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Lulu Love Tour 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Getting Injured on a Kayaking Trip

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

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

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

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

Photo: Adrian Mattern
Me hunting for photos

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

Bren Orton on the Myrkdalselvi

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

Bren Orton after running Eksingdalen

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

Philipp Brunner focusing on Tunneldrop

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

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

Philipp Brunner on the Jordalselvi


Small Ripper 2 is Here!

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

Photo: Phil Bulkeley

Original Ripper Vs Ripper 2…

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

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

Then in walked the Ripper 2.

Photo: Phil Bulkeley

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

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

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

What’s changed?

  • More bow rocker

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

  • More hull width

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

  • More tailee potential 

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

  • More tailored to paddlers

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

Photo: Phil Bulkeley

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

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

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

See you on the water!


Small Ripper 2 techy stuff

Length: 266cm (8’8’’)

Width: 62.7cm (24.5’’)

Weight: 19kg (42lbs)

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

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

Phil Bulkeley Photography


Best Day Ever, Part 2

Clearwater, British Columbia

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

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

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

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

The Clearwater

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

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

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

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

Benny Clark & Tikka looking down on the Clearwater river

Raft River

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Sal’s adventures –

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


Best Day Ever, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome Alberta

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

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

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

Elbow River

Boof, Skip, Slide, Repeat!

Elbow Falls

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

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

Slide Rapid, Elbow River

Cataract Creek

A proper adventure and great bang for your buck!

Hercules & Titan waterfalls
Photographer: Louise Stanway

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

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

Sheep River

Blue water and crazy sheep!

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

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

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

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

Follow Sal’s adventures –

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


A Triumphant Return!

Some of Pyranha’s earliest successes, forming the foundations of the company and the ethos we operate by to this day, are to be found in our innovations and string of World Championship titles in Slalom competition in the late-‘70s and early-‘80s.

Richard Fox races a Pyranha Image 75 at the 1985 World Championships in Augsburg

Understandably, therefore, we were delighted that the Ripper became the boat of choice for Extreme Slalom in 2018, and to see some extremely talented athletes use it to achieve podium spots in international slalom competition once again in the years following.

Joe Clarke celebrates victory in a Pyranha Ripper at the 2021 World Championships in Bratislava

When we learnt that Extreme Slalom had gained a foothold in the 2024 Olympic Games, we decided it was the right time for a committed and decisive return to our roots, and we’re delighted to have worked with NGBs and leading athletes on an evolution of the Ripper design specifically focused on maximum performance in Extreme Slalom; the Rip-R Evo.

The Ripper just happened to be the fastest boat out there for Extreme Slalom; the Rip-R Evo is a laser-focused design with one purpose… to win!

We must have hit the mark, as over the last few months we’ve seen more and more athletes choose the Rip-R Evo for Extreme Slalom, with over 75% of the top-10 athletes in the current standings of the World Cup series racing in one. In addition to that, across the Senior, U23, and Junior World Championships, athletes in Rip-R Evos secured 2 Bronze medals, 4 Silvers, and 3 Golds between them!

Graham proudly carries Joe Clarke’s Rip-R Evo after his medal-winning run at the 2022 World Championships in Augsburg.

The adrenaline is pumping, and we’re looking forward to the final events of the World Cup series in Pau, France on August 26th-28th and La Seu d’Urgell, Spain on September 2nd-4th – best of luck to all those competing!


Get to Know Your Demons

What I love about kayaking is that on the one side I have moments of deep reflection on the river and on the other side have moments of no thoughts at all and just being in the moment. Sometimes, those two sides are very close together in time.

I want to share one of those thoughts with you that I had on the Susna in northern Norway. I was running the classic section of the Susna for the first time. When we reached the Showerdrop we got the line advice, “Start in the middle and push right. You will see when to boof. And of course, you know it from photos and videos.”

So I was sitting in the eddy above the drop, waiting for my turn to go down when I felt it; I was nervous.

Since Ron was taking photos of us, we were slow in going down, and I had the time to reflect on the source of my nervousness. I knew what the drop looked like from pictures, not especially hard or high, so that was not it. No rocks or undercuts that could get you into trouble. So getting hurt was obviously also not the reason.

After the drop is a big pool, so if you would fuck it up you just would go for a nice swim, and you could easily pick up all your equipment.

Photo: Ron Fischer

And then it hit me, I was scared of not hitting the line. Since I was the last one, everybody would see me messing up this so obviously easy line. Wow, I didn’t expect that, but this was exactly the source of my anxiety. I took some time to dive into that thought and explore it. I thought of myself as a person who doesn’t give much attention to the judgment of other people. But still, I felt that everybody has high expectations of my skills, and I was scared of not living up to them. Rationally, I know that everybody who was sitting down in the eddy wouldn‘t think less of me if I messed the boof up.

Well, not everybody; I would have been very disappointed with myself.

So there, I found it, my demon. I was scared of disappointing myself and others.

By the time I came to this realization, I was the last one in the eddy above the drop. Still, I took a few more moments to finish my line of thoughts. I realized that nobody in the group purposefully put pressure on me but myself. So I thought, “Okay, what if you mess up the move? Nothing will happen besides a bruised ego. Well, that’s not too bad, you can live with that.” The only thing is, that you have to accept that and don’t let one messed-up boof cloud your day. I have to accept that I sometimes mess up the most obvious and easiest moves and still am a good kayaker. And most importantly, that you are still the same person, and that your value doesn’t lie in whether you hit every move on the river or not.

Realizing that, I felt the tension leaving my body. I gave the signal to Ron that I was going, and as soon as I left the eddy my mind was again in this sweet, thoughtless state. I was fully in the moment, entered in the middle, saw the edge, leaned on the curler, boofed into the shower and paddled out. It worked out beautifully and everybody cheered my line.

Photo: Kristof Stursa

That was a nice feeling of course, but for me, the most regard came from finding one of my demons and making peace with it. At least for the time being. But knowing what haunts me will probably make it easier to handle it in the future.

We all have our demons, and getting to know and accept them will bring us closer to growing into the person we want to be.


Dear Diary, Part 2: What About the Kayaking?!

Dear Diary,

In the last instalment, I wrote about my trip to the Humla Karnali, but I left out the most important part – the kayaking! 

So what about the kayaking? That is why we went after all. Well, because the river was so high, we quickly learned to add half a grade to the guidebook description. The in-between “read and run class 3/4 “ sections turned out to be some of the most amazing class 4/4+ pushy water kayaking I have ever done. The river cut its way through some beautiful canyons and the scenery changed constantly as you descend from the mountains to the plains.  

Awesome rapids in a beautiful backdrop of mountains, forests and gorges. Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

At the start of the trip, I probably had around 20kg of equipment in my boat, including my sleeping bag, mat, liner, bivvy bag, 2 sets of clothes, my onesie and a spare set of thermals, toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap, suncream, hand sanitiser, deodorant, hairbrush, a travel towel, head torch, water bottle, life straw, pot, cup and spoon for meal times and my kindle for relaxing in the evenings.

The extra thermals, warm sleeping bag and bivvy bag were not necessary with the weather, but we didn’t know that in advance. The spare clothes, towel, soap and deodorant were “luxury” items in the eyes of the rest of the team, but personally, I liked to wash myself and my clothes every couple of days!

My contribution to the group kit was to carry a breakdown paddle, my Garmin Inreach device and spare powerpack, my camera, the kelly kettle base for making cooking fires and the “drug bag” (medicine kit). Even without food, this equipment probably weighed in at around 13kg. We brought freeze-dried meals for dinner, to reduce weight. For breakfast, we either had porridge or muesli and for our lunches and snacks, we had a range of options such as trail mix, biscuits, chocolate bars, flapjack and noodles. 

Packing! Photo: Nick Bennett

The Scorch might be the best expedition boat I have ever had. It is much harder to paddle a boat when it is loaded, but the Scorch tracked really well and I could use the waves and features to accelerate in the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t feel like I was fighting it to get where I wanted, and I could still fly off the waves, even with 10 days’ worth of food and equipment with me. On the days that I was sick, it was comforting to be paddling a boat that was predictable and looked after me when I couldn’t necessarily drive it as much as I would have liked.  

Scorch love! Such a good expedition boat for me. Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

I had spent the trip worried about the 20km continuous section near the end, given how high the water level was. However, it turned out that trusting guidebooks to be 100% accurate is not always the best idea and, although there were some long rapids in that section (the longest being about 2km), it was still individual rapids rather than a 20km continuous section. The rapids in this section were still pretty sizeable, and a lot of the main lines just did not go, with the full power of the water forming some monstrous holes. Lucky for us though, the water was SO high that new chicken line channels opened up on a vast majority of the biggest rapids. This meant significantly less tedious portaging than I had feared.

Avoiding massive holes became the name of the game on the Humla. Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

However, on day 10 we did face one of the longest portages of the trip (other than the mandatory portages at the start). The river constricted to form a huge rapid, with no hope of chicken lines around it. The portage required climbing around on giant boulders, which would be hard going at the best of times, but we were also pretty beat up from 10 days on the river. It was also oppressively hot, and I hadn’t realised just how long the portage was going to be, so I didn’t gear down early enough and became a sweaty, dehydrated mess. We were quickly surrounded by local children, who “helped” by pushing us off balance on the rocks and demanded chocolate for their work. 

Challenging terrain for portaging, especially in 30+ degree heat! Photo: Beth Morgan

Eventually, I made it to the end of the portage, where I found the entire village out to watch the foreign kayakers tackle the mighty rapids below. In other circumstances, I might have found this endearing. But on day 10 of the Humla, at the end of a tough portage, when I was hot, thirsty and frustrated, I just got annoyed with them all. To top it all off, I completely missed my line on the next rapid down. We were meant to be going right to left, but I did not drive across early enough and I was out of power. I had seen there was also a bigger line down the right, so I just committed to that, but I still rolled at the bottom. I made the eddy on the opposite bank and shouted “leave me alone”. No one could hear me over the roar of the water, but sometimes screaming at the world is all you need to do to feel better.  

It felt like the whole village came out to watch us descend this section of the river. Photo: Nick Bennett

The next few rapids down were powerful, and we could feel how much bigger the river had gotten since we put on 10 days earlier. I was pretty drained of energy at this point and started portaging a few rapids that looked totally good to go. I didn’t feel like I had the power to make the lines, or the mental capacity to deal with it going wrong. It was a shame to walk some of these rapids, but it is definitely better to err on the side of caution, especially when you are so remote. 

The river just kept getting bigger and bigger as we made it further downstream. Photo: Nick Bennett

Finally, on day 11 we had made it past all the hard rapids. According to the guidebook, we had an easy float to the start of the rafting section, with just the odd class 3 rapid to keep us awake. We had switched off and were enjoying the scenery when a horizon line caught our attention. Scrambling for the final eddy, we jumped out of our boats to find yet another class 5 rapid. It was actually quite a cool one – we could sneak the first move down a narrow chute on the right, and then rejoin the main flow to charge through powerful waves and push to the right at the end to skirt the final hole. However, at this point, we were all quite done with whitewater. So what would have been a really fun rapid a few days earlier, became more of a chore to get past so we could carry on floating. 

Nick drops into the meat of the “class 3” surprise class 5. Photo: Beth Morgan

Realising we were all happier to see flat water than rapids at this point, we debated whether carrying on to do the rafting section was really a good idea. We had never planned to do it, as originally we had been hoping to fit the Thuli Bheri in as well. When it became evident that the Humla Karnali was going to take longer than we had originally planned, we ditched the dreams of the Thuli Bheri and planned to carry on down the Karnali, all the way to Chisapani. However, Will was pretty sick again so we were making plans to get him out early, and we were still quite a ways of flat water from the start of the raft run. It seemed as though most of us had a “take-it-or-leave-it” opinion on the rafting section, so we bailed. Less than 24 hours later, we were back in Kathmandu for a shower, cold beers and food which hadn’t been rehydrated. It was a dream come true!

I never thought I’d be so happy to see flat water! Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

When people ask me how my trip to Nepal was, I tell them that it was intense, hard work, and amazing. I definitely do not regret going and I am so happy that we had such a good team of people to stay calm and help each other out with all the challenges we faced. If we had known how high the water level was going to be before we put on, would we have changed our minds? Maybe – but I am very thankful that we didn’t know and still went to the river. We got to experience the Humla Karnali in a different way from other groups. I would love to go back and kayak it at normal flows, but I think that it was quite special to have the higher water levels, and maybe open it up to other groups at those flows. If we had known an accurate weather forecast, however, that would have been very useful as all of our warm clothes, heavy-duty sleeping bags, and rain tarps could have been left at home! But all-in-all, I don’t think I would have changed much about our trip, and it has me fired up for more expeditions in the future.


Dear Diary, Part 1: Curve-Boulders

Dear Diary,

A couple of months ago I went to Nepal to paddle the Humla Karnali and wow, what a river it is! I have to say though, I don’t think I’ve ever had so many curveballs thrown at me on a trip, mostly in the shape of giant boulders. Have you ever had to leave your campsite at 6 pm after almost being killed by a falling boulder? One which came from a digger so high above you, you can’t even see it? And then paddle two class 5 rapids as it is getting dark? I can assure you that it is not an ideal situation. 

From landslides and road building to forest fires, sickness, and high water, it seemed as though the river was determined that we failed. Our 7-day aim easily turned into 11, and that was without tagging the rafting section onto the end. It was both mentally and physically draining, and the trip was filled with highs and lows. But we persevered. And I honestly could not have asked for a better group of people surrounding me. The team consisted of Nick Bennett, Dan Rea-Dickins, James Smith, Heidi Walsh and Will Chick. The multitude of expedition experiences in this group, especially in Asia, is unrivalled and really helped when the shit hit the fan. There was also a distinct lack of ego – no one kayaked like they had something to prove, there was no judgement about portaging, and at least 1 person would scout any rapid we weren’t completely sure of. Especially with the high water level, this helped us get down the river in the safest way possible. I had kind of invited myself along on the trip and was a bit worried about holding the group up or not being good enough. But once we were there we just worked as a team. When one person was sick or over it all, the rest of us would pick up the slack. Without such a good team I think we would have all fallen apart. 

The dream team! Tired, battered, and a bit broken at the end of the trip but still smiling. Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

Obviously, it wasn’t all bad – the Humla Karnali is a tick-list river for expedition kayakers for a reason. 11 days is by far the longest multiday trip I’ve done. It was amazing to be out in the wilderness with no phone service, no time pressures and nothing to worry about except the river (and falling boulders) for that many days. Also, some of the kayaking was absolutely world-class (more on this in part 2), all in a beautiful backdrop of Nepalese mountains, forests and plains. 

The “not-so-scenic canyon”, according to the guidebook. Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

But the curveballs started before I even got there. During the past 2 years of travelling, working, and kayaking I managed to avoid getting Covid. Then I came down with it only 2 days after getting back to the UK since the mask mandate was dropped. I was meant to be going early to Nepal so that I could recover from the flight and warm up, but instead, I joined team-“off-the-couch” flying to Kathmandu and heading straight to the river. As well as that, I definitely was not asymptomatic, and even when my symptoms had cleared, I still felt severely fatigued. I was worried that I was naive to paddle the Humla Karnali whilst recovering from the virus. Voicing my concerns to the rest of the group, I was met with overwhelming support. “Ultimately, we can help each out with the portages,” said Dan, “if it takes longer, no stress”. In the end, Will’s Nepal belly was way worse than my lingering Covid symptoms, and we took the portages super slowly with repeated trips to get all of our gear through. 

Being sick on an expedition is never fun, but particularly not when you have multiple portages in 30-degree heat! Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

Getting to the Humla Karnali requires chartering a flight from Nepalgunj, near the Indian border, to the mountain town of Simikot, which is 3000 meters above sea level. The short flight was incredibly scenic, despite the cloudy weather, and every now and again we caught glimpses of the river far below us. There are no roads to Simikot (yet), so our kayaks spent the journey surrounded by a whole host of supplies heading to the local community, including one rather adorable kids’ bike, ready to make someone’s day! 

How much stuff can you fit in one small plane? The Nepalese are certainly well practised at plane Tetris to get supplies to remote mountain towns. Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

After landing in Simikot, we managed to find a couple of Jeeps to drive down the steep, windy gravel road to the banks of the river. As we descended towards the river and saw the grey-brown silty colour of the water, I desperately tried to convince myself that it was because we were getting the river on the rise. Maybe the beautiful crystal blue river that we had all seen photos of was on the drop in November? Actually, it turned out, the river was just really high. But we paid $4500 to charter a plane to get there, and I don’t even know if we could have turned around at that point. So we committed.

Was that the right decision? It was possibly a bit naive, but we made it down mostly unscathed and although the trip was challenging, it was also amazing. We maybe should have talked about it as a group before we got on (I think everyone was a bit too nervous to voice their concerns about the water level, so we didn’t actually talk about it until the first camp spot), but I don’t regret the decision at all.

Spot the difference: it’s not so easy to see, but the pour-over in the middle of the river in the photo of us camping is the same as the half-covered rock in the bottom photo from LiquidLore (

We had been assured that the river would be “low” and that the weather would be “cold” in April. But neither of these things was true. (I mean, I guess it didn’t help that we put on after a good snow year in the biggest heatwave of 50 years). I was so happy I brought my -9℃ sleeping bag to sleep on top of during the night (not!), especially on a trip with more portaging than paddling in the first 3 days. At around 2 am on some nights it just about got cold enough to pull my sleeping bag over me, but the down jacket, onesie and change of thicker thermals stayed at the bottom of my dry bag the whole time. Everyone loves hindsight, don’t they?

So “cold” we had to hide from the sun under a tarp because the road builders were throwing rocks into the only shady spot on the beach. (Pretty much the only use the tarp got all trip). Photo: Dan Rea-Dickens

So now we are on a remote, Himalayan river, in the middle of a heatwave, in high water. What could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, they were building a road alongside the river. So if the rapids weren’t intimidating enough, we had to also be wary of falling rocks. This was especially inconvenient when they were throwing rocks into the river just where we needed to get out for the 4th portage. A few 5 am starts to sneak around the roadworks did the job, and we made it down the river mostly unscathed. Bruised, battered, and ready to sleep for a week, getting back to Kathmandu was a bit of a relief for all of us. 

Amazing kayaking, big portages, dramatic scenery, friendly locals and logistical challenges. The perfect recipe for an epic expedition! Photo: Nick Bennett


A Perfect Union

To say I was excited to be heading to Slovenia would be an understatement. I absolutely love the country, the friendliness of the people, and of course the Soča itself. If you haven’t paddled the Soča, then imagine the best river for developing skills on. Now double that. It’s amazing. Beautiful turquoise water, sharp eddylines, rounded rocks, and a variety of environments to explore.

One of the many fun spots the Ozone could make the most of.

After a couple of years of hiatus, it was time to be heading back again. I was working with a group of paddlers who were all looking to develop their paddling in an advanced environment. They were all competent in a Grade 2 (with a bit of 3) environment, and looking to tune-up to be able to explore some of the higher grade boating.

Reassuringly balanced for a full slice.

Now, my dilemma… what boat to take? I try hard to match my boat to my work, and with the mentality that has been distilled that we have to paddle ‘big’ boats for work (that has so well been challenged by the Ripper (other half slices are available, but inferior)) it would previously have been a Machno or 9R II. As I enjoyed working from my Ripper so much, during the past couple of years I’ve also started to work from my Ozone.

It is very hard to not constantly smile when your boat is this playful!

Initially, I got the Ozone to spice up my local runs when heading out between work stints. The more I have paddled it, the more I realise what an all-around capable boat it is. I’ve taken it down respectable continuous Grade 4, ran leadership provider orientations from it, and spent a lot of time recklessly vertical. I felt as though it was time to allow it to show how versatile it is.

Every situation becomes an opportunity for seeing the river in a different light.

It most certainly didn’t let me down. From entertaining myself on the eddylines to demonstrating the lines to the team on the pushier water, I knew I had made the right boat choice for the trip. Every time I got in my boat I had a huge smile on my face, as I wondered where I was going to end up recklessly vertical on that run. Thank you to the Ozone for being the perfect choice for the Soča!

It can even leap other boats when their driver parks them in the wrong place…

*I’m 6’1”, 33” inseam, and weigh 90kg. I fit in the L with my river shoes on easily, with the seat all the way forward.

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