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Festival “San Pedro Libre”, Chile, región de Los Ríos, comuna de Los Lagos

On May 22nd, 1960, the biggest earthquake in the history of the human race occurred; this earthquake had enormous consequences, one of them being named “Riñihuazo”.

The “Riñihuazo” was the formation of three natural dams on the San Pedro River, which threatened the lives of those living nearby since everything upstream was little by little becoming flooded. Thanks to the efforts of workers who managed to make channels for the water to keep flowing, no major disaster occurred. The San Pedro River is also the habitat of a great diversity of fauna thanks to its favourable conditions.

Unfortunately, in 2009, Colbun introduced a project to build a dam. This project would end flora, fauna, tourism, and recreation (kayaking, fly fishing, ducking, rafting, and all kinds of recreational activity in the river).

As a result of this Colbun project, the first “San Pedro Libre” was held in 2009; a festival of white water, where we all meet to express our opposition to the dam since it has been shown that there are many other ways to use the waters of the river sustainably.

Starting at Riñihue Lake, the San Pedro River has everything from calm and crystal clear waters to strong rapids that will make you feel its power while you try to keep your kayak right side up. The first rapid you will find is called “Las Cabras”, and it is a beauty that will leave you breathless. World-class rapids follow, one of the most powerful being “Reloj”, a class III plus with big volume water that makes you feel like a little ant riding this white water power storm. You will also find the Toro and Última Nariz rapids before you get to “T.N.T.”, another one which will remind you that the river is the real and only boss!

Currently “San Pedro Libre” gathers a large number of Chilean and Argentinian participants, being the largest festival in Chile. Two hundred fifty people in rafts, 90 kayakers, and a smaller group in duckies, SUPs, hydrospeed, and other types of boats turning it into a festival that gathers a large number of family groups. This year will be done in two days, the first for those who do not want to face big rapids, this will be in a section with class II rapids and the second day will be in the upper part of the river. In the end, we will have a barbecue, the award ceremony, and the end party.

Join us to defend this river to keep it flowing free!


Norway – Why the Land of Giants is not just the Land of Pros

Norway, the Land of Giants; famous for its mountains, glaciers, fjords, and the midnight sun. Norway is also full of world-class whitewater, and yet, during the summer months many kayakers flock elsewhere in Europe and leave the mecca of Norway alone. Why?

As we approach the equinox, and my thoughts turn to summer sunshine, I am super excited to be returning to Norway this year for the first time since 2015. Norway holds a special place in my heart. While living in the UK, I would visit 4 or 5 times a year, flying in for a long weekend whenever the opportunity presented itself. In the past few years, I have travelled to some incredible places, but thoughts of Norway were always in the back of my mind. Again, I question why more kayakers do not make the trip to Norway. After talking with some friends, I have come across some common misconceptions within the kayaking community. I’ve decided to try to dispel these rumours and convince everyone to make a trip-of-a-lifetime to this epic destination.

Norway – Land of Giants, and home to countless stunning mountains, lakes, and fjords.

Rumour #1: Norway is all Super Gnarly

Norway is one of those places where you can push it as hard as you want to go. Stouts upon stouts upon stouts can be found in every corner of the country. However, there seems to be an assumption that Norway is only for the seasoned class 5 kayaker. This is not the case, and there is a plethora of high quality, clean grade 3/4. Particularly when coming from the UK, Norway is an optimal place to build your confidence on different styles of rivers – whether that is running your first slides, finding some larger volume rivers, or improving your stamina on more continuous whitewater. You can get so much out of a Norway trip, even if you are not the next Evan Garcia, so should seriously consider it for your next summer holiday.

Norway is the perfect place to run your first slides and drops, and dial in that technique before stepping it up.

Rumour #2: I Can’t Afford It

It’s true, Norway is expensive. However, there are ways to keep your trip cheap, particularly if you are driving out there from the UK or somewhere else in Europe. Here are some of my top tips for keeping your trip affordable:

  • Camp for free – in Norway you can wild camp wherever you want, provided you are not within 200m of the nearest house. Just make sure you are respectful by packing out trash and burying your waste.
  • Fill up your car on a Sunday – prices of fuel tend to change regularly in Norway. When I was there, it was always cheapest Sunday afternoon or first thing Monday morning. I was told this was to encourage people only to fill up once a week. Whatever the reason, it can make a significant difference to the cost of your tank!
  • Bring alcohol with you – beer is expensive, and the price of a bottle of rum is enough to make you cry. If you are driving in, try to bring enough booze with you to last your trip. Bringing some food is also not the worst idea.

If you are flying out from the other side of the Atlantic, that certainly is more of a problem in terms of cost. Renting a car in Norway is not cheap. Your best bet would be to try to make friends with some Europeans, or if you are going to rent, then maybe fly into Germany and drive from there (picking up some food and alcohol along your way).

Did I mention how beautiful wild camping is?! Not a bad view to wake up to.

Rumour #3: I’m Not Free Until August, Which is Too Late

If you’re hoping to focus on creeking or run the stouts of Telemark, then the Spring months of May and early June are the best to shoot for. However, there are rivers in Norway that hold their water all summer long. Bigger volume runs such as the Sjoa, Driva, and Raundal still have high-quality whitewater for weeks after the smaller rivers have dried up. Also, if you are looking for a more class 3/4 trip, August would be a prime time to get these runs at a more relaxed, lower level. That said, the stout runners are still able to challenge themselves on sections such as Train Station and Marine Canyon. Also, Norway can get some powerful rainstorms, especially later in the season. The first year I went to Norway we were caught in a rainstorm so heavy that we spent a full day just driving around Voss trying to find something low enough to run! For the next couple of days, levels were perfect for all the sections I had yet to tick off, and I did some of my best boating of the trip in the middle of August.

The bigger volume runs keep their water all summer long.

In summary, Norway has something for everyone throughout the summer and should be high on the hit list for any whitewater kayaker. From a week-long smash-and-grab to spending the full summer travelling, kayaking, hiking and taking in all that the country has to offer, you are sure not to be disappointed!

Shameless plug alert: if you’d like to experience all that Norway has to offer, but are unsure where to start, why not join me for a week of coaching and guiding at the start of August? I am particularly keen to encourage more ladies to come kayaking in Norway. I would love to coach some ladies looking to develop their skills, confidence and push their ability on the water. If you would be interested in this, find out more at or message me for further details.

From class 3 to class 5, and everything in between, Norway has something for everyone.
It’s hard to beat Amot laps in the sunshine with good friends.


Big Water Appreciation for the Machno!

I feel like the Machno is perhaps the most underrated kayak in my quiver. It isn’t as rewarding as the 9R, and it doesn’t feature the learning curve, everyday joy and surprises of the Ripper, but my goodness when the river is rowdy am I happy to be in my Machno!

I recently kayaked the South Yuba, Purdens, and 49 Bridgeport at enormous flows, and was reminded once again of just how good this kayak is on hard whitewater.

I started using the Machno in Norway in 2017 with the belief that when the margin for error is tiny, being in a kayak that widens that gap even slightly could only ever be a good thing. Since then I have spent a lot of days on the water with the Machno, and yes, it is very forgiving, but it also has some “oomph” to it as well. Like every kayak, the more time you spend using it, the better you get at learning how to use it. These are some of my favourite features of the Machno:

Turning Ease and Speed

I love that I can whip the nose around so quickly. I find this feature exceedingly useful on new rivers where I may have to make last-second adjustments of lines, for doing “sweeping” boofs over holes, for catching eddies, and for enabling me to correct things quickly when I make a mistake.


The Machno is crazy stable. On the big and rowdy days, this is a beautiful, bolstering, comforting factor, and there have been a few times that I have been at the bottom of a rapid and have wanted to hug my kayak and thank it profusely for staying upright. On the chiller sections of whitewater, I find this feature fun to play with. I can really (over) commit to my edging and enjoy being leaned over in my kayak as much as possible throughout the run. I hope to keep bringing this skill to harder and harder whitewater.


Unfortunately for the Machno, both the Ripper and 9R are blisteringly quick. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Machno is slow; it just means that comparatively when I switch back from those other kayaks, it feels it. However, speed is not everything, and I like the Machno’s pace. It is hugely useful on first descents when I want to be going slower in the first place. On wave trains, the 9R’s extra speed means it bridges the gap between waves and pierces into the one in front, subsequently requiring me to put in more effort to keep it under control, and not being able to see as far ahead because I am being splashed in the face. With the Machno, I can climb up the top of the wave, ride down the back, and up the next one, maintaining a much better line of sight. Admittedly all wave trains are different, but I do find that the Machno copes with a wide variety of them exceptionally well.

I like to imagine rapids as jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and having to match the shape, speed, and angle of the kayak to the gaps I see. (I know, I’m weird).

Seating Position and Deck Strength

Powerful whitewater can rip people out of kayaks and fold their kayaks into pieces. I feel like the Machno’s seating position is exceptional; I feel secured and locked into the kayak. The peaking, strengthening lines on the deck, and Pyranha’s plastic combine to make me feel confident that my kayak will stand up to everything the river can throw at it.


Again, I was reminded of this while kayaking on the Yuba and had to make several last-minute boofs to avoid some monster holes; the Machno is easy to boof. This is great for beginner kayakers, intermediates, and experts in our combined efforts to not have to get wet, cold and remember how to swim.

At the moment, I am pleased that Pyranha’s designs continue to leave me smiling ear to ear every day on the water, and I am eagerly anticipating the release of the 9R II!

See you on the water!


Too Much Carnage?

Cast your mind back to last year’s KayakSession Carnage for All awards, and you may remember a pretty exceptional effort from Aberdeen University Canoe Club; all footage was from one particularly eventful run down the North Esk, and it created quite a stir!

Pyranha noticed this video, and made a very kind offer to fund a British Canoeing White Water Safety and Rescue course for the club.

“As a relatively new paddler, I found the course has given me a lot more confidence and understanding of how to be safe while having fun on the water”

“I feel it has helped me be a much more competent paddler; both in helping with rescues and in being saved.”

Tom Parker and I joined forces to deliver the course, which focused on avoiding the carnage and also how to deal with it if (when?) it does happen.

“Being allowed to experiment with the techniques taught and applying them in real life scenarios, really consolidated what was taught and made sure any questions that came up could be answered.”

The wetsuit warriors couldn’t have been more keen. Throwing lines, swimming rapids, chase boating and much, much more. The team really made the most of the weekend and are keen to share their new skills with the rest of the club.

The hope is that next year’s video entry is a little less ‘busy’ and that AUCC members have more safe and enjoyable experiences paddling awesome white water in the highlands and beyond.

Thanks to Tom Parker for helping run the course and Pyranha for helping more people have a safe and fun time on the water.

Jonny Hawkins, Highland Kayak School


Spring Tradition: Goshen Race 2019

On March 2nd, 2019 paddlers from four different states converged on the beautiful Maury River for a Virginia spring tradition: the 12th Annual Goshen Race.

A “Winter Storm Warning,” and uncertain water levels the night before did nothing to dampen the good vibes of this low-key gathering. The day was warming by the noon-time mass start; and sunlight flashing off of 45 furiously churning paddle blades signaled that it had become a gorgeous day. The beautiful weather came with an equally perfect water level as the river crested at 1330 c.f.s. during the race.

Everyone paddled a solid race and there was no awarding of the traditional “carnage panty” this year. It was a tight battle for the lead among the top three paddlers. Bobby Miller, from D.C., and Richmond’s Isaac Hull exchanged the lead multiple times throughout the race and the outcome was uncertain even as the dueling duo powered through the infamous “Corner” rapid. Ultimately Isaac Hull took the Overall and Wildwater Class win, with Bobby taking second. Maryland’s Geoff Calhoun was next, securing the Long Boat class win. Renee Powers took the women’s class victory, Phil Prince cinched Canoe class, and David Verde ruled the Rubber realm.

It was a primo day on the Maury River and now the spring season can commence. Think Rain!

The Goshen Race sends a huuuuge “Thanks” to Pyranha Kayaks for being a longtime supporter of this Virginia Whitewater Tradition! Thanks to Pyranha, and other generous supporters, everyone who raced walked away with a prize. 


Why Smashing 9R II’s Development Goals Isn’t Good Enough

A long-awaited, much-anticipated moment arrived a few weeks ago; the first 9R II left the mould.

At this point, you might be wondering why you haven’t seen photos all over Facebook, demos at your local dealer, or a listing on telling you just how good the 2nd generation of a kayak that changed the market is; we’re here to explain why.

Since the 9R hit the scene in 2014, we’ve complimented it with the Machno, Ripper, and 12R to create the most formidable line-up of kayaks around; we’re incredibly proud of those models, and all the smiles we’ve seen on paddlers in them, but that reaction isn’t something that’s necessarily the result of a ‘perfect’ design.

We’ve been doing this long enough to know that the perfect design is a myth, and all paddlers want something subtly different from their kayak; even individual preferences change with time. A desire to enable a broader range of people to enjoy the river, alongside enthusiastic curiosity, is why we offer such a diverse range of kayaks in the first place.

Designed with the creative freedom of a blank canvas, the original 9R took its time to win over sceptical paddlers, but eventually developed into something that even as typically reserved British folk, we aren’t ashamed to call an ‘icon’. It brought about a change of pace to both the market and the sport, and the sense of fulfilment it instilled in paddlers who learnt to take advantage of the latter led to us coining the expression ‘fast is fun’.

Jordy Searle with his original 9R in Norway, by David Bain

The brief for 9R II was to take what we had learnt with 9R over the past 5 years, and produce something even faster, with easier access to that performance and greater control at top speed; make no mistake, what we initially arrived upon absolutely nailed that design brief, so much so that we went ahead and had the mould cast… as kayakers ourselves, however, the testing never truly ends, and when paddling some Class 5, we couldn’t shake the feeling that although the new boat was undeniably faster, its ‘fun-factor’ didn’t eclipse that of the original 9R.

Everything we might do to make the design more fun went in direct contradiction to what we’d done to meet our design goals; was this compromise, therefore, something we just had to accept?

A few swear words later, a spark of an idea ignited; rather than stubbornly ignore it and take the easy decision to forge ahead with a compromise, we took a deep breath, stoked the flames, and encouraged it to develop. It’s times like these that we’re grateful to be enthusiasts making kayaks for other enthusiasts, rather than to please investors, shareholders, or a board of directors.

Graham observes initial float testing of the latest 9R II shape, fresh from the workshop

We write this on the back of some extremely positive, not-so-undercover testing conducted at HPP amid the NSR weekend; we’ll follow that up this week with more testing on something a little steeper and anticipate finishing tweaks will be made following this. The final shape will then be sent for casting, and after engineering and programming are complete, we should see the production of 9R II M begin towards the end of March.

Testing on the consistent whitewater of HPP – thanks to Tom Clare for the photos!

We’re aware of and genuinely humbled by the fact that many of you have been patiently awaiting the release of 9R II for some time now, but that’s the very reason we took the decision to ensure we develop the project entirely, wear our kayaking enthusiast hearts on our sleeves, and leave nothing on the table. You might never have known that there could have been more, but we would have.

Thank you for bearing with us; if we can promise you one thing, it’s that the result will be worth the wait!

#FastIsFun, and 9R II is set to be both in equal measures.


Join the Movement for Clear Access, Clear Waters

Regardless of your paddling persuasion, the one thing that binds us all is the need for access to water. Be it flat, steep, white, indoor, coast, rural, mountain or urban – if our access on water is limited, then so are our options for enjoying the sport which we all love.

Access on English Waterways has long been a topic that frustrates, mystifies and depresses paddlers in equal measure. To be more specific it is a lack of uncontested access that we face. With only 4% of water recognised as ‘uncontested’, there many rivers in England where paddlers are threatened and led to believe that they are committing ‘trespass’ when they paddle. This debate has raged for decades and has polarised river users.

It is not a simple question of anglers vs canoeists as many like to believe. That simplistic view undermines the bigger picture. This is a question of the freedom of the public to enjoy open access to outdoor spaces, equally and fairly – as many do already on mountain, moor, and heath.

Moving the debate around access on the water to the point of a resolution is not easy. In November 2018, British Canoeing launched its ‘Clear Access, Clear Waters’ Charter in Westminster, alongside MPs, Peers, Industry Partners, and Key Volunteers. It is a fresh approach to an old problem, seizing upon an opportune time to influence Government and build a movement within the paddling community.

And that movement is vital. A shift in the status quo cannot be achieved by British Canoeing staff alone. The efforts of volunteers and champions are crucial to support the day to day work – however, it is the action taken by the whole paddling community that will make the difference. Thirty-seven thousand members of British Canoeing; some 300,000 ‘regular paddlers; 1.9million paddlers each year – with these numbers being proactive we can and will move this issue forwards – but only if people are prepared to take action.

Now is an opportune time to address this matter. Our environment is facing more significant threats than ever before, declining biodiversity and plastic pollution are daily headline news. The Government has an ambitious 25-year plan for the environment – but again, none of it can be achieved without a movement of people. We paddlers can and should be on the front line in trying to preserve and protect our blue spaces. Vast amounts are already done by paddlers – but with access to many English rivers highly contested, our ability to make a difference is significantly reduced.

It is, of course, a question of balance. All parties deserve fair, shared access on water, so we can all be engaged in the enjoyment and protection of our waterways. All water users must agree to a code of conduct. Respect needs to be displayed on all sides, towards each other’s equal right to be on the water.

Protection of sensitive habitats and spawning grounds is essential; paddlers, anglers, rowers, swimmers can all have zero impact if when taught how to do things right. But primarily it comes down to people making responsible decisions of when and where to paddle.

So it is time to join the movement of paddlers, demanding the freedom to paddle on our country’s waters – and demanding protection of the environment which makes our sport so very special.

This Spring, we are encouraging paddlers to take part in river cleans to show what impact we can collectively have. We are also asking paddlers to write to their MPs to explain why we need fair, shared, sustainable open access on water. British Canoeing is working extremely hard to lobby the key Ministers, officials and parties who can bring change. But change will not come if we do not make some noise!

That is why we need everyone to join the campaign for Clear Access, Clear Waters.


Pyranha Memories: The Whitewater Warriors take on the rock slides and launch ramps of Flatekval Elva

Recently, Scott Lindgren posted a kayaking clip of me hurtling down a low volume slide in Norway before flying through the air; this clearly caught the attention of the internet world and has been shared quite prolifically. It’s quite amusing to read the spectrum of comments ranging from “wow”, and “cool”, to “idiot”, or “ego-driven stupidity”. When I look at the slide now, I can safely say that I would not do that again, but at the time it seemed a perfectly reasonable proposition.

Like many “extreme” clips you see on the internet, this snapshot represents a culmination of many years of experience, experimentation, practice, and preparation. At this stage in kayaking history (2002), slides were a big thing. Creek boats were in rapid development, and the boundaries were moving quite fast, as they do in our relatively young sport of whitewater kayaking.

Allan Ellard and I, partners in crime, warriors, were in our third season in Norway, and we were overwhelmed by the range of possibilities in our chosen neighbourhood, Voss. We spent a lot of time driving around looking for new rivers and more significant challenges.

Feeling the crazy at Buttcrack Creek

After acclimatising on local favourites like the Branseth and Myrkdal Slides, we found and ran bigger slides like the Tunnel Drop, Lake to Lake, Hommedal Slides, and Buttcrack Creek (better known as Vangjolo to locals in Voss). Then we saw Scott’s latest film where Dustin Knapp and Dave Persolja ran Tenaya Creek; we were blown away, and inspired to find something similar in Norway.

Allan running Tunnel Drop

After many kilometres in Western Norway looking at streaks of water running down gigantic slabs, we finally saw something out the car window which could be a possibility; Flatekval Elva in Eksingadalen.

Walking up to the creek, we began to feel nervous when we saw how possible it was. It looked like we could do it. The corner in the middle looked like a problem, with a chance of sliding out of the river bed (similar to Buttcrack; see the video below or ask Anton Immler himself about that one) or maybe catching air and losing control.

We paddled the Pyranha H2 at the time, which was a flat bottomed creek boat, not dissimilar to the Burn III. We had paddled this boat for a few years at this stage and loved it. We also did not agree with the school of thought that edges had no place on creeks. At this stage, many of the competitors’ creek boats were round bottomed sausages. We felt that on this particular slide, specifically the corner, that if we edged our boat away from the corner, the bottom edge would help to trap water and form a kind of a buffer wave under the boat to help it track around the corner.

I doubt that anyone who knows Allan and myself well would class us as risk takers; we tend to allow quite large margins for error. We discussed in depth how we would do this, and what kind of safety we’d use. Allan had a pair of heavy duty elbow pads that he made as a project at high school which we shared for the day. If we had a full face, we would have shared that too! We decided we were not 100% sure and made a plan to run the slide from halfway, starting just above the corner so there would be less speed into the corner. This worked beautifully, and we both had clean lines left of the kicker, then we ran it from the top, tracked around the corner, and had clean, smooth lines. We noted that there were slides further up the river, but we were pretty satisfied with the day already and headed home with smiles on our dials.

Allan nailing Flatekval

Olaf Obsommer and Jens Klatt were in town and thought the photo looked pretty spectacular. We told them there was even more upstream, so they decided to come and film. The water level was slightly lower, and we headed further upstream and ran another high-speed combination of slides. We hoped we could link these together with the big slide, but the midsection was a bit too dodgy.

Al and I discussed at length if the lower water level would mean that the boat would travel slower because of extra friction on the rock, or faster with less surface tension from the water and potentially less build-up of a buffer under the edge of the H2 when tilted up on its left side. After the successful run from the day before, we decided to find out. With the extra protection of a motocross top borrowed from Arnt Schaftlein, I went first. I sensed quite early that I struggled to get the boat to track early to the left and flew straight on to the kicker and started flying. I still fantasise to this day about shifting my upper body weight to the right to land boat down, but it just went too fast for me. I landed on my paddle and elbow, I kept both hands on the paddle and sprained my wrists, and in the pool below I felt disappointed in myself for not nailing the line.

Landing the top slide

Allan wisely decided that the lower water level was not ideal, though I’m sure he would have managed it better than me.

The result of our day was a broadened horizon, a demotion from raft guide to shuttle driver for a week because of some sore wrists, and some pretty cool video footage.

If you’re interested, you can see the full clip in Olaf’s film below:

The clip starts at 20:55, but the film includes some excellent footage of some top paddlers of the time doing some equally impressive stuff and doing a better job of keeping their kayaks on the water.

You may have noticed that this kind of paddling is hard on the kayak, and I can promise you it will severely shorten the life of your boat. Yes, we were sponsored, so thanks to Pyranha for giving us the chance to experiment and contribute to the evolution of Pyranha Kayaks.


Below and Beyond, The Grand Canyon of the Andes or: Spike’s on the Source Again

The Rio Maranon; a couple of (probable) facts:

  • The Rio Amazon used to be called the ‘Maranon’.
  • The Maranon is the primary source of the Amazon.
  • It is 30% deeper than the Grand Canyon.
  • It is the longest river drainage in the World.
  • It’s (currently) the longest un-dammed river in South America (some say in the World).
  • There are currently 21 sites that are threatened with dams.

This river is all about the journey; it starts high in the Andes near Huaraz in Central Peru. Initially, the Rio Maranon falls in a series of desperately difficult or impossible cataracts, and by the time it reaches an altitude of around 2100m it has calmed down sufficiently for the mortal to consider getting afloat.

The river flows North through a vast canyon up the centre of the Andes chain, the scenery a mix of the high Altiplano (where the Puma, Condor, and Vicuna scratch a living), and desert canyon (Cactus, Lizard, and Vulture). Eventually, a geological weakness allows the river to flow East towards the Atlantic, a mere 2000km away; by the end of our journey, we are at 350m and camping in the Rainforest.

Lots of Whitewater up to Grade 5, 15 days, and 650km of kayaking are the raw figures, but this river is so much more than that. If it’s hardcore whitewater, and tales of daring feats that you’re after, this is not the river for you. Every bend in the river reveals another breath-taking view, the geology is simply bonkers; the (few) locals you meet are delighted to see you, and gifts of bananas and pineapples appear; the water is warm (though muddy); the beaches are perfect; the river is rarely descended, so you’ll see no other paddlers.

As days pass, the rhythm of life slows; soon there is only Eat, Sleep, Kayak, Repeat. Contact with the World becomes unwanted, the desire to be back on a pristine beach, staring into the fire tears you away from the treats, the plastic litter, the fumes.

Pedro Penia, Ben Muniz, John Vincent, Paul Cripps, and Spike Green, collectively known as ‘The Team’, would like to thank…

Peak UK / Mountain Equipment / Werner Paddles / Amazonas Explorer / Pyranha Kayaks

A little about the kayaks…

As Amazonas Explorer hold the Pyranha ‘Peru fleet’, it made sense to use these boats. I was pleased to be paddling an Everest (one dating from the first Below and Beyond trip in ’09), and even after nine years of use under the blazing Peruvian sun this boat was still bombproof. Paul was also in an Everest, while John and Ben ‘hot-bedded’ in a Burn III XL.

Much as I liked the Everest and trusted it on this and every other trip, paddling it reinforced my love for the Machno and 9R! Hopefully, we can get some of these out to Peru for next time! John and Ben both looked very smug in the Burn.


Fun Lovin’ in Chile!

With a close call and a shoulder injury it’s safe to say that my paddling has taken some hits this year.

I’ve also been extremely fortunate though, and have had some fantastic opportunities this year, so I’m working hard to learn from all the experiences I’ve had in the last 12 months and progress on my weaker areas.

Fresh from a big expedition, the plan was to head back to Chile and take time to work on my paddling foundations; this meant stripping back and going back to basics.

As you can imagine, this was pretty frustrating, to begin with. That was until my friend Melissa encouraged me to try out her new boat – a Ripper. Suddenly my local run was the best it had ever been, and I’d be smiling until the take out!

Over the next couple of weeks, I paddled the Ripper whenever Melissa wasn’t using it. Without even realising, I was developing my edge control, drive, transitions and so much more, by working the river and just having fun!

Big volume fun on the San Pedro, Chile

The Ripper is speedy, slicey, a whole lot of fun, and the new love of my life.

I’m no expert on boat design. I couldn’t tell you much about different specifications or why one boat has a displacement hull, and another boat doesn’t. My preferred process is to paddle it and see how it feels; then if I like it, I try it out on more rivers and different styles of whitewater.

Photo: Curtis England

Working at Pucon Kayak Hostel in Chile during the winter means that I am lucky enough to be able to paddle a variety of kayaks. My first day in the 9R was on the Upper Trancura, and honestly, I felt a bit all over the place. I hadn’t taken the time needed to outfit it properly, and it was very different to the kayak I had been paddling for the last few years, so as soon as I got in the bigger rapids, I didn’t feel in control.

That evening, I sat in the yard, tunes playing, and spent some time getting all the outfitting right for me. The next morning I took it back on the same section, and it felt awesome.

Fast and smooth, easy to get on edge, great to drive over eddy lines and boiley water, as well as punch waves and boof holes.

I liked this boat a lot. So much so in fact that I ran the rapid I had always walked around. With a river wide curling entry hole, followed by powerful water trying to toss you around before a big boof into a huge pour-over, it’s pretty daunting!

The speed and manoeuvrability of the 9R helped me to drive through the tricky lead-in and keep online through the pushy water. I did flip in the pour-over (and was luckily not held!), but I guess that gives me something to go back and improve on!

Punching through
Photo: Curtis England

I’ve got a lot of work to do over the next few months, but something I have learnt straight away is that mixing things up from time to time is hugely beneficial. The Ripper and 9R are very different styles of kayak, but both have excellent characteristics, and I’m looking forward to spending more time in both of them!

See you on the water!


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