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Rip-R Evo: Phase 2

Designing a kayak for paddling whitewater is extraordinarily complex; it is a far more 3-dimensional world than any Naval Architecture software has been programmed for. To produce a successful design for the highly-competitive and performance-orientated discipline of Kayak Cross, which will feature in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, especially at a point this early in the discipline’s history, where the sport is evolving almost as quickly as the designs, takes the challenge to a new level.

Success at an Olympic level is the result of supreme athletes, the professionalism of their preparation, and cutting-edge equipment. Nobody at this level of competition can rest on their laurels; not the athletes, not their coaches, and not the manufacturers of the boats they race in.

At Pyranha, we have put more work into the evolution of the next Evo than any kayak in our 52-year history; while our competitors were trying to match the performance of the original Rip-R Evo, we were setting the bar even higher.

Here’s how…

“Evo-lution” – How our Kayak Cross dominating designs have evolved, from Ripper 1, through Rip-R Evo, to Rip-R Evo 2

1: Tank Testing

2: CAD

3: Carbon Infusion Outfitting

4: Rip-R Evo 2 in Action

Available with or without fins…

Two versions of the Rip-R Evo 2 are available – the ‘Rip-R Evo 2’, and the ‘Rip-R Evo 2 F’. Rip-R Evo 2 features a finely-tuned and carefully shaped hull, and Rip-R Evo 2 F takes this one step further by adding a pair of fins to the design.

These fins give extra grip, especially in eddy turns, and are a huge advantage on the ramp, minimising contact points for far less friction and acting as a pivot point to help you lift the nose higher and get a drier, more directionally focused landing.

What do the athletes think…

It paddles just like a slalom boat, only it’s two thirds of the length and made out of plastic. 

I’m also getting more out of upstreams; the Evo 2 sits on its tail nicely, but doesn’t feel like it gets stuck. It seems easier to control, but still rotates super quickly and pops away better.”

Joe Clarke, 2022 World Championships Gold Medallist (Rip-R Evo)

“I absolutely love it. Definitely feels quicker, and the backrest is a game changer; feels more stable with it!”

Kimberley Woods, 2022 World Championships Silver Medallist (Rip-R Evo)

“Absolutely amazing! It’s just so much better than the original Evo.

When you grab that catch on the sweep, it stays. It doesn’t slide, and then when you’re coming back out, it goes straight back to being flat and actually runs, instead of sweeping and waiting for the nose to come down and then going back up. Yeah, it’s rapid. It’s class.”

Etienne Chappell, 2022 World Championships U23 Silver Medallist (Rip-R Evo)

“The Evo 2 pushes far less water and the boat twitches less from side to side when moving forward. There’s a big improvement on running speed. 

The boat feels more stable, but with more grip and control when crossing flows and eddy lines.”

David Bain, Design Team Member

There’s more…

Check out the links below for more info and key features:

Rip-R Evo 2

Rip-R Evo 2 F


FireCracker goes to Turkey!

It takes me a while to warm up to new kayaks. The Fire Cracker had me excited from the beginning but it still took me a while to understand what the design is capable of and what it’s limitations are. On a highwater, spontaneous Turkey trip I found out exactly what I can do with the firecracker.

Before I start I should say that I was expecting lower river levels and I took the Firecracker because it is new and shiny and sick and keeps me entertained even on small rivers. Myself and the crew landed in pouring rain and I could feel everyone wincing a little bit as we loaded the kayaks and the eyes lingered on byfar the smallest kayak of the lot. My FireCracker. 

My friends needn’t have worried though, I spent so much of my life in a freestyle kayak on the Nile, I feel pretty comfortable feeling small out on the water. But that’s just it, I didn’t feel like I was in a small kayak, necessarily. The Fire Cracker has a good amount of business upfront in it’s design and launched over and dropped into rapid after rapid feeling confident in this kayak. I think a lot of that comes from the width and rocker up front.

The softened edges undoubtedly help to keep things feeling steady. For comparison my favourite kayak of all time, the Ripper 2, is a weapon but it’s sharp and you need to be wielding it with speed and confidence when using it on hard rapids. When I’m tired and on a powerful river I really feel my edges catching and the kayak not looking after me. In the Fire Cracker I rarely felt that, the shorter tail stays out of the water better until you do want to get vertical and the softer edges really do a good job of looking after you out on the water. 

On a high water Koprucuy river descent I had the same amount of roles as a kayaker in a full size creekboat. (Two of them). Obviously this is a small, playful kayak but I don’t want anyone to misunderstand how good it is down the river as well. 

It has almost a mico creekboat feel to it that has been popularised by previous Pyranha kayaks such as the Microbat, Ammo and Nano designs. It stays on top of the surface really easily, continually has me laughing as it snaps into eddies faster than I would ever expect and in general deals better with rapids better than perhaps any kayak this size has a right too. 

The Manavgat river is undoubtedly one of the best rivers in the world. An endless continuation of class four and some five rapids takes you through a beautiful, remote gorge. At high water it feels quite pushy and the consequences of a swim or lost equipment on this river can easily end up with a night spent shivering next to the river. Thankfully the Fire Cracker dealt wit everything I threw at it and I never felt pushed or intimated, even in this little kayak. 

As the river dropped it became a paradise in the Fire Cracker, I felt confident on all of the lines, I surfed all the waves, got vertical a lot and finished every lap tired and happy in the Fire Cracker. I guess using a kayak like this you have to accept that there will be times where you have to roll, times where you have to get yourself down from vertical and to understand that it’s all part of being a better kayaker. I think the FireCracker is the best advancement for intermediate kayakers in years. You’re going to have a lot of fun in this kayak and the by product of that fun is you’re going to become a better kayaker. 

I can get the kayak vertical anywhere with a quick snap, whereas in the longer Ripper 2 I need to do more of a windup and slow edge drop to get vertical. Both are really satisfying techniques to get vertical but certainly different. I guess the differences continue with Pyranha’s two river running free ride designs. The shorter lengh and rocker of the Fire Cracker means that it sits very happily in the trough of a wave, the longer Ripper will often gain to much speed and purl if you’re not on it. The longer length and speed of the Ripper gives me more confidence hitting sticky moves but don’t underestimate what the Fire Cracker is capable of down river. I am happy dropping into most rapids with this thing!

The Ripper makes it easier to carry speed around the river but the way the Fire Cracker skips and turns is pure joy and a whole different way to experience the river. 

I can’t choose between the Firecracker or Ripper and thankfully I am a lucky git and I don’t have too. I’m going to keep using them both. If you do have to choose I’m going to say choose the Fire Cracker right now. It delivers on it’s design promise of opening the world of free ride kayaking.The Ripper II is still sick and I’ll be back in mine soon enough but for now I am fired up on the FireCracker! 


Meet Our Ambassadors, Part 1

Taking the time to learn more about the paddlers who make up our community of ambassadors has been such a rewarding experience. To be able to reach out to someone, asking them to share a window into their life- how they got into paddling and what it means for them to be an ambassador, opens up your eyes to the amazing community of paddlers that surrounds us. Their backgrounds and stories are all very diverse, but the one common element is the genuine passion that extends past the whitewater.

Bill Eades

One of the first ambassadors that I reached out to was Bill Eades. I could tell you all the cold hard facts about Bill- becoming an Impex Tech Rep (when they distributed Pyranha) in order to avoid being arrested for receiving stolen property, or setting up so many Pyranha dealers in the Midwest, that to this day, they still have a disproportionate amount of Pyranha kayaks in Missouri and Arkansas.

That’s simply not what stands out about him the most, or what people know him for best. Bill is greatly known for his love of whitewater, his skills on the water, and his adventures chasing rivers. In the ’90s, Bill paddled with Corran, Brad Ludden (when he was 16), B.J. and Katie, Dan Gavere, Ammen Jordan and EJ.  He struggled between getting past being a really good boater, to being better against trying to fulfil a demanding day job in science and engineering, and eventually gravitated towards the latter. Bill never stopped chasing the rivers, but now he was sharing that joy with the future generations of paddlers.

Besides teaching his own children, Nate and Natalie, Bill bought every small Recoil, Varun, and 4-20 that he could in order to get more kids paddling. Rachel Fly has paddled with Bill and his son Nate from her earliest beginnings and now has come full circle by being the Team Manager for Pyranha.

For the last 20+ years, Bill has branched out to so many younger paddlers that when he starts to tell his stories, it is almost like a who’s who list of today’s paddlers. Chances are if you know a paddler that started out young, most likely, you will find a common link with Bill. This is one of the true joys of whitewater- not only having the love of it for yourself, but being able to share it with others and watch them start the experience for themselves. As Bill says it best – “I am settled to sit back and watch all of the seeds grow.”

Bill has deep roots in his community- as president of the Missouri Whitewater Association, he has co-taught pool classes, led trips with younger paddlers, taught advanced technique clinics for 12-to-15-year-olds, and managed all of the electronics/timing/scoring for the oldest, continually run slalom event in the US- the Missouri Whitewater Championships. Since 1998, Bill has also been heavily involved in the National Paddling Film Festival, judging all of the professional films that are submitted. Once again, giving him the opportunity to “watch his seeds grow” as he sees many familiar faces throughout the films.

Bill’s love for whitewater and paddling keeps him chasing the rivers today. If you ever find yourself competing at the Missouri Whitewater Championships, you better bring your A-game, because the man to beat in the short boat division is Bill Eades.

Dominic Morrell

One of our newest ambassadors, Dominic Morrell, brings an incredible level of enthusiasm to the community. Dominic has been paddling since he was 4 years old, and now at the age of 13, he is fired up to be part of the ambassador community. In his own words, “I’m super stoked to be a Pyranha Kayaks ambassador, not only for the kayaks, but for the people as well.” It’s that same feeling that flows through the souls of our community, it’s the deeper feeling behind why we paddle.

As a new year of paddling has started for Dominic, he is already “super fired up” for a lot of rivers-paddling/racing the Green River Narrows, Moshier Spillway, Upper and Lower Blackwater, Hornbecks, and Van Campins are on the top of his list. Racing for a second time at Whitewater King of New York is also on the list year after making impressive times on his first race. There is definitely a lot on Dominic’s plate this year, and it is truly inspirational to watch him paddle and see what he brings to the table.

As Dominic says it best- “There is a lot on my bucket list to paddle this year, and I’m glad to move forward with Pyranha by taking their sick boats with me in all of these adventures!”

Morgan Cox

I wanted to finish up this set of bios with Morgan Cox- her love of whitewater started as a kid while taking annual summer family trips to raft the Ocoee River. During that time, her mom never expected what those family adventures would spark.

As I started to write this, I realized that it told a better story in Morgan’s words. Her words share a story that rings true throughout our community of ambassadors, a story that goes beyond the whitewater and into the heart of a paddler.

“When I was 20, a cute guy, who later became my husband, convinced me to go to Georgia State University’s raft guide school. A few weeks later, I was offered a summer job working for a small rafting company on the same river I had rafted as a kid. I never would’ve thought I’d become one of the smelly, bearded guys telling bad jokes in the back of a raft. By the end of my first summer guiding, I had fallen in love with whitewater and couldn’t imagine it only being a summer job. I dreamed of paddling year-round, navigating harder whitewater, and visiting more remote places. The obvious way to make this happen was to learn to kayak.

For many of us, I think being part of the whitewater community eventually becomes far more than paddling. Whitewater becomes less about the rapids (don’t get me wrong – I love the rapids) and more about the places you get to explore and the people you share those places with. I’m honored to also be a part of ACE Kayaking School, where I get to help spark the same love I have for this sport in people of all ages.

I have gotten to explore beautiful, wild, remote, and scenic rivers all over the world because of paddling and can’t wait to see where else it takes me and the new people it will allow me to share this life with.”

Thank you for taking this journey to meet our ambassadors and learn more about them. There are so many diverse stories, paths that are travelled, and adventures that drive them- Stay tuned for more!


Galway Fest 2023: “A wonderful, yet emotional rollercoaster.”

As Galway Fest is wrapped up for another year, this one, in the words of Lyndon, was “a wonderful, yet emotional rollercoaster.” 

Lyndon and Mat loaded up the van with demo boats from the Pyranha factory, ready to make the journey across to Ireland. En route, Beth Morgan was collected from the airport, and the team arrived accompanied by snow in Galway Thursday evening. Perfectly timed for Galway Fest’s pre-weekend race event. A group of nearly 30 paddlers gathered to make their way down the double drop rapid in the centre of town against the stopwatch. This year in the true spirit of the event, athletes were being pelted with snowballs from onlookers above. Once everyone had completed a timed run, everyone quickly departed for a warmer venue.  

Friday Freestyle – with water levels being low this year, the freestyle event formerly at Tuam was moved in line with the rest of the weekend to a downriver freestyle event on the Corrib river. Once all of the waves and kisses to the judges had been completed, athletes made their way back to the put-in, formed teams of 6, and competed in heats for arguably the most fun event, the Big Balls Race. That evening delivered a new and pretty special event for both competitors and spectators, an expression session on the double drop. The perfect playground for Beth and Lyndon to demonstrate some waterfall freestyle in the Pyranha Firecracker.  Watching world-class athletes throwing some amazing moves with some added carnage on the floodlit section was epic; the crowd was immense, and the overall vibe was a highlight for many.

Into the heart of the weekend, Saturday unfolded another 3 event day which included individual time trials, team time trials, and the Big Balls Race final. In true West coast of Ireland fashion, the rain was relentless all day, and the morning’s wind made it difficult for sponsors to set up flags and gazebos. Nonetheless, everyone did a great job, and the stage was set. Lyndon ignited the individual time sheet in the Rip-R Evo, the team time trial had plenty of sabotage, and the Big Balls final was, as to be expected, hilarious mayhem! With the day of racing completed and Saturday evening upon us, everyone packed up. It was time to share just the one Guinness and calmly listen to a DJ, I mean choir, in an upper-class establishment…

The slowest of mornings happened on the Sunday, as it turns out the choir didn’t finish until very early hours. Paddlers met later that morning, with each of the categories competing in a mass start race. Immediately after the mass start commenced the Boater X. Heats of 6 paddlers battle their way across a flat canal basin before squeezing through a narrow gap and dropping about a meter into the river. A mandatory upstream means any gaps can be closed, so it’s really anyone’s race, but only the top 2 proceed to the next round. After the final races, it was time for the Pyranha van to be packed up and to head to prize giving. This year, Pyranha donated a custom colour Firecracker to be raffled throughout the event. All proceeds and donations from Galway Fest went to the RNLI, raising almost £3000.

Galway Fest wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the incredible guys and girls who give up their time to volunteer, making it one of the largest and most sought-after paddling events in Europe. Huge thanks and shout out to Aoife, Barry, and the rest of the team, who bring so much positivity to the paddling community both in Ireland and worldwide. We look forward to seeing you at Galway Fest 2024 on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of March!

Photos by Jack Ledwith


We’re Charity Champions!

You may recall that in March of 2022, we set about raising funds for the DEC to support their relief efforts in Ukraine – unbelievably, a year has passed since then!

With your help, we ultimately raised over £88,600, and as a result of this significant contribution, in February of this year, Work for Good (the platform which manages larger donations to the DEC) named us as one of their ‘Sales Fundraising Stars’.

Sadly, the situation in Ukraine continues, leaving many in need of aid. If you wish, you can still donate to the DEC directly on the following link:


Pyranha’s Ambassador Program

Here at Pyranha, we have one of the largest families of paddlers around. We have an incredible team of employees, both here in the US, and in the UK, that make everything happen, from boat design to marketing, production, sales, and more. “By Enthusiasts, For Enthusiasts” will always be true for Pyranha.

Pyranha Ambassador- Dominic Morrell, Photo Credit- Tony Morrell

We have an awesome team of pro paddlers, who are out there day after day, charging whitewater, chasing the dream, and launching new adventures all over the world.

Separate from the Pro Team, Pyranha also has a widespread network of community paddlers, also known as Ambassadors. We have over 40 Ambassadors in the US alone, plus over 100 outside of the US. The Ambassadors are an eclectic group of paddlers with an unbridled enthusiasm for paddling. Within our diverse group, the one thing that ties them all together is their love of “it”. Each has their own passion, whether it be for the beauty of the water alone, sharing the stoke with other paddlers, teaching/mentoring moments where it all clicks, or their own personal journey.

Pyranha Ambassador- Bill Eades, Photo Credit- John Niebling

You will find our Ambassadors within their local community, sharing the stoke and their resources- river beta, boat design info, safety, mentoring, and even that missing gear you forgot to pack. They are the ones up at dawn to get a lap in, out well past dusk surfing that wave, planning their next adventure or working out logistics. Some have been Ambassadors for over 20 years, and will always have incredible stories of the earlier days and pioneering the rivers. Others may have joined the crew recently, bringing fresh enthusiasm and new energy to their community. They will be the first to share your joy on the river, and they will stand beside you during more challenging times. They are all changing and evolving, but the one thing that will always remain constant is that their love for paddling is bigger than themselves.

Pyranha Ambassador- Morgan Cox, Photo Credit- Micah Cox

Over the next few months, we will be introducing you to our Ambassadors, giving you a glimpse of what drives them, what they bring to the table, and sharing their stoke, because simply said, that is what our Ambassador program is all about.


Galway Fest 2023 – WIN A FIRECRACKER!

Galway Fest is an Irish kayaking festival which takes place over three days on three different rivers around Galway, attracting paddlers from all over the world. Galway Fest 2023 will take place between the 10th and 12th of March.

Each year, the Galway Fest organisers use the sizeable momentum of the event within the paddlesports community to give back to communities that provide so much to the Irish kayaking community.

On the 29th of December 2022, the Galway kayaking community sadly lost an exceptionally bright light and avid kayaker on their home river, the Boluisce, Spideal. Mark Morley was a much-loved member of the NUIG Kayak Club as well as the Galway Kayak Club. He is fondly remembered for his infectious smile and positivity both on and off the water. He will be greatly missed, but the memories that he left behind will never be forgotten.

Galway Fest this year will raise funds for the RNLI who were there for the community in its time of need, and for which, as well as their continued support, the Irish community is forever grateful.

It’s an honour to be able to support this fundraiser for such a worthy cause by producing a one-off custom Firecracker 242 in the iconic RNLI colours.

To make a donation to the fundraiser, you can do so on the following link:

If you would like to be included in the raffle and be in with a chance of winning the Firecracker as well as a whole bunch of other exciting prizes, you will need to be able to attend the Galway Fest prize giving at NUIG on Sunday the 12th of March, 16:00, and you must add your name and contact information to the donation.


BOOM! The Firecracker is here…

The Firecracker concept originates back to when our US Office had sold us on the idea of a 9R with a slicey tail – subsequent discussions raised the question of whether a 9’ half-slice would be suitable for the lower-volume rivers of the UK and elsewhere, and so we considered producing a shorter version with the expectation that the Ripper might not sell as well outside of North America.

Fast forward 5 years and the Ripper went down so well worldwide that our competitors have all produced their own take on the 9’ half slice, and we’ve just begun producing the second generation of Ripper, as well as a Kayak Cross (Extreme Slalom) focused variation called the Rip-R Evo. There’s been so much energy generated by this market segment that it’s fair to say the sport has been reinvigorated, and so many paddlers have been having so much more fun on the water.

We’re here for the enthusiasts, though, and it’s not untrue that there are some regions where you can’t easily throw down in a 9’ half slice, and not everyone is up for the low-volume bow freeride experience of the Ozone, and so the short half slice project was put back on the table…

After a couple of years in development, we focused in on an 8’ half-slice design that was accessible to the masses yet explosive for intermediate and advanced paddlers; the name ‘Firecracker’ was suggested at some stage of the process and became synonymous with the fun and energy we all felt when paddling this boat.

The wide, planning hull and high volume bow of the Firecracker mean you can head downstream, surf everything in sight, and play every corner of the river all day long in comfort and confidence, the tail is easy to get down, even for mid-weight-range paddlers on the flat, and the compact and lightweight size mean you can throw it around easily, whether your ambitions are to nail a ludicrous tomahawk, kickflip, cobra flip combo, or just to carry the boat back up to the top of the rapid for another lap – whatever level of freeride capability you’re coming from, the Firecracker gives you the tools and ease of use to reach the next one.

We began development of the Firecracker intending to produce it in S/M and M/L sizes, but testing with a variety of sizes of paddler brought us back to a conversation we’ve had often about the fluidity of size choices in our freeride designs. For example, Bren has been known to rock all three sizes of Ripper, turning up the play potential by going Small, getting sendy in the Large, and using the Medium for anything in-between.

Using size names like ‘Small, Medium, and Large’, or combinations of these, which have strong associations with clothing sizes for many paddlers, seems somewhat restrictive to the reality of your choice of size in freeride kayaks like the Ozone, Ripper, and now Firecracker being based on your intentions, as well as your size.

We didn’t want to average out the performance of the sizes on offer across too many shapes and sizes of paddler, so we’ve ultimately decided to expand the Firecracker size range from two sizes to three, and to name those sizes after the boat length. The Firecracker 242 is in dealers now, the smaller 232 will enter production soon, and the larger 252 will come later in the year.

Find more information on our new #HalfSizeHalfSlice, the Firecracker, here; if you like what you see, book a demo with your local dealer, and #SetItOff! 🧨


Chile for Everyone!

A whitewater Mecca for every paddler!

This winter, I was lucky enough to return to one of my favourite kayaking destinations. Filled with waterfalls, steep creeks, empanadas and sunshine. Yep, you’ve guessed it, Chile! 

Photo credit: Sarah Hutchings. Río Palguin

Guiding in two very different parts of Chile took me to a real mixture of whitewater, and despite having paddled here a lot, it wasn’t until this season that I realised just how great this place is for every level of paddler. Here’s a little of what I got up to…

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Pedro Valverdet. Río Claro -Siete Tazas

My trip started at the Río Claro, guiding with one of my favourite people to be on the river with, Eli Castleberry. Here, the crystal-clear snowmelt passes through deep, basalt rock-walled canyons and over numerous perfect waterfalls. Many international paddlers rent trucks and make the journey to the Parque Nacional Radal Siete Tazas, just south of Santiago, to paddle this very special river. 

The two most commonly run sections are Siete Tazas (Seven Teacups) and Veintidos (twenty-two). The Siete Tazas are perfect for warming up and practising your boof/waterfall technique, as well as getting a taster of being in the canyon. It’s also a super fun section to lap and just enjoy! Although this part of the river is an easier and more accessible section, knowing how to get in and out of the canyon is very important. Missing the takeout could result in an unintentional descent of ‘La Leona’ (an 80-footer) just downstream!

Paddler: Eli Castleberry. Photo credit: Sal Montgomery. Río Claro, Veintidos (‘Ski Ramp’)

Veintidos is the dream section for a lot of paddlers. Challenging, committing and lots of clean waterfalls (twenty-two, in fact). The drops vary in size and style, ranging from small ledges to 30-footers, as well as some super tight corridor rapids. All this action, whilst in a deep, and at times very narrow, steep-walled beautiful basalt canyon. Again, having someone in your team that knows the section is very handy unless you’re happy dropping off multiple blind horizon lines into whatever awaits you below!

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Eli Castleberry. Río Claro- Veintidos.

If you’re feeling good on these two sections then you might decide to paddle Entresaltos into Garganta (throat of the Devil). An epic day of adrenaline highs, twisting waterfalls, tight hallways and more of this beautiful canyon. This section is a step up from Veintidos and very committing, so go with someone that knows it and don’t forget your splits! An epic in here would be pretty difficult to resolve. However, if you have the right team/levels/knowledge, you’re in for an awesome adventure!

Paddler: Eli Castleberry. Photo credit: Sal Montgomery. Río Claro- Entresaltos

After almost a week of paddling in this free-fall paradise, it was time to head a little further south, to the town of Pucon. Kayak Chile’s base at the put-in for the Upper Palguin was my home for the next 3 weeks, which meant lots of laps and lots of fun! (Big thanks, Ben May!). Together with Ben, Josh and Tom of Rapid Skills, as well as the awesome Flo, we would be guiding on some of the area’s best rivers.

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Sarah Hutchings. Río Palguin- Upper (Double Drop)

Aside from the Palguin, Pucon’s other local run is the Río Trancura. Both the upper and lower Trancura are great sections and are often run together. The upper hosts several bigger and steeper rapids (with the option to run, or run away from, the impressive Mariman rapid!), whilst the lower provides big water fun and plenty of good play spots. 

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Sarah Hutchings. Río Palguin- Upper (Double Drop)

Once you’ve nailed your line on the Palguin’s double-drop and ‘rode the lightning’ on the upper Trancura’s Feo rapid, or surfed every wave on the lower, you might be keen to check out some new rivers. Many of which are a little further away, but the couple of hours in the truck are eminently worth it. Before you know it, you’ll be well-rewarded with several choices of varied and beautiful whitewater gems, with options for every level of paddler. 

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Josh Telling/ Tom Botterill. Río San Pedro.

The Fuy, for instance, has multiple sections ranging from fun class 3 full of boofs to more full-on class 5 with a must-run 50-footer. It also has some of the bluest water you’ll ever see! 

The San Pedro is also famous for its crystal clear waters, in fact, some people even take snorkels to check out the riverbed’s crazy rock formations! This river is super fun, full of big wave trains and lots of surf spots. You can also do the San Pedro as an over-nighter and sleep under Chile’s spectacular star-filled skies!

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Tom Botterill. Río Machín.

The Maichín is also a highlight river for many paddlers. Passing through a lush forest, this sweet gorge is packed with technical, pool-drop rapids. The ‘Crux’ consists of several steeper boulder rapids and ledges, which can be run as one long, super fun combo or broken down into individual segments, all of which can be scouted and/or portaged. After the Crux, there’s one more bang, before one of the most scenic paddle outs ever!

The Truful Truful river runs through the beautiful Conguillio National park, where you’re surrounded by tall canyon walls layered with ash from eruptions of the Llaima volcano. Make sure to check out the scenery before putting on, because once you’re on the water you’re probably not going to notice anything except the next boof! This river is super fast and continuous but low-stress and a LOT of fun! There’s one huge rapid, the ‘Trufuliser’, which is mostly portaged – unless you’re feeling particularly sendy!

All these rivers, plus many more, are the reason why many paddlers return to Chile, year after year. The variety, quality, quantity and accessibility of whitewater here are pretty unmatched. Despite this, I frequently hear paddlers say that they want to visit Chile but don’t think their kayaking ability is good enough. Believing that all the rivers will be too hard for them or that Chile only has massive, stout waterfalls. 

Paddler: Sal Montgomery. Photo credit: Josh Telling/ Tom Botterill. Río San Pedro.

Before my first trip here, I had also thought the same and put off coming for quite some time. Having now spent much time here, exploring many different sections over the last few years, I can say with certainty that any level of paddler can have an incredible time in this whitewater paradise. So if it’s not already, get Chile on your whitewater wish list! 

Big thank you to everyone that made my time in Chile so awesome. Particular thanks go to Eli Castleberry, Ben May of Kayak Chile and Josh Telling and Tom Botteril of Rapid Skills for the guiding opportunities, hospitality, ice cream, pancakes, photos and most of all – the awesome times on the rivers of Chile! And a HUGE thank you to Pyranha Kayaks for the epic boof machine, aka small Scorch!


Meet the Sava River

.: Words – Carmen Kuntz

.: Photos – Katja Jemec, Katja Pokorn, Mitja Legat

A river is worth more than just its best whitewater. Us kayakers often only paddle the portions of a river that have the best whitewater. But rivers are different than mountains or trails – they are dynamic, fluid and flowing. And while what goes on above and below the put in is often a mystery, it doesn’t have to be.

On June 1st, 2021 four kayakers quietly put onto Slovenia’s Sava River for what would be a very small but eventually a very loud version of Balkan Rivers Tour 5. With a film and photo crew following by van, we spent 11 days paddling over 250 km of the Sava River, from its dual sources in the Julian Alps, not far from the border with Italy, to the Croatian border.

Along the way, we worked together to complete the first continuous waterfowl survey of the Sava River during nesting season and also the first complete environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of the Sava, while our media crew captured all the moments along the way. Why bother stopping to sample water, or constantly scanning for birds? Because politicians have plans to build 10-12 new dams on this deep green river. And we want to prove that this is a disastrous idea – for biodiversity and for humans. After all, a river is also worth more than just the power it can produce spinning a turbine.

We could have asked these politicians to come for a float down the Sava with us, to show them how alive, healthy and rich this river that already has many dams and barriers, somehow still is. But…we figured that might not end well. So instead, we brought cameras with us to show Slovenians and any other viewers, what the Sava River really looks like, sounds like and feels like. What was originally to be a 25-minute film turned into an 84-minute documentary. About the Sava. For the Sava. Created to add pressure to decision makers, to ignite pride and to show that this river is worth fighting to protect*.

The Sava is a special river. Not only is it the home river for Balkan Rivers Defence’s founder, Rok and most of the BRD Team, it’s also an integral part of Europe’s greater freshwater ecosystem and home to Natura 2000 and IUCN Red List species. It is the largest tributary (by volume) to Europe’s second largest river, the Danube. And, it is a river that connects four Balkan countries, providing drinking water to major cities as well as water for agriculture, industry and long-standing traditions and lifestyles.

This kayaking trip was far from an extreme whitewater trip. It was about exploring eddies, camping on white pebble gravel bars, cooking fish over driftwood fires and observing birds overhead and animals along the banks. But we also paddled through villages and towns and gained a tangible understanding that humans are a part of this–and any–river ecosystem. To look at humans and nature as separate entities is like looking at your favourite stretch of a river as its own waterway. Humans have an impact on rivers, and rivers impact humans. This is a natural, traditional and historical connection – especially in Europe. The chance to understand the complex relationship between humans and rivers made this trip about so much more than just kayaking. It also strongly illustrated the effect that dams have on a river. Playful strokes through whitewater contrasted very heavily with pulling a blade through the flatwater of a reservoir.

One for the River: The Sava Story, follows a similar theme to our first film, One for the River: The Vjosa Story. But the experiences are all new. Like finding old WW2 weapons, rescuing a bird, slurping bootie beers and laughing around the campfire. We premiered the film in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana on June 1, 2022, one year after we started paddling. Now, you can catch the film at international film festivals, where it will circulate until summer 2023. To date, it has played at 17 festivals in 14 countries and won 7 awards. Slovenians were able to see it at 40 outdoor cinema screenings all summer and fall, and this winter Slovenian primary school kids are seeing it during special local cinema screenings. Fingers crossed Slovenian national television will show it – if nasty politics don’t get in the way. And then we will release it online for free, so everyone can meet the Sava River.

Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to explore the stretches of river upstream and downstream of your put in. Maybe you will find a new surf wave, or a historical artifact. Maybe you will rescue wildlife, or maybe stumble upon a hidden dam plan that needs to be exposed. To truly know a river, you need to paddle as much of it as possible. And take care of it.

*Spoiler alert: BRD wrote a kayaking guidebook for the Sava River – and in 2023 will have an English version. So, you can replicate this trip and explore this incredible river, showing local businesses and decision makers that it is better to let this river push kayakers, than push turbines. And who knows, maybe you enjoy it so much you paddle all the way to the Danube!

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