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15
Mar

Medium Machno Review | Southern Hemisphere

Over the past decade South American has earned its reputation for possessing world-class whitewater and been marked as the top grounds for modern whitewater exploration. On the fence if I wanted to take my known and trusty 9R or the new Machno that I had paddled very little, I decided to give the Machno the ole’ college try. With my shiny new Pyranha Kayaks Machno in hand I set foot into the Chilean whitewater paradise with what was about to become my new trusty stallion.

 

Photo: Chris Korbulic

 

MY PROFILE:  At 6′ tall and weighing in at a massive 145 pounds.

MACHNO PROFILE: At 8’8” and 82 gallons, the Machno was created with a curved planning hull design,  optimized bow rocker, peaked bow and stern, and with enough edge to carve your way down the river without getting tripped up in those tricky cross currents or boils.

COMFORT: I was impressed how comfortable I felt in the boat just with the first few strokes down the river. I didn’t have to work out the kinks, tinker endlessly with my outfitting, or adjust my paddling style. I was pleasantly surprised to paddle the boat down stream with ease as I set off into my first days on the water.

ROCKER: Enhanced bow rocker. It seemed that the boat was soaring over the most complex whitewater features, keeping my dry head days from becoming few and far in between.

STABILITY: The wider platform, and the peaked bow and stern added stability and made resurfacing predicable in the most unusual of currents. Forgiving enough edges to not catch in awkward places, but still present enough to carve your way into eddies, over boils, shape you angle on those aggressive rock boofs, and into those die hard leaning curler moves we all love! Locked and loaded down with overnight supplies on the Rio Cochamo (sleeping bag, cooking supplies, food, and safety gear; 30+ pounds of extra gear) the boat continued to paddle exceptionally with the same tendencies as it previously did with out overnight gear.

The Machno has opened a whole new world of confidence for myself while pushing my limits from the cockpit, whether it is big water river-running, waterfalls, or creeking. This #machine will continue to be the boat I can count on in any situation and will be joining me on my local backyard runs and more paddling inspired journeys across the world! For any questions contact dylankmckinney@gmail.com or follow me @dylankmckinney. Cheers, Dylan.

 

Photo: Chris Korbulic

12
Mar

Bren Orton’s Top Three Rapids of 2017

As the snow melts and the rivers begin to be filled with possibilities, I am thinking forwards to the goals, projects, and descents that I want to accomplish over the coming year; 2017 was a ridiculous year on the water for me, Here are the top three rapids that I ran.

1: Little White at 5ft +
Possibly the world’s most famous river? This is the stomping ground and local run for many of the world’s top kayakers; when the river rises above the 5ft mark it turns into an almost seamless rapid, the lines are tight, the water exceedingly powerful and there are some terrifying holes throughout the run. Our 5.5ft descent of this river was by far the most I have ever been pushed out of my comfort zone in a kayak.

2: Megatron
I ran a piece of this monster series of whitewater two years ago and knew that there was the potential to link it all up in one descent. Last year, I went back to claim the first total descent of it. You can see the full descent in the film of our trip to Norway last Summer:

3: Big Banana
It has long been a goal and a dream of mine to step over the 100ft mark on a waterfall; this winter I finally got the chance to do just that. Look out for the film from this project dropping soon!


Looking forward to a new year filled with new possibilities!

See you on the water,
Bren

02
Feb

South Wales Ripper Loving

Every time our local rivers of South Wales have been up, I find myself chucking the Ripper onto the roof over anything else.

The combination of its speed and nimbleness allows me the confidence to push bigger lines, whilst the low volume tail and playful edges keep me on my toes.

The Ripper has changed the river for me; holes, waves and eddy lines that I would’ve just blasted past have now been transformed into a whitewater playground.

Have a watch of this short and snappy edit of the South Wales classics; the Nedd Fechan, Mellte and Lady Falls.

#RipperUp

01
Feb

Machno Small: Reviewed in Chile

Double Drop, Rio Palguin, Chile

I’ll be honest, the first Machno I saw, I just plain wasn’t interested. I spotted a shiny, size medium boat sitting on a trailer and my first impression was that it looked boring, puffy and soft. Not that I had a lot to base that off of; at the time, I had been paddling for fewer than two years and had owned two creek boats – coincidentally, both by Pyranha: a first-generation Burn and an original 9R. When paddlers gather around to ogle a new design and discuss its merits, I tend to stand there and nod sagely while they prattle on about such esoteric mysteries as “chines”, “rocker profile”, and “secondary stability”, hoping no one will ask me to venture an opinion. While I may be able to point to the parts of a boat, I don’t have the experience to predict how a craft will perform based on seeing it out of the water, so as is typical of the ignorant, I jumped to conclusions for no good reason.

Thankfully, Chris Hipgrave was unaware of my prejudice against the Machno, but knew that I was in the market for a new creek boat. I loved the 9R, but at 52 kg (115 lbs), I was just too lightweight for the boat. I jacked the seat up with 6 (yep, six) seat shims, dedicated myself to an aggressive, proactive paddling style, and still felt like I had to fight the boat for every inch. Chris’s initial advice was, “eat more cheeseburgers,” but his second suggestion was, “demo a small Machno.” I felt obligated to give it a try, mostly out of politeness. I didn’t bother to outfit it beyond adjusting the bulkhead and hopped in, expecting I would spend half an hour goofing around and return it with a friendly, “thanks but no thanks.” Man, I was in for a surprise. I couldn’t get off the water soon enough; not because I wanted to stop paddling the boat, but because I wanted to order one while they were still in stock!

Tsunami, Rio San Pedro, Chile

Surprise #1: It’s quicker than it looks

Paddling a 9R, I became a firm believer in #fastisfun. The Machno is not a race design and can’t match the speed of its nearly-nine-foot big brother, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quick it is. It accelerates in a few strokes and feels light and nimble on the water. Its bow, though toned down a bit from the 9R’s signature high volume, dramatic rocker design, still skips over features and allows the paddler to maintain speed and keep their face dry.

Surprise #2: No surprises

Typically when I try out a new boat, I need to play around for a bit in order to familiarize myself with how that particular craft will handle. Not so in this case. From the very first ferry I made and the very first eddy I caught, I knew exactly what the Machno was going to do. I can throw the boat on edge with confidence, and it responds predictably every time. It feels balanced, tracks well, and is easy to adjust with a flick of the wrist. I never feel like I have to fight the boat; I just will it in a direction and it goes. The “softness” I scoffed at when I first saw the boat is probably better described as “smoothness.” The Machno doesn’t catch an edge unpredictably, but it still has performance available when I ask for it. Is it less dynamic than an edgy river runner? Sure, but when I’m in a shallow, technical creek, sometimes “dynamic” is not exactly the goal. “Upright” is more like it, and the Machno does a great job of keeping it hairy side up when things get hairy while still being fun and responsive to paddle.

Surprise #3: Easy rolling

This was a cool bonus! I’m not a big fan of the attitude that certain boats are “hard to roll,” especially when that’s used as an excuse for swimming. I feel like if you have a solid roll, you should be able to roll any modern whitewater boat. If not, keep practising. That being said, the narrowness of the small Machno and its low height at the hip make it particularly easy wrap your body around it to roll. I recently swapped boats with a gal who wanted to try out the Machno. As we were floating through the flat water, I asked her if she knew how to hand roll. She said she had tried, but protested that she couldn’t do it, and had only managed one or two after several pool sessions. I convinced her to give it a shot, and she immediately hit two in a row. Since getting the Machno, I have gained a tremendous amount of confidence in my hand roll, and have hit two combat hand rolls in Chile this season! (Maybe I should learn to hang onto my paddle better…)

Salto Blanco del Sur, Rio Blanco del Sur, Chile

Overall, I have truly been enjoying the Machno during Chile’s whitewater season. I think it is a great option for those of us on the lighter end of the scale. It is a confidence-inspiring boat, delivering predictable performance that allows the paddler to focus on the river instead of on what the boat is doing. Is it a Ferrari, like the 9R and similar creek racing boats? No, but it’s a fun-to-drive Jeep that I want with me when I need four wheel drive.

Words by: Melissa Hickson
Pictures by: Casey Bryant Jones

26
Jan

San Luis Potosi, Mexico

In November of 2017 several friends and I headed down to San Luis Potosi, Mexico to forget about winter and live the good-life for a while. It was my 10th time traveling to the region to paddle over the previous 13 years, but the warm water, clean waterfalls, and awesome food in San Luis Potosi never get old and being able to drive down from the southeastern U.S. makes it by far the cheapest tropical paddling destination. Check out my favorite 10 photos and the video from our trip!

Below: Christine and John at the put in for the Rio Minas Viejas. Photo by Darcy Johnson.

Below: Chandler running the rowdiest rapid on the Minas Viejas. Photo by Christine Vogler.

Below: Christine on the same drop, shot from downstream. Photo by Adam Goshorn.

Below: Chandler approaching Cascada de Tamul, the take-out for the Rio Santa Maria. Photo by Adam Goshorn.

Below: Chandler dropping into a twisting rapid in the second canyon of the Rio Verde. Photo by Christine Vogler.

Christine hucking and tucking on the largest drop in the second canyon of the Rio Verde. Photo by Adam Goshorn.

Below: Adam Goshorn boofing over the hole at Nemo on the Salto Section of the Rio Valles. Photo by Christine Boush.

Below: Adam Goshorn at the lip of El Trampolin on the Salto Section of the Rio Valles. Photo by Christine Vogler.

Below: Chandler running the signature drop on the Salto Section of the Rio Valles. Photo by Adam Goshorn.

Below: Chandler running the put-in drop on the classic Cascadas Micos section of the Rio Valles. Photo by Christine Vogler.

Below: Enjoy these video highlights from our trip and be sure to stick around to see a little carnage after the credits!

Until Next Time…

Adam Goshorn

23
Jan

Outfitting Your Pyranha Kayak

If you don’t put a bit of work into outfitting your kayak, you’re never going to get the level of performance that you deserve out of it. It doesn’t matter if you are getting on moving water for the first time or if you are a whitewater veteran charging down tight, technical rapids; making sure that your boat fits you well will make a massive difference. You will be able to feel the feedback from the water better, control your direction and respond to changes in the water easier, and transmit all your effort effectively into your boat when driving it towards the lip of that drop.

Here is my simple “programme” to help you get the most out of your outfitting:

  1. Location, Location, Location

Firstly, get your boat somewhere comfortable! You want to be able to spend a bit of time working on your boat to get it right. Keeping with a tradition I started when I was 15, I always outfit my kayak in my front room, but where you choose is up to you. Just make sure it’s somewhere you don’t mind spending a bit of time so you won’t be encouraged to rush it. Outfitting your boat should be fun, so take some time to chill out, stick your favourite tunes on, put a kayak film on the TV, and get yourself ready.

  1. Stick the Kettle On

Most kayak outfitting sessions will typically take me a couple of cups of tea! Put the kettle on, get out any tools that you need, get your foam, scissors, knife, and anything else you think you might need ready. Once you’re set up with your tea and tools, have a think and make a plan of all of the things you need to adjust.

  1. Sort that Seat Out

Everyone will start at a different point with their outfitting and it probably doesn’t make too much difference, but I tend to start with my seat height. For me this is one of the most overlooked aspects of outfitting, and one that can make a massive difference to your performance. As a reference point, I typically try and get the tops of my hips to be level with the cockpit rim; I’m not the tallest person, so this will always mean putting some foam shims underneath the seat liner to raise me up. Once I am in that higher position, I will have more dynamic control over the edges of my boat, better control when boofing, and a nicer position for forwards paddling and driving the boat.

  1. Brace Yourself

This will vary from person to person and boat to boat. I usually try and move my thigh braces into the furthest back position that I find comfortable, as I typically find this gives me the best performance. Depending on the boat, you will probably find that your knees will touch the side of the kayak too (or be close to it); it is worthwhile considering adding some padding into that area as it’s not uncommon for your knees to impact the side of the kayak should you hit a rock. Some paddlers even add in foam blocks for your knees to sit on which give even better connectivity. This can have a huge benefit in terms of performance but just remember to check you can get out too.

Another great optional addition for the latest Pyranha boats is the “hooker” thigh braces. I’ve loved having these in my boat recently and they allow you to transmit force much better with your thighs when you need to, giving better overall control of your boat.

  1. Your Hips Don’t Lie

Surely I don’t need to tell you to sort out your hip padding? Paddling a whitewater kayak is dynamic and we are often holding our boat on an edge and moving laterally through the water, so a bit of connection with the boat in this area is critical. They will also stop your bum from moving around on the seat and keep you central in the kayak. Hip pads are anatomically shaped, so you should be able to get a good fit there, once again improving your potential performance. Add enough of the hip pad shims (in your outfitting pack) to make sure you are snug at the hips, but do be aware of getting it too tight as that can cut off your blood supply and make your legs and feet go numb!

  1. Sort Your Feet Out

Now this is an important one for two main reasons, performance but also safety. When you are driving your boat forwards you need to be able to push on the footblock, effectively transferring your energy into the kayak and making it go when you want it to go! It is essential that you use the foam that comes with your kayak to pad out the plastic footblock (or if you’re in a playboat to make a solid foam block) so that your footrest can absorb more force in the event of an impact and you don’t risk damaging your footblock or yourself, as well . Once you’ve got the foam on the plastic footblock, adjust the footrest so that it is comfortable for you to be able to push on with at least your toes and balls of your feet.  For some people their heels sit away from the footrest, so it can be a good idea to add in an extra block of foam, specifically for your heels to rest on. Of course, do all of this wearing your river shoes or it won’t feel the same as it will do out on the water.

  1. Stick Some Airbags In!

It always amazes me how many paddlers are willing to spend £££$$$s on a kayak, but won’t spend just a bit more to get some airbags for their boat. Everyone swims from time to time and trust me, airbags are worth it. They make your boat easier to rescue and help protect your boat from damage when it’s floating down the river without you. It’s also worth putting some airbags in the bow of your kayak in front of the footrest, as this will make it float higher and flatter in the water and means there is less water to empty out too.

  1. Every Little Helps

Everyone has the final little touches that they make to finish off their outfitting, whether it is putting a name tag somewhere, writing your phone number in the kayak, adding cord to keep your airbags securely in your boat, or even just putting some stickers on! You also might want to make sure that your boat is set up to carry things like your throwbag and water bottle. You probably want these easily accessible so check that everything fits as you want it to in your kayak. I often add in a little bit of extra bungee to keep my water bottle really secure on harder whitewater.

  1. Safety Check

Finally, it’s worth spending an extra 2 minutes to check the tightness of all of the bolts and fittings in your boat. This is especially important if you have bought the boat second hand, but to be honest I do it on every kayak. At the end of the day, when I’m halfway down a hard rapid I don’t want anything working loose. It’s my boat, I’m paddling it, it’s my responsibility.

  1. Take a Break (in your kayak)

So, at this point you should be just about there. I did say that this process usually involved more than one cup of tea, so stick the kettle back on and sit in your boat while you finish off your drink/film/music. This will help you to get a feel for what your boat is going to be like once you’ve sat in it for a little while. If you haven’t done already, it would be worth putting your regular kayaking kit on, so you can see what the outfitting will feel like for real.

  1. The Best Part

Ultimately, there is no better test of your outfitting job than actually going paddling (which is the fun bit after all!) You may find after getting out on the water that your outfitting doesn’t feel quite as you expected, you may need to add a little bit of padding here and there, but you also might need to take some away. Try not to just make do with something you know isn’t right because it’s easier than fixing it, take your boat home and get it sorted!

  1. Long Term Love!

Depending on your usage, your kayak will probably require a bit of ongoing loving as far as your outfitting goes. Kayaks generally require very little maintenance, but it is worthwhile doing some checks periodically. Over time, the foam in your outfitting will compress a little, and you’ll likely wear fewer layers in the Summer months, so the outfitting job you do now might not be as snug in 6 months’ time. Remember to also check all the nuts and bolts in your boat regularly too, as paddling and vibrations from transport can cause them to loosen.

One final thing to be aware of is that you potentially may need to adjust the trim of your kayak.  This is a simple job of removing the bolts that hold your seat in on the edge of your Pyranha kayak and then moving the seat either forwards or backwards and then putting the bolts back in place.  Remember that if you move your seat, you will most likely need to change your footrest and thigh brace position too.  If you feel like your boat isn’t performing quite as you would expect, playing around with the trim of the kayak might be the thing that really makes the difference.

Once you’ve done all that your boat should be good to go! Happy Paddling!

10
Jan

Jonas Le Morvan / Nicolas Caussanel 2017 Showreel [Français]

2017 s’achève après avoir célébré dignement la nouvelle année il est temps de se retourner une dernière fois sur ce que je vais qualifier de ma plus belle année de kayak jusqu’à présent.

Cette saison fut pour moi la plus riche en matière de voyage 10 Pays 3 continents une année qui commence sur la Kaituna en Nouvelle-Zélande et qui s’achève en Tasmanie sur des rivières que je qualifierais de véritables bijoux, un tour des plus belles rivières d’Europe entre les deux difficile de rêver mieux!

Evidement 2017 c’est aussi un bon nombre d’évènements avec notamment une 4ième place à la PBR, 4ième place à l’Outdoor mix, 4ième place à la King of the Alps, 1er place à l’Extrem sport Veko, 2nd place au Sjoa river Festival mais aussi une victoire en équipe avec mon ami Jonas Lemorvan à la king of the alps , bien entendu il y a aussi cette 18ième place en demi-finale de la sickline qui reste dure à avaler. Mais si 2017 était parfaite comment faire mieux en 2018?

Mais surtout la principale chose qui donne envie de pagayer, c’est cette fantastique chance qu’ont tous les kayakistes de pouvoir rencontrer sur un parking ou sur une rivière des personnes qui deviendront plus tard de véritables amis. De ce point de vue 2017 était clairement incroyable, depuis le car-park de la Kaituna jusqu’à l’Oetz je me suis rendu compte que le monde du kayak et à la fois tout petit et immense, mais surtout à part!

Nicolas Caussanel

 

Avec Nicolas on a formé une bonne équipe à bord de nos 9R, parcourant les compétitions d’Europe, et voyageant à travers plusieurs pays. Une année 2017 très riche!

Riche en compétitions où nous avons réussis à progresser ensemble en partageant nos analyses. Les résultats sont prometteurs malgré des entrainements limités sur Paris. Une 20ème place aux championnats du monde et une 1ère place par équipe devant les Italiens battus à domicile.

Riche en trip, j’ai souvent rejoins Nico en train, on s’est retrouvés dans les Pyrénées, dans les Alpes, en Italie, en Autriche et en Norvège pour de superbes navigues et beaucoup de rencontres avec des kayakistes du monde entier.

Riche en vidéos, j’emmène maintenant mon Drone, mon DSLR, et autres GoPro dans un seul bateau. Un vrai studio de cinéma flottant.

Cette vidéo n’est qu’une fraction de nos aventures, pleins d’autres seront mises en ligne dans les prochaines semaines!

2018 s’annonce remplie de projets encore plus excitants… hâte de vous faire partager tout ça!

Jonas Le Morvan

10
Jan

Jonas Le Morvan / Nicolas Caussanel 2017 Showreel [English]

2017 is over now, so after some New Year celebrations, it’s time to have a look back on what has been my best year of kayaking so far!

This season was the richest I’ve had in terms of travelling, starting the year on the Kaituna in New-Zealand and ending it in Tasmania on some insane rivers; add some months on the best European rivers between, and I ended up with something like living the dream!

Of course, 2017 came with lot of extremes races and some good results too; 4th at PBR, 4th at Outdoormix, 4th at King of the Alps, 1st at Extrem Sport Veko, 2nd at Sjoa River Fest, and 1st place at King of the Alps in a team with my favourite paddling buddy, Jonas Le Morvan. I’m a little disappointed with my 18th rank at Sickline, but if 2017 was perfect, how would I make 2018 even better?!

To me, the main thing is that paddlers get to meet some of the best buddies you will ever find everywhere in the world on a car park or on the river; for this point, 2017 was so insane, from Kaituna car park to Oetz river, I realised that the kayaking world is both small and huge, but mainly unique!

Nicolas Caussanel

 

Nicolas and I have made a good team, paddling our 9Rs, racing in Europe and travelling across several countries. A very full 2017!

Full of exciting races where we managed to progress together by sharing our analysis; the results are promising, despite limited training in Paris. A 20th rank at the World Championships, and a victory against the Italians on their home run.

Full of beautiful trips; I often joined Nico by train, and we found ourselves in the Pyrenees, the Alps, Italy, Austria and Norway for great kayaking and many meetings with kayakers from around the world.

Full of awesome videos; I now bring my Drone, my DSLR, and GoPro on the water. My boat is now a kind of super cinema studio.

This video is only a fraction of our adventures, many more will be put online in the coming weeks.

2018 promises to be filled with even more exciting projects… I look forward to sharing these with you!

Jonas Le Morvan

04
Jan

Pyranha Ripper: Initial Thoughts

This boat has literally changed the way I look at the river.

To have the ability to dip the stern and either get vertical, or do a quick pivot turn, has transformed the river into an entirely different playground; the Ripper‘s design takes on the #FastIsFun ethos of the 9R, with the lower stern rocker even boosting its speed so you can punch through features and tear up lines in search of that next, deep eddy line.

The Ripper stays high and dry through features thanks to the full volume bow, and when you add in the extreme bow rocker you skip through features like you’ve been shot out of a canon; this makes for a kayak that can be enjoyed on all classes of whitewater. Recently, I found myself enjoying the heck out of a class 3 wave train with a good eddy line; surf across the wave, dip the stern, pirouette, set it down, and surf back.

I stand at 6 feet and 173lbs, and like the Medium Ripper for a little bit of everything; because all the sizes of this boat are right around 9 feet though, I can choose to drop to the Small Ripper if I want a boat that will be more playful. If I want to have more confidence for River Running and Surfing, I could even move up to the Large Ripper for a bit more volume and stability.

As my Team-mate, Kyle Hull says; “No matter if you’re in to chill laps down your local run, or getting recklessly vertical on some class 5, the Ripper is the boat for you.”

The Ripper Small and Medium are available now, with the Large coming soon… head to your local Pyranha Dealer today, and #RipperUp

03
Jan

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”; whilst this is often merely a clichéd, pretentious antimetabole that is used to ill-effect to motivate people of larger and softer proportions to stay on the treadmill for a few minutes longer, it is also what I wrote down in my journal during my last trip, when it seemed that the entire universe was conspiring against me to thwart one of my most sought after dreams, to drop a 100ft waterfall in my kayak.

When people ask me why I would want to do this sort of thing, they are often left disappointed by my explanation. They expect heroic reasonings of how I am “pushing my sport”, or tales of a quest to “break new ground”. Unfortunately, my answer can’t live up to their questions expectations, and my reply is simply, “Because I want to…”, which I think is actually the best reason to do anything.

There are, however, some people that not only accept that answer, but understand it. When I told my most frequent partner in crime, Adrian Mattern of my desire to run the 128ft Big Banana falls in Mexico, he smiled and admitted to having the same goal and so once again, we teamed up to take on another piece of challenging whitewater.

When we first made that decision, we knew there would be some challenges, but we were blissfully unaware of just how badly things would step out of our favour; flight prices were absolutely astronomical, and both of our bank accounts almost hit zero in order to pay for the tickets. We were both left horribly sick after a kayaking trip in Pakistan, so much so that it was a struggle to hold ourselves together long enough to board the plane to Mexico. The TSA glanced suspiciously as we sweated profusely going through airport security, and Adrian almost fainted a few times before we made it to our seats. When we landed, Adrian had his camera stolen within minutes of being in the country, and far worse, we found the levels to be low and the waterfall out of its prime condition, much like ourselves. One of the few people that knew how to access the top of the waterfall was repeatedly too busy to take us to scout the lip, and on top of all this, the only way to run Big Banana is to rappel into the gorge above with a climbing rope. Neither myself nor Adrian knew anything about ropes or climbing, and I am also relatively petrified of heights when I am not in my kayak. In short, it just didn’t seem like things were going to work out.

History is filled with an extraordinary amount of exceedingly brave people that didn’t listen to the warning signs and suffered the consequences. As I lay in my bed one night on the first week of the trip, I couldn’t help but feel like something was trying to stop us from running this waterfall. I thought long and hard about the risk involved, crashing off a waterfall of this height could at the very least seriously injure you, and at worst drastically alter the course or length of your life. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was merely a series of unfortunate set backs, and that perhaps it was a test or an opportunity to reflect on why I actually wanted to do this.

The following morning I frantically Google mapped a way to the lip of the falls, and bought the help of a talented 18 year old climber and kayaker named Walker with the promise of future beers. In order to see the lip and to check whether the waterfall was actually run-able at these flows, we had to rappel down. Walker kindly provided us with yet another set back by forgetting the climbing harnesses at the hostel that morning, however he quickly fixed the problem by making a new harness out of two pieces of webbing and a carabiner; I looked at him apprehensively as I eyed up this motley assortment of webbing and metal, and he finished setting up the rope system and told me it was good to go. I looked at him apprehensively once again.

Would this actually work? Am I about to fall 70ft onto rocks and then be swept over the falls? How bad do you want this?

I eased myself over the edge and found to my great delight that the rope and harness held and that I wasn’t about to plummet to my death. The descent, whilst being initially scary at first, was actually the easy part, the hard part was getting back up. I am led to believe that if you have the right climbing device, getting back up a rope is not too much of a difficulty. Unfortunately, we didn’t have one of these magical devices. Walker had instead rigged up an ascension system with two webbing prusiks. I unsurprisingly couldn’t get the system to work, which left me in quite a predicament as I dangled freely over the waterfall, 70ft below the spot that I needed to return to; it is fair to say that I have not been this scared and clueless since my first time alone with a girl… Eventually I elected that my only way out was to climb the rope, like in school.

When I made it back to the top, I warned Adrian that he may have to Tarzan his way out of there, but said nothing upon my thoughts on whether or not I thought the waterfall was possible. In the interest of not letting each other’s excitement get the better of us and make us do something we would regret, we had made a pact to keep our decision quiet until each of us had looked at the falls. When Adrian came up, he was firmly on the fence as to whether he would run it or not, which put a lot of questions in my head; normally we are pretty much the exact same in terms of what we think is possible in a kayak.

Did I want this too much? Was I about to make a bad decision?

I had firmly decided when I was on the end of the rope and looking at the lip that, whilst not ideal, it was completely do-able and I could hit the line. I began making plans with Walker to run it the following day and rallying some friends to come and help with safety and filming. Adrian stared at the photo he had taken of the lip most of the night and eventually came to the same conclusion; far from ideal, but do-able.

I got sick later that night and barely slept a wink, I threw up repeatedly in the morning and couldn’t eat any breakfast. Surely this was not a final warning sign?

It took us a while to set up the rope system to descend down, and I was relieved when I was finally able to say my goodbyes to the boys up top, wish Adrian good luck and start the journey down. All was going quite smoothly with the descent and I was beginning to feel quite confident with rappelling when all of a sudden – Whoosh. The end of the rope whipped past me and fell into the river, I watched it all happen in horrifying slow motion as the rope was pulled tight by the current and began dragging me towards the falls. I didn’t have a prusik on the end of my belay device, which meant that if I let go of the rope I would fall all the way down into the water and be swept over the falls. I wrapped the rope around my hand (This is a big “No-No” in the world of climbing) and jammed it into the end of the belay device. I then began hauling in the end of the rope with my left hand and my teeth. Eventually, with much effort and several swear words, I was able to retrieve the end of the rope and pendulum over to the ledge. Safety at last, well, relatively… there was still the matter of a 128ft waterfall to contend with.

I signalled to the team that I was okay and to send my kayak down. When my kayak reached me, I wasted no time and started to get ready. I put in at a spot that, whilst being fairly secure, was also precariously close to the lip and I had to do a small attainment/ferry glide move to get into a good spot in the pool above the waterfall to warm up and take a minute to get in a good head-space.

I paddled around in the top pool, warmed up my shoulders and core, and then tried to find that magical feeling I get before all of my best lines; calm, excited, and clear-minded.

I gave the “go” signal to the team, took one last deep breath, exhaled, and sent it. The warm up worked, and I was in that beautiful head-space where you’re not thinking consciously, just re-acting. The brain does strange things to you when you’re in the air, and I remember everything slowing down, the air awareness taking over, and “watching” myself as I rode down the first half off the waterfall in what felt like a third person view point – weird. I set my angle, tucked up, and the first time I had a conscious thought was close to the bottom of the waterfall  – “Holy Sh*t, I’m still in the air… BANG!”

The impact was absolutely colossal… I don’t think I have been hit that hard since I was first caught swearing in front of my mum. As I was underwater, I realised that I was severely winded but unhurt, and my paddle had been torn out of my hands on impact; I snapped a hand roll up and tried to take a few breaths as I celebrated. I never normally claim anything because I think it’s hugely uncool, but I was just so stoked to be at the bottom that I couldn’t help it; I also wanted to let everyone know that I was okay. Thankfully, I think they got the message as my arms stayed above my head for several minutes after I had landed.

As stoked as I was, I couldn’t be fully relieved or happy until Adrian was at the bottom and celebrating with me. I relayed to the team via my radio that Adrian should take better care not to drop the rope in the water on his way down.

I spent the next 30 minutes hoping that Adrian would be efficient as always and stomp the line like I knew he could. The call came over the radio that Adrian was about to drop, and I watched, awe struck at how small he was and how big the falls were as he appeared at the lip and started his ride down. For a very brief second I saw his kayak wobble and his nose come up, and thought that he was going to eat it and that we would be taking a trip to the hospital. Thankfully, he corrected himself and rode it down like a boss. Adrian also took a tremendous hit at the bottom, but was otherwise fine.

With my best mate at the bottom safe and sound, it was finally time to relax and enjoy the feeling of what had just taken place. If you’re into facts and figures, then this is the second biggest waterfall that has ever been successfully descended, and is a new British record by around 50ft.

Upon reflection, this project should never have worked. Everything was stacking up against us and I think many people would have called it quits a long time ago. We muscled through everything though, and somehow made it work. Ultimately, it reaffirms my beliefs that all adversity really is, is a test to see how badly you really want something.

If there is anything to take away from this mission, it should surely be that if a small ginger bloke from Warrington, with a distinct fear of heights and no climbing knowledge, can rappel into a remote gorge and drop 128ft down a waterfall in a kayak, then you, my dear reader, should be capable of absolutely anything you put your mind to.

Wishing you all the best of luck with your goals for 2018, and a very happy New Year!

Bren Orton

*I do not recommend ever attempting to do any of the sketchy things that I had to do to make this descent happen. Please be smarter and more responsible than I was.

*For everyone that is rightly horrified by my climbing antics, and is considering flocking to the internet to criticise, please note that I accept it was dumb and I fully intend to work on my climbing and rope skills much harder in the coming year.

See the video of Bren dropping the 128ft Big Banana falls in his 2017 Highlight reel below:

 

Photos by Kevin Kennedy, Jan Laurre, Walker Davies, and Kristof Stursa

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