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Ukraine Fundraiser Update

We posted just last week letting you know about the fundraiser we had put together to support The Disaster Emergency Committee‘s relief efforts in Ukraine; the response we received has been monumental, raising our goal from £75,000 to £100,000! Another shining example of the sheer, selfless beauty of this community it is our absolute pleasure to be a part of.

Help us hit that goal:

Buy a T-Shirt

The ‘Drop Waterfalls, Not Bombs’ t-shirts sold out almost instantly, so we have added more which are available on our webstores* now:

UK/EU webstore

North American webstore

*some EU dealers have also ordered stock of the t-shirts to make it easier for EU residents to lend their support, so please check in with your local dealer if you are EU-based.

Buy a Kayak

Many of you have been asking where you can get hold of one of the ‘Flag of Ukraine’ Scorches, and if you’re in the UK, you can now purchase one of these through our UK/EU webstore. For US and EU/ROW residents, please check out the list of dealers who have them inbound below:


River Deep Mountain High

Bantry Bay Canoes



Der Kanu-Treff

Denk Outdoor

Sport Schroer




Funpark Menina


Kanocentrum Arjan Bloem


Ozone Kayak

New Zealand

Further Faster & Long Cloud Kayaks



Starrk Moon Kayaks

Outdoor New England

Idaho River Sports

4Corners Riversports

Next Adventure

The River Store

If you can’t do any of the above…

Some people outside of the regions covered by the above have also asked us how they can get involved and lend their support, and beyond sharing posts about our fundraiser, you can also donate whatever you are able directly to the DEC:

P&H Sea Kayaks Fundraiser

We’ve also launched a similar fundraiser under our P&H brand, and you can find more information on that on the P&H Blog.


Ukraine Relief Fundraiser

We have ceased all shipments to Russia as of the week before last and have heard from both of our Ukrainian dealers that they are preparing to defend their homeland in any way they can. When peace returns, we’ll do everything we can to help them rebuild their businesses, but sadly that time is likely a long way off.

These are our dealers in Ukraine:

Mike, with his family…
Anton, with his paddling crew…

These are wonderful people.

We are lucky to live in a stable and peaceful democracy, whilst many live with the harsh reality of the many dreadful wars around the world. This war in Europe, in an area where some of our staff come from, where our customers are being bombed, brings that reality far too close to home. We have no doubt, like us, you are watching the human tragedy in Ukraine unfold nightly, and perhaps feeling powerless to help.

However, we are morally compelled to help Ukraine, and perhaps with your help, we can do so significantly…

Staff across Pyranha have committed to donating their time, and several of our suppliers have agreed to donate materials so that we can make 20 custom Scorches, split proportionally across the size range, in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

100% of the proceeds from these ‘Flag of Ukraine’ kayaks will go to The Disasters Emergency Committee, a major Relief Fund for Ukraine.

Our dealer network has responded with overwhelming support for this initiative, and so we are also preparing to make an additional 20 kayaks at cost, with any profit from these also going to the DEC.

Furthermore, to enable those who are not in the market for a boat at this time to also support the cause, we have designed a ‘Drop Waterfalls, Not Bombs’ t-shirt which is available through our webstores, and we will also be raffling 2 ‘Flag of Ukraine’ Scorches (1 in the UK/EU and 1 in North America).

How to get involved:

UK Residents

Purchase a raffle ticket, a ‘Drop Waterfalls, Not Bombs’ t-shirt, or a ‘Flag of Ukraine’ kayak (delivered via a participating dealer) through our UK/EU webstore.

Residents of North America

A limited number of ‘Flag of Ukraine’ Scorches are on their way (more news on this when they arrive!), and you can purchase a raffle ticket or a ‘Drop Waterfalls, Not Bombs’ t-shirt through our North American webstore.

EU/ROW Residents

Purchase a raffle ticket or a ‘Drop Waterfalls, Not Bombs’ t-shirt through our UK/EU webstore, or a ‘Flag of Ukraine’ kayak through one of the participating dealers below:


River Deep Mountain High

Bantry Bay Canoes



Der Kanu-Treff

Denk Outdoor

Sport Schroer




Funpark Menina


Kanocentrum Arjan Bloem


Ozone Kayak

New Zealand

Further Faster & Long Cloud Kayaks

With your help, we hope to raise in excess of £75,000 ($100,000) over the next few months.

All the best,


Adidas Sickline: Reloaded

When the Adidas Sickline still existed, I always wanted to participate. Unfortunately, the race was always in the middle of the exam period. When it was announced that the race would be held again with new organizers and a new name, it was clear to me that I had to participate.

About two weeks after registering, I was informed that the Oetz Trophy would be the Extreme World Championship that year. Originally, it was planned to take place in Voss at the Extremsportveko, but because of Corona, hardly anyone could travel to Norway, so the event was moved to the Oetz Trophy.

One week after the Loferrodeo, we went to the Oetz to paddle the Wellerbrücke all day, every day! The water levels were unfortunately not as good as before the Loferrodeo when it had consistently been between 1.90 and 2.00, but luckily you can still paddle the Wellerbrücke well at lower levels.

We were, however, a little worried that the level for the race would be far below 1.80; you can still run everything without any problems at this kind of level, but for me personally, it’s just more fun with more water. I would have preferred a level between 1.90 and 2.00 for the race.

In the week before the race, though, it rained brutally on Tuesday, so the water level rose to 2.50. Now the organizers and all the participants were, of course, afraid that the race would have to be cancelled because of too much water. Fortunately, the rain was over after one day, so there was a nice level of 1.88 for the qualification on Friday and 1.85 for the final on Saturday.

For the time of the year and the temperatures, we were really lucky with the water level. Next year, the Oetz Trophy will take place in September when the water levels are more stable.

Championskiller – Photo: Kristof Stursa


On Friday, 8/10/2021, we started with the race briefing at 9 am. Well, actually, the day started at 7 am with the last training session; three quick laps down Minus One and Championskiller to get into the flow and to tune into the current water level. Another advantage of this early unit: Afterwards you are really awake and can sit down comfortably with a coffee and your breakfast in the race briefing.

A total of 148 men and 28 women took part in the first Oetz Trophy. The qualification started at 11 am with the men, so we girls had to wait until 2 pm for our first run.

Unfortunately, there were some technical problems with the time transfer to the scoreboard during the first runs. In order to be able to run the qualification runs as planned on Friday, it was decided that all 148 men would have a second qualification run. Originally, it was planned that only the 100 best men would get the chance to improve in a second qualification run.

For us girls, not much changed, as we were all scheduled to do two qualification runs. Shortly after two, we finally started. Due to the long waiting time, we already got a bit nervous.

Fortunately, the nervousness was immediately blown away with the first paddle stroke and I just focused on the line: Tunnel mode, on! This showed that getting up early was worth it: I caught both Minus One and Championskiller really well, I went into the left channel, and just kept going. Here I also noticed directly what I have to do differently for next year: Train the qualifying track in race mode!

During the training, I paddled the part on the slalom course from time to time, but always just to internalize the lines. Each time I thought to myself: Oh, it’s not that long, you can just grit your teeth, no problem. In the race, however, it suddenly felt that it would never end!

Fortunately, by the time we girls started, the technical problems had already been solved, and I knew that with a time of about 70 seconds, I had pretty much qualified for the finals on Saturday. I briefly thought about taking it easy in the second qualifying run. But first, you are so pushed by the atmosphere and the spectators that you are directly in race mode, and secondly, it was also good mental training.

My line in the second run was not quite as nice as in the first, and the time was also slightly slower, but I was still happy with myself. Due to the technical difficulties at the beginning of the race, the race briefing for the final day was postponed from Friday evening to Saturday morning at 8 am.

Qualifying – Photo: Jakub Sedivy
Qualifying – Photo: Jakub Sedivy


On Saturday morning, the first briefing started at 8 am. Due to the fact that not everything went as planned on the previous day, the final runs for Saturday were also adjusted.

Originally, it was planned that the best 50 men and the best 15 women would be allowed to start on Saturday. There should have been three final runs each. The first one would have been based on time.

In the women’s event, the number of starters would have been reduced from 15 to 10. The second heat would have been a head-to-head race. Here, the fastest would have started against the slowest from the first final run, and the winner would have entered the final.

The final heat would then have been another timed heat, with the fastest of the five remaining women winning. (The same would have happened for the men). However, in order to avoid errors in the time transmission, the head-to-head heat in the women’s and men’s races was cancelled. In addition, the best 100 (instead of 50) in the men’s categories were allowed to enter the semi-finals.

After the race information, the times from the qualification were finally available. Of course, some were disappointed, especially since the early briefing deprived them of the loser’s party. For me, however, there was good news, as the assumption of the previous day was confirmed, and I had actually won the qualification in the women’s category.

After the briefing, there were two quick training laps on the racecourse. Fortunately, the water level changed only minimally compared to the day before. So our fears that we would not have enough water for the race did not come true.

At 11 am, the race started with the men’s semi-final. The starting order was determined by the times in the qualification. Place 100 from the qualification was allowed to open the semi-final. At about 2 pm was the last run for the men and then finally the semifinals for the women started. Here, too, the starting order was based on the times of the preliminary heats.

Since I had won the qualification, I had to start last. The long wait for the heat didn’t help my nervousness. I realized that I simply don’t have enough racing experience yet. Fortunately, the pressure and nervousness faded into the background when I slid off the start ramp.

I was honestly not that happy with my semi-final run. The line through the TNT wasn’t ideal and after the Champion Killer, I went around the stone on the right, which is a bit slower than the left line. I remember just thinking to myself as I paddled across the finish line: Please let it be enough for the top 5, I want to show again that I’ve got it.

One minute later, Lena arrived and said: “Laura, you had the most beautiful line of all, and I think you were also the fastest. I couldn’t believe it at first, but half an hour after the semi-final, the results were in and sure enough, I had won the semi-final!

Photo: Katja Jemec
TNT – Photo: Milos Jakobi

The final started at 4 pm with the 30 fastest men. The times from the semifinals were used for the starting order. After that, it was the girls’ turn again.

At this point, I would like to thank everyone who helped me to shorten the waiting time, distracted me, calmed me down, and kept me warm. Without you, I would probably have gone crazy. I was last on the start ramp again, took a deep breath, tried to block out the race, and just concentrated on a normal wave bridge lap.

Special thanks to Michi Sommerauer, who taught me exactly that after the semi-final: Don’t try to race full throttle, just ride nice and fast. That’s exactly what I did.

In the TNT I was a bit far to the right, which was a very nice lineup for Minus One and Championskiller. After Championskiller I shot out towards the left channel, and I was already overjoyed with my line. And then came another moment of shock: I got stuck on the wall with my left paddle blade and only had my paddle with one hand. Luckily, I managed to grab it again and continue paddling. And then you do get rewarded when you start last. You are spared the long anxiety. Shortly after I crossed the finish line, I heard my time over the loudspeakers and learned that I had really won.

Photo: Katja Jemec
Photo: Katja Jemec

Afterwards, there was just enough time to be congratulated and hugged by everyone, to drink a quick beer, and then the award ceremony started. Congratulations to Maike Möst for second place and Martina Wegmann for third place!

I haven’t found a suitable place for the giant cowbell yet. The really great thing was that there was the same prize money for men and women at the Oetz Trophy. Many thanks to the race organizers: You did a great job and I will definitely participate next time!

In the evening, there was the Athlete Dinner (which should have taken place on Friday evening) for all finalists at the Ötzer Wirt. Afterwards, of course, there was some celebrating, in accordance with all the Corona rules.

Photo: Katja Jemec
Photo: Kritof Strusa

I had a great time before and during the race in Ötzal, and I’m looking forward to this year’s race.

See you there!


Counting Birds from our Kayaks on Slovenia’s Soča River

As whitewater kayakers, we often enjoy the luxury of being alone when we are out on the river. Just you, your boat, paddle, and fast-moving water. And maybe a mate or two. But if we take a moment to just float, and look around, it becomes obvious that we aren’t alone at all. Underneath your boat, there is an aquatic world of fish, swimming, hunting, and spawning. Along the shore there are animals (or at least tracks and signs of them), coming to the river to drink. And around you – there are birds.

For the past three years – regardless of temperature, weather, and water levels – we have spent the second weekend in January in our kayaks, paddling our home river, the Soča, in western Slovenia. What motivates us to endure the low water and cold temperatures? The birds!

Around the world – from Afghanistan to the Netherlands – bird lovers spend the same weekend in January (this year January 15th and 16th) counting waterbirds. The International Waterbird Census (IWC) is an annual event which is in its 55th consecutive year. The census occurs in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and South and Central America. (North America carries out their own survey called the North American Waterfowl Survey).

Our method of counting from kayaks requires constant attention and a keen eye, but involves little exertion, lots of floating, and just a few paddle strokes. However, most people who participate in the survey are volunteers and work together with national or regional birding organizations.

In Slovenia, the annual IWC consists of breaking the rivers, lakes and Adriatic Sea coastline into 423 census sections. Most participants perform the census by foot, but we have come up with our own surveying method, which was approved by BirdLife Slovenia – DOPPS, who organize the IWC here. DOPPS is national nature conservation and ornithological organization, part of the global Birdlife partnership of non-governmental organizations that strives to conserve birds and their habitats.

Rok is an ornithologist (a biologist who specializes in birds) and between the two of us, we are able to survey almost 30 km of the Soča over the course of one day. This lengthy segment would take a crew the entire weekend (two 8-hour days), to complete on foot. But with kayaks, we are able to complete it in about 5-6 hours in a way that is arguably more efficient as we are observing birds from out in the open of the river, and can therefore count more accurately. When birds are spooked, they flee downstream. Eventually, they decide that we aren’t a threat and fly over us, back to their territory or the section of river they were on. We normally count birds only when they pass us upstream. This ensures we don’t double count.

At 9 am on Saturday, when we put on just outside of the town of Bovec, the temperature was -5C. Last year it was -14. Pogies are a must. However, by the time we get halfway to Kobarid, the sun greets us by peeking over the mountains and we can thaw our hands and have a tea, snack and some schnapps!

On the segment of the Soča River that we survey, we observe wagtails, mallards, mergansers, grey herons, and usually a lone cormorant or yellow-legged gull. This year, we counted 100 of the water-loving bird, dipper. Every few kilometres we write down our count in a waterproof notebook, and when we get home Rok inputs all the data into an online platform that contributes to global research and conservation. The IWC is a source of vital data used to understand waterbird populations sizes and trends which contribute to identifying and conserving their key wintering habitats.

Sound like something you are into? Want to get involved? Get to know your local bird species by buying a book or joining a local ornithology club. Then, contact an organizer in your region. Or, if you’re not a bird counter but want to support the census, consider becoming a supporter of the Waterbird Fund. This fund aims to support the monitoring of waterbirds and their wetlands around the world. The IWC is a highly cost-effective counting effort as many of the counts are completed by volunteers. This means a little support can go a very long way to ensuring wetlands around the world are counted and the information goes towards protection.

This year we were lucky to get enough water to paddle the grade 5 Katarakt section of the Soča, where we were keeping one eye out for birds while enjoying the sun and tight lines. Every year we are grateful for the excuse to get out on the water and see our river from a different perspective. And who says winter is for the birds!

*Big thanks to kayakers, Bor and Gaber Mihelič, who also count birds from kayaks, and who provided the bird photos.


Can’t Hit the River? This is the Blog for You!

When I made the decision to attend Columbus State University, I expected to be kayaking at least three to four times a week; the Chattahoochee is 15 minutes from CSU! I did not expect that I’d kayak less here than I ever have in the past 15 years.

Managing two jobs and being a full-time student, taking anywhere from 16-18 credits a semester, doesn’t leave much free time for paddling! Even if I couldn’t paddle, I did my best to hit the gym. Then my mental health severely declined and the idea of going kayaking was less fun and staying in bed seemed better. Now I am working towards paddling as much as I can and still hitting the gym to be the best athlete I can be.

Good Wave, Chattahoochee

This semester, I am working two jobs, hopefully doing an internship here and there, and taking 15 credits too. This doesn’t leave much free time for me, but I have managed to hit the gym six times a week, along with paddling at least twice a week. I wanted to give my best tips and tricks to stay in shape while not being able to paddle as often as one would like. Hitting the gym has been my best option, that being lifting weights and rock climbing.

If you asked me two years ago if I would go rock climbing, I would tell you that you are out of your mind. I have a huge fear of heights, and I would not want to portage or rerun rapids if it meant I had to climb more than my height.

At my university, though, there is a rock wall and a bouldering cave. I started rock climbing because it was new, fun, and I made a deal with a kid. He taught me to climb and I taught him to roll a kayak. Little did I know, I found that it helped me as an athlete.

Learning to balance on one toe with my other foot in the air and my fingers pinched on a small hold also helped with balance in my boat. Which I was surprised about, as well as it worked my core a lot more than a normal core workout did. I had to use my core to keep steady and balanced on these small holds and dynamic moves.

That transfers directly over to kayaking; when I am doing freestyle, everything is in my core. To land all my tricks, I must keep my core tight to make sure I stay balanced and on track. I get the chance to climb more than paddle, as I work at a climbing gym. I think climbing is a great workout to help build strength in paddlers! I know it has helped me a lot!

Stone Summit Climbing Gym (ATL)

Next, I try to work out for at least 45 minutes a day, six times a week. This plan I am on is to get me in shape for the World Cup, which is in October 2022 here in Columbus, GA. However, the opportunity to get outside and walk for 15 minutes a day or even three times a week is better than nothing. This past semester, I did not work out consistently and it took a toll on me. When I would go kayaking, I was out of breath a lot faster, and when I wanted to paddle fast my endurance ran out quickly. Even the little workouts that I can do will help me as a whitewater kayaker.

I struggle the most with finding the mental will to go kayaking. I must paddle twice a week, as I am the president of the CSU Whitewater Kayak Club, but making time for myself to paddle is a lot harder. Being in my boat in the pool helps a lot. For anyone that doesn’t have the river as close as I do, I’d say do your best to get into a pool or on a lake to paddle around.

Even a fraction of time paddling in a pool or on a lake can help your skills tremendously. Making a regimen to do flatwater skills will boost your ability in the river. Being able to get into my boat and paddle around helps tremendously on my mental health too. For me, it is a chance to disregard reality and spend some time working on flat water skills, along with teaching my club members the skills they need to excel on the river.

After all, getting in a boat and spending some time on the water, whether it’s a pool, lake, or river, is better than nothing at all. Spending time in the gym or being active will help you excel as a kayaker. For me, spending my time working out has boosted my overall strength, endurance, and mental health as an athlete, and has elevated my skills on the water.

Nantahala River

I hope to see ya on the river!
Cat H.


Ecuador: The Land of Boofs and Boulder-Garden Goodness

Why the Hype?

No doubt you’ve noticed that many paddlers are heading to Ecuador this winter. Despite things not quite being back to ‘normal’ (what even is normal anymore?!) and there being a few more hoops to jump through, travel is now back on the table for many paddlers.

For those that have already escaped to the equator, you’ll be well aware of a few new logistical considerations. However, if you’re currently sat in your lounge in a fleecy onesie and down jacket, trying to muster up the motivation to get on your frozen local river, then read on.

📷: Casey Bryant Jones
🛶: Sal Montgomery, Katie Kowalski, Tara Blair

How difficult is getting to Ecuador right now? Not that difficult.

Is it worth the extra hassle? Yes.

Change can be pretty daunting, especially when it involves being far from home, but as long as you know the facts and do a little planning in advance, then it’s todo bien!  Check out the blurb at the end for current guidelines. It’s worth noting that guidelines do change and this blog was written by a dirtbag kayaker, not a governmental official or Covid-19 expert. So get yourself familiar with official governmental travel advice websites (links also below). 

Ok, now to the good stuff! So what’s all the fuss about Ecuador? Is it really that great for paddling, or are we all just being soft and don’t want cold hands on the river? Well, yes ditching the pogies/skull cap/fleecy onesie/ice cream headache is nice, but it really is a whitewater wonderland here. I’ll keep it simple, but here’s a few of our favourites (come to Ecuador and you’ll quickly see why!)

Río Jondachi

Typically, many paddlers begin their trip in the town of Baeza, situated approximately 2 hours from Quito airport. During the months of November to March, this relatively sleepy town is transformed into a buzzing paddling hub, full of colourful kayaks and boardshorts.

Throughout the day, you’ll see trucks loaded with boats heading up and down the valley, to the Río Quijos. With multiple sections to choose from, there’s options for most water levels and abilities. If you’re into steep creeking then you’ll love the Casa de Queso (Cheesehouse) section, or if big water canyons are more your thing then head further downstream for the Chaco Canyon! The Quijos has it all! If you’re looking to branch out a little though, you don’t have to travel far for other runs in the area, such as the Río Oyacachi (high volume steep, technical creeking), Borja (big water fun) and the Río Cosanga (several super varied sections). 

📷: Casey Bryant Jones

🛶: Sal Montgomery

Next up on most paddlers’ agendas is to head over to the town of Tena. Drive roughly 2.5 hours and you’re suddenly in a completely different climate. Tena is hot, sunny and home to the awesome Río Misahuallí. After a bit of rain, laps on the upper section are hard to beat, especially as you can get freshly baked empanadas at the El Oso Perezoso Kayak Hostel takeout! (It’s also possible to rent boats/ gear here too). If levels are low and you’re feeling like more of an adventure, check out the lower Misahuallí. This canyon is pretty spectacular, with bright green parrots and chunky, big volume rapids. Just be sure to get beta on the portage…

📷: Sal Montgomery
🛶: Gabriel Garbin

And then we’ve got an absolute beaut of a river- the Río Piatua. With clear water, sunshine and all the boofs, it’s easy to see why this is a highlight run for many paddlers.

Welcome to the Jungle

If you’re going to go to Ecuador then no doubt you’ll want to experience some proper jungle paddling. The Jondachiis probably one of Ecuador’s most well-known jungle rivers and is definitely a must-do. From start to finish, the river works its way through endless, dense jungle. Whilst boofing your way downstream, keep an eye out for native birds, big, colourful butterflies and the occasional river otter sunbathing on a boulder! (Last year, my pals and I saw a jaguar whilst paddling this river). The three main sections of the Jondachi (upper, middle and lower), each offer a different level of difficulty, as well as miles and miles of fun! 

If you’re after a real jungle adventure, then pack your hammock and machete and head to the Río Hollín. It is possible to paddle the 46km in a (long) single day, but it’s a pretty cool overnighter if you’ve got the time.

Highlights include a 30ft waterfall and a slide in to a drop rapid right at the beginning (easy to put in below these, depending on how fired up you’re feeling), a cool rapid inside a cave, and a big volume, fun paddle out from below the Jondachi/ Hollín confluence. 

📷: Abe Herrera, Boof Sessions


You’ve done laps on laps of the Quijos, you’ve paddled with monkeys in the jungle and now it’s time for Baños. Home of the Río Topo. Full-on, five-star boating for class five boaters. This super fast and super steep run will definitely get your heart rate up (and not just because of the altitude!). The fun doesn’t stop at the takeout though, as Baños is known to be a pretty wild party-town! 

Whether the Topo is on your radar or not, this party town is also packed full of great hikes, huge waterfalls and natural hot springs. Make sure you finish your day with a riverside BBQ at Abby’s Hideaway- the perfect way to relax after the Topo or a night of dancing!

Paddling Community

The paddling scene here in Ecuador is constantly growing. With more international kayakers coming to check out what all the fuss is about and returning paddlers coming for another season of quality whitewater and sunshine, the paddling hubs are buzzing more than ever. It’s not just an increase in foreigner paddlers on the rivers though. More local paddlers are taking to the water, as well as opening up new sections and carrying out big missions. Super exciting times here!

A big driver of this has been the Ecuador Kayak Club. Solely volunteer-led and reliant on donated, or repaired pre-loved gear, this awesome group of people have introduced a huge number of local people to the water. The initial 14 members has now skyrocketed to over 120!

Keen to encourage local paddlers to progress, the club put together the Ecuadorian Race Series. Not only do these events count towards team selection for national paddlers, they’re also open to international paddlers -helping to share the psych and integrate paddling communities, as well as being a lot of fun!

Take it easy…

Don’t get caught out – talk to locals and paddlers that have been in-country for a while. The paddling here is epic, but things can go wrong quickly if you don’t understand the nature of the rivers and each area’s weather systems or catchment areas. Do your research and you’ll have a blast in this incredible jungle whitewater mecca! 

The Facts (sorry, boring but important)


  • Negative Covid test (taken within 72 hours of arrival in to Ecuador)
  • Covid vaccination (received more than 2 weeks prior to arrival in Ecuador) 

*Obviously these can change, so check here for the latest guidelines-

Make sure you check the requirements for any connecting countries. For instance, many UK flights to Ecuador transit in the US, so be sure to check local requirements when booking your ticket. 

Once In-Country:

Testing: as long as you’re near a good-sized town, it’s super easy to get tests in Ecuador. All the main kayaking hub towns have good testing facilities, including several that will perform the tests at your accommodation. There’s also testing facilities at Quito airport (check out their website for details).

Transport: private taxis are cheap and easy, so it’s pretty easy keeping yourselves to yourselves and avoiding public transport if you wish. Masks are mandatory for all taxis and buses. It’s also worth having a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you. 

Accommodation: us kayakers like to keep things simple, so we mostly stay at the same places. This year, many hostels are limiting numbers (for obvious reasons), giving us a nudge to try out different places. Here’s a few links to the usual favourites though:

El Oso Perezoso Kayak Hostel
📷: Casey Bryant Jones

Guiding, Boat Rental, Tours

There’s a tonne of tour companies operating in Ecuador. Whether you’re keen for a fully inclusive package, a couple of days of guiding or simply just boat/gear rental, there’s plenty of options to choose from. 

Here’s a few recommended operators:

Ecuadorian Rivers Need You!

The rivers of Ecuador have been supplying us with epic times, endless boofs and sweet lines, but now it’s our turn to give something back. Unfortunately, they’re at risk. Without these awesome, free-flowing steep creeks, epic canyons and ballsy-big volume rivers, not only do we lose a hell of a lot of incredible whitewater, many local communities will lose their water sources, livelihoods and even homes; not to mention all the devastating, irreversible damage to invaluable wildlife and natural ecosystems. 

Ecuadorian Rivers Institute is a voluntary organisation working to raise awareness and protection of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in Ecuador. Check them out (link below), sign their petition and donate to their cause if you can. 

‘By increasing global awareness of watershed issues in Ecuador, we hope to minimise the exploitation of the environment and the people who depend upon it’

Thanks for reading, see you on the water!
Sal =)

📷: Abe Herrera, Boof Sessions


The Zambezi Again?

Yes! The Zambezi again!

I travel to different regions of the world to check out different rivers for different reasons. Sometimes, I never want to leave, and other times I’m happy to have just gotten out without getting hurt. No matter where life leads me, there is one river that will have me forever coming back; the Zambezi. 

I love the style of this river; a huge, frothing, friendly behemoth of a river. As the river rises, different moves and lines open up, all requiring different levels of skill and commitment. This is my favourite time to be on the Zambezi; I can feel myself improving as a kayaker, and my overall fitness increasing dramatically as I hike down into the gorge, spend hours on the river, and then hike out again every day.

I am always trying to learn new things or practice old skills on the water, but on this river, improvement feels like it comes easier than normal to me. Here are a few things that I enjoy working on during my time on this river:


Getting big air off the back of waves requires perfect timing. Generally speaking, the longer you wait until you launch off the back, the higher and more disconnected you will be from the river. It’s hard while climbing up the walls of water on the Zambezi not to pull early and just get over it. This season, I feel I managed to get to a whole new level of launching over waves.

Edge Control 

There are so many seamlines, boils, and whirlpools on the Zam, I leave every trip feeling way more in tune with my edges. 


You get strong kayaking on this river every day. I like coming here at the start of the year and leaving from my time on the Zam feeling strong and ready for the year ahead.


This river is chock full of intimidating moves, and it honestly normally takes me a few days to feel confident going for some of the bigger ones. By the end of the trip, I am comfortably knocking into the biggest parts of the rapids, making last-second glides to where I need to be, and feeling at home on a really powerful piece of water.


The Zambezi encompasses so much that I love about kayaking. I will forever be in love with this sport, but out here I am forever grateful for all the paths in life that led me to here. Endless days of bombing through the beautiful Batoka gorge, blasting over huge waves, and laughing with my friends at the takeout about all the things that happened on the river that day.

Hope to catch you out on the Zam someday,


Laura Hofberger has her eyes on the prize…

We’ve been laying plans and looking forward to getting back on the road and attending some events in 2022, and when our sights turned to the Oetz Trophy (22nd – 25th of September 2022 in Ötztal, Austria!), we immediately thought of last year’s winner, Laura Hofberger, and fired her some questions recapping last year’s experience and how she’s carrying some of that insight forward to defend her title this year!

Here we go…

What were your goals going into the first Oetz Trophy? Was winning on your mind, or just having fun?

Well, to be honest, my main goal was to get through the qualifiers and start in the semifinals. When I registered for the race, it was not yet proclaimed as the world championship. I mainly registered because I always wanted to participate at Sickline, but it never worked out with university exams. Since it takes place at the end of the season in the Alps, I thought of it as a nice way to see everybody again.

📷: Katja Jemec

What was your training regime like before?

My training the weeks before the race focused mainly on paddling the Wellerbrücke as often as possible.

How do you warm-up and psyche yourself up for the race itself?

For me, it’s important to sit in the boat on the day of the race and at least paddle the section once. About half an hour before the race, I started warming up. A little bit of jogging up and down the racecourse, jumping on the spot, and then warming up arms, shoulders, back, stomach, and not to forget getting the hands warm. For the mindset, I focused on my breathing to keep calm and tried to pretend that it would be a normal lap with friends down the river.

Minus One
📷: Jakub Sedivy

Was there a move or a moment in the race where you realized you were in with a chance of winning?

When I won the qualification, a lot of people were like, “Ok Laura, now it’s a home run.” and of course, I realized at that point as well that they were right. I trained a lot more on the racecourse than on the qualification course, so I knew if I didn’t mess up, my chances were really good. But on this section, mistakes are always possible. After I won the semifinals, I really wanted to win the race. 

How did you celebrate?

After the award ceremony, there was the athlete dinner at the Ötz Wirt where afterwards the party took place. So just a classic kayaking party with everybody.

Will you race this year? If so, will you train any differently?

I am planning on it, and yeah, I will focus more on race training. This year I just paddled the section a lot, but I never focused on racing down the course. I would still try to paddle the section as often as possible, to get accustomed to it at different water levels. But I also would include laps where I just race down.

Champions Killer
📷: Kristof Stursa

Will you still race the 9R, or are you thinking of other boats?

Sadly, my 9R has to stay in Chile, but since it’s the perfect racing boat for me I think I have to get another one! I am excited about the Scorch, and maybe on a steep course like the Wellerbrücke, it will be a good option as well 🙂

What other races will you be taking part in?

I am planning on participating at the Ekstremsportveko in Voss this year, and hopefully at King of the Alps in Meran. And I’ll see what else is coming up 🙂

What are your top tips for anyone else looking to get into racing?

Get a training buddy or crew, be comfortable with the racecourse, and focus on having fun while training and racing.

Thanks Laura, and best of luck for the season!


‘Oh, Shit!’ Moments

We all have them in varying intensities: “Oh, shit! I dropped my phone in the toilet!”; “ Oh, shit! I’m going to be late!”; “Oh, shit! That test is tomorrow!”

“Oh, shit! There’s a wall of water coming downstream directly towards me!”

My most recent, ‘Oh, shit!’ moment was more intense than any other I’ve ever experienced before or ever hope to in the future. In late November, while paddling the Upper Jondachi with two of my favorite paddling partners and friends, the river flashed.

Fran celebrating the end of the hike-in
All smiles at the put-in

I’ve written a few takeaways from the experience below. Read them or don’t, but I think it’s important to think and talk about the line that we toe every day on the river. Whether “the line” refers to a literal line that we have to be on in a rapid or to the environmental factors we are surrounded by, it deserves to not only be acknowledged but also prepared for in the event that things go wrong.  

After we had found each other, going back down through the jungle to where we had stashed our boats

I’ve reflected on the day quite a bit over the last week and I don’t think I would do anything differently. I haven’t really included any of the details about the flash here because, to be honest, they don’t really matter. If we’re friends, maybe I’ll tell you the story over beers, but they aren’t particularly pertinent to what I want to talk about. We put on in sunshine, it only rained on us for around an hour and, as we hiked up and away from the now furious river along a small, steep, muddy farm trail, the sun was shining again. The rain that caused the river to flash while we were on it came from up high–high enough that we couldn’t see it when we were in the Gorge. Though we were certainly all on edge while paddling in the rain, knowing that you just don’t want it to rain at all while you’re on the Jondachi, I wouldn’t say there were any particular moments that we failed to act in a prudent manner. Maybe we should have gotten off the river immediately when it started raining hard, maybe we should have seen clouds in the sky and not put on. Maybe… but the maybes aren’t very helpful at this point. It happened; we’re all here; and I want to talk about it because realistically, and uncomfortably, it could happen to anyone out there.

Though I feel good about our decisions on the whole, we could have been more prepared for the possibility of something going wrong. The Upper Jondachi is a remote run located between Baeza and Tena. It’s steep, relatively narrow, and currently filled with wood. With a solid crew and the expectation that you’ll take your time picking your way down the river or follow someone who knows the lines really well (and has seen it this season), it’s a beautiful section and well worth the bumpy creek entrance (Urcusiqi) or short hike in through cow manure.

Back where I had stashed my boat when I first exited the river.

Because of its remote nature, being prepared to spend the night in the jungle in the event of an accident is crucial (this goes for every river that doesn’t have easy and frequent exit points). Between the three of us, we had two inReaches, a phone that had an Ecuadorian sim card, two water filters, a few small snacks, an extra layer of clothing each, a machete, small first aid kit, and two emergency blankets. But then we lost one of the boats in the flood and with it went the machete, first aid kit, one of the inReaches, and Leon’s extra layers. To make matters more interesting, my inReach was dead and the phone didn’t have service. My inReach being dead is a huge mistake on my part; it was charged when I got to Ecuador, but I hadn’t checked it prior to putting on the water–I won’t make that mistake again. I had what appeared to be a communication device but truthfully, in the moment, it was nothing more than a nice-looking, expensive paperweight that provided a false sense of security. Thankfully, it wasn’t a crucial part of our exit from the jungle.

Mid way through our hike out

I’ve talked about it with a few people and we’ve come up with a general list of things that we think could be crucial to have in the event of being stuck in the jungle. I think that in an ideal world, every single person in the group has most of these things. I’m really not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t have with them when they kayak, it’s simply a list of things that I would want to have with me if anything like this ever happened to me again–and I’m sure as hell open to suggestions.

  • Emergency Blanket x2 + Paracord
    • One to lay on top of and one to create cover for rain. A third would be nice to use as an actual blanket (If everyone has one you’d be set up pretty well)
    • The blankets don’t need to have gromets to make them in to shelters, you can bunch the blanket around rocks or branches at the corners, tie the paracord around both the blanket and item and you’ll be able to string it between trees.
  • Basic First Aid Kit
  • Repair Kit
  • inReach (+ phone if it’s a mini along with a power bank)
    • I honestly think that in an ideal world there would be more than one inReach in every group. I know they’re expensive, but they simply aren’t helpful if the only person who has one is either no longer with you for one reason or another or the inReach is no longer accessible. I think this goes for any situation-skiing, mountain biking, etc.
    • Phone numbers for Search and Rescue as well as any other inReaches your group may have. If you don’t have their unique identifier, you won’t be able to communicate with one another if you get separated. Sometimes it’s more efficient to go directly to S&R in your area rather than pushing the SOS button. Assess your resources and make a call regarding which avenue of rescue you think will be better.
    • Having your shuttle driver’s information can also be key–you may be freaking out but, trust me, your taxi driver is, too. Let them know you’re ok if you can. They may also be able to get a rescue moving faster or in the right direction.
  • Water Filter
  • Extra Food
    • More food than you think you’d need
  • Extra Layers
    • If you’re only wearing shorts, bring pants. The jungle is not kind to exposed skin. Same goes for your top layer.
  • Headlamp
  • Machete
    • The jungle is DENSE and sometimes literally impassible without a tool.
  • Fire Starter
    • The jungle may be wet pretty much all the time but you never know if you’ll be able to find some dry wood. It gets cold at night, especially when you’re soaking wet.
  • Pin Kit
    • This should go without saying in my opinion but I put it here because pin kits are not only helpful on the river, but can also be extremely helpful in getting up and out of steep gorges. Check your gear, make sure it isn’t rusted and completely useless. It’s not a horrible idea to throw an ATC (a belay device) in with your gear if you’re in steep terrain (make sure it will work with the diameter of the rope in your throw bag).
  • Bug Spray
    • Bugs are vicious out there. Honestly, a mosquito net wouldn’t be a horrible thing to bring with you if you have one that packs easily.
Finally almost to the ridge 4 hours after we started our hike; we could still hear the river raging behind us.

Some main takeaways for me from this experience:

  • We had a small group and I think it was a huge advantage for us. Any larger of a group and in that particular location on the river we would have been in much bigger trouble–the eddies around me disappeared in seconds. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t boat with your friends, but it’s something to keep in mind.
  • Whistles are a great tool to communicate off the water, too… like when you’re hiking through a jungle and you can barely see 10 feet ahead of you.
  • It’s all good and fine to have the most skilled boater carry the most group gear but sometimes that’s the boat that gets lost. If you can, try to spread it out and realistically, everyone should have the basics with them in the event that the group is separated.
  • Watch where you put your hands. Some of the trees are literally covered in ants. Don’t get me wrong, I was digging my hands in to the mud to try and gain purchase and sometimes there just isn’t an option to do anything else, but the jungle has some pretty savage insects, animals, and plants. If you can, always look before you put your hands or feet somewhere.
  • There is at least one easier point of egress on the Jondach–we hiked out via a tiny farm trail at Tres Huevos. You would never know it was there unless you bush whacked your way about 100 feet up through the jungle to a small plantain field.
  • Start early. Weather can change really quickly and if you do find yourself in a situation where you need to hike out, having as much daylight as possible is key.

And, finally, the main takeaway I have is that we got lucky. If the flash had happened just about anywhere else, we almost certainly would have spent the night in the jungle and had there been different circumstances on the river, there is a possibility that we may not have made it back at all. There are a lot of “ifs”, but at this point I’m just thankful that we all made it out and that the only thing we lost was a boat and some gear (The boat was actually found about a week later perched on a rock). There were at least four flash floods in the last two weeks of November/early December–two on the Hollín and two on the Jondachi. Every country presents its own challenges, and Ecuador is a country filled with incredible rivers that flash MUCH more easily than anything in the US–especially those near Tena.

If you read this and disagree with what I have suggested or have suggestions of your own, please let me know–I am learning every day. I do not claim to be an expert on the subject and there are a lot of people with a lot more experience out there.

Have fun out there, love your friends, and be prepared.

Back at Gina’s thoroughly exhausted with Jack Daniels and Don Vicente’s “tequila”


Travelling to Chile in the Time of COVID

Hey there 🙂

My name is Laura Hofberger, and I’m currently kayaking in Chile! 

Chile is a paradise for whitewater kayaking, but due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s not the easiest country to travel to. If you’re still planning to come to Chile, I wanted to share my insights with you.

First, you have to be vaccinated to enter the country, and you have to verify your vaccination in advance with the Chilean Ministry of Health to get your mobility pass (pase de movilidad). To do that, register here and upload the QR-Code and certificate from your vaccination. 

After that, you have to wait for the approval of the Ministry of Health. With my vaccination it took about three weeks, but if you’re lucky it might only be one or two weeks. Don’t go to Chile without approval, though! I know of some Americans who were sent straight back because of a problem with their mobility pass.

You can check on the status of your mobility pass on the website, and you get an email if something is missing or if it’s approved.

Blanco del Sur Photographer: Fabian Janzen

If your vaccination is approved, you can fly to Chile, but there’s more to do:

• 72 hours before your flight to Chile, you have to do a PCR test. Keep in mind that the 72 hours don’t count from your home airport but from the airport you fly direct to Santiago from. For example, if you’re flying from London to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Santiago, the takeoff time from Atlanta will be the reference time for your PCR test.

• 48 hours before entering the country, you have to register at (this link will be in your vaccination approval email), where you’ll be asked to upload the result of your PCR test, a screenshot of your health insurance (it has to cover at least 30,000 US $, in case you get covid over there), and the address where you will fulfil your “quarantine“ until the result of your PCR test in Santiago has arrived. If it’s approved, you should get an email with a QR-Code in it which you need on your arrival.

• When you arrive at the airport, you have to go through the registration station first, where they check your mobility pass. This is where you need the QR-code mentioned previously. After that, you get to the PCR test. You can check your result online (make sure you approve pop-ups on your mobile device for that). Bionet will email you with your link. If you’re lucky, you can get your PCR test result directly at the airport after 4-6 hours (on the first floor on the right side of the elevator beside the exit). Without a negative PCR test result, you’re not allowed to enter public transport, but you can leave the airport in a cab to get to your quarantine address. If you plan to take a bus to Puerto Montt, you should allow some time to get your PCR test result in your planning. Ask the people from Bionet at the result counter how long it might take. There is a second PCR centre close to the airport, where I’ve heard you can get your result faster. If you’re in a hurry, it might be worth informing yourself about that in advance.

• Since the beginning of December, it is also possible to fly directly from Santiago to Temuco and take the PCR test there.

• If everything goes according to plan, you should get your mobility pass (best to take a screenshot of the QR code and your test result) and you can continue to travel. You’re not allowed to leave Santiago before your test result is confirmed negative. After that, you just have to do an online self-report for ten days at Here, you have to report if you have any symptoms, and after five days you’re able to change your address. Don’t worry, the website is in English 🙂 We haven’t checked out what happens if you miss a day of the self-report, so if you have reception just do it straight away, because there are a lot of places in Chile where the reception is just too low to load the homepage. The homepage also tells you when you don’t have to self-report any longer. So now you’re free to go 🙂

• If your PCR result at Santiago is positive, or one of your travel buddies is positive, you have to go to a “resitencia sanitaria“. The health ministry will get in touch with you and pick you up at your quarantine address (or the airport) and transport you there. If you’re positive, you have to stay there for ten days; if you’ve been in contact with someone who is positive, but you are negative, they let you go after seven days (if you’re symptom-free the whole time). These “Corona hotels“ are free, you’ll get food four times a day, and they have doctors there checking your vitals two to four times a day.

How do I know that? Well, one of our travel group had a positive PCR result in Santiago, so I had to spend the first seven days of the trip in a Corona hotel. Not the best start, but afterwards we went straight to the Rio Claro and everything was forgotten 🙂 

La Garganta – Rio Claro. Photographer: Micaela Besa Franzani

Since the Covid situation is not a stable one, I would recommend always checking if the restrictions have changed or new rules have been sanctioned before travelling to Chile. I will be here hopefully until the end of January, so if you have any questions about the Covid situation, water levels, or anything else, feel free to contact me 🙂 (probably best via Instagram: @laura.hontas)

Once you’ve mastered all the entry hurdles and finished doing your ten days of self-reporting, travelling in Chile is really stress-free. I heard from some people that they just didn’t do the self-reporting and nothing happened, but if you have reception, it’s still probably better to be safe than sorry and just sacrifice two minutes a day for it.

Like in any other country, it’s mandatory to wear masks in public places like supermarkets and also in crowded areas in the cities, but since we’ve been dealing with the pandemic for quite some time, we’re probably all used to having a face mask in every pocket anyway!

Pase de Mobilidad

So, what do you need a mobility pass for? You don’t need it for renting a car or for cabs, but it is required for public transportation or for entering a restaurant. If you’re travelling south, you have to take some ferries and might need to show your mobility pass to board them. Better just take a screenshot of your mobility pass with the QR Code to avoid any complications.

Getting a Chilean SIM Card

If you want to get a Chilean SIM Card, I would recommend getting one from Entel. At the beginning, we had SIM cards from WOW and Claro, but the further south we got, the worse the reception got, so we switched to Entel on the recommendation of some Chilean friends. Getting a prepaid SIM card in Chile is really cheap, the SIM card costs about two euros and then you can get different “bolsas”. I paid less than ten euros for 10 GB + 500 minutes for 30 days and limitless use of most of the social media apps is included. If you’re staying longer than 30 days in Chile, you have to register your mobile phone at, otherwise, it will stop working. For the registration you need:

  • A photo of your passport
  • A photo of your flight ticket or a photo of the visa in your passport
  • A screenshot of your IMEI (dial *#06# to get that)
  • Brand and model of your phone
  • Your Chilean mobile number

Paddling in National Parks

Some classic rivers in Chile are in national parks. If you have to enter the national park to paddle, you have to buy your ticket online at In the national parks we have been to, there was no option to buy the ticket at the entry most of the time, so it’s better to buy tickets in advance, as the reception in the parks is most often too low to buy them there.

At the Rio Claro, you only need the ticket for the Seven Sisters section, but when we were there the rangers told us that it is forbidden to paddle the section, so we just waited until the park was closed and all the rangers went home. No problem 🙂

The problem with the rangers happened at the Gol Gol and the Pedrohue as well. When we were waiting at the put-in of the Gol Gol for the shuttle, a group of rangers approached us and again told us that paddling was forbidden. We told them that we’d just wait for the shuttle to come back and then go. Of course, we didn’t do that. As soon as the rangers were gone, we grabbed all our gear and headed into the woods to wait out of sight for the rest of the group.

Once we got on the river, we didn’t see any more rangers, so everything went well. My recommendation for paddling the Gol Gol is to not linger at the car park but to head straight to the woods and wait there for the shuttle.

At the Petrohue we ran into even more trouble. In the morning, we entered the National Park (where we were actually able to buy the ticket at the entrance) to scout the waterfalls. We knew that the waterfalls were forbidden to paddle, so if you want to do it, it has to be either early in the morning or late in the evening (check the opening hours of the park in advance). Sadly, the water level of the falls was too low for paddling them.

Two of our group decided to paddle the part above the falls, but made the same mistake as on the Gol Gol and spent too much time at the put-in. Again, a ranger saw us and told us that it’s forbidden to paddle in the National Park. He even threatened to call the police. We took the threat lightly, and the two put in out of sight around the corner.

The problem was, the ranger actually did call the police. When they arrived, I tried to convince them that the others were paddling below the National Park, but they didn’t really buy the story and kept patrolling the river for quite some time. Luckily the guys on the river saw the blue light and hid in the underwood on the left shore since the only street in the valley is on river right.

They waited there for a while and after the National Park closed they started sneaking down the river. We picked them up and got the hell away from the park.

So my recommendation for paddling the Petrohue is putting in at around 18:30 and not fussing around at the put-in or take-out. In the evening you should be fine since the rangers only patrol during the opening hours of the park.

Petrohue National Park

My Favourite Rivers So Far:

  • Rio Puelo

The Puelo was the first “big water” river on our trip. The upper canyon has around seven big rapids which are all scoutable (if you’re not feeling up for any of the rapids it’s also possible to portage them). The biggest rapid on the Puelo is called “The Portage” but at our water level, it was good to go. You can scout the whole rapid on the right side and also take nice pictures from there. What I liked a lot about the Puelo is that it’s big water, but you have to hit the lines, and the 9R is just the perfect boat for that since it’s fast and, for my body weight, very maneuvrable in big water!

“The Portage” on the Rio Puelo. Photographer: Fabian Janzen
  • Rio Claro

Siete Tazas section is a nice quick evening run in an absolutely stunning canyon.

For the 22 Saltos section you have to hike up about 30 to 45 minutes, but it is totally worth it. You have delightful drops between one and six meters, the gorge is super beautiful, and there is a nice place to stay, the hostel Val Verde, directly at the take-out.

If you have enough water, you can paddle straight down from the 22 Saltos section until the End of the Garganta section. Although the water level was low, the Garganta canyon was definitely one of my highlights on this trip. If you have the chance of catching the Claro you won’t regret it!

  • Rio Riñinahue

The Riñinahue is probably not as well known as the other rivers, but it’s a gem! You have four smaller drops in a really narrow gorge and then a bigger drop (about seven meters) at the exit of the gorge. You can put in directly above the first drop. I would recommend scouting the second and third drop since all the water pushes hard towards the left wall. Directly above the fourth drop, there is a huge cave on the left where you don’t want to end up. If you’re not feeling it and just want to paddle the big drop, you can jump into the pool beneath the fourth drop, but be careful; it’s about a 15 to 18 meter jump into green water!

  • Rio Fuy

So far, I’ve only paddled the upper Fuy since the water level for the middle Fuy is still quite high, but I hope to catch the middle on the way back south at the end of the trip. The upper section is a lot of fun. You can warm up on the first few kilometres before reaching the La Leona drop (about four meters high). The drop is super beautiful, and you can easily carry up as often as you want. After La Leona, you have about 300 meters of awesome whitewater with two smaller drops. The last drop you can also easily carry up again as often as you like. The upper Fuy is just a fun, stress-free run to enjoy!

La Leona Drop on the upper Fuy. Photographer: Fabian Janzen

Hope to see some of you in Chile and have an amazing time on the river together!

Buenas lineas!

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