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30
Oct

Bren’s Park Jam 2021

I’ll be honest, I’ve been kayaking on my own a lot since the world turned upside down. It was a little bit spooky at first, but then I got used to it and even started to like it, but that’s a whole other side to the sport that is probably best not talked about. On the other end of that is kayaking with your friends. Laughing, learning, winning, losing, pushing each other and inevitably, sometimes, getting in over your head and having your friends have to help you out. It’s the side of the sport I love most, hanging out on the water with my friends and trying to come up with new lines to hit or tricks to learn.

Getting to experience this is beautiful, but being able to see that you’ve helped to create an environment that encourages it is something special.

It’s been a while since we last had the opportunity to put a Park Jam session on, and this year’s tour was short and hurriedly organised as myself and my sponsors realised that I had just enough time to fit something in between projects, juggling responsibilities, and navigating ever-changing travel restrictions and rules.

Back on the water at Cardiff was special. We had the entire day there to session, and in the morning when the pumps were turned down, it was quiet and I could work on teaching specific skills to the kids. Whether that was surfing, catching eddies, or hitting rock spins, I’m always a bit surprised with just how much you can learn on this little park. Outside of the pumped whitewater, one of my favourite things to teach at Cardiff is the front flip / loop off the docks. Doing it this way means that the kids can try multiple times, get a perfect start to the trick, and learn the most important part of the loop, which is snapping back to finish the trick. I’m always shocked at how many kids learn to do it this way and again I think it comes down to them being encouraged by other kids and having a fun environment to learn in. A few kids figured it out and hit their first loops off the dock, and I loved seeing their faces as they finished the trick; surprised, stoked, and wondering whether that was right as it all happened so fast? I remember that same feeling from a long time ago when I was learning that trick. The highlight for me when teaching that part of the session was watching a kiddo called Charlotte consistently hit massive air loops off the dock for her first time and for her to be cheered on by her dad from his kayak.

In the afternoon, the pumps turned up, the park got busier, and we had a small freestyle session before getting back in the half-slice kayaks and cranking out laps. I found one or two new lines down the park for myself and I had a great time teaching people how to wallride and splat, these tricks are especially good at Cardiff. We closed off the session by showing a new edit I’ve been working on, having a Q&A session, and throwing out some prizes and giveaway’s kindly provided by the sponsors that get behind the Park Jam.

Packing up, we had a few days off before heading to Lee Valley for an evening session.

I’m not too into small, techie freestyle tricks at the moment, but the kids at Lee Valley are all about it, so I jumped in one of the Above and Below demo kayaks and went out on the smaller Legacy park first to session some of the freestyle spots with the kids. It was really cool to session this side of the sport again and especially to help the kids hit some of the harder tricks they’ve been working on. A lot of them were at the point that the trick was so close to happening, they just need one or two small tweaks to get it, which is a really rewarding time to be sharing the water and ideas with them.

There were also a few kids that hadn’t passed their test to go on the bigger park and I had a good time sessioning with them as we found one or two harder eddies and boof lines to hit.

Heading out onto the bigger park, I honestly sort of hurt my neck, as my head whipped from right to left trying to watch all of the rad things happening. It’s been over two years since I have seen a lot of the kids out here and it is insane how good they have all gotten. The time for tips was over and instead, we were just sessioning and trying to come up with new things to hit. It was magic. Honestly some of the most fun I have had on the water all year.

The best part of it for me was not only seeing all the skills, but seeing everyone just having a laugh while doing it, regardless of how good they are in a kayak, everyone was trying something new and having a good time doing it.

Which when people ask me what the Park Jam is all about, that’s it, right there.

Huge thank you to my sponsors that get behind the Park Jam, the parks that give us the time on the water, and the local kayaking communities that show up!

Catch you on the water next year,

Bren

14
Oct

How to Buy a Canoe or Kayak in 2022

We’ve been making canoes & kayaks for over 50 years, and every year, sales begin to slow as the winter approaches. That is, until last year.

We saw the necessary re-arrangement of workstations to ensure a Covid-secure environment for our staff as an opportunity to also improve the efficiency of our factory layout and processes – a good job, as following the easing of the first national lockdown in June of 2020, we saw a surge in demand of more than double that additional manufacturing output we’d unlocked!

We worked hard to meet demand, anticipating the usual slow-down of winter, except… it never came. We were delighted to be able to retain full staffing levels throughout the winter of 2020, and yet our lead times were still growing, even with these sustained production levels.

Now approaching the winter of 2021, demand for our canoes and kayaks remains phenomenal; we’ve never seen so many newcomers to the sport, and we couldn’t be happier about that!

The problem we face is certainly not one we’re going to complain about, but we want to be open with you and help ensure you’re fully aware and able to avoid disappointment when purchasing a canoe or kayak in the coming year, whether it’s your first or your next.

A month or so ago, we invited our network of specialist dealers to place pre-orders for 2022 production; the response was overwhelming, and we’re now deep into planning our production schedule for the coming year. What is abundantly clear, however, is that we cannot possibly make as many canoes and kayaks as have been ordered.

It’s important to note that these boats have all been sold into our dealer network, and the vast majority are still available to purchase by you once they arrive with those dealers.

Global shipping is wrought with delays, and the reason dealers have pre-ordered so much stock is that demand has been exceptional and sustained, so it is still important to place your order early to ensure you have your boat in plenty of time for the adventures you have in mind, but there’s no need to panic.

We have received numerous emails from paddlers lately asking when particular models and colours will be in stock with dealers, and the truth is, we don’t know. Our small team is focused on producing and shipping orders to arrive with dealers as close to their requested delivery date as possible, but the difficulties with shipping add a generous helping of uncertainty to this schedule, and only the dealer will know which boats are available or have been pre-sold.

For maximum success in securing ownership of a new canoe or kayak in 2022, our advice is to contact your favourite dealer early, be aware that it may not be possible to get your first choice of colour, and be prepared to wait a little longer than usual.

We really, truly, sincerely appreciate your interest in our canoes and kayaks, and we cannot wait to make a LOAD more friends on the water in 2022!

Happy paddling,

Pyranha

06
Oct

Ripping it Up in Extreme Slalom

The 2021 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships took place in Bratislava, Slovakia recently, and despite a strong showing in Extreme Slalom from athletes paddling other manufacturers’ boats, the Ripper still came out on top!

The US’s up and coming young hotshot, Evy Leibfarth came away with a Bronze medal in the Women’s Extreme Slalom Final, beaten only by Germany’s Elena Apel (also paddling a Ripper), and Australia’s unstoppable force, Jessica Fox (daughter of the famous Richard Fox, who saw multiple podiums throughout the late-70s and early-80s in our kayaks).

© Filip Nagy / Red Bull Content Pool

Great Britain’s very own Joe Clarke also wielded the Ripper to great success and bagged a Gold medal in the Men’s Extreme Slalom Final.

© Dezső Vekassy

Congratulations to all of those seriously impressive athletes!

Rumour has it that as Extreme Slalom has become more competitive, particularly now it has been entered into the Olympic program for 2024, some more precise testing has been done on boat speeds, and the Ripper is still on top despite the multiple competitors that have entered the market from other brands; the above results certainly support that!

04
Oct

Glen Etive Hydro Schemes: WE NEED YOUR HELP

Construction is underway on 7 new ‘run of the river’ hydro schemes in Glen Etive. Four tributaries in the Glen are often paddled and an unprecedented legal agreement has been reached with the developers that will allow paddlers to shut down the hydro schemes for a few hours when they want to paddle any of these tributaries: Allt a’ Chaorainn / Allt Mheuran / Allt Ceitlein & Allt Fhaolain.

Over the next 6 months, we need paddlers to submit details whenever they paddle any of the tribs. There are new levels gauges at the get-in point for each trib.

This information will inform how much water will flow down the whitewater sections of each trib when the on-demand systems are activated.

Your help and support is vital and appreciated.

09
Sep

Scorchin’

Now, us shorties were pretty peeved with Pyranha for leaving us until last and making us wait longer than everyone else. Good news though, the Scorch Small has landed! And you know what, it was worth the wait. Pyranha, you are forgiven!

There are limited perks from sitting through a mostly dry British summer, however, one awesome thing that came out of it was that I was around to test out this new hottie! In the weeks leading up to the big launch, my skills of annoying Mat at Pyranha HQ were stronger than ever. In fact, my daily badgering probably helped to speed things along (you’re welcome!).

On initial introductions, I secretly thought my new friend looked a little on the chunky side, but being a polite Brit, I kept my thoughts to myself. Trying not to judge at first sight and knowing that all the best relationships need a bit of adjustment, we found a quiet corner and got to know one another.

It’s easy to get tempted into rushing straight to the fun stuff, but before hitting the river you gotta work on that connection. So do your boat admin! Foot pod swapped out for the larger one (contact your dealer or Pyranha directly if you’re like me and need the footplate further up the boat and the standard pod doesn’t fill the majority of the space!) and plate moved up, seat jacked up, and hip pads bulked out. We were pretty much there. Well, almost anyway. Not all riders opt-in, but I’m all about the ‘Hookers’. More thigh brace means more connectivity with your boat and therefore more fun. Bring on them leany boofs!

Now in full shortie-mode, the prep was done and it was time to put our new friendship to the test. Would it be awkward? Would it be love at first paddle stroke?

For a moment it felt like familiar territory; like I was back in my beloved 9R II. As we hit the whitewater though, any sense of familiarity immediately turned to excitement. This was a younger, snappier, and more playful version of my previous love. Let’s go!

Imagine the feeling you get with your trusted creek or river boat. Solid, chargey, and it’s got your back on the big stuff. Now think about your awesome-fun slicey boat that lets you move around the river with ease, you can put it where you want it, and it’ll surf all day long. Now combine them. Mind blown? Yep, that’s the Scorch.

Even better, it now comes in small, so we short-asses don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The suggested paddler weight range goes from about 40kg up to 75kg, but as always, it’s best to go try it out and see how it feels. Just don’t forget your boat-admin! Your boat should fit you like a glove. Each of my boats are outfitted specifically for me, my river shoes, and my gear (I’ll probably need more hip pads when I’m wearing my boardies in the summer, compared to my drysuit in the winter. Or just when I’ve eaten a lot of cake).

If you know you have pretty short legs and always have to move the footrest closer to you, then have a watch of the video below for tips on changing your foot pod out for a bigger one:

Big thanks to Pyranha for leading the way with another epically awesome boat (even if you did leave us shorties until last). Super stoked to get this new beast out!

Scorch Small Tech Specs

Length: 259cm
Width: 62cm
Weight: 21kg
Recommended paddler weight: 40-75kg

Questions that have been coming in…

Should I leave my trusty 9R or 9R II for the new Scorch?

I love both the 9R and 9R II, but I also love ripping around the river in my Ripper. The Scorch combines the best characteristics of each of the models, giving you confidence in your ride as well as a whole lot of fun! If this sounds appealing, then definitely go test one out on your local!

Is the small Scorch bigger or smaller than my 9R II M?

The Scorch Small is smaller than the 9R II M. The small Scorch is 13cm shorter (259cm vs 272cm), 3cm narrower (9R II M is 65cm, small Scorch 62cm), 1kg lighter (21kg, compared with 22kg) and the paddler weight range is just 40-75kg, compared to the 9R II M’s range of 65-100kg.

Although stats are useful for getting an idea, nothing beats going and trying it out for yourself!

Why do I need to change out my foot pod?

Not everyone will need to, but if you’re lacking in the leg length department then you probably should pull out the standard pod and swap it for a larger one. This should make adjusting the footrest way easier, as well as fill some of the extra space. You can either ask your dealer for the bigger pod or get in touch with Pyranha directly. Don’t forget to use the self-adhesive foam pad supplied with your boat to further fill empty space, as well as provide extra protection for your ankles.

When can I order a small Scorch?!

Right now! Get in touch with your local dealer to see when they’re expecting stock!

All photos by Phil Bulkeley – @philbulkeleyphotography

01
Sep

Product Issue Notification: Drain Bung Leakage

We’ve been made aware of a number of Pyranha Kayaks produced since January 2021 which have insufficient sealant around the drain bung collar, leading to a noticeable ingress of water into the kayak.

If you suspect your kayak may be affected, the simplest solution is to remove the drain bung collar by removing the two, self-tapping screws on either side, twisting the collar clockwise, and then pulling upwards to remove it completely.

Clean any existing sealant from the collar and surface of the kayak using your fingernail or carefully with a sharp knife, and re-apply a generous amount of clear, silicone sealant or similar under the collar flange, before placing the drain bung collar back into the boat and securing it in place with the self-tapping screws.

Use a gloved finger or a damp cloth to clean any excess sealant from around the collar flange.

Happy paddling!
Pyranha

02
Aug

NFC 2021

This is the best race that I go to. Over the years I have been to so many races and freestyle competitions, but NFC just stands out in the crowd. The energy of this event is just unmatched in my opinion.

The race course is always very challenging. You are dropping in on a big water class V rapid and trying to hit these very difficult gates. Here you can see young buck Jeremy Nash crushing the course in the large Scorch!
Anna Wagner mentally preparing to drop into the chaos.
Anna dropping in!

From the top of the ramp you can basically see the entire race course. The crowd is just going off for each racer. Like I said the energy here is just amazing!

Holt Mcwhirt about to style the first 2 gates.

Gate number 1 to gate number 2 was the hardest move for most of us out there. You have to do this weird late boof while leaning over to not hit that first gate. Right of number 1 and left of number 2. After the 2nd gate the move was to charge to the right for another wild S turn to get to the left of gate 3. Then you charge at rock drop for an upstream gate at number 4.

Myself going high on gate 4. Some paddlers went high and around this one and others came low. I think coming in low might have been more consistent, but if you could stick it the way I was headed here it was very fast.

After gate 4 you basically had to ferry across one of the biggest holes on the North Fork over to gate 5 for another upstream gate. If you were able to clean these five gates it was pretty smooth sailing to the last 2 gates and into the finish line. Unfortunately, I missed one gate on each of my runs. To be honest it’s so tricky to put it all together out there it’s kind of hard to be disappointed. For me the stout ferry move was the least of my concerns, but of course thats the one that got me on my better of 2 runs.

Myself again flying at gate 4. This is called Rock Drop.
Holt and Jeremy preparing for their runs in true demshitz fashion.

This is a true demshitz style race. It’s hard, pretty short and fun as hell. NFC has plenty of none class V partying and paddling surrounding the event. There’s a film fest, boater X and festival that makes for such a great reunion of some amazing people in the community. I really cannot say enough about this event and the amount of people and work put into making it all happen!

We had all the boats out there, but honestly I was mainly answering questions about the Scorch.

After all, Pyranha did have 4 Scorch’s in the finals. Myself, Bernie Engelman, Jeremy Nash and Holt Mcwhirt were all paddling the Large Scorch out there. Maybe next year they will let us race the X! I personally have not paddled or hung out with this crew of young bucks much until this event. These dudes are the real deal. As demshitz get older and the new age of shit runners come into the picture I couldn’t be more happy with these guys and gals! From my view point Pyranha has been not been just about great paddlers, but more about great people. The folks that were out there representing our brand are such great people, hard workers and an awesome asset to Pyranha.

Keeping it Shrig out there.
Jeremy Nash 3rd place!

Man the crowd went wild when Jeremy Nash’s name was called up to the podium for a 3rd place finish. He smashed the race course out there!

Here is a quick look at the first 4 gates at the race. This was my first run. I was flying through the top 4 gates which I was most concerned with, but then I blew the ferry over to number 5.

Thanks to all involved with putting this amazing event together and thanks to John Webster and Jasper Gibson for the great photos! I will be back next year ! XXXXXXXXXXX

21
Jul

PYRANHA | BRT5

.: words – Carmen Kuntz

.: photos – Katja Jemec and Katja Pokorn

BALKAN RIVERS TOUR 5

You plan a kayak trip. You mark it in the calendar. Invite all your friends, stock up on provisions and lay it all out on a map. And then… your parents find out you didn’t pass your math test, and you’re grounded. Basically, that’s what happened to Balkan Rivers Tour 5.

We had planned to kayak the entire Sava River, from its source in the Julian Alps of Slovenia, to where it drains into the mighty Danube River in Belgrade, Serbia. We set aside an entire month, invited all our friends, gathered gear and research equipment, and made an interactive map of the 1000km trip through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. But when gatherings and international travel were taken from us – as if we were kids being grounded by our parents – we weren’t willing to give up our adventure. We just needed to get crafty.

So, we abandoned the standard Balkan Rivers Tour recipe of paddle, protest, press release, party. And came up with the idea to take a small crew – just 4 kayakers and a media team – down the Slovenian stretch of the Sava, and make a film from our journey. This way we would achieve the original objectives of Balkan Rivers Tour 5 (BRT5) – showcase the Sava, and stop the dams – with different means. Kind of like a grounded kid climbing out the bedroom window…

We loaded our kayaks with camping gear and we loaded the support van with beer and BBQ meat for this two-week river trip. We started as two crews, each paddling one of the two sources of the Sava River. On the north fork, called the Sava Dolinka, were the cousins, Branko and Rok. Myself and Bor started on the south fork, the Sava Bohinjka. The whole crew met on day two, where the two forks meet, and continued for the remaining 9 days as a team. 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. And our media crew captured all the moments along the way.

Rok and Branko started on the north fork of the Sava, called the Sava Dolinka.
Carmen and Bor started on Lake Bohinj before paddling the south fork of the Sava, called Sava Bohinjka.

* * *

Machno Multidays

As is common on river trips, you get to know each person’s subtle characteristics… fast. It didn’t take long to realize that each person in our tight crew had vastly different personalities and paddling styles, and at some point early in the trip, it became evident to me that the boat each person paddled in a way represented their personality and paddling style.

Branko cruising through Day 5 near Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana.
Carmen enjoying a little surf session on Day 6.

For example, Branko and I characterize the more mellow half of the crew. We like to stay in the flow and let the boat and the water do the work. We are into enjoyment, not overexertion. And we both search out the deep, beefy lines that represent maximum fun and minimum risk. We were paddling the Sava during its last push of snowmelt, so we found a couple of rapids to whet our big(er) water appetites. Branko found out that the top hole at the Tacen whitewater course can be quite sticky, while I found out how heavy a water-filled Machno is to clean up! But mostly we just enjoyed leaning back and taking in the views of this stunning river.

Branko post-Tacen, paying his respects to the river gods.

Branko took up bird watching, learning species names, habitats, and habits from Bor and Rok, the ornithologists. And I was in constant awe observing how humans and the river are so linked; how (some) people live so connected to this river and have such a traditional and respectful relationship. Castles, hundred-year-old stone houses and barns, traditional farming practices and even some stretches of river that are untouched by humans.

Rajhenburg Castle overlooking the Sava River, a river whose rich history constantly impressed the lone Canadian.

We both appreciated the generous volume of the Machno making it a great boat for multidays, but our advice… don’t load it too much! Portaging fully loaded Machnos around dams was not overly enjoyable, as we both found out early. But overall, we were grateful for the extra space, as we both carried the eDNA sampling gear in our boats. We stopped at predetermined locations on the river to collect eDNA samples with the goal of being able to provide another method of quantifying impacts man-made barriers have on the river. Using a drill machine to power a water pump, we pushed river water through special filters, that a crew of ichthyofauna specialists would later analyze in the lab for the presence of fish DNA (isolated from skin, scale, and faeces particles caught in the filter), to get a picture about the fish diversity in the threatened and last free-flowing section of the Sava. 

eDNA sampling below hydro dam Boštanj near the town of Sevnica, hometown of Melania Trump.
Sampling on the Sava Bohinjka, at the take out of the popular kayaking section.

* * *

The Dipper and the Ripper

Bird watching from a kayak turned out to be an efficient and effective way to count the winged residents of the Sava.

In contrast to our laid-back paddling style, Bor, the youngest member of our team, used his excess of energy to send the tail of his Ripper up and down, mimicking one of the water birds we were counting, called a dipper. This stout little blackbird is named after its constant dipping movement, bobbing up and down on rocks close to the water. He is a whitewater master and can be seen diving in and out of the water hunting for insects. Underwater, it flies/swims using its wings to propel it against surprisingly strong currents. The dipper, or Cinclus Cinclus, was one of many water birds that we were counting along the Sava, and appropriately, Bor was leading the waterbird survey. He kept a notebook in his PFD, dividing the river into segments based on the type of river stretch (free-flowing, dammed, altered, etc.) and recording every water bird we saw.

With camp spots like this, it was sometimes hard to believe we were on an 11-day river trip in the middle of Europe.

The Ripper made for a fun river running boat, and Bor burned energy zipping up eddies, rocketing downstream and on the flat water of reservoirs he also kept pace quite well with Rok and his 9R II. Rok was constantly chirping Bor and taunting him to try tricky lines and perfect his stern squirt, rock splats, and play moves while also ensuring Bor didn’t miss any birds while spending time upside down.

Bor’s stern squirt in progress…not pictured here.

* * *

Green Water, Green Boat

Rok on the upper Sava, where he learned to kayak, fish and respect rivers.

And then there is Rok, the founder of Balkan River Defence, and the tour organizer, film producer, and Sava River local. It’s this river that he first learned to swim, to fish, and to kayak. From his early paddling days spent honing whitewater skills on the Sava Bohinjka, to long days wading the water with a fishing rod in hand, Rok knows the Sava River well. But, he had never paddled the whole river stretch in Slovenia. So, this trip was about exploration for him too.

With the most paddling experience of our crew, Rok often ran rapids first, and when necessary set safety for the group. His electric green 9R II matched the bright green of the spring foliage along the river, and contrasted some of the deep green pools. His smooth paddling style, large paddle blades and long wingspan made him hard to keep up with at times. We noticed this especially as the flow of the river diminished, and the clear flowing water and bleached pebble gravel bars of the upper Sava were replaced by the stagnant water and mucky banks of reservoirs.

We portaged around more than a dozen dams. And with each one, our collective mood worsened. The contrast of knowing what the upstream sections of the Sava looked and felt like was particularly painful. But after a few days on the water, we realized our forced modifications to the tour turned out to be a benefit, allowing us to focus only on the Slovenian stretch of the Sava, which is the most threatened, with 10 new dams planned. This was why the bird survey and water sampling were especially important. This data was actually more important than collecting film footage, as it would become our ammunition for the fight to keep these 10 dams from being built, and the film would be the vessel to distribute this information.

Sleeping below a dam is never a comfortable feeling.

After we struggled through flatwater and portages of the lower Sava, the flow came back, and with it our good mood. We were collectively amazed by how quickly the river regained life after the chain of hydroelectric dams. Dippers and kingfishers replaced the ducks and swans of the reservoirs and as we neared the Croatian border, we were even treated to another set of rapids, which would disappear if these new dams are built. With our blood pumping again, we were reminded of how resilient rivers are, and that if we keep our impact to a minimum, healthy humans and healthy rivers can coexist.

Around the next few river bends, the whitewater would dwindle, and the river would continue south into the Balkans. But we would not. We were ‘grounded’ after all, and as much as the Sava tempted us to continue, we were grateful for the time we spent getting to know this river.

We were able to salvage BRT5, and it turned out to be an incredibly fun tour where we were able to highlight the most threatened part of the Sava, and with the documentary, which will be released in early 2022, we will be able to share this river with more people than could ever attend a BRT flotilla.

With the last treat of fast-flowing water, Balkan Rivers Tour 5 ended just a few hundred meters from the Croatian border.

08
Jul

MisoXperience

During the last week of May, in a picturesque valley in the south of Switzerland, for the first time, we held the kayaking festival, MisoXperience. Pyranha was happy to jump on board and used the opportunity to become a valuable partner for the Festival. 

The MisoXperience started with a two day Rescue3-course lead by Neil Newton and Reinhold Riedener. On Thursday, the big festival tent opened officially and local drinks were served from the bar. Friday morning most of the visitors arrived at the MisoXperience.

The athletes had big goals for the Boater-Cross and were practising on the racecourse. Kayakers with different skill levels were enjoying workshops by Mike Kurt, Kees Van Kuipers or Severin Häberling. Mike as a multiple Olympic athlete taught the boaters how to enjoy a ripper with slalom technics. The workshops with Kees were all about safety and Severin went with the less experienced paddlers on the Boater-Cross section.

The professional rescue Team was repeating and training their abilities during this time. This led to a very special ambience. As a kayaker told me, “It was so cool how many people were at and on the river. Whenever you looked up there was someone smiling to you from the shore or out of an eddy.” When everyone came off the water a delicious dinner and a cold beer were waiting for them.

To regenerate and have enough energy for the next day, we ended with a couple of kayaking movies and some folks enjoyed the campfire until they went to bed. Saturday started early for the more serious athletes who had some warmup runs. Some boaters came straight from their tents to the start ramp of the friendly race.

With some good tunes and the cheers of the crowd, everybody was ready to paddle fast. When the 16 fastest male and the 4 fastest female kayakers were qualified for the boater-cross. Everyone else was allowed to start at the Grand Prix Misox. At the Grand Prix Misox, all paddlers started together and enjoyed the Moesa-River as a big group.

In the late afternoon, the Boater-cross/extreme-slalom Swiss championships were held on the most difficult section of the river. It was a perfect racecourse, there was more than one winning strategy and everyone had a chance of winning a heat. For the final, we had top athletes from slalom, downriver racing and whitewater kayaking battling it out. The crowd was amazed by the spectacle and Dimitri Max, the second place extreme-slalom European champion, took home the title of swiss champion.

Before Sunday arrived and everybody went on their own adventures, like paddling the famous Verzasca, the paddlers stayed at least one more night at the festival ground, where we had some amazing Risotto, cooked by the local carnival society for dinner. With filled stomachs and cold beverages, we celebrated everyone’s achievements into the night.

05
Jul

The River That Keeps On Giving

It’s 7.30 pm, you’ve made it only ¼ of the way down the river in the past 2.5 hours, and no one has done the river before. What do you do?

On a trip to Osterdalen a few weeks ago, a group of 6 of us set off to do the Hira river. We didn’t know a huge amount about it, other than it was 12km of class 3-4 creeking. I think there’s something pretty special about doing a river that no one knows and finding your own way down, it really adds to the adventure! After doing the 23km Middle Atna in 2.5 hours in the morning, we set off at 5 pm for a quick evening blast down the river.

Starting off as a narrow ditch on flat moorland at the top of the valley, the Hira gives no sign of the drops and slides hidden below. Your only hint is the steep gradient from the shuttle drive. After some winding sections with small, blind rapids, and a slight concern of trees in the river, we reached the first proper horizon line – an 8-foot boof with a shallow lead-in. My line was not the cleanest, with a shallow lead in making it difficult for me to get a good boof, but I made it down and set up to take photos of the rest of the group.

Matt launching off the first drop. Photo: Glen Martin

The Hira continued in this manner, with easier in-between rapids interspersed by drops and bigger rapids. 6 people was definitely a big group for the river especially with all the scouting required. We were moving slowly, with some added photo faff, and after a couple of hours I checked where we were on my phone. We had only made it about 2km down the 12km stretch of river! It was time to get moving…

One of the trickier rapids on the river: a manky entry drop into a boily eddy line which you had to power through to line up for this drop, before the river narrowed and pushed into the left wall. Photo: Glen Martin

On reaching a bridge that marked the quarter-way point, I voiced my concerns with the group. The only information we had to go on was a video that a few people had watched, which finished after the last drop we had paddled. So that meant the action was over, right? But that didn’t sit well with me – why would anyone paddle 9km flat water when there was an easy take out right there?

The “last drop” on the river, according to the video.

The choice had to be made – either we got out and walked 3km back to the cars at the put-in, or we carried on and accepted that we could be in for a pretty late night! Thankfully the lack of darkness in the Norwegian summer makes the choice to continue a lot less stressful, the decision we made, and on we went. 

The rest of the river was amazing. It was filled with drops and slides, clean boofs and mank, and long flat sections to regroup and make some distance. Just when you thought there couldn’t be anymore, you would round a corner to another horizon line. Although the river was probably the lower side of good, pretty much all of the rapids were good to go and we were rewarded by slide after slide and rapid after rapid of joy. I’d also prefer the river to bit a bit low and a bit high for the first time down, given the nature of the run and the small size of the eddies!

Scouting with the setting sun was a bit more challenging! At least it doesn’t actually get dark though. Photo: Glen Martin

Although the river was incredible, I have to say I was pretty happy to round the corner at 10.30 pm to see the takeout bridge. Exhausted and elated at the same time, we ran the shuttle, drove to camp, and enjoyed a well-earned beer! 

Osterdalen is an area not frequently visited by foreign kayakers because it is an early-season area, and the rivers are too low for most of the summer. However, it is a beautiful area filled with class 3-4 rivers which are perfect for aspiring creek boaters. It is very different from the “super-gnar” associated with Norway and I would highly recommend the area to any class 3/4 paddler.

Dream team! Kayaking is always better with friends.

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