want to use it to challenge themselves, and others want to get a Sickline sticker on their kayak so that they can then go home and tell people how they once competed at Sickline. For myself, my reason for entering this race was much the same as my reason to enter any other race; I like kayaking, and kayak races tend to have kayaking in them…

My goal in kayaking has always been to be the best all-round kayaker that I can be, and to be able to show up to any spot in the world and shred. I am by nature not competitive, but I fully understand the intrinsic link between speed, style, and smoothness – “Smooth is fast, fast is smooth”, and I think being able to move quickly and smoothly down a river is a pretty good test of your overall ability; therefore, my goal for this event was to put down a really smooth, fast, and stylish lap down this challenging section of whitewater.

In order to do that, I would first have to qualify against over 130 other people on an easier section of whitewater. I honestly didn’t think that I would feel as nervous about the odds of making it in as I did, but the simple fact is there are a lot of people at this race and they are all (bloody) quick. Despite some small mistakes in my qualification lap, I managed to qualify in 30th place.

Delighted to be moving on into the quarterfinals and to be able to race on the actual course, I was slightly bemused when one of my friends came up to me with a facial expression that led me to believe that he had perhaps soiled his trousers or once again been rejected by a pretty girl (or both).

“Have you seen who you’re racing against?”
“No?”
“Gerd… you have to race against Gerd (f*@king) Serrasolses!”

Upon hearing this news, I too had to question whether I had just made a mess in my own dry pants. Gerd Serrasolses is one of the best kayakers in the world, a previous Sickline Champion, and his primary job is to go (very) fast in his kayak. There were not very many people that gave me much of a chance against Gerd. For myself, I honestly relished the chance to race against the 2015 champion; partly because I love a challenge and there is no shame in losing to someone of his calibre, but also because it meant that my race strategy was made up. There would be no thoughts of having a conservative run, I would have to go all out, all guns blazing, nailing perfect lines, and with the aim to try so hard that I vomit at the finish line.

I am pleased to say that although I tried exceptionally hard and put down a run that was very close to the previous course record, I didn’t throw up at the finish line. This run was also enough to beat Gerd and advance to the next round (Sorry, Gerd!).

The same friend came up to congratulate me and to inform me of who I would be racing against in the semi finals…

*Same glum, sympathetic expression*
“Dane… you have to race against Dane (bl@@dy) Jackson!”

Righto, same tactic as the previous round, except I will try even harder this time.

I gave it everything I had on this run but unfortunately, as is true in so many instances, I tried too hard and rushed moves in the wrong places, where waiting just a little bit for the kayak to settle down again would have enabled me to be quicker. I made some mistakes and had a run that was much slower than my lap in quarterfinals, whilst Dane had a blistering run and set a new course record; just like that, my first Sickline race was over. I have no shame in losing to Dane, he’s one of my best friends, by far the best kayaker in the world right now, and has been coming to Sickline for seven years; I only wish that he could have gone on and won the whole event, but unfortunately he finished in fourth.

I honestly didn’t think I would like this event as much as I did; I generally don’t like competing because I have to rest and not kayak as much as I want to in the lead up to events, and then have to wait around all day to do a minuscule amount of kayaking. However, the lead up to Sickline was absolutely the best environment for progression that I have ever been in; myself and my friends would work on laps all morning, go and review our kayaking on video at lunch, and then go back and do more sessions and video review in the afternoon. When I think about my first lap down the course compared to my 87th (my quarterfinals lap), I am really proud and happy with the progression I made. Despite this, I am far from content, largely due to one niggling thought – “I can go faster”.

The fire is lit, the motivation is there, and I look forward to returning to Sickline in 12 months time after a whole year’s worth of progression.

With thanks to all my friends, family, and sponsors.

See you on the water,
Bren

Photos by Adrian Mattern and Dane Jackson

05
Oct

Tysselva – A Snapshot of Norwegian Kayaking

Voss. 15/06/17.  This was my last day in Norway, so we agreed we wanted to do something good. We also knew however that I needed to be at Bergen airport by 5 for my flight home. Bergen is 1.5 hrs away from Voss. Enough time for an epic adventure?

Over New Year, Dave Burne and I had spoken about this short window of freedom in June between Dave’s night shifts. After a little debate on destination and recruiting David Doyle, a good friend and ‘deadly’ kayaker from Ireland, we decided to go to Norway for a 6 day smash-and-grab! The weather was overcast and drizzly, water levels were high, and the stage had been set for an amazing week.

Meet at the midtown petrol station at 9, and go from there. We met with Tim and Dave, a couple of Brits who had arrived in Voss in the night, and then with our mate Rowan and his mate Halvor. We had talked the previous night about heading out to do the Rafting Run of the Raundalselvi (at 80 cumecs it’s a full on run and would no doubt have been an awesome final river!), but when Rowan and halvor turned up and said, ‘How about Tysselva?’ all eyes lit up. The slide is legendary, and the run itself promised an adventure! We jetted off…

When we turned off the main road towards Tysselva, and the climb began. Up, up and up we went away from the fjord that the river plunges down into. As Dave and I crested the hill in our Rent-A-Wreck Hyundai (we’d picked it up in Bergen for the week in disappointingly pristine condition), we both breathed a sigh of relief to see that the put-in would not be quite this far uphill from the take out. A winding road brought us down to a gently flowing river in an alpine meadow.  It seemed strange to launch our kayaks in this beautiful idyllic setting, expecting giant slides and mega waterfalls. We also by then had a time constraint of 3 hours to paddle the 6 km section before getting back to the car and setting off to the airport. Game on! We pushed our kayaks into the flow and paddled hard downstream, knowing speed on the flats would give us much needed time on the steep sections.

The long term Paddle Bums Halvor and Rowan set a cracking pace as we charged across lakes and then down sections of low volume granite slides. Nothing more than grade 3, but the taste buds were wetted. As we pulled up at a big horizon, we knew the real fun was about to begin. Dave got out of his boat to scout for the group. After a little thought, he gave the signal that we should drive our boats right as we went over the horizon. One by one we set off. As I pushed my boat across the flow at the lip, I began to see the ledge on the right that I was aiming for. I rode up the wall as high as I could before dropping down onto the boiling water below; well clear of the rocks on the river left.  Nice! We continued with good quality paddling on increasingly interesting slides until we arrived at our first walk. The guidebook had described a waterfall of two rocky ledges that had been paddled by boofing onto the middle ledge on the far left, landing flat into only 20cm of water. It didn’t appeal, so we shouldered up and trudged around it. A beautiful 2 metre seal launch below the manky drop made up for our trouble.

Another lake, another unrunnable rapid, another fun but slightly tame and bumpy slide… and so the cycle repeated… we began to get tired, but the tempo of the river kept us entertained all the way to the point where it fell off the face of the earth. Sweating and with aching shoulders, we arrived at the road after walking 10 minutes out through dense woodland. We stripped off to cool down. What an epic! Half of me wanted to fall into the car and get ready to leave. But we knew the greatest jewel of the day was potentially ours for the taking. Just below us, visible from the road and immediately following the death cascades we had walked out from, was the Tysselva Slide. I’ve seen it in tons of videos and still images with great kayakers driving their boats towards giant haystack waves, rocketing down the 25 metre slide at huge speeds towards a final stopper that was powerful and unforgiving. I hadn’t imagined that I’d be here, seriously considering the line.

But there it was… from the top, if you could push left past the boil line and maintain your momentum through the top wave, you’d be perfectly set up to ride out the slide, as it smashed down the slope at 45 degrees, pausing only to kick 2 big flumes of water into the air. At those speeds, even the bottom stopper looked like it would be okay.

Rowan was the first of us to give the go sign. We set up an anchor line to help us keep footing down the slippery bedrock slope to our put in; a small crag with just room enough for a boat to launch from right above the first rapid of the slide.  Aided by the steadying hand of Halvor, Rowan got in on the dubious, slanted launch ramp. With a strong push forward, Rowan launched himself into the eddy above. We scurried around setting safety and ensuring the cameras were definitely on, then gave the thumbs up. Go! On target, Rowan punched across the boil line and charged to the left side of the top wave. With tremendous speed, he was over the top and racing down the clear left hand side of the slides. As he approached the bottom he readied a paddle stroke, and flew over the final stopper. It barely looked like it touched him! We all whooped with excitement, and then began to move our boats towards the put in slope. After helping Halvor get into his boat, making sure he landed nicely into the eddy with a bit of a push, it was my turn. Halvor too had styled it, rocketing down the left side of the slides and through the bottom hole with no problems. With butterflies in my stomach, I lowered my boat down the slope to our launch point, steadying myself with the support rope. Dave was there to help me get into position and to make sure after launching that I went into the eddy rather than being caught by the current and drifting backwards down the slide. The put in was the scariest part!

Once in the eddy, under the shadow of a torrential unrunnable waterfall, I shut everything out and focussed on the line, visualising the move from across the top past the boil and onto the first wave. I raised a thumb, waited for the requisite returned signal that meant all cameras and safety crew were at the ready, and then set off.

With visions of my line running through my head, I pushed out of the eddy and paddled to the entry ramp. A strong right hand stroke propelled me into the current and over the boils on the left. I was there. I didn’t have long to take it in, but at that point the view from the top of the Tysselva Slide was spectacular. I punched forward through the first wave, got forward and waited for the mist to clear. I’d made it through the giant waves, and now the ramp and stopper were mine for the taking! At this point, when you know you’re in the right place, all that’s left is to enjoy the speed. As I plowed through the stopper at the bottom, barely slowing, joyous expletives exploded from my mouth. ’YEEAAAAA $%^£$%@@@ THAT WAS AMAZING! ‘

I suddenly became very aware of the time! I’d planned on finishing the river at 3 to get to the airport. I checked my watch. 2:50. I let Dave celebrate his successful run for a minute before interjecting: ’Really nice job mate! We have to go!’ Understanding dawned on his face, and we quickly carried our boats up to the car. Gear in boat. Everything else in bag. Drive! We made it to the airport with an hour to spare. What a way to end a totally amazing week in Norway.

Photos by Jamie, Dave Burne and David Doyle.

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