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04
Jan

Chile for Everyone!

A whitewater Mecca for every paddler!

This winter, I was lucky enough to return to one of my favourite kayaking destinations. Filled with waterfalls, steep creeks, empanadas and sunshine. Yep, you’ve guessed it, Chile! 

Photo credit: Sarah Hutchings. Río Palguin

Guiding in two very different parts of Chile took me to a real mixture of whitewater, and despite having paddled here a lot, it wasn’t until this season that I realised just how great this place is for every level of paddler. Here’s a little of what I got up to…

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Pedro Valverdet. Río Claro -Siete Tazas

My trip started at the Río Claro, guiding with one of my favourite people to be on the river with, Eli Castleberry. Here, the crystal-clear snowmelt passes through deep, basalt rock-walled canyons and over numerous perfect waterfalls. Many international paddlers rent trucks and make the journey to the Parque Nacional Radal Siete Tazas, just south of Santiago, to paddle this very special river. 

The two most commonly run sections are Siete Tazas (Seven Teacups) and Veintidos (twenty-two). The Siete Tazas are perfect for warming up and practising your boof/waterfall technique, as well as getting a taster of being in the canyon. It’s also a super fun section to lap and just enjoy! Although this part of the river is an easier and more accessible section, knowing how to get in and out of the canyon is very important. Missing the takeout could result in an unintentional descent of ‘La Leona’ (an 80-footer) just downstream!

Paddler: Eli Castleberry. Photo credit: Sal Montgomery. Río Claro, Veintidos (‘Ski Ramp’)

Veintidos is the dream section for a lot of paddlers. Challenging, committing and lots of clean waterfalls (twenty-two, in fact). The drops vary in size and style, ranging from small ledges to 30-footers, as well as some super tight corridor rapids. All this action, whilst in a deep, and at times very narrow, steep-walled beautiful basalt canyon. Again, having someone in your team that knows the section is very handy unless you’re happy dropping off multiple blind horizon lines into whatever awaits you below!

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Eli Castleberry. Río Claro- Veintidos.

If you’re feeling good on these two sections then you might decide to paddle Entresaltos into Garganta (throat of the Devil). An epic day of adrenaline highs, twisting waterfalls, tight hallways and more of this beautiful canyon. This section is a step up from Veintidos and very committing, so go with someone that knows it and don’t forget your splits! An epic in here would be pretty difficult to resolve. However, if you have the right team/levels/knowledge, you’re in for an awesome adventure!

Paddler: Eli Castleberry. Photo credit: Sal Montgomery. Río Claro- Entresaltos

After almost a week of paddling in this free-fall paradise, it was time to head a little further south, to the town of Pucon. Kayak Chile’s base at the put-in for the Upper Palguin was my home for the next 3 weeks, which meant lots of laps and lots of fun! (Big thanks, Ben May!). Together with Ben, Josh and Tom of Rapid Skills, as well as the awesome Flo, we would be guiding on some of the area’s best rivers.

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Sarah Hutchings. Río Palguin- Upper (Double Drop)

Aside from the Palguin, Pucon’s other local run is the Río Trancura. Both the upper and lower Trancura are great sections and are often run together. The upper hosts several bigger and steeper rapids (with the option to run, or run away from, the impressive Mariman rapid!), whilst the lower provides big water fun and plenty of good play spots. 

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Sarah Hutchings. Río Palguin- Upper (Double Drop)

Once you’ve nailed your line on the Palguin’s double-drop and ‘rode the lightning’ on the upper Trancura’s Feo rapid, or surfed every wave on the lower, you might be keen to check out some new rivers. Many of which are a little further away, but the couple of hours in the truck are eminently worth it. Before you know it, you’ll be well-rewarded with several choices of varied and beautiful whitewater gems, with options for every level of paddler. 

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Josh Telling/ Tom Botterill. Río San Pedro.

The Fuy, for instance, has multiple sections ranging from fun class 3 full of boofs to more full-on class 5 with a must-run 50-footer. It also has some of the bluest water you’ll ever see! 

The San Pedro is also famous for its crystal clear waters, in fact, some people even take snorkels to check out the riverbed’s crazy rock formations! This river is super fun, full of big wave trains and lots of surf spots. You can also do the San Pedro as an over-nighter and sleep under Chile’s spectacular star-filled skies!

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Tom Botterill. Río Machín.

The Maichín is also a highlight river for many paddlers. Passing through a lush forest, this sweet gorge is packed with technical, pool-drop rapids. The ‘Crux’ consists of several steeper boulder rapids and ledges, which can be run as one long, super fun combo or broken down into individual segments, all of which can be scouted and/or portaged. After the Crux, there’s one more bang, before one of the most scenic paddle outs ever!

The Truful Truful river runs through the beautiful Conguillio National park, where you’re surrounded by tall canyon walls layered with ash from eruptions of the Llaima volcano. Make sure to check out the scenery before putting on, because once you’re on the water you’re probably not going to notice anything except the next boof! This river is super fast and continuous but low-stress and a LOT of fun! There’s one huge rapid, the ‘Trufuliser’, which is mostly portaged – unless you’re feeling particularly sendy!

All these rivers, plus many more, are the reason why many paddlers return to Chile, year after year. The variety, quality, quantity and accessibility of whitewater here are pretty unmatched. Despite this, I frequently hear paddlers say that they want to visit Chile but don’t think their kayaking ability is good enough. Believing that all the rivers will be too hard for them or that Chile only has massive, stout waterfalls. 

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Josh Telling/ Tom Botterill. Río San Pedro.

Before my first trip here, I had also thought the same and put off coming for quite some time. Having now spent much time here, exploring many different sections over the last few years, I can say with certainty that any level of paddler can have an incredible time in this whitewater paradise. So if it’s not already, get Chile on your whitewater wish list! 

Big thank you to everyone that made my time in Chile so awesome. Particular thanks go to Eli Castleberry, Ben May of Kayak Chile and Josh Telling and Tom Botteril of Rapid Skills for the guiding opportunities, hospitality, ice cream, pancakes, photos and most of all – the awesome times on the rivers of Chile! And a HUGE thank you to Pyranha Kayaks for the epic boof machine, aka small Scorch!

06
Dec

Meet the Sava River

.: Words – Carmen Kuntz

.: Photos – Katja Jemec, Katja Pokorn, Mitja Legat

A river is worth more than just its best whitewater. Us kayakers often only paddle the portions of a river that have the best whitewater. But rivers are different than mountains or trails – they are dynamic, fluid and flowing. And while what goes on above and below the put in is often a mystery, it doesn’t have to be.

On June 1st, 2021 four kayakers quietly put onto Slovenia’s Sava River for what would be a very small but eventually a very loud version of Balkan Rivers Tour 5. With a film and photo crew following by van, we spent 11 days paddling over 250 km of the Sava River, from its dual sources in the Julian Alps, not far from the border with Italy, to the Croatian border.

Along the way, we worked together to complete the first continuous waterfowl survey of the Sava River during nesting season and also the first complete environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of the Sava, while our media crew captured all the moments along the way. Why bother stopping to sample water, or constantly scanning for birds? Because politicians have plans to build 10-12 new dams on this deep green river. And we want to prove that this is a disastrous idea – for biodiversity and for humans. After all, a river is also worth more than just the power it can produce spinning a turbine.

We could have asked these politicians to come for a float down the Sava with us, to show them how alive, healthy and rich this river that already has many dams and barriers, somehow still is. But…we figured that might not end well. So instead, we brought cameras with us to show Slovenians and any other viewers, what the Sava River really looks like, sounds like and feels like. What was originally to be a 25-minute film turned into an 84-minute documentary. About the Sava. For the Sava. Created to add pressure to decision makers, to ignite pride and to show that this river is worth fighting to protect*.

The Sava is a special river. Not only is it the home river for Balkan Rivers Defence’s founder, Rok and most of the BRD Team, it’s also an integral part of Europe’s greater freshwater ecosystem and home to Natura 2000 and IUCN Red List species. It is the largest tributary (by volume) to Europe’s second largest river, the Danube. And, it is a river that connects four Balkan countries, providing drinking water to major cities as well as water for agriculture, industry and long-standing traditions and lifestyles.

This kayaking trip was far from an extreme whitewater trip. It was about exploring eddies, camping on white pebble gravel bars, cooking fish over driftwood fires and observing birds overhead and animals along the banks. But we also paddled through villages and towns and gained a tangible understanding that humans are a part of this–and any–river ecosystem. To look at humans and nature as separate entities is like looking at your favourite stretch of a river as its own waterway. Humans have an impact on rivers, and rivers impact humans. This is a natural, traditional and historical connection – especially in Europe. The chance to understand the complex relationship between humans and rivers made this trip about so much more than just kayaking. It also strongly illustrated the effect that dams have on a river. Playful strokes through whitewater contrasted very heavily with pulling a blade through the flatwater of a reservoir.

One for the River: The Sava Story, follows a similar theme to our first film, One for the River: The Vjosa Story. But the experiences are all new. Like finding old WW2 weapons, rescuing a bird, slurping bootie beers and laughing around the campfire. We premiered the film in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana on June 1, 2022, one year after we started paddling. Now, you can catch the film at international film festivals, where it will circulate until summer 2023. To date, it has played at 17 festivals in 14 countries and won 7 awards. Slovenians were able to see it at 40 outdoor cinema screenings all summer and fall, and this winter Slovenian primary school kids are seeing it during special local cinema screenings. Fingers crossed Slovenian national television will show it – if nasty politics don’t get in the way. And then we will release it online for free, so everyone can meet the Sava River.

Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to explore the stretches of river upstream and downstream of your put in. Maybe you will find a new surf wave, or a historical artifact. Maybe you will rescue wildlife, or maybe stumble upon a hidden dam plan that needs to be exposed. To truly know a river, you need to paddle as much of it as possible. And take care of it.

*Spoiler alert: BRD wrote a kayaking guidebook for the Sava River – and in 2023 will have an English version. So, you can replicate this trip and explore this incredible river, showing local businesses and decision makers that it is better to let this river push kayakers, than push turbines. And who knows, maybe you enjoy it so much you paddle all the way to the Danube!

29
Nov

End of Season Sale

It’s been a busy year, with lots of new products and lots of new paddlers taking to the water!

To ensure they had the right product to suit each and every one of those new paddlers, our network of specialist dealers stocked up more than ever – now that we’re heading into the traditionally quieter winter season, though, this means they have a little more remaining stock than they might usually have had, including some of our kayaks that we know will be yearning for the water!

If you want to pick up one of those kayaks at an outstanding price, then just give one of the dealers below a call, drop them an email, or, better still, pay them a visit:

Scotland

Port Edgar Watersports (JP Watersports) – 0131 319 1820 – [email protected]

North East

Northeast Kayaks – 01665 714 039 – [email protected]

Robin Hood Watersports – 01924 444888 – [email protected]

Wet and Wild – 01482 354076 – [email protected]

North West

Go Kayaking – 01928 710770 – [email protected]

South Wales

Up and Under – 029 20 578 579 – [email protected]

South East

Kent Canoes – 01732 886688 – [email protected]

South West

AS Watersports – 01392 219600 – [email protected]

South Coast Canoes – 01202 914224 – [email protected]

29
Nov

Back to Mexico!

My third trip to Mexico and my third time taking a different Pyranha Kayak. On my first trip, I took the original 9R and loved the skips I was getting, but felt it was a bit twitchy on some moves at my weight. On the second trip, I took the Machno, which was rock solid and dependable, but it lacked the magic of the 9R. On my third trip, I took the Scorch, and I was blown away! 

Coming back to Mexico, I am always shocked at how good the kayaking is in Veracruz. Just a few short car rides away from the Aventurec hostel, there are several sections which range from tight slides through the jungle, to perfect class four pool drops, and all the way up to stacked series of big waterfalls. Trips here are always a little bit rowdy as you can literally go as big as you want. 

I warmed up on the Big Banana section. This piece of river starts at the base of the 128ft Big Banana falls, and it was really special to see this waterfall again after a successful descent a few years ago. A behind-the-series story to that descent is that the owner of Pyranha texted me to congratulate me afterwards and asked me to bring the Machno I used back to the UK for his kayak museum. I meekly told him I couldn’t because I needed to sell it to pay for my stay and the next plane ticket. The next text I got was Graham telling me he had paid the full retail price of the Machno into my account and to make sure I and the kayak got home safe. Pretty cool move by the Boss!

Air Canada lost my Large Scorch and Aventurec kindly lent me a medium to use until mine showed up. The Medium Scorch is a weapon for someone my size; I can pick that thing up and throw it around at will, but on pushier moves where I want to let the kayak ride and look ahead to spot the key move to take, it can get pushed around. The Large, on the other hand, sits there and rides over all the small features leading up to a big move and really allows me to set up for it carefree. That being said, I had a great first lap back in the Medium!

My kayak was rescued from the airport by some of the up-and-comers also on the trip, many thanks to Zach and Kaelin for bringing me my babies!

I brought my trusty large Scorch for this trip, I was confident it was going to perform really well on most things, but I was interested to see how it would handle some big free fall. This is the one area I haven’t really been able to test the Scorch out and I was a little bit apprehensive about all that rocker in the nose. On my second day on the water, I kayaked off Tamata 1; it’s been a while since I have dropped this waterfall. Sometimes you come off the lip and you know your angle is good immediately, other times, the tail gets flicked up by the wave and you have to do some adjusting on your way down. I had the latter on my first lap, but the Scorch reacted great in the air and I had a really soft hit at the bottom. To say something about the stability of the Scorch, I didn’t flip while resurfacing on any of my Tamata 1 laps. 

The real mission of this trip was to push some downriver freestyle moves. One of those was to go for the double freewheel off Tamata 1. I wanted to hit the rotation into a tucked landing, but I went too big on the first rotation and struggled to grab anything to pull the second end down. Lots and lots learned on the rotation and the possibilities of this trick with this attempt but with how consequential big downriver freestyle is, I decided to wait until I have spent some time dialling in the rotation I think I will need on a smaller waterfall. This was my second day in the Firecracker prototype, with my first being a chunky Swale testing lap with the Pyranha factory team.  I am excited, to say the least, for the production version to come out!

I kayaked all of the classics in the area and had a great time hitting big clean lines in the Large Scorch. Due to various factors, it wasn’t the downriver freestyle trip we hoped for, but it was still amazing to be back kayaking down the beautiful rivers and waterfalls of Veracruz. Sofia Reinoso was just starting to dial in her Scorch M on the trip, and she was flying in it and getting off the river absolutely stoked on the kayak. My large Scorch has been passed over to the Mexican legend Iker, and I am excited to see what he and Sofi do in their Scorches over the winter.

Catch you on the water,
Bren

22
Nov

Ingredients for an Epic Weekend: Skook, Starfish, Sea Salt, Sunshine, and the Ripper 2 Small

Kayakers going up for a second surf / Photo credit: Jeremy Nash

I recently took the new Ripper 2 Small up to Skook for one of the +XL tides. First off, if you’ve never gone to Skook you need to get up there ASAP. Electric purple starfish line the shore, sea anemones, and seals greet you after every surf. The sea water is so clear that when you’re surfing the wave, you can look down and see the kelp swaying to the motion of the ocean below you.

The Infamous Purple Skook Starfish / Photo credit: Hailey Thompson

My first impressions of the new and improved Ripper is that Pyranha really crushed this design. It is infinitely easier to stern squirt, carves on waves because it doesn’t get locked into a line, loves to lay big treat boofs, and zooms out of features like a dart.

Here are some key features I LOVE about the new design:

  1. It is a little wider at the hips, making it more stable and predictable than the old Ripper. 
  2. The stern is super slicey, which makes it much easier to stern squirt than any other half-slice I’ve been in. #likebutter
  3. The balance of the boat feels great, so when you get a nice vertical stern squirt, it’s easier to hold it in a stern stall. 
  4. The bow is beefy, which makes for excellent boofs and helps get you through bigger features. 
  5. It is shorter than the old Ripper Small, making it easier to redirect your line. You don’t get as locked into a line. 
  6. The grab handles are excellently placed for getting hard points when strapping onto your car. 
Wyatt Doyle dropping in for a surf / Photo credit: Jeremy Nash

The new and improved Ripper was too good not to share, so I let a few of my talented friends take it for a few surfs on Skook. I hope you enjoyed a snapshot into our weekend!

Wyatt Doyle Airscrewing the Jedi / Photo credit: Jeremy Nash

12
Oct

Lulu Love Tour 2022

The sixth edition of the Lulu Love Tour took place in Sort, Pyrenees (Spain) for a weekend filled with fun, friends and whitewater for all.

The LLT is a collective project designed to spread “The Lulu Love” by exposing whitewater kayaking to the general public and promoting women’s participation in whitewater.

The event started on Saturday morning with bib pickup and welcome packages for all participants from Vaude and other supporters. As all boats were loaded on the trailers everybody headed upstream to the start of the first race of the day. The Downriver Mass Start is a very special and fun race as everybody races each other at the same time for 5km down some of the best rapids of the Noguera Pallaresa river. This section is pretty continuous class III for 20 minutes so you have to be smooth and also push hard if you want to be ahead and everyone gave their very best till the end!

After some fast lines, Alicia Casas managed to take the win with her 9R ahead of Julia Carabias and Jus Erguin. In the men’s class, Gerd Serrasolses paddled his Ripper ahead of locals Ian Salvat and Dani Gallego rounding up the podium.

Once the race is finished everybody plus some other participants all paddle downstream to Sort as part of the Stoke Float where beginners get a chance to paddle with more expert paddlers and have a good time.

Once in Sort, lunch is waiting by the river as participants recover and get some energy before the next event, the Slalom Head to Head.

The H2H is a two-person race down a slalom course with gates and the fastest person to the finish line advances to the next round. This makes for a lot of tight racing and also a lot of rounds for the athletes.

The slalom course is right in downtown Sort so a lot of people come to watch the action. After many rounds, Jus Erguin managed to take the win ahead of marine Isaac from France and Perla from Argentina. In the men’s class, Gerd Serrasolses paddled ahead of Sort’s born and raised Ian Salvat and Fabien Lanao from France.

The juniors also rocked the course with some amazing paddling and tight racing.

This year’s novelty was a rookie race for all of those ladies who are just getting started, and they loved it and crushed it, was really fun to watch!

The kids went next on a different course design and it was amazing to watch how hard they paddled and committed they were to doing all the gates!

After all the kayaking was done everybody headed to the Awards to cheer on the fastest paddlers of the day. Meanwhile, a team was working on cooking two giant paellas for dinner.

The awards and raffle were a blast with everyone cheering and having a good time. The moment everyone was waiting for, the raffle of a Pyranha Kayaks Ripper 2 finally happened and the lucky winner took home a Ripper 2!

Unfortunately, thunderstorms and rain came so we had to have dinner inside, nonetheless, it was a great evening for everybody to eat delicious paella after such a long and intense day.

On Sunday the River Rescue and Safety clinic took place for those women wanting to improve and work on their rescue and safety skills. Ian Salvat was in charge of the clinic teaching and working on basic safety skills such as rope throws, life bait, WW swimming… to some very keen and motivated ladies. They all trained hard to be better prepared on the river.

Overall it was a great weekend of kayaking but also getting together with friends, sharing laughs, meals… making relationships stronger and growing the love for whitewater we all have! See you next year for more Lulu Love Tour!

10
Oct

Getting Injured on a Kayaking Trip

Yeah, getting injured on a kayaking trip sucks! This trip in Norway, I managed to get myself injured on the Double Drop of the Teigdal.

The water level was on the high side and I didn’t have the line I wanted to have. I ended up too far right on the second drop, hit some rocks in the fall, and injured my knee because of the impact. Of course, at first, I was devastated when I got out of my boat. Not only because I injured my knee, but also because I wanted badly to go up again to do it better. I’m a very self-critical person, so messing this up and not being able to redeem myself hit me hard because I knew I could do much better. However, after waiting three hours in the hospital for a doctor to see me and get an X-Ray, I was just glad that I got away with only a flesh wound.

Huge thanks to Bren Orton at this point for staying with me and being very persistent in telling the hospital staff to get me a doctor. If not for him, I might have probably waited another two hours!

And of course also to the rest of the crew, Adrian, Matthias, and Lukas, for safety and support!

Photo: Adrian Mattern
Me hunting for photos

The first day after the injury sucked! I couldn’t bend my knee and I needed a lot of painkillers to be able to sleep. Yeah, I have to admit, I did feel sorry for myself. But even so, going back home was not an option for me, because I would have two more months up here. Ten days of not kayaking was definitely not something I looked forward to, but also not the end of the world.

Bren Orton on the Myrkdalselvi

So when the boys decided to go on a road trip staying behind was not an option for me, even though I could not paddle, and we had Norwegian summer weather: rain and cold. It was hard to watch everybody having fun and coming back from the river being stoked. But on the third day after the injury, my leg felt better, and I felt confident enough to hike down to the river to take photos. I bought my camera before going to Chile last November and still had barely a clue how to use it. There had always been somebody around who knew how to set it up, and all I had to do was press the button. But since I had nothing better to do, I started dealing with it. And with every photo I took, I liked it more. I liked to try different angles and perspectives and was amazed at how much you can get out of even little rapids. Looking for the perfect angle challenges my creativity and calms my mind.

Bren Orton after running Eksingdalen

Basically, my day was even fuller than if I would just have gone kayaking. First I shuttled, then stopped on the way to the takeout at every possible turn to get some pictures. Sometimes I spent half an hour crouched on a rock or laying in the grass, always wondering if I missed them till they turned up. And afterwards, I had to sort through the pictures and edit them. Because I figured if I don’t do it straight away, it only gets more work. But it was worth it and it was rewarding.

Philipp Brunner focusing on Tunneldrop

I always liked giving people presents and bringing joy to them. Taking pictures had for me the same effect. Everybody loves having pictures, but for me, it often gets in the way of having a smooth joy lap. So taking photos not only gave me something to fill my day and live out my creativity, but it also made me happy to give something to my friends.

So getting injured had a good side after all, since it let me develop a new hobby. I hope, for everybody out there, that you stay safe on your trips. But if you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, try to find something else to focus on and to fill your day, maybe photography, maybe something else entirely; you might find something that you love.

Philipp Brunner on the Jordalselvi

07
Oct

Small Ripper 2 is Here!

We’ve patiently waited, watching all our medium and large pals ripping it up and having all the fun, but now it’s our turn to see what the fuss is about. The wait is finally over for us shorties, because the small Ripper 2 has landed!

Photo: Phil Bulkeley

Original Ripper Vs Ripper 2…

The original Ripper has been my favourite, go-to riverboat for pretty much forever. So when I heard rumours of a new version I was excited to check it out, but didn’t know what they could do to make it better and honestly didn’t think it would feel drastically different. After all, the Ripper was already awesome. 

The OG Ripper is speedy, smooth, light, and super sweet for boofs and flairs, hence why she’s been my favourite river runner for all this time. However, despite working on them for a real long time, I’ve always sucked at tailees (or stern-stalls). Obviously, technique is huge here, but there just always felt like ‘too much boat’. I didn’t give up trying but had kind of come to terms with it just being something that I’d never be that great at. Yeah, I couldn’t get vertical like all my pals, but I loved the way the Ripper felt on a river and it was still my go-to every time. 

Then in walked the Ripper 2.

Photo: Phil Bulkeley

Pulling out that first eddy, I instantly felt it. As I hit the current, thoughts of my old faithful OG Ripper slipped away and I didn’t even feel guilty for it. I could lift the nose up and out the water, as well as sink and slice the tail behind me – things I’d been watching other people play around with for years but had only personally been able to do in my playboat.

I’d only been in the boat a few minutes and was already excited for the next time, and the time after that. This boat was already feeling like a game-changer for me. 

The Ripper 2 was more manoeuvrable and reactive, without being twitchy or unpredictable. I found myself sitting on waves for the longest surfs of my life, without having to fight to stay on. Despite being amazingly playful, she was still a super sweet ride on the river. Just like her older sister, she worked her way around the river like a pro and boofed like a dream. 

What’s changed?

  • More bow rocker

Whereas the OG Ripper bow was based on the 9R, the Ripper 2 is more Scorch-style rocker, meaning a drier ride and drier surfs.

  • More hull width

Slightly wider means more of that sweet, skipping-out-of-features potential.

  • More tailee potential 

Softer sidewalls and a slicer tail mean a more playful, easier-to-sink backend and ALL the tailee fun. Or as George Harrap from ROHO so perfectly put it ‘access to the vertical world more easily’. 

  • More tailored to paddlers

Whereas all 3 sizes of the OG Ripper were 9ft long (with the medium being the optimum design), the Ripper 2 has been designed specifically for each size of paddler. The larger is longer and the small is shorter. This reduces that ‘too much boat’ feel and provides a more playful boat for smaller paddlers.

Photo: Phil Bulkeley

The Ripper 2 Small took her precious time, but she was worth every minute of badgering the guys at Pyranha HQ (sorry not sorry). By taking one of their most popular models and listening to real paddler feedback from all around the globe, they’ve created the next big thing in whitewater kayaking. 

‘The design improvements we’ve introduced in Ripper 2 take the fun to the next level and open up even more opportunities for it; surf more waves, drop the tail with less effort and in more locations, and get even more recklessly vertical’. 

Thanks for the awesome times OG Ripper, you did us proud, but now it’s time for the Ripper 2! #RipperUP 

See you on the water!

Sal

Small Ripper 2 techy stuff

Length: 266cm (8’8’’)

Width: 62.7cm (24.5’’)

Weight: 19kg (42lbs)

Optimum paddler weight: 40-75kg (88-165lbs)

Many thanks to Phil Bulkeley for the images, his page can be found at the link below:

Phil Bulkeley Photography

21
Aug

Best Day Ever, Part 2

Clearwater, British Columbia

The Best Day Ever marathon continues and my Scorch Small and I have made it to BC! Now, I know what fantasies your brain is already playing out – Squamish classics such as the Callaghan – but we’re not quite there yet. Be patient, because there’s a huge amount of epic whitewater on offer between Alberta and the south coast. 

Our next stop is a place called Clearwater, in Interior BC, just north of Kamloops. In the planning stages of this road trip, all my pal Benny had told me about Clearwater was that the rivers were the warmest in all of BC and were full of big whitewater fun. I was sold.

(If you’re thinking Best Day what? then take a look at my previous blog for a bit of background -or carry on reading to find out more about paddling in the Clearwater area). 

Dropping into the chaos of ‘Wicked Wonda’, North Thompson river

The Clearwater

Levels were pretty chunky when we arrived in the town of Clearwater. Local raft companies weren’t operating due to the high flows (the rafting cut-off was 600 on the gauge and the river was currently running at over 1100!) and it did initially feel like a bit of a ghost town. The huge waves and whirlpools definitely made up for that though! In fact, some of the crazy eddy lines were just as entertaining as the main (massive) river!

Photo: Checking out ‘The Kettle’ on the Clearwater river. Benny Clark.

It’s a short but super fun section and you can jog the shuttle in less than half an hour (just try not to surprise any bears out for their morning walk like I did!). Many local paddlers also enthusiastically sing praises for the sweet surf waves that come in as the river levels drop, evident from the number of surf kayaks ready and waiting in peoples’ backyards!

There are also some super pretty camp spots overlooking one of the most popular surf waves, ‘Pink Mountain’ and if you stick around until dusk you’ll see how this one got its name.

Benny Clark & Tikka looking down on the Clearwater river

Raft River

As water levels began to drop, we were lucky enough to catch this one at the primo level. In fact, it wasn’t until after we ran it that we realised just how lucky we were! We met many local paddlers who, despite living in the area for several years, still hadn’t managed to get on the infamous Raft River! 

There’s a fair bit of hype around this run and I think it’s fair to say that it totally lives up to it. Like all new runs, it’s extremely useful to have someone on the team that knows the section and in this case, it was especially helpful for finding the put-in! A rough dirt track eventually leads to a barely noticeable opening in some woods and a steep trail. Between Tara and me I think we fell over 50+ times. 

The river starts with a bang and pretty much just keeps going! The high-sided canyon walls of this deep and committing run add to the feeling of adventure, regularly reminding you that there’s no easy way out other than downstream. 

A handful of bigger, more defined rapids are interspersed with ‘boogie water’, which in my opinion was just as exciting as the ‘main events’ (I’m quickly learning not to relax too much when a BC paddler says ‘the next bits just boogie’!). 

After a tonne of awesome rapids, which perhaps aren’t represented too favourably with names such as Poop Shoot and Cag Muncher, an ominous horizon line marks the finale -a beautifully clean, boofable, 20-footer. A super sweet end to a perfect dawn run down the Raft River.

Massive shout-out to Koby, Josh & Tara for the pre-work dawn rally and for showing us down this epic river!

North Thompson

The level was juicy when we put on the North Thompson, and the first 30 minutes of paddling was mostly washed-out. I’ve been told there’s a good amount of class 2 and 3 in this section at more regular flows though, which would have provided a nice warm-up for what was to come! 

The two rapids of note (in fact the only two rapids on the entire section at this flow!) were Wicked Wonda and the confluence rapid, where the North Thompson meets the Mad River

Wicked Wonda seemed to come out of nowhere and at these flows, she was HUGE! Benny was ahead of me and I watched him ride down a large, glassy wave before he disappeared into the jungle of chaos. My eyes were probably on stilts as I dropped into the confused, unpredictable, barreling, and crashing waves! It felt like being on the ocean during an epic storm!

Mad River rapid, which we’d glanced at on the way to the put-in, was equally as huge and chaotic. The name suited well, as it definitely felt mad as we battled to maintain some sort of control whilst being thrown all over the place. It had looked much smaller from the road! And of course, it all looks tiny on GoPro.

Shout-out to the rafting guys that gave us a shuttle ride in the bus! And to Benny Clark for the lines and good times!

Little & Large! The Scorch X & Scorch Small both proved to be boofing machines of the Raft River!
Photo: Roko Hoser.

I ended up making two visits to Clearwater, the first time with my pal Benny Clark, and the second time with Tara Blair. The two trips had very different water levels, really highlighting how awesome this place is at both higher and lower flows. The Clearwater river itself is a great training ground for big water, with lots of surf waves and friendly whirlpools and as water levels drop, there are a few hidden gems in the area that come into play! One of the biggest things that stood out the most in Clearwater though, was the river people. Within no time at all, we had all the beta we needed, a friend’s backyard to camp in (shout out to Travis and the boys!), the offer of surf and playboats, as well as plenty of people keen to get out on the water! Huge thank you to everyone that we met and who welcomed us into your awesome community!

Follow Sal’s adventures – www.instagram.com/sal.montgomery

Sal’s creeker of choice for her Canadian road trip is the Scorch Small, because (in her words) ‘it’s fast, fun, and boofs like a dream!’

20
Aug

Best Day Ever, Part 1

First, a little background… the ‘Best Day Ever road-trip’

My Canadian pal, Benny has been shouting about the paddling in Canada ever since I first met him back in January 2019. We were in Ecuador and had just finished an amazing day of boofs and rock slides, with primo water levels and an all-time crew on the Río Jondachi. An absolute best day ever.

As some will know, I had a close call a few years ago and since then I try to adopt the best day ever mindset every day that I’m on the water. Come rain or shine, whether it’s class 1 or 5, wild first descent or inner-city whitewater park, alone or with pals, it’s another day to enjoy the water and to appreciate where I’m at.

Three weeks after the Ecuador trip, the world was hit by a pandemic and life took on a pretty dramatic plot-drop. From the colourful jungles of Ecuador to local lockdowns and working on busy, stressed-out hospital wards. Travel was off the table for almost two years, whitewater parks took an age to reopen and our rivers here in the UK stubbornly remained drier than a stale rice cracker.

Like many other British paddlers, my paddling took a big hit and I was extremely conscious of it. Throughout those two years, Benny helped to keep my spirits high by regularly reminding me about that awesome future Canadian paddling trip. We didn’t know when it would happen, but loose plans turned into lists of must-hit rivers and maps covered in pins, which evolved into a rough itinerary full of epic times to come!

Eventually, I bought my ticket and left the UK 2 weeks later. And here I am with my Scorch Small, on the Best Day Ever road trip!

Awesome Alberta

When paddlers talk about Canada, British Columbia usually takes centre stage and I was guilty of knowing virtually nothing about Alberta boating until we started planning this trip (at which point Benny began bombarding my DMs with Alberta footage). I’ve got to say it- Alberta was definitely worth the hype…

I’d been warned that the weather can be fairly mixed, but I hadn’t quite expected to wake up to heavy snow on my first morning in Canada. Especially as I had been merrily swimming in lakes only a couple of hours south of the border the day before. (I now understood the term ‘Juneuary’ that I kept hearing local paddlers saying).

So, the bikini was replaced with a down jacket, chains were put on the van tyres (technically I sat in the warm van, whilst Benny did the chains) and we began our Canadian best day ever (after hot coffee and the biggest cinnamon bun I have ever seen in my life). Luckily, that was our first and last day of snow whilst in Alberta. In fact, from that day onwards we had nothing but hot, sunny weather, I even wore my shorty dry top for some laps! Here are a few of my Alberta highlights-

Elbow River

Boof, Skip, Slide, Repeat!

Elbow Falls

Elbow Upper ‘Falls Section’. Short and sweet run, starting out with a clean boof, followed by a handful of rapids -including a great ramping slide.

Whether you’re spending the day doing laps on laps, boshing out a quick after-work run, or even just park ’n’ hucking Elbow Falls (guaranteed cheers from tourists if it’s a weekend), this backyard run is awesome fun and a great training ground.

Slide Rapid, Elbow River

Cataract Creek

A proper adventure and great bang for your buck!

Hercules & Titan waterfalls
Photographer: Louise Stanway

Cataract Creek was definitely my Alberta highlight. A big horizon line marks the abrupt end to the mellow and super-scenic paddle-in. Beyond here is Hercules drop, leading immediately into the 25ft ’Titan’ waterfall. From thereon it’s non-stop quality whitewater interspersed with several bigger rapids right up until the takeout. A fairly rowdy, tiered slide name ‘Leviathan’ was my favourite rapid and also where we spotted a big cougar checking out our lines!

Looking down the guts mid-way down ‘Leviathan’, Cataract Creek
‘Leviathan’, Cataract Creek

Sheep River

Blue water and crazy sheep!

Sheep River, Blue Rock to Gorge Creek. Beautiful blue water half-day run, with a couple of standout bigger rapids and lots of fun stuff in between. The section starts out with a couple of nice boof ledges and some read and run, before reaching my personal highlight on this section- ‘Tiger Jaws’, a big boof that flows immediately into a steep, pushy ramp. Massive rapid ‘Triple Falls’ follows, which semi-collapsed in a huge flood and is now a pretty monstrous rapid! The river runs through a super scenic canyon, with lots of Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep leaping up and down crazy-steep cliffs!

As well as epic whitewater, the paddling community in Alberta are also first-class. Whether it was a quick after-work lap or a full-on canyon day, there were always plenty of paddlers keen to rally. Add to that some epic rocky mountain scenery and incredible wildlife, including bears, elk and cougars, and you’ve found yourself in a super special paddling playground!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part 2 of Best Day Ever. Stoked to see what’s in store for us next as we head West -the bar has already been set pretty high! *Disclaimer: you will likely develop an unhealthy addiction to one or more of the following whilst in Canada- cold brew coffee, soda cream slushies, freshly baked apple fritters. You’ve been warned.

Massive thank you to Benny Clark, Allen Yip, Louise Stanway, Kyle Sag and Gabrielle Nemigazinev, for all the good times on and off the water! Photos thanks to Benny Clark and Louise Stanway.

Follow Sal’s adventures – www.instagram.com/sal.montgomery

Sal’s creeker of choice for her Canadian road-trip is the Scorch Small, because (in her words) ‘it’s fast, fun and boofs like a dream!’

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