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18
May

Tuck Fest 2019

Over 55,000 outdoor enthusiasts come together to celebrate the outdoor lifestyle at the Tuck Fest. This multi-day festival is held at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC and features a packed schedule of whitewater kayaking, climbing, trail running, mountain biking, and adventure racing. On top of all of that, there is also live music, exhibitions and demos.

The Pyranha booth was buzzing all weekend long. Almost an entire fleet of Pyranha kayaks was available to demo – the 9Rs, 12Rs, Machnos, Burns, Lokis, and Rippers were all lined up and ready to go.

While the demos were constantly out on the water, there was also a steady stream of paddlers asking about the 9R II – what changed, how they compare, but mostly about when they can get one. For more information, you can check out Pyranha’s blog post on the new 9R II for all the details and tech specs.

The Ripper was in high demand – with all 3 sizes available to demo, it was easy to find the perfect fit. Paddlers loved the downriver speed paired with the playfulness of the stern. You will soon find yourself stern squirting on the eddy line, then surfing each and every wave. If you have not paddled the Ripper yet, it is definitely one for the list.

One of the favorite whitewater events of the festival is the Boatercross on Friday night. During the day, paddlers practice on the competition channel, tightening their lines and catching the gates. By 7 pm, spectators are lined up along both sides of the channel to watch this exciting event.


This year was one to watch – the place to be was at the last gate; it was by far the carnage corner, as well as the game changer. In the final moments, it was extremely tight until Evy Leibfarth edged past the others at the last gate and took it home.


Pyranha also sponsored whitewater clinics over the weekend. On Saturday, Chris Hipgrave ran a Whitewater Racing clinic, which was perfectly timed to run right before the Baker’s Dozen Race (13 laps on the Wilderness Channel). Paddlers were able to find the fastest lines on the run, talk about strategy, and finesse their techniques.


“Paddle with a Pro” in the new Fusion Duo was also available all weekend. Paddlers signed up for a 30-minute session with a Pro from Team Pyranha. After a warm-up run on the Wilderness Channel, maybe two, they headed out on the Competition Channel. Paddlers were impressed by the stability and the responsiveness of the Fusion Duo. They were catching eddies, running tight lines and surfing the waves – the options are endless; all of those features paired with the storage capacity set this kayak up for success on overnighters and expeditions.


Sunday featured back to back clinics – one of the clinics was the “Slice and Dice” clinic with Ben Drew and Holt McWhirt. If you had a Loki or a Ripper, this was the place to be!

Overall, the Tuck Fest was an amazing success. It was great to see so many people come together to share their love for the outdoors. Many walked away with new experiences they have not had before – zip lining, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, or climbing. Spectators were able to watch a new sport that they have not seen before – Boatercross, or the Deep Water Solo Competition. Paddlers were learning new techniques, taking on the Competition Channel for the first time, or simply finding that perfect comfort level in their kayak.

The best part for me was being able to watch those moments and to catch them with my camera. One of my favorite quotes from Richard Bach in his novel, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, sums up this weekend perfectly for me:

You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”

Richard Bach

15
May

Planning a Trip Somewhere a Bit Different

Rather than tell people exactly where to go and what to do, I thought I’d note down some fundamental ideas and things to consider to help budding explorers go out and plan their own adventure.

It’s probably important to mention that if you are going somewhere remote, you might not want to push your limits quite as much as usual. Be safe out there.

1.       Do Your Research

Hunt out guidebooks and search online for blogs, photos or videos. There is so much information out there and chances are your area has been explored and documented in some way. Google Earth can also be an amazing tool for scoping out the landscape you’ll be venturing into.

Maybe you know someone who has already been where you want to go? Buy them a beer/give them a lift to a river and pick their brains!

You’ll want to know where exactly you want to go, what to expect of the rivers, when the rivers will be in good condition and have a rough idea of logistics. In some places like Nepal, you may need permits/permission to access certain areas.

You’ll probably want to make some kind of estimate of how much this will all cost.

2.       Get a Good Group

A group really can make or break a trip. When you are going to spend an extended period of time in each other’s company, it’s pretty important that you are able to get along well and trust one another.

Ideally, everyone will bring something different to the team. That might be leadership on the river, cooking skills, even a sense of humour can be an asset.

The group should ideally all be around the same ability level too, so you can all take care of each other.

Probably the best team for a multi-day trip that I’ve been a part of had;

·         Someone that had already paddled the river to lead the trip

·         Experienced expedition paddlers

·         A paramedic

·         Super keen and fit people willing to push the group to paddle/portage faster

·         Access to lots of camping/cooking/safety equipment

·         A good rapport between each and every group member

3.       Guiding? Agents?

A few years ago, hiring a guide service would be something I would have never considered. Why pay more to do something I could do myself?

As I moved away from student life and got myself a ‘real’ job, I found myself with less free time and more money. I wanted to make the most of my free time, and a guide made this possible. You can spend less time faffing and more time doing the fun stuff! It’s certainly something to consider if your time is valuable to you.

Even if you are managing the trip yourself, you may need to work with a travel agent to book private travel or organise permits. Hopefully, your research will have shed some light on this.

4.       Got the Right Skills?

Does everyone in the group have paddling and safety skills suitable for the grades of water you will be undertaking?

It might be time to get out practising or take a course or two.

If you are going to be wild camping you might want to make sure you know how to build a fire.

5.       Got the Right Equipment?

You will need all your standard safety gear and first aid items, but you may also want to add some items to your collection, e.g. you will probably want a set of split paddles in the group.

Anything you don’t know how to use, make sure you take the time to learn. There are no user manuals or 4G signals in remote areas.

·         Do you need any special medication for the area you are going to?

·         Will you need climbing equipment for access issues?

·         Will you need cooking equipment?

·         Will you need camping equipment?

·         Will you need spare clothing?

·         How will you keep everything dry in your boat? (Watershed dry bags are worth their weight in gold!)

·         Will you need a satellite phone or GPS beacon for emergencies?

For longer trips where you need to carry a lot of stuff in your boat, you might end up overloading your kayak. I switched from a 9R to a 9R L for a multi-day in Nepal, and it was a brilliant decision, the extra weight from my multiday equipment made the bigger 9R paddle a lot like a regular 9R for me. Another trip I picked a Machno, for its extra volume and carrying capacity.

There’s a whole world out there to enjoy. Do something a bit different and make some memories!

03
May

9R vs 9R II

The week before the big reveal, the guys at Pyranha asked me to take out the new 9R II, along with the original 9R, and compare my thoughts on the performance of the two. Here’s what happened…

The UK rivers were pretty much as dry as a rice cake, but luckily there was a planned Bank Holiday release on the Tryweryn, North Wales. Now the Tryweryn isn’t the biggest, gnarliest whitewater around, but it is full of fun moves, a few small drops, some great surf waves, and there’s a lot of technical challenges on offer, as well as the levels being reliable and consistent. All in all, a great place to test out a new boat when other rivers aren’t running.

The last time I’d paddled a 9R was in Chile over the winter season, so I started the day by getting a feel for the original again. From the moment we slid down the start ramp together, it felt like I’d been reunited with an old friend!

Gliding over boils, flying over ledges, and skipping into eddies, this boat really is incredible. It’s fast and fun, whilst still being stable and controllable. I wrote an article a couple of months ago, talking about how much I loved this boat, and today reminded me that I still feel very much the same way.

So, when it was time to try out the 9R II, I was sceptical about how I would like any edition more than the original. What is there to change? Why fix something that’s not broken etc…

Ok, I have to admit that when the shiny new, ‘Orange Soda’ coloured 9R II was pulled out of the Pyranha van, it did look pretty damn beautiful!

After getting all the outfitting set into short-ass mode, myself and Andy Butler headed back to the river and put her to the test. Tiny eddies, tricky, thread-the-needle moves, challenging attainments and catching surf waves, you name it, and Butler made me do it!

📷: Iain McConnell

Within only minutes, I was in love once again. The 9R II has all the great characteristics of the original 9R but amplified. Faster, more responsive, more manoeuvrable, and even more fun! The speed did catch me off-guard a couple of times, causing some looks of terror on the faces of other paddlers sat in the eddies as I charged towards them a little out of control looking! Once I had figured this out though, it felt awesome whizzing in and out of the flow, chasing Butler to the next micro eddy!

📷: Iain McConnell

Responsiveness and manoeuvrability-wise it was awesome. If you’re an active paddler, then it’s very easy to drive it to where you want to go, as well as make quick and sudden changes of direction. Not to mention also nice for carving around on surf waves.

One of the main aspects I appreciated, was the ease to get the boat on edge. As a small paddler, I have struggled with this in some wider or generally bigger boats, but with the 9R II, I found it took little effort to put it on edge, meaning that it was easy getting the nose up over features; super good for those leany boofs! Unlike any other creek boat I’ve paddled, I was able to move the boat with ease from completely flat in a pool to a splat position on an adjacent rock. This is not to say that the 9R II is a smaller boat and will be unsuitable for bigger paddlers, it’s actually wider in some parts compared to the original, it’s simply that the distributions are different. Meaning the paddler can move it around more effectively, with more efficiency and is, therefore, more in control.

So all-in-all I was proven wrong! Pyranha have essentially made an awesome boat even more awesome! It’s fast, fun and exciting, whilst still maintaining reliability when things are getting a bit hairy! I’m already psyched to get this boat out on lots of rivers this Summer!

Pyranha’s well-known tag line ‘By Enthusiasts, For Enthusiasts’ couldn’t be any truer than it is right now. The passion for creating the best boats as possible shines through in their latest design. Vigilant testing and multiple modifications have made this design well worth the wait. This boat is next level.

Thank you guys! You crushed it with this one!

Sal

www.salmontgomery.com

30
Apr

Balkan Rivers Tour 4 – Wildwater in Wild Romania

Story | Balkan River Defence

Photos| Katja Pokorn and Mitja Legat

Balkan Rivers Tour 4 has just started, on the stunning rivers and deep in the wild forests of Romania! The Balkan River Defence (BRD) crew have taken on a new formula for this year’s action, with 3, one-week mini tours in new locations! Instead of changing the location every day they will set a basecamp for each week and use it as a place to network, develop a river defence plan and kayak, fish, or hike. Balkan Rivers Tour’s purpose has always been to expose amazing places and to directly help passionate locals fighting for their rivers, and BRT4 Week 1 in Romania was a perfect example of this in action!

Day 1 | Twenty kayakers from 11 countries put on the Basca Mica River in Romania, and enjoyed its boulder gardens for 23km to BRT basecamp where the campfire and rakiu (local liquor) kept them warm and merry!

Day 2 | Day 2 started with a meeting with the mayor of the town of Nehoiu who is supportive of sustainable development and eco-tourism in the valley instead of dams. After the meeting, it felt good to get wet and experience the local rafting run, the Buzau River.

Day 3 | Today provided a painful insight of the river; the Basca Mare is an amazing river in the midst of thick forests with loads of gradient and rapids – a paradise for kayaking and fly-fishing. But at its headwaters in the middle of Natura 2000 protected area, Romanian government-run company Hidroelectrica is trying (currently lacking funds) to build a dam that would divert the whole river into a 20 km long pipe that would supply poorly designed Siriului reservoir with more water and leave Basca Mare completely dry. Want to help prevent this genocide over nature? Help fund the lawyer bringing the case to court via https://facem.declic.ro/campaigns/donate-for-rivers-en

Day 4 | Day 4 was action packed! First thing in the morning the crew had a meeting with mayor of Gura Teghii about the dam plans and incredible eco-tourism potential of the valley, then they headed up to Basca Mare with kayaks again (to pull off a possible first descent of the upper gorge). In the evening, the kayakers got hooked on fly fishing with the help of local fly fishing expert George Minculete.

Day 5 | Off to the local primary school in Gura Teghii to hang around with 110 local kids. Workshops, presentations, an invitation to tomorrow’s clean up, and just sharing ideas with a young generation that understands the whole thing so well was motivating and inspiring! They said, “There will be no dam on Basca Mare!” Now we are getting ready for the grand finale – a big cleanup action Live Green Every Day-eveniment de implicare civica si ecologica and rafting in the AM, and then The Undamaged screening and PARTY in the evening.

Day 6 | The final day of BRT4 – Week 1: Romania started with a frosty Saturday morning. The kayakers warmed up with some Țuică and ventured off to Nehoiu for a big river clean up with Let’s Do It, Romania!. Then, back to the Basca Mare again, which charged them up for the evening screening of The Undamaged and a crazy Balkan party. Romania, its wild rivers, and warm people, rock! Let’s all make sure they will keep on rocking on.

1000 thanks to local river defender and our friend Catalin Campeanu, outfitter Green Adventure, host campsite NewOld Village, and everybody that made this week so extremely good!

Day 7 | The BRT4 crew had trouble leaving Romania… so on their way back home, they took part in a special event on a very special river. Jiu River is a story of success. It’s a symbol of free-flowing rivers in Romania and its mountainous flow was the reason for the declaration of a National Park around it. This didn’t stop Hidroelectrica from trying to build a dam on it 2 years ago. What stopped them was the passionate determination of local activists! Seeing a nearly completed dam with a wild river running through it was simply amazing. But kayaking with a crew of cool people to show respect to Arthur – local kayaker and river defender who passed away rafting exactly a year ago on Jiu River – was the best way to end our mission in Romania. This one goes to Arthur, his family and the whole whitewater tribe!

Follow along and make a plan to join Soca River week of BRT4 July 7-13th for film screenings, kayaking, parties, and protests!

More info, here: balkanriverdefence.org/brt4/

27
Apr

“What’s New About the 9R II Anyway?”

If the original 9R was our chart-topping debut album, then the development of 9R II certainly fulfilled the role of the notorious ‘difficult second album’. We’ve torn out hair, furrowed our eyebrows hard enough to create sparks, and been moments from curling up on the floor in a sobbing ball at several points during the past two years, but here we are, the 9R II is ready to rock your neoprene socks off!

Five years of paddling the original 9R, analysing its performance in competition, and taking on board feedback from Team Pyranha and the wider paddling community brought us to a design brief that called for increased acceleration, higher speed, and more control at top speed. We have never been ones to set the bar low, but coming from the high standards set by the original 9R, there were moments we thought we really might be crazy!

Discussions around how we could increase the hull speed the 9R carried through hydraulic features quickly led us to the realisation that what we might see as imperfections, were quirks that some paddlers had fallen hard for (something like the freckles on the face of that cute barista at your favourite coffee shop). That was when we decided to continue production of the original 9R alongside 9R II, so we could give the design of 9R II room to progress without breaking any hearts.

One of the key areas we identified for development was reducing the rise of the bow through features such as drops and larger stoppers without harming the paddler’s ability to lift the bow when boofing, either when flat or on edge; in this vein, we trialled a few ideas which could conservatively be described as ‘unique’, such as mirroring our innovative bow wave deflectors on the stern of the kayak and a wedge-like kicker on the stern. These concepts were all either toned down, or rejected completely, but ultimately led us to the final design of the 9R II.

So what features made it to the final 9R II design?

  • The overall width of the hull’s planing surface has been maintained, but with the centre portion narrowed down just a touch for faster straight-line speed and edge to edge transitions.
  • A tweaked rocker profile with a subtle stern kicker ensures maximum effective waterline while the kayak is being driven forwards but releases the stern when you ease off the power to enable tighter turns; essentially, the 9R II gives you the speed of a 10’ kayak, with the manoeuvrability of an 8’ kayak.
  • Width has been added higher up the cross-section around the seam line, particularly towards the stern, leading to softer stern sidewalls for smoother moves, whilst maintaining enough of the stern control edges for tracking and carving.
  • The combination of that wider stern, tailored rocker profile, and stern kicker help reduce tail tapping when coming off the lip of drops and keep the bow down when travelling through features, while a slightly wider bow and secondary release edge in addition to the bow wave deflectors keep the hull planing at speed on the water’s surface.
  • A pronounced peak to both the bow and stern decks promotes more efficient shedding of water when punching through features or resurfacing after drops, and in combination with additional volume focused around the stern deck, increases the handling on bigger volume runs and for paddlers at the top of the weight range.
  • Paddle entry cutaways allow more efficient, vertical placement of key strokes, and are shielded from water-loading by a bow volume step which is tied into the style of the bow handle recess.
  • A bow rescue point has been added to complete the array of drop-forged aluminium security handles and rescue points; a rescue point was chosen rather than a second, full-sized handle to keep the overall weight of the kayak to a minimum.
  • The open stern handle recess we experimented with on the 9R Large to increase the efficiency of water shedding from the stern deck, and which has now also been tried and tested in the Machno, carries through into the 9R II; the handle is placed slightly inboard for protection, but remains easily accessible for off-the-water handling of the boat and swimmer rescues.

…and most importantly, we freshened up the styling and made a few other small tweaks to create something we’re confident will be an even bigger hit than the original 9R; bringing back the analogy we began this post with though, just like you can go back and listen to your favourite band’s debut album, we’re still making the original 9R and smaller/lighter paddlers or those who prefer a ‘sportier’ edge can still go paddle it if they prefer.

In short, the 9R II will offer paddlers a faster ride, with greater control for smoother moves. It might have been a long time in the making, but it’s far from slow!

9R II Medium is in production now, and we’ve turned our sights to tailoring the design for larger paddlers to produce a 9R II Large later in the year.

Think you know what it’s all about? You don’t until you’ve paddled it!

Book a 9R II demo at your local dealer now:

GERMANY
Sport Schröer, Unna
Kanu-Treff, Augsburg
FRANCE
ZigZag, Albi
Globepaddler, Huningue
NETHERLANDS
Kanocentrum Arjan Bloem, Wormer
AUSTRIA
Source to Sea, Innsbruck
ENGLAND
AS Watersports, Exeter
Desperate Measures, Holme Pierrepont
Above + Below, Lee Valley
Marsport, Reading
Northshore Watersports, Tees Barrage
Whitewater The Canoe Centre, Shepperton
Go Kayaking North West, Runcorn
WALES
River Active, Llangollen
Canoe & Kayak Store, Cardiff
NORTH AMERICA/REST OF THE WORLD
They’re on the way!
Please contact your local dealer.

#FastIsFun

23
Apr

Pyranha Limited Edition ‘Chile Red’ Colourway: Available Now!

We’re calling time on the Limited Edition ‘Pink Fizz’ colourway and doing something we haven’t in a while – a solid colour!

Our new Solid Red Limited Edition colourway with Turquoise Hardware and Outfitting Trim is called ‘Chile Red’, a name inspired by both the spicy red fruit (yes, it is a fruit!) and the whitewater haven; here’s what some of Team Pyranha have to say about the latter:

“It’s well known that Chile is waterfall heaven, but what surprises most paddlers once they arrive is everything else that’s on offer! Whilst heading towards the next park and huck on the list, you’ll pass through immensely varied landscapes, past active volcanos and through vast mountain ranges, discovering all manner of whitewater treats including technical steep creeks, pool drop runs, and miles of boulder garden rapids, as well as world-class big volume rivers. Chile really has it all!” – Sal Montgomery,
salmontgomery.com

“Chile is a truly special place to me; since my first visit as an 18-year-old, it’s treated me amazingly and always felt like home. So many rivers and endless whitewater, stunning scenery, and good friends all around make it my favourite winter paddling destination without a doubt. The only thing you’ll ever regret will be not going sooner!” – Gerd Serrasolses, Serrasolses Brothers Program

17
Apr

Pyranha Ripper | My Go-To Boat

I have had the chance to paddle the Pyranha Ripper for the past year, and I genuinely believe this is one of the greatest kayaks on the planet!

It has become my go-to boat for kayaking, from low volume creeks to high-volume rivers, the Ripper is for everything. If you are looking to spice up your local runs and a creek boat is a little boring, the Ripper is the boat for you! I am in between the medium and the small, but I choose to paddle a small to make things a little more playful. Who doesn’t like to add a little spice to their kayaking?

Baby Falls, Tellico River
📷: Tony Hardman

My favorite concept about this boat is the stern! I love how slicey and low volume it is. It makes many vertical tricks extremely easy; for example, I love how simple the stern is to sink when I go for stern stalls. I also am not the greatest at kickflipping creek boats, but the low volume stern has made it so much easier to learn.

Stern squirting the Ripper in Buena Vista, Co
📷: Tony Hardman

I really love the hull of this boat; coming from a freestyle kayaking background, the planing hull is amazing. It makes carving back and forth on waves the best thing in the world! From small waves to big waves, carving back and forth makes you feel like a boss in the Ripper.  The planing hull makes the boat easy to manoeuvre in big rapids; if I need to get from one side of the river to the other, the boat turns fast and feels like a bullet speeding across the river.

Paddling the East Fork of the Lewis in Washington State
📷: Jack Shanlin

The Ripper has a full volume bow which makes punching through large features the simplest thing in the world! It has enough volume for maximum comfort for foot room and gives the ultimate pop out though features. When running waterfalls, it allows the boat to skip out through the water at the bottom. This bow also has controlled edges too, which makes carving easy and paddling through rapids simple. It allows for quick manoeuvres through rapids and keeps the hull loose for flat spins on waves.

Boofing Baby Falls on the Tellico
📷: Tony Hardman

I seriously cannot get enough of this boat! The Ripper is perfect for everything from waterfalls, to big volume rivers, to low volume creeks; this is the best all-around the boat. I have flown around the world with it because it makes every river run 100 times better and so much more fun! I recommend this boat to everyone, it doesn’t matter if you are small or big, the Ripper is for you! You can get the Ripper in three sizes to suit you and your goals, so head out to your local Pyranha dealer and pick one up for yourself!

📷: Tony Hardman

12
Apr

The most popular river in the Northern Black Forest

The future of the Murg river, a true gem, is in danger.

Changing legal requirements (“Wasserrahmenrichtline”) and programs developing renewable energy resources currently lead to the reconstruction of all existing small hydropower plants (Wolfsheck, Breitwies, and Schlechtau) as well as the Fettweis plant in Forbach, the Schwarzenbach dam, and the dam in Kirschbaumwasen. The focus of these reconstructions are energy production and enabling fish migration. The interests of paddlers are not being taken into account, and whether the dams remain runnable or at least enabling portaging is not considered. In the worst case, the Murg can become unrunnable for most paddlers.

We need to act now:

Concerning the plant in Breitwies, the crest could be altered in a way that going over the ramp in kayaks is possible without any increased risk. The additional costs would amount to 10.000 – 20.000€, if these measures are taken during the new construction measures, using the present site infrastructure. Refitting the ramp later on would be much more expensive since it would represent a construction project of its own.

In the coming years, further construction projects will make paddling on all other sections of the Murg impossible, that’s why we developed a comprehensive concept for the Murg Valley.

DOWNLOAD: Gesamtkonzept “Kajakfahren im Murgtal”

The measures put forward here are just the first within a bigger action catalogue, necessary in order to preserve whitewater paddling in the Northern Black Forest.

We can obtain funding from different sources, but there will remain a co-payment that we need to finance through donations acquired from paddlers, clubs, or industry sponsors. The crowdfunding campaign is set up in order to top up the co-payment. Every bit received here can be multiplied by subsidies.

The Murg is a precedent case; if we don’t succeed in preserving the most popular river in the Northern Black Forest, is there anything we can achieve?

Every donation counts:

The donations to this campaign are managed by “KanuBW” (Baden-Württemberg canoe and kayak federation)
Kanu-Verband Baden-Württemberg e. V.

Max-Porzig-Straße 45, 78224 Singen

The KanuBW has also established a direct donation account where you can donate via bank transfer. Using this way, not only the crowdfunding fee can be spared but donation receipts for tax deductibility can be issued since the KanuBW is an organisation of public utility.

Campaign organisation team:
Christine Richter   from Kaiserslautern, canoe slalom referee at the Kanu-BW
Uwe Merkel from Karlsruhe, hydraulic engineer, voluntarily supporting the Kanu-BW
– Tobias Frodl from Elchesheim-Illingen, member of the Kanu-BW

09
Apr

Paddle to Protect

Join the Balkan River Defence team this April 15-20th for a wild week of whitewater and river defence on the rivers of Romania during BRT4!

A whitewater kayak can be a powerful tool. It can take you deep into inaccessible canyons, remote stretches of wild whitewater and rivers of astounding beauty and power. From the seat of a kayak you can experience incredible landscapes and amazing river experiences. A kayak can take you to the places that fuel you. It can also be a tool to protect the rivers and water systems that nourish you and nourish our earth. Right now, more than ever, those wild places need help. They need protection. They need paddle-wielding warriors. 

What is Balkan River Defence?

As kayakers, we are privileged to experience the wilderness that a boat and paddle take us to. But this access also means we are the first people to notice, discover, or identify the threats to our waterways, like dams, pollution or resource extraction. If you haven’t already heard of them, Balkan River Defence (BRD) is a kayaker-founded river conservation NGO, dedicated to defending the last wild rivers in Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. Founded on the simple premise that people who paddle the wild rivers of the world also have a responsibility to protect them, this crew of international kayakers are changing the way river conservation is approached, proving that river conservation doesn’t have to take place in offices, and can take place on rivers too.

Seeking a way to take action in defence of rivers, professional kayaker, ex-Olympic rower, and biologist, Rok Rozman turned a simple idea into the biggest river conservation movement in Europe. He had enough of listening to complaints about the funding, organization, and bureaucracy needed to stop 2.700 proposed dams being built on the last free-flowing rivers of Europe. He wanted to do something simple and effective that would give people an option to join in and get involved directly. So, he took his kayak and his friends (some cameras and beers too) and paddled as many of the threatened rivers of the Balkans as possible, naming it the Balkan Rivers Tour (BRT).

Over the course of one month in 2016, they paddled 23 rivers in 6 countries; through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania. BRT created an atmosphere where a fisherman and a farmer, a scientist and a kayaker, could join together to develop solutions to the threats their rivers face. What was created was a wave of momentum that prompted the involvement of Patagonia in what is now their biggest global environmental campaign of 2019; Save the Blue Heart of Europe. BRT also caused a huge surge in international media coverage, helping to spread the word about the wild rivers that still exist in Europe, the dangers they face from hydro development, and the locals fighting to protect them. From Germany to the US, Canada to Albania, word was getting out. The last wild rivers of Europe are in danger and paddlers are helping to protect them.

Balkan River Defence Today

Today, Balkan Rivers Tour has turned into an annual paddling action, and the river conservation movement has evolved into Balkan River Defence (BRD) – a registered NGO in Slovenia. It is a version of grassroots activism where science and river conservation blend with kayaking and adventure sports. Their mission: Reveal the remaining free-flowing rivers and intact ecosystems of Europe; Support a community and network of local river activists; Expose hydropower as an unsustainable and destructive form of energy production; Provide alternatives using science, education, creativity, and adventure sports.

Team Pyranha paddlers Rok Rozman and Carmen Kuntz lead the team of crazy artists, activists, paddlers, and partiers who make up Balkan River Defence. They spend fewer days on the river each year so that they can spend more time behind the computer, organizing events, protests, petitions, and paddling actions. They have created a formula that makes nature conservation inclusive, fun, and light. And effective. Together with a greater network of river conservation NGOs throughout the Balkans, they have helped stop 6 dams. 

They are currently touring with the feature-length documentary that BRD has created, telling the story of the rivers of the Balkans. The Undamaged takes viewers on the wild ride that is Balkan Rivers Tour and shows them the rivers and villages of the Balkans, from the seat of a whitewater kayak.  

What Can You Do?

That’s simple. Join us on tour! Book your holidays in accordance with one of the three weeks that will make up Balkan Rivers Tour 4 and paddle, protest, and party with us in Romania (April 15-20), Slovenia (July 7-13) or Bulgaria (Sept 24-29). Help us show local, regional, and national decision makers that there is more value in attracting paddling tourism to their wild rivers, than damming them. That tourism can be a sustainable source of income for their economy. But it requires respect and conservation of their rivers.

Or, you could start your own grassroots river conservation action. Imagine if everyone came together to protect their home river, home watershed, or lake? If everyone started their own river conservation movement, all the mini river defence actions would link up to create a big web of locally-enforced, river defences. There are no rules. There is no template. Show the world what makes your river special and tell decision makers that you won’t give it up to pollution, hydropower, or development. Not ready to dive in head first just yet? Then stand with us, support the work we are doing through donations and support.

Imagine…

Imagine if each little group of kayakers banded together to protect their local watershed? Imagine the web of river defenders that could connect across the world!

I imagine the rivers would say thanks and that each day spent out there on the water, would taste and feel sweeter. The rivers give us so much, it’s not hard to give a little back.

To learn more about BRD, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or check out the videos on Vimeo where the atmosphere and personalities of the Balkans are reflected.

Check out the dates and locations for Balkan Rivers Tour 4.

26
Mar

A Magical Night | Upano River, Ecuador

The Upano river is located in the south of Ecuador. It is a river that runs through a beautiful canyon with a thousand waterfalls called The Grand Canyon of the Upano. This is was one of the most beautiful canyons I have ever paddled, and during out stay in Ecuador, World Class Academy decided to have an overnighter on this majestic river. I was unbelievably stoked because there is a project to put a dam on the Upano and us paddling was like a protest against the dam.

We started paddling mid-day on Friday and paddled for about an hour or two before we stopped at our first sight, which was a rock beach on the side of the river. We were not sleeping here, but there were beautiful fossils in the rocks. They were all shells and it was awesome to see untouched fossils because I have never really seen untouched fossils before too! 

The group I was in on the river was in charge of shooting as much media as possible to show the world about this river, but our plans ran into a little bit of trouble. We were paddling down the river and we went to stop at a rapid to shoot media, but one of our team members missed the eddy and went downstream, which was fine. We got back in our boats and paddled down, but little did we know. The rapid we tried to get out at was right in front of where we were sleeping that night. Though we didn’t know and continued to paddle down the canyon and stopped at a cool boof, and we waited for what seemed like forever when we finally saw some of our friends come down. They stopped and told us we missed the camp. I looked back up stream and thought about having to hike my boat back up stream through some stout jungle.

There was a takeout about 30 minutes down stream that we went to and ordered taxis to take us back up to camp. Though they took us to the wrong spot and there was some miscommunication and we thought the river started to flood, so the rest of the group was going to hike up to where we were dropped off. Therefore, we started to set up camp and we built a fire. It got dark and I started to get a little scared because I was cold and didn’t have my dry clothes or my sleeping equipment because they were in someone else’s boat. After waiting for a while, we saw Abe, our guest coach, drive down the hill. He came to rescue us! We got in his SUV and headed to the camp site; we ate dinner and found out the river didn’t flood and finished off the day setting up out hammocks and went straight to bed.  

The next day, we arose from out luscious night in the jungle, ate some breakfast and put on the river. We paddled into the canyon and I was blown away by how gorgeous this canyon was. After paddling for paddling for a while, we stopped at a waterfall. It was very beautiful, and we were able to climb about half way up and jump into the drop and then get smashed by the flow into the pool down below. After swimming for a while, we hopped back in our boats and headed down stream. Rapid after rapid, waterfall after waterfall, we paddled downstream. The Upano has quality whitewater, with epic boofs and epic waves to surf.

After paddling for 5 hours we got to the last rapid. It was massive! It had a massive crashing wave in the middle and Kalob, our head coach, told us it was all good to go! Each student paddled hard into the massive wave, some were lucky and punch right through. Others not so much and they got crushed! After this rapid, we ended our overnighter with some snacks, which is always the number one priority after rivers.

See ya on the water,

Cat H.

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