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29
Jun

Colorado Dealer Spotlight: 4Corners Riversports

Tucked into the Southwest desert mountains of Colorado, only miles from the infamous ‘Four Corners’ of the United States where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico come together to form a perfect intersection, 4Corners Riversports has been in business since 1983.

Opened initially as solely a whitewater shop by Father/Daughter combo Nancy and Milt Wiley, the original location is still the only location. Tony Miley, one of the managing partners, has been at the helms of the shop with his other partners since the beginning of the 2000 season, selling RPMs and Mr. Cleans.

Tony Miley, Managing Partner

The main mission of 4Corners is to supply its customers with expert knowledge and whitewater gear from quality brands like Pyranha, Dagger, Jackson, and Liquidlogic. More recently, they also began branching out to paddleboards, fishing kayaks from the likes of Hobie, inflatables from Aire and NRS, and lifestyle gear, so no matter if you’re looking for an inflatable to relax your way down the river, a fishing kayak to help you reel in your trophy catch, or your dream whitewater boat to navigate your way down difficult rapids, 4Corners has the inventory to get you to where you want to be.

As a full-on riversports shop, they also offer a complete range of whitewater gear from dry gear to kids PFDs, carrying brands such as Immersion Research, NRS, Kokatat, Werner, and Astral.

4Corners is also the host of an annual big gear swap on the last weekend of April, offering customers the ability to come in with their old gear and trade it in towards store credit or cashback. This gives their customers the ability to upgrade their kit for newer technical gear or kayaks themselves. They also offer consignment sales on kayaks, where you trade in your kayak for a freshie, and if it sells then you get the cash back or store credit. These types of programs are valuable and should be taken advantage of by local customers. Those at the shop are ecstatic about getting people in the right kayak, and urge you to come in and participate in these programs that they offer.

Come on in and have a look around!

The kayak school hosted by 4Corners is a full-on skills academy available to those from 6 years old up. They have had several people in their 80s join in too, eager to learn the basics of whitewater kayaking. From rolling in their pool to progressing through harder whitewater, the kayak academy staff is well trained and full of knowledge they want to pass on to the whitewater community. The first level, basic roll clinic starts at around 60$ per class, and a week long class costs about 450$.

Offering rentals and demos as well, the shop will often make sure you know how to roll in their pool before you take out their equipment. You are able to rent any of their inflatables or hard shell kayaks that they have available to take to the local sections of the Animas River, or take down to the Animas River play park only a stone’s throw away from their outpost.

The Animas River Days is a huge event in Durango that has been taking place annually for the past 37 years hosted by 4Corners and run by Ashley Diaz, a Managing Partner at 4Corners. Started initially by the same family who opened the shop, Animas River Days has become a staple in the Colorado whitewater scene. The event consists of several different disciplines; freestyle events, boater cross, stand up paddleboard surfing and raft races. The playpark is full of different whitewater vendors set up with a beer garden for all of those who are of age to enjoy. Cash prizes are offered for those who podium. Unfortunately, this year’s River Days event was cancelled due to the pandemic, but look out for its comeback in 2021!

What would have been this years Animas River Days t-shirts. Unfortunately this years event was cancelled due to COVID-19.

In dealing with the recent pandemic and the associated local and state restrictions for businesses, 4Corners has adapted by organizing the inside of their shop more like a mini-warehouse; trying their best to meet with the high demand of online orders they have been receiving. Recently, their local restrictions have been lifted and they are now allowed a maximum number of customers within their shop, but still encourage people to order online if possible. They regularly ship anywhere within the United States, and will try their best to get orders to Canada as well. Browse their inventory, give them a call, and place your orders online from anywhere in the states at www.riversports.com

Being in operation for 37 years, 4Corners has been one of the most successful paddlesport shops in the state of Colorado. With gear for almost every type of mission from flat lakes to multi-day expeditions, chances are they have what you are looking for. With the right people teaching you the skills from basic paddle strokes to advanced river running, their kayak school can help build your foundation as a whitewater kayaker. Knowledge of the products, stoke for the sport, and decades-long involvement in their community. Passion, enthusiasm and character. These are all traits of 4Corners Riversports.

22
Jun

Rio Sarapullu to Rio Toachi

We finally did the Rio Sarapullu! Last year (in April) with Thomas Neime, we decided to visit the Santo Domingo area. The rivers in the West part of Quito are quite unusual runs but, nonetheless this area delivers good quality and a variety of white-water which was actually what we were looking for. 

The last time, the river flooded, which made the canyon of Rio Sarapullu un-runnable. But, one year later, here we are…

We finally arrived at the put in of the river after a 1h30 shuttle in the back of a cattle truck with all the members of the team (Thomas Neime, Kevin Gauthier, Michiel De Ruytter, and me: Arthur Bernot). Luckily, there we were, lost in the jungle with our beloved kayaks and the pristine and clear water, which comes from the Ilinizas volcanoes located in the Western Andes chain. The water level looked juicy; to be exact, it was 7 on the gauge under the bridge at the put-in.

Kevin Gauthier and Thomas Neime unloading the truck at the Put In of Rio Sarapullu by Arthur Bernot

For the first 3 kilometres, the river was open and surrounded by the jungle with class III-IV rapids. We found this perfect, since you can warm-up and enjoy the jungle, in particular, watching the birds.

After this fun section, we arrived at a long rapid with a series of boofs. This rapid ended up between two walls around 4-5 metres tall, which marks the beginning of the canyon. Sometimes, the river tightens suddenly, leaving space for just one boat, and that happens for around 6 kilometres more! We ran a couple of amazing class V rapids at times, but it wasn’t easy to set proper safety.

Then, the river flows into the Rio Toachi. The Rio Toachi source is from the Quilotoa Volcano. It is a pity that just after the confluence, a dam has been built (not finished yet). The entire volume of water goes inside a tunnel, which goes deep under the mountain. (Our taxi driver shared with us a curious fact: a crew of kayakers has passed through this mysterious tunnel!)

Thomas Neime and Michiel De Ruytter posing at the last main rapid on Rio Sarapullu By Arthur Bernot

So, it is mandatory to portage on the left side. We crossed the construction site, and thankfully the bodyguards were nor upset with our presence. We moved fast so as not to disturb the workers. After the dam, we started the Rio Toachi.

The river is double the flow, but still as narrow as the Sarapullu. Sometimes the river widens and then tightens again, forming nice waves and big holes, with some mandatory boofs. You have to get these boofs, otherwise the penalty is immediate.

We moved fast, and everything was almost read and run. We just scouted two rapids and portaged one that Michiel tried to run… but his line didn’t inspire us (beater). With Thomas and Kevin, we decided to portage it on the right side.

The river continues to flow between narrow lines and small flat water sections until the small town of Alluriquine, which is actually the take-out. At the end, only 500 metres remained to walk with our kayaks to our hostel where a swimming pool was waiting; perfect to relax after 4h and 21km of great kayaking.

15
Jun

Great People to Go Kayaking With #1: Jamie Greenhalgh

Whether you’re looking to get back on the water and shake off the cobwebs, or you’re completely new to paddlesports and want to shortcut the learning process to make the most of what remains of Summer, our little community has some extremely talented coaches and guides who are embedded in its roots, and perfectly placed to help you do just that; allow us to introduce you…

First up is Jamie Greenhalgh of Paddle365 and Dee River Kayaking!

Hey Jamie, it’s good to catch up with you! How are you doing?

Hi! I’ve been missing the river paddling community almost as much as I missed the water during lockdown, so its really nice to get a platform to say hey to everyone and I can’t wait to see you out on a river soon. Thanks again for the spotlight Pyranha!

What’ve you been up to during lockdown?

I’ve been really focussed over the past few of years on developing both my kayaking and my craft as a coach and river guide, so having a forced Corona break has felt pretty weird. It was a bit like being on school summer holidays again- you’re told to rest and do nothing much, but simultaneously feel you should be making the most of the time so there’s a pressure there too.  Still, it was a real kick to seeing all of the progress a lot of people I know made towards personal goals such as fitness, crafts, family time etc.  I was getting my exercise and adventure hit from cycling, but my bikes kept going wrong, so I’ve had to learn some basic bike mechanics on the go. Meanwhile, my Mum took up watercolours and my girlfriend learnt to sew her own clothes. I find it an interesting case study in the way people learn skills. There’s definitely hope to be found in the way everyone united behind the common goal of protecting the NHS and each other, and at the same time rising to the challenge of self-isolation in lovely creative ways.

What would you be doing now if 2020 hadn’t been derailed?

This year was supposed to be a pretty major one for me, firstly in continuing my work with Paddle365 and also in launching Dee River Kayaking. Paddle365 is my whitewater coaching business and its been growing really well.  Last year I was able to run white water kayaking skills courses in 8 countries, for more different paddlers than any previous year and with more returning paddlers than any year before. It’s a real privilege to work with passionate paddlers; to help them get better so they can have even better adventures.  

The big thing for this year was to expand my capacity so that I can provide a better service to beginners. Kayaking isn’t the easiest sport to get into, and especially at the white water end of the sport the process of getting your first taste can be a little too hit and miss for my liking. Lots of thought has gone into this, so when I set up Dee River Kayaking, I’ve tried to frame everything through the lens of making river paddling as accessible as possible. High fun- low risk- high reward. Dee River Kayaking will run river-based city and nature tours from the beautiful town of Chester, as well as high octane adventures on the grade 2/3 waters of the river Dee in Llangollen. I’m now running Chester town tours and Chester white water sessions for up to 5 participants. Initial trips have been a great success with the warm weather. My new boats are the perfect vehicle to have an intro to white water kayaking that is light-hearted and stress-free.

As well as running a week-long whitewater kayak skills development course in Scotland over Easter, right now I was supposed to be putting the Dee River Kayaking set up through its paces. I’m excited for the further lifting of restrictions on travel, whenever that can safely happen.

What is the proudest achievement your kayaking career so far? 

Succeeding in living the dream as a professional river guide and coach, despite having the least marketable surname in the paddling community? 

Just kidding. Through my coaching, I get the privilege of working with some really inspirational and driven recreational kayakers, and what I’m most proud of is definitely the progress I’ve made in terms of helping them out, seeing their progress and watching them succeed in having inspiring adventures of their own.  Last year I created the Paddle365 Mentorship Group, with the aim of putting some of these longer-term whitewater students together to compare notes and give them a fee-free way to touch base. During lockdown, the Mentorship Group has been a brilliant boost and has given me a few great ideas of ways to keep coaching and stay in touch during self-isolation. There have been kayaking zoom quizzes, kayaking art projects, technique development discussions and movie critiques. It’s been really nice.

…and most importantly, what is your Pyranha Kayak of choice?

Well, that is a difficult one. The boat I’m seen most regularly in is my Ripper. It’s the perfect kayak for me to be coaching in since it’s a really stable and responsive boat to do demonstrations from, but it also is a hell of a lot of fun. When I coach I like to give myself a little paddling workout too, so whenever the other paddler is resting, I’m playing. It’s a good system, and the Ripper is invaluable!

Aside from the Ripper, my 9R II is epic for when the rain comes down and fills the class 4/5 creeks of North Wales, or for coaching creeking and big river skills in Italy or Norway. The Machno is also the ultimate kayak to make people feel safe and secure whilst out enjoying the river; it rolls easier than the vast majority of boats on the market! It won’t teach as many lessons as a Burn or a Ripper, but as a client put it to me recently, “It depends how many ‘lessons’ you want to learn in a day!”

Here are a few links for any readers who would like to get involved in what Jamie is up to, or find out more about Paddle365 and Dee River Kayaking:

www.paddle365.co.uk – Whitewater Kayak Coaching and Guiding in the UK & Beyond

www.facebook.com/paddle365 

www.deeriverkayaking.com – A friendly and professional river kayaking service. Open and accessible to all.

www.facebook.com/deeriverkayaking

03
Jun

Mission: Improbable (Thuli Bheri)

I can’t say that I really went to Nepal with a plan. I knew that I was going for just over two months; I knew there were a lot of bus rides; I knew I wanted to go kayaking and I knew, deep down, that I really, really wanted to run the Thuli Bheri.

Located in the far western reaches of Nepal in a region known as the Dolpa District, the Thuli Bheri promised days of continuous class IV+ whitewater with beautiful scenery. Only problem? It takes a casual 20 hours by bus and then an hour by plane followed by an hour in a jeep and definitely some logistical luck just to get to the put-in from Kathmandu. Did I mention there was a late monsoon season that Fall, meaning that all the rivers were experiencing higher than normal water levels for this time of year? Oh, and I was travelling by myself. Though I had essentially written it off as a pipe dream, a small part of me held on to the idea that it could, conceivably, happen.

And then there was a Facebook post—I know there are a lot of opinions out there about social media, but what a fantastic tool for when you’re trying to meet people in foreign countries where you don’t speak the language and you’re trying to do an obscure sport that people think you’re absolutely insane to even be attempting. Lukas (Austria) posted on the Nepal Kayak Club page asking if anyone was interested in a Thuli Bheri trip in early November. Naturally, I immediately Facebook stalked him. When I came away somewhat satisfied that he was a solid kayaker capable of running the whitewater, I sent him a message. And then, there were two… which still isn’t enough to make a mission like this possible for normal humans like us, but it was certainly a step in the right direction. We talked briefly and then agreed that we would each individually look for people to join and that we would meet up at the Modi Khola Express III, a yearly kayaking event held to promote free-flowing rivers in Nepal. If you’re ever in Nepal in October/November, you should definitely go!

Lucky for us, the race was the perfect place to meet the three other people who would make up the rest of our team; Leon (Switzerland), Fran (Germany), and Liam (US/Nepal). For a mission like this, you need to make sure that the people you’re going with, 1. Can actually paddle the whitewater, and 2. Aren’t assholes. We were all relatively sure that everyone on the team fit the bill.

Though we were originally planning on spending the next three weeks paddling together in other parts of Nepal to get used to each other’s boating styles and see some of the other rivers before heading out on our adventure, everything changed almost immediately, as is often the case when travelling. At the post-race celebration, Fran’s finger had an unfortunate encounter with a broken beer bottle, slicing deep into the tissue and requiring Steri-strips. Though the cut was clean and we dealt with it quickly, we were still faced with the reality that she had an open wound and we were in a country with rivers that would not be readily considered “clean”. With the high possibility that if she paddled before it was healed she would get an infection, Fran stayed in Pokhara and sat out our next planned adventure; an overnighter on the Upper Kaligandaki. While it is a simple overnighter, I managed to make it very exciting by having an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts in the granola the second morning of the trip and getting subsequently evacuated via helicopter out of the canyon. That is a whole other story in and of itself. Needless to say, we returned to Pokhara tired.

With Fran now experiencing cabin fever and none of us wanting to stay in Pokhara any longer, Liam headed back to Kathmandu to do some work. Fran, Leon, and I headed to the Marshyangdi (one of the cleaner rivers). The section ended up being significantly harder than expected; a taxi driver tried to steal all of our kayaks and gear and fishermen woke us up at three in the morning demanding water but, on the whole, we had a wonderful overnighter on a beautiful river. We then headed East for three days and paddled on the Balephi and Bhote Koshi before returning to Kathmandu to start our mission on the Thuli.

With a chartered minibus, we made the six-hour journey from Kathmandu back to Pokhara. We spent the next day grocery shopping, making sure we had all of the necessary layers, downloading maps, ensuring we had enough safety equipment, and acquiring a general knowledge of the river. Finally, we were on our way. At 4:30 AM, we took two taxis to the public bus station where we loaded up on a bus and started our 12-hour journey to Nepalgunj. We arrived in the evening, haggard and sick of Bollywood songs and music videos.

Loaded kayaks on the bus from Pokhara to Nepalgunj (Lukas Ströbl)

Following an interesting night’s sleep, we headed to the airport at 5 to catch our chartered 6 AM flight to Juphal. These flights are known to be relatively unreliable due to weather, stranding kayakers in Nepalgunj with nothing to do except drink and use the shitty internet. Thankfully, our flight went off without a hitch. I recommend finding someone who knows someone who works in the airport; it made our lives a lot easier. As the sun crested and illuminated our surroundings, we were greeted with stunning mountain and beautiful high desert landscapes. Upon landing, however, we were greeted by the lovely airport security officers/police who requested our permits. Though Liam had called multiple agencies to double-check that the section of river we were paddling didn’t require any type of permit, the fact that we needed a permit to even land in the Dolpa district had never been mentioned and was unknown to us prior to literally sitting on the tarmac with all of our shit and the Himalayas surrounding us. So, Liam got a ride to the nearest town center in Dunai and we waited in the village of Juphal drinking yak milk tea and coffee while sitting on the village roofs overlooking the valley.

Waiting on the tarmac at the airport in Juphal (Franziska Biechler)
Early morning hugs in Juphal (Lukas Ströbl)
The plane we took from Nepalgunj to Juphal with all of our kayaks and gear (Lukas Ströbl)

After a few hours, Liam told us it would still take him some more time to wade through the red tape that inherently exists in any sort of Nepali paperwork, so we loaded up in a jeep and drove down to the river. It’s a new road, and ‘road’ might be a generous term for the strip of dirt we took down the hillside, but we did do it in a car so I guess that’s the qualifier. We drove up the river a few miles and stopped at Suligad which is right on the border of the national park; to put in any higher than this, you do technically need a permit. Liam was finally able to join us around 1 pm and we pushed off and headed downstream… Not before losing an iPhone in the Jeep, getting yelled at by the Nepali Military for being too close to a bridge, and then finding the iPhone in the same Jeep as it passed us again around an hour later bringing Liam back down to us from Dunai. You can’t make this shit up.

The first few kilometers of the Thuli are beautiful and relaxed. Flanked by pine trees and huge mountains in the distance, the river is braided and wide with a few riffles here and there. The riffles seem to be primarily created by upstream wind that appears to be ever-present according to almost everyone I’ve talked to that has run this river. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was still amazed that it was actually happening and that we were finally on the river. After a few kilometers, we passed through a constriction created by beautiful cliffs and a small suspension bridge. Beyond this, the whitewater picked up and we were shortly confronted with our first portage: a long, complicated boulder garden. If not for the sticky hole in the middle, we all agreed that this rapid would have been amazing to paddle; not sure what it looks like at other water levels. Past the portage, the river proceeds with continuous class III+ for a few kilometers before Golden Canyon begins. We camped shortly before the start of the canyon section as we weren’t sure if there would be good camping once we started but, as we found out the next day, there was plenty.

Hanging out at camp 1 (Lukas Ströbl)
View upstream from camp 1
Liam making Daal Bhaat with the use of his very expensive cutting board

The next morning, we woke up early and pushed off the beach around 9:30, entering Golden Canyon almost immediately. The canyon is aptly named as the canyon walls literally glitter and glow in the light. It’s incredible. From the time we put on the water to the time we chose a camp it was non-stop class IV/IV+ whitewater. We came to one portage early in the morning that had a line down the left side, but didn’t seem very attainable with fully loaded boats, so we portaged around it on river left. We continued through more class IV and came upon another portage just before lunch. We ate lunch at the iconic drop of Golden canyon which is extremely picturesque. Massive golden boulders are strewn throughout bright blue water with the perfect spot to take a picture atop a large boulder as people make their way through the last part of the rapid. After lunch, we continued running class IV all the way to camp around 3:30, a few kilometers before the end of Golden Canyon. We didn’t cover nearly as much distance as we wanted, only paddling around 7 kilometers, which put us behind schedule by about a day. We made a fire that night and revelled in the whitewater we’d paddled… and Fran and Leon tried s’mores for the first time.

Early morning portage on day 2 just after the entrance to Golden Canyon
The marquee rapid in Golden Canyon (Liam Kelly)

On day 3 we put on around 9:30 again and were immediately greeted with the last of the class IV/IV+ of Golden Canyon. Though we originally thought that the whitewater would slow down for a bit once we exited the canyon, we were quite mistaken. As we rounded the bend to the right just after the canyon walls dropped, we entered a long, braided, steep, very continuous boulder garden with eddies that were few and far between. This entire section had really high pin potential and was radically different from the entire canyon above. This continued for a few kilometers; no pool drop, just one continuous rapid. After the steep boulder garden, we saw the first class III section we had seen since the beginning of the trip and then we hit a long section of flat water. The kind of flatwater above the infamous Jacob’s ladder on the North Fork of the Payette. The kind of ominous flat water that gives you butterflies because you know something insanely steep and big and probably hard is in front of you. We then dropped into more steep boulder gardens interspersed with some steep, channelized rapids. In total, we ended up portaging four or five rapids with Liam, Leon, and Lukas firing up some of them and the entire group portaging at least two together. I don’t remember the lines through any of them but I do remember that there were potential lines through most of them, they were just really, really tight and would have been very challenging to execute. We camped just above Tri Beni and got there around 4. In total, we were able to cover around 20 kilometers, which was more than we anticipated.

Leon playing around in one of the boogie rapids (Lukas Ströbl)
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Fran in the middle of one of the steep boulder gardens just after Golden Canyon (Lukas Ströbl)
Making dinner at camp 3. Blue coat party (Franziska Biechler)

We pushed off around 9 had some chill class III for an hour to an hour and a half and then we reached the first portage of the day under a suspension bridge. We then continued down some class III/IV and reached the portage town just before lunchtime. After spending a few hours in the village coordinating with the locals, letting kids use our kayaks as see-saws, and eating daal bhat (rice and lentils) for lunch, we hopped in the back of a literal tractor-trailer that took us the 3-4 or so kilometers around the portage gorge. Dehydrated, hot, and tired, we made our way an additional kilometer or two to get back down to the river and were followed by a literal hoard of children. We then put on in the middle of a class IV+ rapid and boogied down the next section of mostly class IV+ rapids with some III interspersed. The character of the river changed again and was now big water class IV+. We got to camp around 4:30; a small rocky beach on river left.

A group of villagers gather around as we wait for a portage vehicle (Lukas Ströbl)
The literal tractor trailer that brought us around the portage gorge (Lukas Ströbl)
Kids using our boats as see saws at the portage (Lukas Ströbl)

We got on the water around the same time as the other days but, unfortunately, I was sick. My stomach was really upset and I was extremely weak with every stroke making me feel like I had to puke. The day started with some class III but picked up significantly as the river changed character again becoming more gorged in and channelized. We soon reached some of the biggest and hardest rapids we had seen all trip, which was less than ideal seeing as I had the strength of a small child at that point and even making a class III ferry felt almost unattainable. We took it slowly and eventually reached a very steep boulder garden with massive boulders choking the river. Most of the flow went to the left, over what looks like would be a sweet boof at lower flows. At the flows we had, however, all the water pushed directly into a massive pothole that had been carved out of the Cliffside on river left. We elected to portage around the first two drops on river right and then put in just below to run a sneak line. The river continues in this fashion for a while with big boulder gardens. We portaged a few rapids in this section but I’m honestly not sure how many, I was pretty out of it. We ate lunch at another rapid that we portaged down the left and then seal launched back into the water and ferried hard, back to river right to scout the next blind drop around a left bend in the river. Thankfully, after finally being able to eat something and drinking a lot of water at lunch, I felt much better and had enough strength to paddle the continuous boulder gardens that remained below. The river eventually opened back up and returned to big water class IV and we were able to make pretty good time boat-scouting the rapids. We then camped on river right near a village and were greeted by a few groups of kids who hung around our fire for a while.

Morning stretches in camp 4 (Lukas Ströbl)
The sneak line down one of rapids in the last big gorge (Lukas Ströbl)

Our final day on the water was surprisingly chill with mostly class IV drops that were boat-scout-able. This was one of my favorite sections of the river with all of us just blue-angel-ing down stunning whitewater. Though I felt significantly better, it was Lukas’s turn to be sick. We took out around 4 in a small town just after a big cement bridge. We then ate some food and took the overnight bus back to Nepalgunj. This bus ride was the single worst bus ride I have ever taken in my entire life. Hands down. The bus was packed, there was no legroom, and a large number of people were puking. I started feeling sick again as the overnight bus rocketed down the dirt roads and had my own puking episode when we stopped for a few hours so our driver could take a nap. I, once again, was down for the count. Finally, we made it back to Nepalgunj where our plan was to take a jeep immediately back to Pokhara. Unfortunately, there was a strike occurring which meant that car travel was forbidden in daylight hours. So, we stayed in one of the dirtiest motels I’ve ever been in, but honestly, I didn’t care. I had just enough energy to drag myself to bed, where I then slept for essentially the entire day. That evening, we were finally able to hire a jeep to take us back to Pokhara and then eventually made our way back to Kathmandu.

Sleeping off the worst bus ride ever in Nepalgunj (Franziska Biechler)

The Thuli Bheri is, by far, one of my favorite rivers in the entire world and the people that I did it with are absolutely incredible. I am forever indebted to them for making it all work and just being amazing people. We also had the help of sturdy and dependable gear from Watershed and Immersion Research. Nepal was an experience and a half and I learned so much more than I could ever put into words. Here’s to having more wild adventures in stunning places!

Lukas, Rose, Leon, Fran and Liam

General info from the trip:

*As with everything in Nepal, the timing of these could vary significantly

  • 6 hrs chartered mini bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara
  • 12 hrs public bus from Pokhara to Nepalgunj
  • 1 hr flight from Nepalgunj to Juphal
  • 1 hr Jeep ride from Juphal to Suligad
  • 6 days on the water
  • 12 hr public bus from takeout to Nepalgunj
  • 5 hr jeep from Nepalgunj to Pokhara
  • 6 hrs chartered mini bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu

From what I can glean from other write-ups, we had healthy flows and relatively warm weather. If you had a super-sendy crew, you probably wouldn’t need to portage as much as we did, but there was definitely more class V than I was expecting. We didn’t skimp on the food that we brought, which made our boats really heavy, but I’m glad that we brought it all with us. Though we passed through a few small towns, there wasn’t very much in terms of the possibility of re-vamping our food supply. We brought lots of layers, anticipating cold weather, but didn’t really need that many; I’m assuming that later in November and certainly in early December, having those layers would be key. Though a lot of the river is technically class IV on its own, I’d rate the entire run as a whole at a IV+/V level with how continuous it is and how far away you are from any resources. This is a class IV ish run for a class V kayaker and would be extremely challenging for anyone with just class IV skills. Lukas made an awesome edit as well, if you’d like to get a bit more of a feel for the nature of the whitewater!

Most of our food laid out on a table at the Sacred Valley Inn in Pokhara the day before we left for Nepalgunj (Lukas Ströbl)

01
Jun

Seven Ways to Make Solo Paddling Safer….

Going paddling involves dealing with risk, and undoubtedly paddling on your own increases the level of many of those risks. Solo paddling though, I think, has an undeservedly negative reputation.

Perfect Conditions for a Sunset Solo Paddle.

For a start, there can be many benefits to going for a paddle by yourself. Paddling on your own gives you a very different experience to paddling with a group. You can take the trip at your own pace, you’re not worrying about what other people are thinking about you or comparing your paddling to theirs. This means you can forget about yourself for a while and pay more attention to what’s going on around you. It can help you feel a closer connection to nature and often allows you to see more wildlife because there is less noise and commotion going on.

These benefits are of course potentially outweighed by the increase in risk of going solo. But I think it is important to remember that we all take risks every day, often quite high levels of risk, without giving them any thought. Driving your car to work or to the shops, for example, entails a very high level of risk, but we do it so often that we accept those risks without thinking about them. It is the frequency with which we engage in different activities, in my opinion, that affects our perception of risk.

It is also important to remember that solo paddling can take many forms and that if you think carefully about where you are going and what you are doing, you can reduce the risks involved to a level you consider acceptable.

As with any paddling, whether you are on your own or with a group, it’s all about managing the risks and making good decisions. So, if you’re thinking about going paddling on your own, here are seven helpful points to consider.

The author going for a solo lap on the River Kent – photo by the shuttle bunny (father-in-law!)
  1. Take it Easy – this is not the time for #fullsend

If you’re going for a solo paddle, it’s not the time to be pushing your boundaries, be that the grade of water you’re paddling, the environmental conditions you’re facing, or the craft you’re paddling. In my opinion, you don’t have to be an expert paddler to go solo paddling, but you do need to be a very competent paddler on the type of water you choose to go paddling on. Stay within your comfort zone so that you know you can take care of yourself and won’t need any help.

  1. Be Bombproof at Self-Rescue

You don’t have to have a bombproof roll to go solo paddling, but you do have to know that you can self-rescue when you need to. If you don’t have a solid roll (or you aren’t paddling a kayak), you either need to have a really solid deep water self-rescue or be a strong and confident swimmer and stay close enough to the bank or shore in order that you can get yourself and your equipment out on your own quickly. If you’re paddling solo along a canal, chances are you’re always going to be within about 2 meters of somewhere you can get out.

  1. Plan Ahead

Make a route plan, check the weather forecast, check the river levels or tides. Check the route on an OS map – check the access and egress, check the escape routes and emergency egress points. How far do you plan to paddle? Do you need a shuttle? If so, can you use a bike? Or can you paddle up a canal? Tell someone the plan, let them know when to expect you back and what to do if you don’t turn up.

Taking the shuttle vehicle with you on the paddle is an option…
  1. Sh*t Happens – Be Prepared

As the saying goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. If you’re going to be able to look after yourself if something goes wrong, you need to be dressed appropriately for the conditions, you need to be carrying appropriate kit for the journey, and your boat needs to be set up properly. For example, if you need airbags they should be secured and inflated, if you need swim lines they should be attached and ready to deploy, if you need a leash you should be wearing the right one for the environment. If you’re going for a long paddle, taking snacks and drinks would be sensible. If you’re going to be a long way from your car, perhaps take a group shelter or blizzard bag.

It’s always a good idea to know where you are and/or have a way of locating yourself, and to have a way of telling someone if it all goes horribly wrong. ALWAYS TAKE YOUR PHONE! (and/or VHF radio). Try and think through all possible eventualities and plan accordingly.

Please note – this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of what you should take with you on the water. If you’re not sure, ask advice from people you trust or respect. If you’ve no idea, it would be a really good idea to go on a course and learn what you need to know from an expert before you decide to try solo paddling.

  1. Know your Venue (remember point 1)

Whilst it is possible to take steps to safely manage the risks of solo paddling on a piece of water that is new to you, it is far easier to make the kind of judgement calls you need to make if you already know the route you plan to paddle. For instance, do the environmental conditions on-site reflect the forecast? Is the river higher than is ideal? Is the wind stronger than you expected? If you’re planning to go solo paddling, it is far better to be somewhere familiar rather than heading off into the unknown.

The Menai Straits – a 10 minute walk away from home.
  1. Don’t get complacent

It’s easy to get caught out if you start thinking “it’s only the.…(insert river name here)” or “I’ve paddled this route hundreds of times”. Treat every time you paddle a section or route as if it’s the first time you’ve paddled it, and you won’t go far wrong. Equally, don’t take anyone else’s word for granted – especially if you consider them an expert or ‘better than you’. If your mate says they paddled it yesterday/this morning/an hour ago and “it’s fine”, store that as useful information, but still make your own decision based on how you feel/your own knowledge/experience/how you read the current conditions and any other factors you may need to consider.

If you’re paddling at a man-made course, but you’re not there with anyone, you’re still soloing…
  1. Be like Kenny Rogers (Know when to walk away)

As I mentioned above, ultimately, safe paddling, be it solo or with a group, is all about making good decisions. Knowing when to stay at home, go somewhere different, walk away from the route you had planned to paddle or turn around and paddle back to where you started, is the key to keeping yourself safe. 

Just back from a solo paddle whilst on holiday near Gairloch – there were plenty of days when we chose not to paddle.

And because we’re currently dealing with a pandemic…

  1. Be Selfless – think Covid-19

Now more than ever is the time to be thinking as selflessly as possible. You may be supremely confident in your abilities and be absolutely sure that you won’t get into trouble and need rescuing, but accidents can still happen and now is not the time to be putting extra pressure on the emergency services, so be extra safe!

The Canoe Wales Guidance (as that’s where I live) states amongst other things, that we should stay local, avoid any location that would require a shuttle, stay well within your capabilities and avoid areas that you know will be busy. They do not recommend paddling on your own.

British Canoeing Guidance is similar but has a few differences – in particular they state that “Only competent and experienced paddlers should be on the water independently”.

The Canoe Association of Northern Ireland Guidance is again similar but with specific differences.

Scottish Canoe Association Guidance is to paddle locally, and well within your ability.

I think what we should also be thinking about though is, even if we are allowed to start paddling again, should we? Somebody seeing you go for a paddle may decide to copy you without knowing all of the factors you have weighed up and all of the plans you have made in order that you can go for a paddle safely. Now is not the time to be (however unintentionally) encouraging un-safe behaviour. Be considerate of other people’s views, be ready to educate – confrontation is rarely a good way to settle a difference of opinion – and be willing to change your plans if you’re causing too much distress. The river/lake/coastline will still be there when all this is over.

Stay safe everyone and happy paddling!

For the full length article on ‘Seven Ways to make Solo Paddling Safer’ visit River-Flair.com.

01
Apr

Introducing the Rama!

There has been a careless whisper floating around for some time that part of the delay to our latest project was due to Graham (Pyranha Managing Director and all-round top bloke) having his ‘do not disturb’ sign up on his office door. While we all know you don’t mess with the king of the jungle, eventually a passing Team Paddler was sent to ask the preacher man what was going on (from a distance of at least 2 metres).

Graham had been working on a secret project, taking the best bits from the previous three best selling, award-winning kayaks (Machno, Ripper & 9R II) and combining this pedigree to craft a boat that left paddlers wanting more, more, more! ‘I can’t help it’ Graham said. ‘It was the last thing on my mind, but I knew that we could turn this cruel summer around, and develop something more than physical, that gives paddlers a hotline to heaven’.

As soon as some Team Paddlers heard this, they immediately got together (over Zoom, of course) to help! As with all design meetings, love, truth and honesty are the only briefing points given. A working title of venus was given to the project, after the Roman goddess of love and beauty.

The first prototype felt a little like a long train runnin’, and as we weren’t trying to recreate the 12R, we went back to the drawing board! Movin’ on from the initial concept, we decided to live out the wild life and show some rough justice to the prototype! Remembering the mantra ‘tain’t what you do (it’s the way that you do it)’, an ethos that our Team Paddler, Aie a Mwana introduced to the design process, we had a good look on the floor for ideas we had rejected already. Incorporating some changes to the waterline, rocker profile, and hull chines, we were ready to gather some more of the UK team for another round of testing. When we undergo prototype testing, we gather qualitative data, which we often keep secret. This is mainly as most of our test team are shy boys. In this instance, however, they have all agreed to share their initial thoughts:

Dan Wilkinson, CEO, Dan Wilkinson Coaching

“I felt like I was tripping on your love for this boat. Now I’ve been in it, and experienced a boat for the first time that truly does move in my direction, I’m genuinely really excited to get my hands on the finished version!”

Pete Catterall, British Canoeing:

“This boat really made me feel young at heart again. Love comes in many ways, but this has blown my mind”.

Paul Smith, CEO, Rock and Water Adventures:

“I heard a rumour that there was something special being cooked up in Runcorn, but I certainly didn’t expect this”.

Chris Eastabrook, Expedition Kayaker:

“Despite every time I see an Everest I think to myself ‘I want you back’, I feel as though I have developed love in the first degree for this new boat!”

Dave Kohn-Hollins, CEO, River Flair:

“After my first session on the water my first reaction was ‘Baby, it’s Christmas!’ I thought it may be a trick of the night [ed’s note: all initial prototyping takes place after dark to protect our proprietary property] but after my second session I’m sure I found love!”

David Bain, Expedition Kayaker:

“I first heard rumours of this boat from Nathan Jones. A lot of people say he’s got tact, but when it comes to this boat he was really sayin’ somethin’”.

Tom Parker, CEO Tom Parker Coaching:

“Robert De Niro’s Waiting…”

The Rama name is one that has a long history within Pyranha Kayaks. As far back as 1989, there was a prototype boat that had the working title ‘MegaRama ‘89’, but it was felt that the world wasn’t ready for boats to be named after deities. With the word Rama translating from Sanskrit into ‘pleasing, delightful, charming, beautiful and lovely’, it was felt that the time was right to set on you our homage to the eastern gods, following on from the Shiva & Varun. [Ed’s note: our initial attempts to translate Rama from Sanskrit into English gave us the translation, ‘Na na hey hey kiss him goodbye’. We’re good at kayaks, not so good at computers!]

The Pyranha Rama will be available to pre-order from your local dealer soon in every shade of blue!

Only your love keeps us motivated to continually push the boundaries of kayak design and innovation. From all of us at Pyranha Kayaks, a big ‘cheers then’, and remember: Love don’t live here, it lives inside all of us on the water!’.

17
Mar

7 Paddling-Related Things to Do During Self-Isolation

It’s all a little bit doom and gloom out there right now, so we thought our fellow paddlers might appreciate some ideas of what to do to keep yourself occupied if you’re self-isolating… here’s a lucky seven!

1. Plan a Trip

Give yourself a light at the end of the tunnel by researching and planning your next big trip; it’s a great excuse to check in on your friends over the phone as you put plans together with them, and the travel and guiding companies you choose will be glad of your business.

2. Gear Maintenance

When was the last time you showed your boats and gear some love? Refresh and tweak your outfitting, check the bolts and fittings, and similar to the above, support your local paddlesport shop by ordering any replacement parts or gear you might need via their website, over the phone, or by email.

Remember, most dealers don’t list all spares on their website, but are likely to have them available or at least be able to order them in for you.

3. Start a Blog

Give other paddlers more to read by writing some gear reviews, trip reports, or any other interesting, paddling-related thoughts you might have (we don’t think anyone has a blog for ‘paddling poems’ yet!)

4. Read a Guidebook

The excellent, Meghalaya Rivers guidebook.

It’s not often we properly take in the information poured into these by those who meticulously research and write them; if you haven’t got one, you guessed it, support your local dealer by buying one!

5. Paddling-Prep Exercises

Nicki Turton shows us how to balance staying home with staying honed!

Ensure you’re in prime condition to make the most of paddling when you can venture out again by practising yoga and getting creative with exercises you can do inside the house.

6. Watch Some Paddling Videos

Senders on YouTube (including our own Bren Orton) have plenty to offer!

Whether you’re looking for paddling films or video guides to paddling techniques, there’s plenty out there across YouTube and Vimeo to keep you entertained!

7. Edit Your Own Videos

With plenty of time on your hands, you’ll finally be able to get round to editing all that GoPro footage that has just been stashed away on your hard drive!

We wish you all the best, and we’ll see you on the water soon!
Pyranha

11
Mar

Galway Fest 2020

This weekend saw the ninth year of Galway Fest, and what a weekend it was! Team Paddler, Sal Montgomery headed across the pond to check out what it’s all about…

Over in the West of Ireland, an amazing community of paddlers dedicate a huge amount of time and effort into putting on this yearly gathering that attracts paddlers from all over the world. This year, participants from Ireland, UK, Spain, Austria, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, and America headed over for one of Europe’s biggest kayaking events.

From world-class athletes to weekend warriors and club paddlers, there’s something for everyone during this jam-packed 3 days!

Freestyle Friday

The event kicked off with a bang over in Tuam, where around 170 athletes, including several world-class freestyle paddlers, showcased their skills. During the day it was a jam-format, where each paddler had 2 minutes to score as many points as possible.

The banks were full of spectators as paddlers battled it out, trying to make it to the top 10 and through to the flood-lit finals. There were big moves and impressive rides put down, making for an inspiring and exciting event, for both competitors and spectators!

Men’s Results:
1st – Quim Fontané Masó – 1530
2nd – Robert Crowe – 1445
3rd – David McClure – 1315

Women’s Results:
1st – Ottilie Robinson-Shaw – 730
2nd – Sage Donnelly – 340
3rd – Lowri Davies – 310

Speedy Saturday

Roughly 300 competitors headed on over to the Boluisce River on Saturday morning for the individual time-trials, attempting to paddle the whitewater stretch (which finishes in the sea) as fast as possible. Crowds gathered at the final bridge, cheering as paddlers took on the last, chunky rapid.

Even the stormy weather didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, with some paddlers even continuing into the sea for a surf (or a trashing!)

Men’s Results:
1st – Nick Bennett – 05:33.937 – New Course Record!
2nd – Lucien Schreiber – 05:44.667
3rd – Jack Ledwith – 05:45:122

Women’s Results:
1st – Sage Donnelly – 05:58.91
2nd – Aoife Hanrahan – 05:59.328
3rd – Cara Lee – 06:04:736

Party-Time!

The 80’s-themed night started with arcade games at the Electric bar in Galway centre, before paddlers clad in bright-coloured leotards and leg warmers moved up to the exclusive-use upper level, ready to show off their dance moves! A good time was had, with probably a few sore heads the next morning!

Stampede Sunday

The highlight for many paddlers and spectators this weekend was likely to be the boater-x event. Taking place in the centre of Galway, many members of the public passing by couldn’t help but stop and see what all the noise was about!

Due to all the rain leading up to this weekend the river was pretty juicy, making for some big waves and powerful flows! Paddlers charged hard and put up a good fight for the win!

Men’s Results:
1st – Sean Cahill
2nd – Quim Fontané Masó
3rd – Lucien Schreiber

Women’s Results:
1st – Sage Donnelly
2nd – Susan Doyle
3rd – Ottilie Robinson-Shaw

The day was finished off with stories from expedition-legend, Dave Manby; from cardboard box races in Wales to wild first descents in the Himalayas, filling the room with inspiration and a lot of laughter, before event-organisers Aoife Hanrahan and Barry Loughnane announced the final winners. Thanks to the amazing amount of support from many brands and companies, the prizes up for grabs included a tonne of gear, (beer!), clothes, event entries, and even coaching.

The local paddling community also dedicated two awards as memorials for local paddlers and friends, Alex McGourty and David Higgins, who tragically lost their lives whilst paddling in South America two years ago. These two individuals were a huge part of the local community and their memory will continue to live on through the event.

Massive congratulations to all participants, volunteers and organisers! Galway Fest is an incredible event, which is likely to continue growing over the coming years. The range of events means that all levels of paddler can get involved and have a great time! The enthusiasm and stoke, as well as the welcoming and encouraging atmosphere over the weekend, were phenomenal, and I already can’t wait for next year!

Everyone involved did an absolutely outstanding job of ensuring that this event ran smoothly. It was obvious throughout the weekend that the organisers and volunteers cared greatly about the event and everything behind it.

Well done and thank you to everyone involved in Galway Fest 2020, in particular, Aoife Hanrahan and Barry Loughnane; you guys crushed it!

See you next year!
Sal
@sal.montgomery

06
Mar

Lakeland Canoe Club and the Pyranha Burn

Lakeland Canoe Club is a small, but fast-growing paddlesport club based in Cumbria, drawing on members from across Cumbria, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. We paddle mostly in the North of England, with longer trips to Scotland and the Alps. We are a very active club, with trips most weekends, and also during the week, including Whitewater, Sea Kayaking, and Open boating; it’s this very active programme of trips which has fuelled our growth, and we have a mix of people joining, both those new to paddling and more experienced paddlers, often getting back into the sport after a layoff.

For new joiners, we offer a range of coaching and training sessions, including indoor pool sessions to teach basic skills, and coached trips on rivers. To make this more effective, in 2019 we decided to buy a small “fleet” of kayaks which members can borrow. This posed an obvious challenge; with so many boats on the market, what to buy?

We needed something which was a good learning platform for novices, but still exciting enough for more experienced paddlers. As you’d expect, there was no shortage of opinions(!), but the clear winner was the Pyranha Burn, and we bought a total of four boats in Medium and Large. These have had a lot of use, and feedback from people who’ve paddled them has been universally positive.

For beginners and improvers, the Burn is a very stable boat which inspires confidence. It’s easy to hold it on edge without feeling you’re going to get tipped in, and it makes mastering breaking in and out, ferry gliding, and all the basic skills easy to learn. The boat just feels really solid, and able to look after you; one paddler described it as “a bit like being in a Land Rover, it’ll go anywhere!”

It’s also a great boat for improving your roll; we teach rolling skills indoors, and we’ve recently added one of the Burns to the teaching boats we keep in the pool. It enables paddlers who’ve got a basic roll to practice in a “proper” boat, before trying them on the river.

For intermediates and advanced paddlers, the Burn is often a revelation to those who’ve not paddled one before, especially those coming from more “old school” kayaks. The short length means it’s easy to edge, turn and spin the boat, but the rails keep it on track, and the high volume keeps you on top of most holes and waves. Several members who have perfectly good boats of their own now prefer to borrow a club Burn, especially for bigger water.

From the club’s perspective, the Burn is the perfect boat.

27
Feb

Welcome to the Fusion Family

Like all families, the Fusions share common traits, particularly in their adeptness across a wide range of different kayaking-based adventures, but each individual member has their own approach and specific qualities. Allow us to introduce you…

The Fusion IIs are adventurous…

Above: Director of US Operations/Logistics, Mike Patterson talks us through the Fusion II.

“The Fusion II is my perfect adventure kayak, and the first boat I pull out when I’m showing my non-paddling friends my favourite spots (especially as the three different sizes available make sure everyone is happy)!

I just find it so easy to paddle; the Fusion II is comfy, stable, super manoeuvrable, and especially for such a compact kayak, it tracks beautifully with plenty of speed. Whether I want to chill out on flatwater, add a little spice with some white water, or just paddle out into the sunset on a summer evening, it’s my first choice, and after hearing how much fun it is in the surf, that’s next up on my hit list…”

Lauren Mackereth, EU/ROW Sales Manager

The Fusion Duo is a sharer…

Above: The story of two families’ (including Designer, Robert Peerson and his family) shared journey on the river and by its banks.

“I believe the Fusion Duo really can turn a non-kayaker into a lover of the river in just one paddle. Not only can you take a friend on an overnighter down your favorite river, but it is also an amazing tool for teaching. The boat has nice length and volume for a full-sized friend, plus an easy-access hatch for all your camping or day-tripping adventures.

The Fusion Duo really is the best way to teach someone how to kayak or about rivers in general and makes for a unique learning experience. You’re sitting in the back of the boat able to explain each angle, stroke, and edge as you go!”

David Fusilli, Head of US West Coast Operations

The Fusion SOT is reassuring…

Above: US Team Manager, Big D gets his fish on with the Fusion SOT.

“As a whitewater kayaker, the idea of a Sit-On-Top never really piqued my interest; ironically (and unfortunately), I felt it to be beneath me. The first time I paddled the Fusion SOT, however, I couldn’t manage to wipe the grin from my face!

The Fusion SOT made rivers I know too well feel completely different and added a new level of comfort to overnight runs. I was able to pack more gear than I ever imagined, and surprisingly, swimming was no longer a dreaded occurrence; instead, it was easy to jump in, cool off, then slide back on the boat and keep paddling.

The thigh straps offer great control in whitewater, but when things mellow out there’s also enough room and stability to move around and relax. I found myself sitting sideways, with my feet hanging in the water, or lazily lying on the back deck taking in the views.

The Fusion SOT has even opened the door to whitewater for my wife, who’d previously been too nervous to attempt it, but the manoeuvrability and open design gave her the confidence to try.”

Mike Patterson, Director of US Operations/Logistics

So there they are, a family of kayaks to suit your family of paddlers!

Find out more about the Fusions at your local Pyranha dealer today.

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