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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.

26
Sep

“Keeping it Public” in Colorado

“This land is your land, this land is my land.” Boof it!

Lately there has been a lot of talk about public lands in the US. Specifically, the debate is over the public ownership of our National Parks, Forests, and Monuments. A small but vocal number of people advocate transferring some of this land to state or private ownership. Some would love to sell this land to developers for private profit. Others strongly oppose this idea; citing the immense recreational value of lands that are open to ALL people and protected by the resources of the federal government. I won’t delve into this debate here, but I will share a few images from this past summer. I hope you can imagine yourself – and your grandchildren – enjoying an adventure in these public places.

Looking back at a punishing – but Public – portage.

All of these images were taken in public lands in Colorado.  Some were taken in a National Forest, others were taken in a National Park (formerly a National Monument). The last photo was taken in Bear’s Ears National Monument , the newest and most-debated National Monument being “reviewed” by the current president.

Dropping a Public waterfall into Public water (with a shallow, Public, LZ).

Morning coffee on the Black Canyon overnighter. A plan to flood this gorge will never happen now that this is a National Park.

All of the land in these photos is open to YOU, whether you are rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. Heck, you don’t even have to be an American to enjoy these places. Enjoy the pics. Then get out there and enjoy our public lands!

Boofing for the people: Vallecito Creek, San Juan National Forest, Colorado, USA.

Sunset over Mt. Sherman, Pike National Forest, Colorado, USA.

BONUS PIC: San Juan River in the hotly-debated Bear’s Ears National Monument, Utah, USA. This place is amazing and beautiful. It is also Public and protected…for now.

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.

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