For years and years I’ve wanted to have a crack at the Adidas Sickline Race in Oetz, Austria. Unfortunately, other commitments such as University or work always prevented me from going, but not this year! After a whole summer of playboating on the Ottawa I was very excited to get back in a creekboat, and where better than the Wellerbrucke rapids?
A summer of warm water, sandy beaches and perfect waves sounds like most people’s ideal, well this is what you can find if you head to the Ottawa Valley for the season! The past few months I’ve been working as a kayak instructor/raft-guide/summer camp carer/shuttle driver/dining room worker/whatever else they want me to do so I can afford to spend a few months living in a beautiful little cabin in the most idyllic spot on this classic river.
The Ottawa is famed for its world-class freestyle waves and the best come in at high levels due to spring meltwater. Unfortunately, I arrived a little late from Peru to catch the really high water but was in perfect time for 3 weeks of the famous Mini-Bus wave. I went almost every day to this wave whilst it was in, often for 5 hours in a day (I didn’t have much else to do at the time). I managed to try some new tricks I’d never done before such as flashbacks and a few attempts at airscrews, which didn’t go terribly, as well as working on perfecting older tricks and just working on timing and control on a big wave. Huge thanks to Lou and Graham for putting up with me in a spare trailer for these weeks, and giving me the best possible start to the summer.
When I heard the Freeestyle World Championships were going to be held on the Ottawa River this summer I seriously considered having a go for the team. However, I was in Chile at the time the selections were on and flights were expensive so I chose to stay in South America and come to watch as I’d be in the Ottawa Valley working all summer anyway. Not having too much freestyle experience before this summer I think I made the right decision. Watching the British girls tear up the wave and seeing two of them in the finals I seriously doubt I would have had a chance of getting a spot on the team and the summer was much more enjoyable without the stress of competing.
Having achieved the goal of running the Rio Baker we loaded up and set off in search of other rivers and adventures further south. There is probably nobody better acquainted than us with the locations of all gomerias (tyre shops) along the Carretera Austral, but fortunately other than a few punctures and a missing knut the Subaru performed superbly and safely delivered us to Villa O’Higgins, the most southern point of this famous thoroughfare.
For many years now it has been my dream to paddle the Rio Baker down in Patagonia, Chile. After 2 trips down to Chile where, due to commitments with World Class Academy, I was unable to journey further south than the Futaleufu and with the threat of a dam imminent I thought I had lost the opportunity to paddle this unique river. However, thanks to the work of opposition groups the “Patagonia sin Represas” campaign has managed to put a stop to the progress of the dam…for now. This January I was able to join old British paddling buddies Lee Royle and Rory Woods along with a new friend Sebastian Hennig from Norway on an epic trip down to Patagonia and finally got to enter the imposing canyons of the Rio Baker.
Signing up to two long (18 and 30 days) trips down the Marañon River in Northern Peru was quite a commitment to the unknown. Unfamiliar with the river, the groups, and really anything to do with long rafting expeditions it was going to be a big adventure and learning experience. Sierra Rios runs regular trips down this beautiful river and can accommodate all levels of paddlers/rafters on trips ranging from a week to 30 days. Check out the website at www.sierrarios.org for more information.
The Marañon River is considered the hydrological source of the Amazon being the river that adds the most volume to the Amazon River. Over the two trips we paddled over 500km of this river passing through stunning canyons, long flat stretches and some excellent big-volume rapids. We chose to take playboats as we had the rafts to carry all our gear and it gave us the opportunity to catch and play on some of the excellent surf waves on the way down the river.
After hearing a lot about this infamous canyon of the Apurimac River, on the 31st of August myself, Julio and our new Aussie friend Ben Webb headed to Cconoc hotsprings close to Curahuasi to begin our descent of the Abysmo Canyon. The plan was to spend 4 days making our way down to Puente Pasaje with the second day spent hiking up to and visiting the Incan ruins at Choquequirao. Anyone interested in paddling this section should note that it’s possible to paddle much farther downstream to San Francisco though according to Julio this involves a lot of flat water and an even longer return to Cusco.
So you’ve seen all the videos, read the blog posts but are still wondering just what it was like to be an athlete at the Whitewater Grand Prix in Canada this spring. Well to sum it up in 5 adjectives it was: amazing, exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting and surprising. To find out more…read on; here is my account as a competitor relatively new to the whole brown-clawing, flat cap wearing, stout, church scene of rather good whitewater kayakers.