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Nascar Racing with Plastic Kayaks: Finn Blackburn’s Road to Team USA.

Sometimes you have to dream big. So, Finnigan Blackburn decided he would go after a spot on Team USA. That seemed kinda like a place to start before OBJ started running in the summer. Of course, he had never run a slalom course, or actually been in a slalom boat, or run gates. But when you grow up in kayak town Salida, Colorado, those are just minor details. Finn began every day training in the river by himself, day after day, all winter long. He lifted at 5:30 am, went to school all day, and paddled into the winter darkness. He and his brothers would take a break to surf ice chunks to spice things up.

Then Finnigan hooked up with Team Colorado Whitewater and travelled to Montgomery, Alabama, for the US Open race. He borrowed the boat and duct-taped it between each run. He borrowed the skirt, the paddle, the PFD, and the helmet. He began to learn how a man-made course felt, and how the gates worked. He didn’t win. He rolled and he swam. The new kid just kept showing up. He didn’t finish last, but he was nowhere near first in his 20-year-old sinking boat. 

So, he came home, rinse and repeat. Back at the weights. Back in the river. Alone. Rocky Balboa Style.

Three weeks later, back in Montgomery, Alabama, still checking the trash cans at the boat house to see if someone was throwing away a gear upgrade. Still sewing up the skirt with fishing line and more silicone–more duct tape. Team USA trials started, and Finn again wasn’t at the top of the slalom racers. He gained a few slots. Still rolling, still getting worked–just on national TV this time.

Then came Kayak Cross. Nascar racing with plastic kayaks in the pristine land of slalom gates. Finnigan’s time trial wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best. However, a plastic boat, Finnigan knew. Grit, Finnigan knew. He was the youngest of four, growing up in the mountains raising steer. So, when it came time to drop head to head with three other paddlers, Finnigan came out of nowhere. 

The semi-finals were aggressive, with banging paddles, boats and a definitive elbow or two (or three). Three times Finnigan fought to the front of the pack, one time with the contender riding his tail. Then, when they hit the big drop, the others tilted, and Finnigan just boofed it, skipping the waves, slightly out of control but in full send mode.

Somehow, he battled out of that heat and landed a spot in the finals. That is when it all shifted. Once he pulled away, the race was over, and he finished seconds ahead of the others. The nobody kid smoked the field, swiping the junior national title and direct referral to the world championships in Slovakia–valid.

For now, Finnigan is training daily in the Salida Whitewater Park in his red Pyranha Ripper and old borrowed slalom boat. His next obstacle is raising enough money for his trip to Slovakia to represent the USA in the world championships. He has a GoFundMe page if you are interested in supporting his growing dream. After this, Finnigan will have to decide if he wants to pursue an Olympic dream.

“Earning a place of the Jr National Team was not my goal when I went to the Olympic Trails in Montgomery. First of all, most of my gear was borrowed and slightly broken, secondly, I had never even seen a man-made course, much less paddled one, thirdly I had never been coached, and everyone else there had years of professional coaching, lastly and most importantly- I had never been in a Kayak Cross race.  I just decided to send it and go for it anyway and give it everything I had.  

Well, I certainly learned a lot, and when I got to the semifinals, I really couldn’t believe it. There I was sitting up on the ramp, about to race with legends. I was totally blown away. I just dropped and fought and paddled with all the grit I had, and then I was out in front. No more fighting at each gate, just me paddling and skipping across the waves. The rhythm was beautiful; it felt like flying.

Winning a spot on the Jr National Team is important to me because I feel like, for once, my pure love of the river and kayaking has taken me somewhere. Just doing what I love has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.  

Training has been relentless these last few weeks. Two different coaches have come to Salida to help me learn better technique, but each day, I feel like I have improved so much. The next three weeks, I will be paddling the Grand Canyon with my brother. My focus on the Grand will be fitness. I plan to do sprint workouts each day on the flat water sections and send it big on all the rapids. I can’t wait!

Once I get off the Grand, I will be heading to Europe for some formal coaching and training on the course in Slovakia. I am excited to meet and work with the kayak cross coaches. I am also stoked to meet other kids my age who are crazy about the river and share my passion. I hope that they will push me to achieve beyond anything I could have dreamed!”


Your ReactR and Elite Outfitting Questions Answered

Damn! We don’t think we’ve ever seen such an immediately overwhelming response to a new release… thank you so much for all the love and interest in the ReactR and the Elite Outfitting System it features!

We’ve noticed a few common questions about both, and you’ll find the answers to many of those in our deep dives, and the ReactR and Elite Outfitting walkthrough videos, which you can find below:

Embrace the new era of whitewater kayaking. The most progressive creek boat to hit the rapids since the 9R, the ReactR is here: Read ‘ReactR: A New Era of Whitewater Kayaking’

We didn’t just go back to the drawing board with our outfitting redesign; we built it again, from the hull up: Read ‘This Outfitting is Elite’

About to jump on the river and want the answers to the most frequently asked questions right now? Here you go:

Does the ReactR feature new outfitting?

Yes, the ReactR comes with our new Elite outfitting system, which has been redesigned from the hull up. This is a complete overhaul, reducing the overall boat weight (it’s a bigger boat than the Scorch, but lighter), markedly improving both comfort and connection to the boat, and adding to the ease and range of adjustment, all without compromising on safety, durability, or cost.

How reliable are the backrest cleats?

We’ve done extensive development and testing to ensure our new backrest system retains all the pros of a cleat system, adds more to the list, and negates the downfalls seen in other cleat-based systems. Our system uses high-strength Dyneema cord and high-quality aluminium racing cleats, both of which have excellent longevity and work together reliably. We’re excited for you to discover and enjoy the benefits of this setup!

Does Elite outfitting include hookers?

Yes, and what’s more, these ones have 3-way adjustment for leg angle, amount of grip, and the usual forward/backward adjustment.

How has the seat adjustment changed?

Seat height is still adjusted by adding shims under the seat pad, but the forwards/backwards adjustment is now done by removing a single wingnut, quickly sliding the seat to where you want it, and then replacing it.

What’s the knee-padding situation?

The ReactR thigh grips have oversized pads which adjust with them and cover your knee.

Will the Elite outfitting system be coming to any other current models?

The only model we plan to fit Elite outfitting to other than the ReactR at the moment would be the GuiGui x Pyranha freestyle boat which is still in development.

Can I fit Elite outfitting to my current Pyranha boat?

No, the Elite outfitting is not backwards compatible due to the necessary cockpit rim features and method of hull stiffener attachment.

Has the cockpit rim shape changed?

The outside shape of the ReactR’s cockpit rim is similar to the Firecracker’s, which we worked on in partnership with leading spraydeck manufacturers, but the inside has several changes related to the fitment of the new Elite outfitting system, and in particular, a deepening and padding of the area of the cockpit rim that rests on your shoulders/against your hip during carrying.

When can we expect to see the Medium/Large/Small ReactR?

The Medium and Large are in production now, with the Small next in line to be cut. Availability thereafter will depend on geographic location, but they’re on the way!

How does the ReactR compare to the Scorch?

The ReactR is more dynamic and manoeuvrable, particularly with the looseness of the ends of the boat with the ability to do a “low angle pivot turn”. The additional width profile also allows paddlers to skip further, and faster, than ever before.

How does it compare to 9R/9R II?

The ReactR is faster through steep rapids, much more manoeuvrable (and at a wider range of speeds),  and has way more creeking capability. It also skips out of features faster, with the paddler having more control.

How much rocker does the ReactR have?

It’s hard to compare this to other boats, as the radical new hull design (our “Pivot Hull Philosophy”) doesn’t just seek to keep the boat high by adding a bunch of rocker at the bow, or to get the stern out the way with aggressive kick rocker, but the ReactR certainly rides dry and clears the lip of drops cleanly!

What length is the ReactR?

The Large is just under 9ft (274cm, to be precise), and the Medium just a touch shorter than that at 273cm.

Is the ReactR suitable for beginner/intermediate paddlers?

Absolutely! The same features that help the pros step up their game will help beginners and intermediates do the same. While the ReactR opens up the possibilities for developing new moves, it also makes the familiar ones easier to access. Its manoeuvrability is also a neat Get Out of Jail Free card if you realise you’ve picked the wrong line!

How does the sizing compare to other Pyranha boats?

We noticed the trend of paddlers sizing up in both creek boats and half slices, and so we took this into account when designing the ReactR, meaning each size is a little more generous, but still works well across the advisory weight ranges.

What are the weight ranges?

Medium: 70 to 95kg, Large: approx. 85 to 125kg (TBC), Small: TBC

How easy is it to access the stern, and how much gear can you get back there?

We’ve changed the connection between the backrest and seat so that it can be completely unclipped, and with the lower back edge of the Elite seat, it’s easy to get a two-piece split paddle and/or the typical size of dry bag for other gear back there.

How capable is it as a creek boat or half slice?

The ReactR is not a half (or any fraction) slice; it is a full-fat creek boat, just with agility and an overall design unlike any that has come before.

Happy paddling!


Pyranha Firecracker Review by 4Corners Riversports Athlete, Jack Juntunen

Short & Sweet. The Pyranha Firecracker is a blast on the water. It can shred slicing on Class III, plug spicy holes on Class IV, and launch huge kickflips off any wave. I’ve paddled it on the legendary Futaleufu and Upper Palguin in Chile, and the slicey section of the Soča in Slovenia.

For reference, I am 5’9 ~130lbs and I’m paddling the Firecracker 232. I have paddled a Ripper 1 S and Ripper 2 S extensively, and have a slalom and racing background.

Creeking & Slicing

Photo by Max Zuberbulher

The stern on this boat is designed with fun in mind. On flatwater, I get it in a stern stall with a singular double pump. On small seams and boily water, it can easily stern squirt in circles with minimal paddler input, the stern is short enough that it doesn’t stern tap as frequently as boats like the Ripper 1 or 2 in shallow creeks. One well-timed back sweep on a seam instantly gets the bow up.

While creeking, the bow of this boat stays nice and dry. It has more rocker than an Antix 2.0 but is stubbier than a Ripper and can loop relatively easily out of a hole. The wave deflectors shed water off the deck quite effectively, and landing a boof off a short (~4’) drop like the double drop on the Upper Palguin really lets its light and nimble benefits come to fruition.

Big Water

POV from Jack Juntunen

This boat is short, yet it holds hull speed through boils remarkably well, and with one powerful stroke you can easily kickflip. Paddling it through the formidable Inferno Canyon was the ultimate test, and required a different style of paddling by punching right through the holes bigger than you might expect. The Firecracker’s speed and stability allow you to really focus on stroke timing to absolutely launch it off waves.


Photo by Jack Juntunen

The Firecracker has the Pyranha Stout 2 Outfitting. The molded yet wide seat, combined with an ergonomic ratchet backband and well-placed, adjustable thigh hooks, makes the boat comfortable and take drops well.

Thanks to 4Corners Riversports for sharing this post with us!


This Outfitting is Elite

Moving on from what we strongly felt was a solid outfitting system that didn’t compromise on safety, weight, cost, or durability was hard, but we heard your feedback, and we’re excited that we’ve managed to hit a number of your key requests, whilst still avoiding compromise on those crucial points.

We didn’t just go back to the drawing board with our outfitting redesign; we built it again, from the hull up. Featured in the ReactR, the new Elite outfitting system provides the widest range of paddlers yet with ultimate comfort and control.

Solid, Speedy Seat Position Adjustment

You can now adjust the ergonomic seat forwards and backwards in a matter of seconds, without tools, to find the perfect centre of gravity to suit your unique style and loadout.

3-Way Adjustable Hooker Thigh Grips

The adjustable thigh grips are a game-changing feature, with three-way adjustment that accommodates a range of leg angles and allows for your choice of grip, as well as the usual forward/backward adjustment. Choose the position, angle, and hold for your legs to experience our most responsive, precision fit yet, and enjoy the comfort of the oversized pads that extend over your knees and move with the thigh grips.

Rapid, Reliable Backrest Adjustment

The backrest adjustment features high-grade aluminium racing cleats with an internal pulley to redirect the direction of pull towards the paddler, so your back forms a concave rather than convex arch when tightening for a better fit. This also makes it easier to lock off the cleats, as your arms aren’t at full stretch or fighting the curve of the cockpit rim when doing so.

The system gives a 2:1 mechanical advantage for ease of getting a snug fit and uses a thick Dyneema cord for reliable durability and a secure fit in the cleats. If the worst does happen, you can easily replace the backrest cord in the field, wherever your adventures have taken you.

As well as being wider, which gives you better contact and control, with no gap in comfort between it and the hip pads, the backrest is shallower, which means you can get better placement in the small of your back, with a greater range of adjustment up and down using the height adjustment strap and backrest bungees.

Extreme Comfort

Hip pads with flexible adjustment options in both position and fit, as well as simple, solid seat height adjustment using foam shims, mean you can fully customize your seat. The backrest is also wider and won’t pinch, and along with the seat liner, features entirely new padding that is more comfortable than you ever thought possible!

Easy Access Stern Storage

A lower rise at the back of the seat, and a height adjustment strap that completely detaches, mean that you can also easily access the back of the kayak for storing rescue equipment, camera gear, or overnight kit.

Ergonomic Cockpit Design

Along with the familiar essentials such as an adjustable bulkhead footrest, airbag lash points, quick-access throwline attachment point, and bottle holder, the intuitive cockpit design contributes to a system that maximises your control, enabling you to get the most from this progressive hull design.

No More Sore Shoulders

You’ll be pleased to hear we also made carrying WAY more comfortable by adding more depth to the internal edge of the cockpit rim and adding pads that rest on your shoulder and hip, whichever side you carry your boat—so get ready to go explore those hike-in/hike-out runs!

An Eye on Sustainability

Last but by no means least, reimagining our outfitting offered the perfect opportunity to review its lifecycle, and we’ve paid careful attention to ensuring Elite outfitting can easily be disassembled and recycled at the end of its life.


ReactR: A New Era of Whitewater Kayaking

Embrace the new era of whitewater kayaking. The most progressive creek boat to hit the rapids since the 9R, the ReactR is here.

Head downriver in a way you’ve never experienced before; whether you’re dropping into a steep gorge, threading tight lines between thunderous features, or even upping your game on a local river, the ReactR leaves ordinary creek boats in its wake.

Ride higher and drier in rapids, scream into eddies faster than ever, and find your line without any limitations. This is our most innovative design and opens the doors to the world of river running for kayakers of all abilities.

Whether you’re just learning how to lift the nose over stoppers or you’re looking to clock up some serious air miles, the ReactR allows you to skip over tricky river features, not just with ease, but with style and a huge smile.

What’s more, with unmatched agility and precision, the ReactR allows you to choose your own lines. The nimble frame and responsive handling make it the ultimate tool for conquering every twist and turn the river throws your way. 

The “Pivot Hull Philosophy”

We’ve spent significant time developing an entirely new style of hull, with a perfectly positioned pivot point and two planing surfaces, one in front and another behind, which the paddler can switch between with ease. This means the boat is stable both when landing a drop on the bow and when planing out of features on the tail. You want that skip, and we’ve delivered.

The pivot point position, where the front and back rockers converge, allows you to de-weight the bow and swing it around or up over features. With your weight forward, you can feel the glide and control from the front of the boat. 

We have utilised our new pivot hull philosophy to allow the paddler to choose the kayak’s pitch in real time. This allows you to release the bow and gain ultimate mobility, but all without that tail getting bogged down or going underwater.

This is Not a Half Slice

Whether a quarter, half, or ¾, the ReactR isn’t a slicey boat, where volume has just been removed from the deck. The ReactR’s tail is not designed to be underwater, but to allow water to slide around it. Soft sidewalls above and below result in minimal pressure buildup from side currents and mean you can move when you need or want.

Design Breakdown

  • The ReactR hull has been perfected to enable direction changes when flat without tripping over the tail.
  • An innovative rocker profile takes sidewall pressure away from the ends of the kayak, allowing you to make last-second adjustments and carve into and, if need be, straight back out of eddies.
  • The bow profile has been completely rethought from first principles to give smoother water entry, a lifting point closer to the paddler for more horizontal skips, and to allow cross currents to pass under the kayak without knocking you off your line.
  • The “Pivot Hull Philosophy” allows the paddler to control the kayak’s direction at any speed.
  • ⁠The ReactR’s tail design has been honed to stay on top of the water when heading downstream, but enable rapid direction changes through low-angle pivot turns while keeping your weight over the front and your forward momentum strong.
  • The hull efficiently glides out of features and retains upstream speed in ferries and attainments, yet still gets out of your way quickly during boofs.
  • The dynamic bow captures the flow running over it and directs it under the kayak for increased speed and optimal planing performance.
  • High edges on the bow and stern mean an agile yet predictable carving experience. The paddler can transfer edge easily and fluently without feeling unstable or locked into a position.

New Ideas. New Possibilities. A New Era of Whitewater Kayaking.

The ReactR enables you to push the boundaries of what’s possible on the river, and Team Pyranha’s very own Bren Orton has already been dialling in new techniques in the kayak throughout the prototyping process.

“The ReactR opens up a whole new realm of river running; within just a few days of paddling the prototype, I’d already unlocked a new technique for whipping the kayak over wave trains! 

Following that up with some testing in Brazil, I found I could read and run rapids better than ever before because the ReactR allowed me to react and manoeuvre my kayak so quickly. I’m stoked to spend more time in it!”

This design delivers truly new possibilities. It allows the paddler to double pump, sweep the tail along the water, and boof at any angle. This precision allows for a dynamic range of options in the most technical whitewater.

The Conclusion

The ReactR is a fusion of what paddlers need and what they may have never experienced. It’s designed to give ultimate control in uncontrollable environments, leaving you free to react in the moment and embrace your instincts. This boat takes familiar principles and makes them second nature so you can focus on opportunities you may not have considered before.

The ReactR isn’t just a kayak – it’s a statement about Pyranha’s commitment to leading the charge and progressing the sport through design innovation. Its development tore up the rulebook on creek boat design and rewrote it. Get involved.

Oh, and it comes with an entirely new outfitting system, too…

Our new Elite outfitting system has been redesigned from the hull up to give you optimal control of the ReactR’s progressive hull design, but we’ll tell you more about that in this separate blog post.


Which river runner?

Honestly it’s not easy to choose a Pyranha down river, half slice kayak these days. I currently have four of them sat outside my window vying for my attention to get loaded up on the car and taken to the river. 

I’m a stocky 73kg (160lbs) and I like to swap between the medium and large sizes of the Pyranha kayaks depending on how powerful the river is. 

The Large Ripper, arguably my favourite kayak ever. I can take this kayak to any kayaking zone on the planet and be stoked on my kayak of choice 90%of the time. The other 10% of the time I find myself wishing I had 100% of the Scorch L… but still, the vast majority of time I want to be in the Ripper L. I find it incredible for tallies, in a deep hole I can cartwheel it and when I’m running rivers I feel confident and fast. 

The Medium Ripper. The dust gathers on the cockit rim as it sits in between the favourite Ripper L and the fancy new Fire Cracker. The Medium Ripper is an incredible kayak but I can still get the large vertical easy enough and the extra volume makes river running much easier… Why then do I keep this kayak? Because every time I get in it I am shocked at what a weapon it is and the different skills I can use only in this kayak. It’s just a touch small for me to use with a camera bag and first aid kit in it on big chunky rivers. 

The Medium Fire Cracker. I was confident I wasn’t going to like it that much, all the way up until the first lap. Then I understood it for what it was, a kayaking motivational booster. There are days where the level isn’t that great but in the Fire Cracker I know I will have a good time and be able to find a way to challenge myself. The soft edges and extra width inspires confidence in less confident kayakers and it is ridiculously easy to tailie. This kayak makes me kayak more!

The Large Fire Cracker. This is a truly big kayak. I think it will be incredible for actually large sized kayakers for myself at my size it’s just too much boat to throw around and not think that you might throw one of your ribs out along with it. I find it pretty cool that it’s a genuinely big kayak for big people and has been scaled up well. I keep it in the fleet because I’m pretty sure I will hit the biggest loop ever in it when I eventually find the right hole to loop it in and it could be great to have the large version if I go back to Turkey again… Last years trip was at high water with the medium Fire Cracker and it was a touch sporty at times!

For now, on a medium low day on my local river, I’m taking the large Ripper. It’s cold and I don’t want to play that much but I still want to do a few tallies, surf some waves and hit all the lines really cleanly. When it warms up it will be time for the return of the Fire Cracker. 

Goodluck with your kayak choices, 

See you on the water, 



Pyranha Scorch X.

My first look at the Scorch as a base was through Instagram reels, as is the case for most of us. The instant thought about the boat’s behaviour was how it seemed to snake or slither between features, represented especially by the boaters paddling the Scorch.  When paddling the Scorch, you can imagine yourself in a video, catching a ribbon of flow, riding it, and gliding out.

Getting to use the Scorch X, I got the very same feeling… the boat glides. For a 10-foot boat, it is agile and manoeuvrable; you pick a line, and you get it. It feels like an extension of your movement on the water, whereas some boats may drag you offline, you feel comfortable that the X is heading where you want it to. The most unique thing about the X is its ability to carve and manoeuvre, although it’s a ‘long boat’; it’ll sit on a wave for hours, carve with ease, and then, once you’re done playing, it will throw down along the river, easily crossing eddy to eddy and picking up the bow over holes. The X has enough rocker to boof a house.

Most of my time boating has been in the Ozone; being a slice boat paddler 90% of the time, the expectation is that a big boat will be harder to paddle. Although the Scorch X has a gain in volume, it is not hard to move, still turning on a dime. The change is manageable, and it is a boat I expect to enjoy more with time.

I’ve had the opportunity to paddle the X on a high Dee, Ogwen, and the Llugwy’s Chip Shop Drop. The X, although capable on harder whitewater, can still excel on your local grade 3 rivers. It is playful in a hole but also forgiving and fast when you need it to be. Also, excelling on the technical moves of the Ogwen, quickly moving between features and has the speed to change lines quickly. On Chip Shop Drop, I found that the X absolutely soars if you put a big stroke in, gliding out straight after. The Scorch’s skip is a highlight of the boat, a feeling you look forward to.  I can’t wait to get it out on some more hard water.


‘Slightly’ White Water Kayaking Festive Paddle 2023

We’d organised Saturday’s Slightly Festive Paddle around 4 weeks ago. Around 15 paddlers met up for the paddle at TNR Outdoors; they’ve always been great supporters of the Slightly White Water paddling group.

We expected it to be cold, but not such high levels on the Dee! As it was a mixed group of abilities, we decided to get on at Carrog and paddle down to Horseshoe Falls. It was a nice, bouncy run down with some nice wave trains.

From Horseshoe Falls, some elected to paddle the river down to Mile End Mill, and others the canal, but we all met up for a prize giving for the most festive paddlers. Go Kayaking North Wales, based at Mile End Mill in Llangollen, kindly donated a Limited Edition Pyranha Christmas Jumper, as well as some Angry Fish Sponges as consolation prizes. It’s great to get support for grassroots events from a canoe and kayak shop like Go Kayaking.

Shellie Hughes won the jumper; she went the extra mile with a Christmas Tree Hat and a well-decorated boat.

We rounded out an overall great day with a lovely meal at the m’Eating Point in Llangollen town.


Park Jam 2023: IRELAND!

The final leg of the Park Jam Tour was upon us. This time, Liam Jay and myself would be heading out to Ireland from Pyranha HQ on the Friday. Demo boats and flags loaded we set off for the drive to Holyhead with plenty of time to spare. Wanting to make sure the demo Firecrackers were up to scratch, it was rather important we checked them out with a quick run down the Afon Ogwen along the way. Making it to our ferry on time, we set sail for a taste of the dark, creamy pints of Dublin. Well, maybe more than just a taste.

Arriving bright and early to Canoe Centre, based on the river Liffey, we unloaded and set up ready for the day ahead. The water levels were pretty high and the normal play feature had washed out, so some river trips were organised instead. I thought it was going to be a bit of a float down, but I was pleasantly surprised. Multiple weirs and a guided tour from local superstar, Robbie O’Shea made for an excellent run. The Ripper 2s and Firecrackers came into their own, with epic tailie spots and the young senders throwing really cool tricks the whole way down. After a quick change, some great pizza and burgers, and maybe another pint of Dublin, we all settled in for a presentation and film from Bren.

Sunday morning led us west; just outside of Limerick is Castleconnel, home to the final stop of the Park Jam tour. The Shannon, which winds its way through beautiful countryside, brought the community together, and the strong Limerick Kayak Club and Limerick Kayaking Academy hosted a well-organised gathering. On the water, Pyranha and Palm’s team paddlers got involved to shred and share tips, tell stories, and make new friends. Once again, we had a talk from Bren for the final time at a local sports hall, and prizes were handed out to paddlers who came along and got involved.

As expected, from the moment we arrived, the Pyranha and Palm team were welcomed with open arms by the Irish paddling community. This is the first time Park Jam has made it over to Ireland, and I’m so glad to have been a part of it. The Irish community is so strong, and the young paddlers coming through are super talented. Liam, Bren, and myself began the journey back to Pyranha HQ in high spirits after reminiscing about a great weekend. We can’t wait until next time!


British Universities Kayaking Expedition 2024 – Selection Event

The British Universities Kayaking Expeditions have taken place every two years (with a break for COVID) since 2005. I’d like to say we’ve got running the biennial selection event for the team down to a fine art given we’ve had a decade or two to refine it, but that would be a lie. Every year it still seems as though we are winging it! No rain makes the weekend a lot more labour-intensive, so it was with enormous relief that this year the rain gods were smiling on us!

The selection process involves a round of paper applications assessed by previous expedition team members, followed by gathering 20 of the best applicants together in North Wales for a long weekend of boating and partying.

Pretam showing steeze on the Staircase rapid.
Pretam ‘warming up’ on staircase rapid of the middle Conwy.
📷: Barra Liddy

An early morning scouting mission by some of the old boys formed the plan for the Friday. A warm-up on the Middle Conwy, followed by a lap of the Lledr. The highlight of the day’s paddling from a carnage perspective was watching a variety of lines on the Gobbler rapid, which was particularly unforgiving of anyone who had opted to paddle a half-slice!

Gobbler rapid on the middle Conwy
Gobbler rapid on the middle Conwy
📷: Tim Burne
A less than ideal line down the gobbler. Red boat facing the sky!
Sometimes you play the river, other times, it is the river’s turn.
📷: Barra Liddy
Mincer rapid on the Lledr
Mincer rapid on the Lledr
📷: Dave Stack

Friday night was destination proposals night, with customarily withering feedback provided by the walking river encyclopedia that is Dave Manby. A great array of suggestions were made with a particular highlight being the Tajikistan proposal, which was hilariously backed up by a traditional Tajik dance.

The hilarious interpretation of traditional tajik dancing
Unique interpretation of traditional Tajik dancing
📷: Seamus Smith

Saturday dawned dry and foggy, but the infamous North Wales test piece, the Fairy Glen still had enough juice to be perfect for people to tick off some ‘personal’ first descents. None of the applicants had run the river previously, so we split them into groups and set them off to run this section, which has some notoriously difficult-to-scout rapids. Excellent expedition practice!

The first gorge on Fairy Glen, Conwy
The first gorge on Fairy Glen, Conwy
📷: Tim Burne
Fairy Falls on the Glen
Fairy Falls on the Glen
📷: Tim Burne
Flying off Fairy Falls
Sol getting some airtime off Fairy Falls
📷: Anne Ruyters
Dropping into the second gorge on Fairy Glen
Reece boofing his way into Fairy Glen’s second gorge.
📷: Anne Ruyters

After a slow but successful lap, the groups split, with some heading back up for a second (much faster) lap, and others heading to check out the nearby Glaslyn, which was also running well.

Breaker rapid during a Glaslyn Lap
📷: David Brearley

Saturday night saw a masterclass in scouting using Google Earth, following which “organised fun” descended into rowdy carnage until the early hours.

Ring of Fire

The vote for the 2024 British Universities Kayaking Expedition team took place on Sunday morning, with a worthy team of 7 being selected, followed by a relaxed lap of the river Dee for anyone who was still functioning after 3 nights with too much beer and too little sleep!

The 2024 BUKE Team
Huge congratulations to the 2024 British Universities Kayaking Expedition Team. (L to R: Osian Curig, Bryony Agar, Patrick Kyle, Alastair Shapland, Ellis Pimbrough-Jones, Oli Cooper, Matt Purvis)
Horseshoe Falls at the River Dee Put-in
Horseshoe Falls at the river Dee. Beautiful even when it’s grey and drizzly.
📷: Dave Stack

Watch the BUKE socials (Facebook/Insta) for an imminent announcement as to the destination for the 2024 expedition!

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