PADDLER The International magazine for recreational paddlers Issue 38 Autumn/Fall 2017
KAYAK Championships World Surf
WW SUP JoeThwaites WW kayak to
SICKLINE Steffan Meyric Hughes Adidas
TSARAP Ian Jones WW on the
LONGBOA T Revolution Corran Addison
Skittles kayakers by Paul Ramsdale Editor
Peter Tranter email@example.com Tel: (01480) 465081 Mob: 07411 005824 www.thepaddlerezine.com
Anne Egan Tel: (01480) 465081 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kayak: Salty: Canoe:
World Surf Kayak Champs by Mark Boyd Big Sur by Roger Aguirre Smith Ashley Kenlock by Richard Harpham
Thank you to: Pete Astles, Ashley Hunter, Nicola Taggart, Mark Boyd, Mick Feeney, Steve Childs, Steve Bruno, Hap Wilson, Ashley Kenlock, C. Waldegger, D. Benedetto, J. Klatt, Olaf Obsommer, George Younger, Anuj Kumar, Christine Pinsonneault, Damien Larrigaudiere, Jacob Seigel, Pat Keller, Yannick Larouche and Allistair Swinsco for all your help in putting this issue together.
Not all contributors are professional writers and photographers, so donâ€™t be put off writing because you have no experience! The Paddler ezine is all about paddler to paddler dialogue: a paddlerâ€™s magazine written by paddlers. Next issue is Winter 2017 with a deadline of submissions on Nov 30th. Technical Information: Contributions preferably as a Microsoft Word file with 1200-2000 words, emailed to email@example.com. Images should be hi-resolution and emailed with the Word file or if preferred, a Dropbox folder will be created for you. The Paddler ezine encourages contributions of any nature but reserves the right to edit to the space available. Opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publishing parent company, 2b Graphic Design Limited. The publishing of an advertisement in the Paddler ezine does not necessarily mean that the parent company, 2b Graphic Design Limited, endorse the company, item or service advertised. All material in the Paddler ezine is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. Reproduction without prior permission from the editor is forbidden.
Issue 38 Autumn/Fall 2017
004 Northern Ireland
World Surf Kayak Championships by Angela Hunter
014 Northern Ireland
A US viewpoint of the event by Roger Aguirre Smith
022 Testing, testing & new kit
Plenty of kit reviewed by our contributors
The Grand Tour of Cornwall by Liz Garnett
048 United States
Surfing to Big Sur by Roger Aguirre Smith
058 India (part 2)
The west coast of India by Kaustubh Khade
074 Scotland (part 2)
Rannoch Moor to Perth by Angela Ward & Adam Evans
Scandinavian canoe expedition by Mal Grey
Muskoka River X race by Richard Harpham
Temagami wilderness by Richard Harpham
Richard Harpham continues his Scottish explorations
Adidas Sickline and history by Steffan Meyric Hughes
The Tsarap River by Ian Jones
146 Longboat revolution
Corran Addison discusses the longboatâ€™s return
WW kayak to WW SUP by Joe Thwaites & Sam Ellis
The Big Ben SUP Challenge by Paul Hyman
W O R L D
S U R F
C H A M P I O N S H I P S
Riding high on success
Story: Angela Hunter, Nicola Taggart Photos: Mark Boyd, Mick Feeney, Roger Aguirre Smith October saw one of the most spectacular World Surf Kayaking Championships ever held in the competitionâ€™s history which spans over 20 years. Over 130 competitors from 15 countries across the globe took to the magnificent waves of the Atlantic Ocean at Portrush in Northern Ireland â€“ and conditions, camaraderie and competitors did not disappoint. This was the first time the competition, which ran from Friday 21st to Thursday 26th October, has been held in Northern Ireland with over 70 friends, family and supporters attending and joining in the spectacle. In the wake of Hurricane Ophelia, the surf at both the East and West Strand beaches in Portrush, was offering splendid conditions at the start of the week for teams and individuals from as far away as the US, Argentina and Australia, to compete and showcase their impressive world-class, professional moves. As the week progressed, the winds died down, as did the waves, but they stayed long enough to deliver just what was needed for an awesome competition. The event was organised by the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland with a team of 35 staff and volunteers, from all over the world, which saw twelve months of planning for five gruelling days of competition on the Atlantic Ocean. Special recognition goes to these people who gave up their time so gladly and without whom, the event could not have taken place.
The event was organised by the Canoe A
Association of Northern Ireland with a team of 35 staff and volunteers, from all over the world, which saw twelve months of planning for five gruelling days of competition on the Atlantic Ocean. Special recognition goes to these people who gave up their time so gladly and without whom, the event could not have taken place. Many competitors and their families stayed for two weeks or more in the picturesque seaside town, helping boost tourism and the local economy. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) played a central role in the event – providing world-class safety cover without which the event could not have taken place. On the first day of the competition during challenging conditions, they rescued 12 people in the first few hours. Competitor safety is paramount in our sport. In addition, there were many supporters and sponsors without which the event wouldn’t have had the same level of excellence. Special thanks goes to the title sponsor, the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council with many other local and national supporters – we would like to thank them all for the valuable role they played in this world-class event.
The competition saw a number of team and individual categories from Junior, Master, Grand Masters, Ladies and Open – in two different classes – High Performance (HP) and International Class (IC) with 135 competitors in total from 15 countries taking part over a five day stretch. Odei Etxeberria
Nine teams battled it out for the number one world ranking, with Team Basque taking home the world championship. The Ulster team took home an impressive fifth place over all.
Ulsterâ€™s 19 year-old, Meabh Lynch took to the podium to scoop the fourth position in the
The Individual competitors kicked off proceedings, which was followed by the first round of the team event.This was followed by a second round of the individuals and team once again.
The event was very lucky to have waves for five consecutive days. Conditions were varied, from the very big on the first day, to smaller during the week but they then built up again for the team finals. So, competitors got to show off their skill set on a range of conditions.
Junior HP Classes. She was also a semi-finalist in the Ladies International Class and High Performance and a quarter finalist in the Junior IC alongside Ulster’s Andrew Lamont and Emil Lazarescu. This is a great result for the young Ulster competitors.
IC Classes 1. Junior
HP Classes 6. Junior
O BRIEN, Jamie CRUJEIRAS BELLO, Hodei DAVIES, Jack ROSSITER, Nathan
IRE EUS ENG ENG
CRUJEIRAS BELLO, Hodei DAVIES, Jack O BRIEN, Jamie LYNCH, Meabh
EUS ENG IRE ULS
BASON, Darren ETXEBERRIA, Edu ROBERTSON, Paul ARKISON, Ewen
AUS EUS ENG WAL
BASON, Darren ETXEBERRIA, Edu ROBERTSON, Paul TETZSCHNER, David
AUS EUS ENG DEN
GROSSMAN, Jim ADCOCK, Gary ABANDO, LUIS ALBERTO CRANDALL, Dan
USA ENG EUS USA
OLIVERAS, Adrián CARRETO, Txema YOUNG, Richard INGLIS, John
ARG EUS SCO SCO
GREEN, Tamsin IBARBURU ALTUNA, Enara GARMENDIA, Olatz GRIFFIN, Aisling
ENG EUS EUS IRE
TOLOSA INDA, Ainhoa EUS BORDAGARAY MARTIJA, Irati EUS ROGERSON, Teresa USA MCQUEEN JONES, Lucy ENG
BASON, Darren THOMAS, Tim ETXEBERRIA, Odei BOYD, Zackary
AUS WAL EUS USA
ARROUAYS, Pablo ETXEBERRIA, Odei OLANO, Xabi MARTIN, Gorka
3. Grand Masters
Team World Champion EUSKADI (BASQUE) 2nd ENGLAND 3rd WALES 4th IRELAND 5th ULSTER
8. Grand Masters
6th 7th 8th 9th
ES WEST SCOTLAND DENMARK BRITISH ISLANDS
FRA EUS EUS EUS
Summary of proceedings: Opening day: Friday 21st October
The social side of the event was on a par with the exceptional skill and excitement being displayed on the waves – with many life-long friendships being made over the five days. The event started by offering the competitors and their friends and family as taste of unique Northern Ireland culture. The local Sea Scouts, part of the UK's oldest nautical youth charity, started proceedings with a ‘bang’ by playing an opening drum serenade. This was followed by the world famous Innova Irish Dance company who treated everyone to a wonderful performance of their signature dance style with a twist. This was followed by an official welcome to the event by the Mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, which was followed by information regarding the running and organisational elements of the event.
Sunday 23rd October – saw the Magheraboy Hotel host a Traditional Irish Ceili allowing competitors to embrace the local Northern Irish and Irish culture and get their bodies moving to the unique music. Tuesday 25th October – saw many competitors alongside their family and friends
Hodei Crujeiras descend upon Kiwis Brew Bar in Portrush who supplied Local craft beer by brewer Lacada and provided complimentary food by Lynas Food Outlet. This was followed by live music with Young Ike. A fantastic night was had by all.
Thursday 27th October – saw a social fundraiser for the RNLI at the Portrush Yacht Club. Saturday 29th October – featured the magnificent closing ceremony at the Giants Causeway followed by music by 7.30pm. Mood music on arrival by Les Magee and evening entertainment by the Outlaws.
Portrush provided a world-class location for this World Championship. All competitors, their families and friends had a phenomenal time, with fantastic hospitality, team spirit and craic.
Lucy McQueen Jones
When it was time to bid each other farewell, it was a sad time, with many not wanting to leave their new life-long friends and team mates.
Speaking about the event, Ashley Hunter, Chief Officer, the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland said, “I am delighted that the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland was able to host the World Surf Kayak Championships in Portrush, Northern Ireland.The championships provided us with a great opportunity to showcase one of the many fun and dynamic disciplines of our sport. “The event was a great success and for that I would like to thank the event committee for their work in the buildup, the event team who worked long hard days to ensure it ran smoothly, and to those that supported the event with sponsorship and services. We hope that everyone enjoyed their time in Northern Ireland and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to our shores in the future. I would like to thank everyone who had a part to play in the success of the event”.
“Competitors and indeed the entire surf kayaking community from across the world got to experience some of the best waves we have seen on our own shores – with spectator numbers reaching an alltime high.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the competitors and their families and support network – so many of whom made the journey to get here and make the event so memorable. And of course, to the winners – congratulations and very well done to you all – it was one heck of a competition, and so tight in many cases – but those that came out on top should be very proud.
“The Ulster team and the individual competitors did really well and they should be proud of the results achieved.The next worlds are in Peru where we hope the team will build on the success and go the next worlds increase the success.
“I would like to thank everyone who made the event possible, the committee, event team, sponsors and supporters. We brought the world’s best surf kayakers to Portrush and provided a great event.” Zack Boyd
Further information and photographs visit www.surfchampionships.cani.org.uk For further press information please contact: Nicola Taggart on 07468 866808 or email Nicola@1visionpr.com or Angela Hunter on 07970 294406 or email Angela@birdsongni.co.uk
Story and Photos: Roger Aguirre Smith 3am: Could be jet lag, could be my normal early morning restlessness. I sit in bed listening as the windâ€”finding its way through the smallest of cracks in this building â€“ whistles and rattles with a consistent and pressured exhalation. I can make out the white outlines of wind waves through the drops of water dripping down the window. Remnant tackle blocks, manual cranes and cables surrounding this renovated salmon fishery seem unfazed by the 60km wind.The Worlds begins in five hours with a 4m/12-second period swell.
I invited myself. A friend of mine, Mark Boyd, mentioned he was travelling to Northern Ireland with his family and friends for the World Surf Kayak Championships to photograph his son Zack, who is competing for the US West Coast team. Mark and I often photograph kayak sports together closer to our central California coast homes, so yes, I inserted myself into his family as ‘visual and social support’, for the US West Coast team. I hauled thousands of dollars of photographic equipment, paid for over-priced car rental insurance that does not even cover tyres apparently and took 2.5 weeks off of work… to post 600px X 400px photos to the team’s Facebook page. Yup…“Love you guys!” Actually, logistics and pretence aside, I m just along for the ride. I’ve never visited Europe; never travelled beyond North America; never paid a pound for anything; never driven on the left side of the road (unintentionally) or from the right side of a vehicle nor had a blown tyre that I was unable to fix on a late rainy night in a place that was 5,000 miles from familiarity, in a fog that only 24 hours of airline travel can create. Welcome to the land of wattle and daub. Settling into my room in the converted fishery, Mark s family catches me up on the travels and travails of other US team mates. Among the inventoried events of the past few days: A hurricane of the likes not seen in 50 years; unleaded gas instead of diesel in the tank kind of thing; various flat tyres; a heart attack (two actually) and a broken arm (Mark’s wife Barb). This is just the US West Coast team. In fairness
Mark and I often photograph kayak sports together closer to our central California coast homes, so yes, I inserted myself into his family as
â€˜visual and social supportâ€™,
for the US West Coast team
however, rumour has it that a paddler with the Australian team had his boat fly off the roof of his car only to be run over by his teammate. “G’day Mate!” These are just the known fodder for travelogues. As I watch the parade of international teams during the rainy opening ceremonies for the Worlds, as they walk in colour, anthem and flags, I wonder about each of these athletes and about their families that travelled distances to support the competition. What are their stories? What did it take for them to get to this moment? What obstacles challenged their best-laid plans? And just how the hell do you get 60+ surf kayaks from all over the world to the ‘Santa Cruz’ of the Emerald Isle? The truth is, I believe it comes down to seconds. It comes down to ‘The Ride’; when the ‘how’ and ‘who’ and ‘what’ disappears into the fragrant ocean mist, the coolness of the vast Atlantic blue and green and the rush of spray and foam running down the line. It is a singular focus: the
slight bend of the horizon, predicting the pocket, the breath, the blade, the hips, the edge, pressured feet, knees, rotation… it’s about that singular moment of pure being where separation ceases to exist. Supporting these seconds of bliss, we are your friends and family coming together from all over the world. And for all of those moments of seconds melded together each day for eight days – we celebrate the ride together.
Roger Aguirre Smith
Roger has been a photographer and writer for many years. His background is in black and white fine art photography using medium and large format cameras. DSLRs are his new tools and he uses them in places that really don’t play well with electronics.
His work has been published in several outdoor publications and books and can be found at www.rasphotography.com.
When not behind a lens, he can be found ocean whitewater kayaking along the central coast of California and points beyond. Roger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Testing, Kitvision Immerse 360 and Immerse 360 Duo http://www.kitvision.co.uk By Peter Tranter
The development of POV action cams has come a long way in the last few years and thereâ€™s now more choice than ever. Forget the brand and think about what you want from an action camera, how you plan to use it and what you have to spend. However, now there is another equation to add to the mix: 360 degree capability. The rules have changed and now anyone can film a VR-ready video inexpensively. Now you can look up the river, not just down it, capturing not only whatâ€™s in front of you but also those paddling behind you. The world of
Immersion 360 features:
Video resolutions (.MOV): 1920 x 1080 @ 30 fps / 1440 x 1080 @ 30fps Photo image: 16 MP JPEG Lens: F2.0, 360 degrees hori x 220 degrees vert Video format: H.264 MOV
Included with the camera:
Bike mount Adhesive mount Waterproof case Camera cradle Camera silicone suction case Action camera screw Micro USB cable User manual
e will b nd it ed a iew rev uct od
nte of i
The original single lens 360 has been around for all of 2017 and sits on its back with the lens pointing to the sky. It has a super-wide lens housed inside a small dome that gives the camera a field of view of 220 degrees. Because the 360 Immerse action camera lens is located on top of the camera, the lens captures the 360-degree peripheral panoramic viewpoint of a dome.
dd lers - email us: review s@thep addle rez ine
From the photos, you can see the obvious main difference between the two cameras – one has a single lens and the Duo has the two back to back lenses.
ou want yo ion. If y u stat rp st r
Paddler HQ have frequently tested Kitvision cameras and we’ve always without exception found them to be excellent value for money, producing very good results whilst being reliable. The icing on the cake is always the huge amount of accessories you receive with each purchase and this is no different with the Immerse 360s – with one exception, which we’ll come to later.
res t to pa
extreme sports, especially paddling, is one of the most appealing arenas for 360-degree VR video.
The Paddle r ez ine te
The lens has the ability to see down 20 degrees on all sides but that does leave 140 degrees of the environment out of view, which sometimes leaves the constant feeling of having to look up when viewing the finished results. The other drawback when looking at the end result is the quality of video. This isn’t a 4k camera, it records in 1080p. This isn’t a problem in the usual fixed screen world as nearly all the TVs that we own are now 1080p hi-definition and the results are more than acceptable. However, in the world of virtual reality where you’re looking at a 360 degree world, the results are closer to the old standard of pre HD viewing - there are at times, just too few pixels to spread around.
Having said that let’s come back to reality. As mentioned, this camera has been around for a year now and back then you would have shelled out near £200, which even then was a bargain. However, look around now and you can purchase this camera for less than £100, which considering all the accessories you get with it – makes it an absolute steal and a fun device on which to cut your VR teeth on. As with all VR cameras, there is something to bear in mind before you’re ready to view VR material: it can be a long winded process to get there. Firstly, you have to convert the 360 degree footage for that 360 experience using software like SYMAX360 that can be downloaded from http://symax360.com. Open your video, select ‘high’ quality and wait for the bar to hit 100% as it transforms your video. You can then edit your video using standard video edit software, however before you upload to YouTube you have to run your video through another process with a piece of software that injects metadata to make sure you get the full
on 360 degree VR experience. It is free and can be downloaded here: https://github.com/google/spatialmedia/releases. After that you’re ready to upload and view your results.
The Immerse Duo
So the original 360 was released a year ago and as mentioned, came with lots of goodies in the box, one of which is a waterproof case, good for a depth of 30 metres. Then Kitvision released the Duo version of the Immerse earlier this year but curiously without a waterproof case, which limits its use. However, if you intend to stay clear of white water, eskimo rolls, etc, I don’t see it as presenting too much of a problem. Indeed I would encourage the use of the 360 Duo on calm water as the VR experience is a leap above the standard 360. The Duo has two lenses front and back, which gives you a full-on 360 degree video with no blank areas. Although still not 4k, the quality of the recorded image on the Duo is undeniably a level above that of the original single lens 360, with the extra lens capturing a more immersive range of footage - the advantage of the twin lens. The Immerse 360 Duo comes with some great accessories, three of which instantly catch the eye: the flexible tripod, the wrist mounted remote control and the cardboard VR headset on which to view your footage. The flexible tripod is really neat in the way you can wrap its bendy legs around anything. Combined with the wrist remote, it really comes into its own. Wrap it around a branch overlooking your favourite run, hit the remote and off you go. There are no limits and stability can only be a good thing where sometimes only the slightest of camera wobble can induce a feeling of sickness, especially in 360 degrees! Another really good area for the tripod is to try it with time lapse in mind – you’ll look very professional.
t: +44 1629 732611 e: email@example.com w: www.peakuk.com mi Long Jacket. River Vest PFD. Paddler: Kerry Old eld. River Derwent. Image: Pete Astles. Gear: Semi
Both the Immerse 360 and the Duo use the same combination of keys, either on the side or in the case of the Duo, on the top. Press and hold the Wi-Fi button to enter the menus and use the red button to make a selection. Scrolling through the menu is also done with the Wi-Fi button by single presses. You can control, capture, replay, and share your all your footage with the compatible interactive apps for both cameras. In the case of the single lens 360 download the ‘SYMAX360’ app and the Duo uses the ‘SYVR360’ variant. The app gives you total control of the camera in all modes. Be warned though, when both these cameras have their Wi-Fi enabled, it does reduce the battery life. What more can we say. For me I would pay the bit extra and go for the Duo - just incredible value for money.
Immersion 360 Duo features:
Video Resolutions: 1920 x 960 @ 30fps Photo image: 5MP 3008 x 1504 Lens: 360 x 220 degrees x2 Video format: .MOV
Included with the camera:
VR cardboard headset Flexible tripod USB charging cable Screw (x2) Camera clip mount Adhesive mount 90° Adaptor 1/4 inch tripod screw adaptor User manual
Downcreek’s paddles are ace! Big Dippers & Curlew bent-shafts were used throughout our circumnavigation. They were superb & never missed a beat. Beautifully balanced, eﬃcient & lightweight, yet durable & powerful, they are custom made & ﬁnely crafted by experts for each individual’s needs. Colin Skeath, Canoe Around Britain
Better paddles paddle better. With a Downcreek paddle you will feel the diﬀerence. Handcrafted from premium materials, they are exceptional in form & function.
Ultimate customisation now available with Paddle Signing & RockGuard tip upgrade options.
Also in our online store: Bespoke handmade paddle bags & canoe furnishings.
Visit us at www.downcreekpaddles.com and have us make the paddle of your dreams. Check out our interview and review in past issues of the Paddler
Quote code “PADDLER” at checkout and get a free RockGuard tip upgrade worth £15
Standard Horizon HX870E Handheld DSC VHF with GPS and Route Navigation www.standardhorizon.co.uk By Richard Harpham
We were pleased to receive the Horizon Standard VHF Radio in our offices for review as it feels rugged and well built with a host of the latest features, including SOS GPS Man overboard button, Data download/upload functions via USB and DSC (Digital Selective Calling) using Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) identification unique to the ship or craft.VHF radio technology has been advancing quickly with inbuilt GPS positioning providing improved rescue options. The HX870E highlights the set’s EU configuration, the mandatory ATIS (Automatic Transmitter Identification System), which can be activated via the front panel for use on the inland waterways of Europe. The size of the model means it fits neatly into most expedition sized buoyancy aids (PFD). It has a solid clip on the back of the model, which can be removed as well as a lanyard fixing point on the main body. These fixing points are critical as sea kayakers as common equipment losses result from wave action and stormy seas. The unit includes a rechargeable battery and an enhanced lithium battery from 1150mAh to a
powerful 1800mAh as well as a larger screen from their previous models. You can also track other HX870E users shown on a compass like screen display showing the position of group paddlers or a small flotilla. The unit is rated to IPX8, about 1.5 m for 30 minutes. The Stand Horizon HX 870E is a great value addition to the market and a good option for sea kayakers, kayak fishing groups from sit on tops and general marine use.
Features l l l l l l l l l
Size: 2.46” x 5.57” x 1.77” (62.5 x 141.5 x 45mm) w/o antennae. Weight: 11.8oz (335gm) (Gross). Flash and float SOS feature. Person overboard soft key with GPS. GPS tracking and weigh points. CH16 short cut button. USB connection for data/laptop purposes. DSC (Digital Selective Calling) for emergency with CH70. Simple menu scroll option.
Value for money: Features: Weight/size: Ease of use:
5 5 4 4
Prices from: £205
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Silverbirch Rebel 11.3 www.silverbirchcanoes.com
The Silverbirch Rebel is a modern 11-foot whitewater canoe, just as capable on big volume grade 4 as it is efficient on shallow braided streams and flat sections. The Rebel has been designed to excel with a wide variety of loads – making it ideal for use on longer trips where you may not only have significant gear to take, but a continually lightening load as the trip goes on. Silverbirch have worked hard to optimise the secondary stability – this was important feedback from the early prototypes, not in terms of literal stability but in terms of the transition from primary to secondary, and how clearly defined the rail feels as a consequence. The production Rebel 11 not only ‘sits’ naturally on the rail, but has massively boosted secondary stability making it an easy to paddle and confidence inspiring canoe.
The Rebel is available in two construction options:
Duratough: Silverbirch’s thickness optimised material, which is ideal for all the abuse of modern day creeking.
Duralite: Silverbirch’s innovative three layer material, which is great for use on bigger volume rivers where stiffness and weight are the primary concerns.
The Rebel comes outfitted with the custom Silverbirch bulkhead saddle made from 30kgm3 density minicell foam. The saddle is fitted as standard with Yakima footrests. At the request of their customers, the footrests are now fixed to the saddle with bonded 40mm polyethylene dowels to ensure maximum durability. A fitting kit including foam sidewalls, foam shims, glue, sandpaper and a surf-form is supplied to allow you to customise your boat to your needs, the second it arrives.
Length: 3480 mm / 11’4” Width: 686 mm / 27” Depth: 440 mm / 17.25”
“Whether you are looking for more speed from your OC1 or a natural transition from your traditional canoe, the Rebel is the boat for you.” James Dennis – Silverbirch canoes director
“This is a glorious boat! Silverbirch have really outdone themselves. This boat will be at home on any moving water, and won’t even be too objectionable on the flats.” Phillip Prince – Silverbirch ambassador and test pilot
“The Rebel is fast, nimble, dry, and made of high quality PE, so it can make those big water moves and take a beating in the creeks!” Jerrod Jones – Silverbirch ambassador and test pilot
ULTRALIGHT KAYAKS award winning design, class leading construction.
MSR Elixr 2 tent www.msrgear.com By Richard Harpham
The MSR Elixr tent has ‘Tardis’ like qualities for a small tent offering reasonable sleeping quarters and kit storage. Its geodetic design also means it is perfect for pitching on different surfaces including rock and harder surfaces where pegs are less effective. This style of ‘free standing’ tent is great for canoe, SUP and sea kayak expeditions alike where camp sites may be less available. All the components have a high quality feel of something that has been designed and manufactured with loving care. A quick glimpse at the instructions reveals that the dome shape is established by positioning the main linked (folding) poles on opposing arcs. Quick clips and eyelets mean within a couple of minutes your new home is pitched. The MSR Elixr also comes with an optional base groundsheet to improve insulation and reduce damp from the ground. Overall this tent is a gem offering a sturdy design and ample space for two people with kit, without sacrificing too much on heavy weight to
carry. It has two side entrances and two porches for storage. You can pitch it fast and light with the rainfly and base groundsheet reducing the pack weight from 2.5Kg to 1.6kg. You can also tie back the porches providing that connection to nature we all seek. This is our new favourite tent offering a fantastic home from home when exploring by canoe, kayak or SUP.
Features l l l l l l l
Two doors and two porches (unique in class) Internal loops and pockets for hanging kit Dual porch areas for stashing kit Geodetic ‘freestanding design’ Internal base tent and separate flysheet (can be pitched separately) Floor space 2.69 sq metres Porch (vestibule area) 1.63 sq metres
Value for money Space Features Weight Comfort Prices from £192
4 5 5 4 5
Osprey Aether AG backpacking rucksack https://www.ospreyeurope.com By Richard Harpham
The Osprey Aether AG is a game changer with levitating qualities magically reducing the load by 20-30% with its Anti Gravity Suspension System Getting to paddling trips and remote destinations is a key part of a paddlers life. I have learnt on my many human powered expeditions that nothing weighs anything but everything weighs something. This rucksack is a joy to use and makes travel significantly easier and more manageable. Of course most of us paddlers chose to embrace a wide range of outdoor activities including trekking and back packing so the rucksack wins there too. Back packs and rucksacks have remained constant in design since the last big change when external frames were integrated into internal designs. Or so we thought! The Osprey Pack includes a new waist belt anti gravity system, which is literally figure hugging, providing a reassuring connection between you and your pack.
We field tested the packs on our recent Ontario Canadian Canoe Culture trip and returning home I managed to carry 26Kg comfortably in my 85-litre pack. (Warning: it is possible that access to local maple syrup, Hap Wilson’s books and other paddling items can make your pack heavier that usual). The pack includes front zips for ‘flat packing’ your bag, plenty of fixings and a built in waterproof cover. The pack comes with a medium and large size option and a brilliant sizing app, to help make sure you pick the size for you. The Osprey Aether Pack is like a new friend you feel like you have known for ever. You will wonder how you ever survived without it.
Features l l l l l l l l l
Value for money Space Features Weight Comfort
5 5 5 5 5
RRP: £205 and worth every penny
Size: 85-litres Weight: 2.42 kg Sizing (medium & large) – use their sizing app Colours: green, blue and orange Large body of rucksack top and front J-zip Anti gravity 3D carrying system Precurved hip belt system Detachable pack lid Integral waterproof cover
River Guide PFD www.peakuk.com
Peak UK’s top whitewater PFD the River Guide has been updated for 2018 but still keeps the original storage features of a large front pocket (with phone, sling and camera compartments), twin karabiner pockets and a knife pocket. The unique integrated harness is now adjustable so you can create the perfect length for you with no cutting required. Integral shoulder pads make boat carrying a much more welcome prospect and the tough 600D polyester/nylon shell and Gaia eco friendly foam, will not let you down. A must for serious whitewater nuts and coaches or guides everywhere! The River Guide comes in S/M, L/XL and XXL and will be available early in 2018. RRP: £139
Colours: red/lime. Blue/lime
SealLine Discovery Deck Dry Bag www.seallinegear.com By Richard Harpham
The SealLine Discovery Deck Dry Bag is a simply brilliant design with its robust material and multiple fixing points. It’s perfect for day or expedition use on a canoe, kayak or SUP, whether you are a day tripper or instructor, or adventurer. The dry bag comes in a choice of different colours and we thoroughly tested them in Scotland on the River Spey (including the Washing Machine), wild camping on Scottish lochs and in general use. The bags passed with flying colours where we used them as DS (Deep Sh*t) bags with essential kit as well as camera and valuables. We found them useful for portages, touring and moving water alike, with full confidence that our kit would remain dry.
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RRP: From £17.95 for the 10-litre option and £22.95 for the 20-litre option
SEA KAYAK ADVENTURES
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A trip around the pointy bit of England By Liz Garnett The clock was ticking and summer was just around the corner. An adventure was on the cards. Where should we go? Brittany? Donegal? Orkney? Hebrides? I would happily sea kayak in any of these locations but squeezing a long drive and ferry crossing into a 13-day mutual holiday window was tricky. The somewhat surprising choice was simple and local: Cornwall (or Kernow to the Cornish). This might have been a cop-out except for two details: 1) the challenge was set as a navigation of the entire county’s coastline and 2) I’d never paddled in Cornwall. All we needed was a bit of favourable weather and the 200-mile challenge was achievable; I also needed to ignore my bad vibes about the approaching summer’s weather. However, the metaphorical towel was thrown down: Eurion created a logo and got us a sticker. Our holiday had officially become an expedition and the four of us were ready for action!
Headwinds Fast forward several months and I’m sleeping in a car park at Bovisand, the most westerly bay in South Devon. Plymouth and the start of Cornwall proper, the River Tamar, is just a short hop across the sound. Besides a brief midnight interlude of teenagers thrashing mopeds, it was a remarkably pleasant night’s sleep. I do love the romanticism of an adventure in the making. We spent the morning squeezing the mass of kit into our fleet of Cetus’ and then launched into a rather brisk NW headwind. This was a weather pattern that we struggled to break for many days. The in-ya-face breeze kept us company through days one and two.The first camp spot, on a cobble berm at Seaton, blessed us with a driftwood fire and the most stunning moon rise ever.The following day we continued past Looe, cutting nicely through the middle of a sailing race. A brief stop amongst the tourists at Polperro reminded us that this was prime summer season, a fact that’s easy to forget when you are weaving amongst the rocks along the coastline. But they were soon left behind as we continued westwards, dipping into the bays to try
The first camp spot, on a cobble berm at Seaton, blessed us with a driftwood fire and the most stunning
moon rise ever
and avoid the worst of the wind, only to find ourselves dodging day trippers, cruisers and fishing boats at the entrance to Fowey. We dropped into tourist mode once again at the fantastically named Readymoney Cove. Sheltered from the wind, this cove was in British Summertime. Ice creams may have been purchased. We soaked up the rays and waited… hoping that the evening would bring a drop in the wind and allow us an easy 8km paddle across St Austell Bay. An uneventful crossing was highlighted by gannets diving for their supper.The spectacular green pyramidal cliffs of Penare Point welcomed us to the west side of the bay.The temperature dropped significantly as clouds covered the sun and we paddled on into the evening. We eventually landed sometime after 8pm on the stunningly sandy Vault Beach. Our bodies had found ‘kayaking mode’ but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t properly knackered after 38km! A very late dinner was not exactly enhanced by squillions of sandhoppers trying to commit suicide in our meal. A grim forecast for the next day meant an early start, to try and avoid the worst of that damn headwind…
Day three was a slog. Four and a half hours of interminable plodding.We snuck past Dodman Head, hid behind every possible rocky outcrop in Veryan Bay, blessed the volunteer toilet warden at Portholland and then crawled around Nare Head, saluting Gull Rock #1.There was a definite sigh of relief when we gave up and camped on a lovely grassy bank above Pendower Beach, on the isolated Roseland Peninsula, after a measly 16km.Tea drinking and blustery clothes drying was the order of the afternoon, as three of us looked on in bemusement as Eurion tried to organise the most complex escape plan in the history of sea kayaking. Against all the odds, he managed it and went to London – for one day.
Dolphin and chips
Suitably recharged by café culture, we headed straight across Mount’s Bay, a 21km short cut across the last major bay in south Cornwall. Calm weather and glassy seas were the perfect ingredients for being caught in the middle of a dolphin dinner chase. Round and round they went. Fins in the front, to the side, at the rear. Amazing! And then it was time to settle in, heads down and paddle. Porthleven, keep paddling. Praa Sands, keep paddling. St Michael’s Mount, keep paddling. A moored tanker, keep paddling!
The weather gradually deteriorated and four hours later we flopped out in Mousehole harbour, a picture postcard of charming cottages cupping an army of fishing boats. Three words: no chip shop. Chris cried. It was 7pm, a hugely long day that had also encompassed rounding the Lizard, Britain’s most southerly point. We plodded even further south to Lamorna Cove, passing (what should be) the namesake giant mouse sized caves. This epic 41km paddle had, however, landed us on Land’s End peninsula, the most westerly point in Cornwall, and indeed of England.
Monsoonal weather Lamorna Café sells huge breakfasts and has great cake. There’s a plentiful supply of tea too. We watched the rain, checked forecasts, perused the maps and debated. Was day six good to go? Land’s End is exposed to the Atlantic swell and the weather wasn’t ideal. When the rain stopped at 15.00, we opted to launch. The sea was lumpy and then got a bit wilder. England’s most westerly point is, apparently, epic in terms of scenery and jutting outcrops. But the cloud was down and the sea around Gwennap Head was a maelstrom of confusion.
We snuck through relatively sheltered alleys between mainland and zawns (deep and narrow inlets). The arch of Enys Dodnan is truly epic in stature and memorable in that it provided a
moment of calm water to pump out my cockpit! Longships lighthouse was just visible, until monsoonal rain arrived and coated the surface of the sea with mini impact craters. Laughably insane conditions! But this was a turning point; we were officially heading north, backtracking along the Cornwall peninsula.
The highs and the lows
After a brief stop at Sennen, we continued on for a very late landing at Priest’s Cove, just shy of Cape Cornwall. A steep slipway drops into the sea, where local fishermen haul their catch up to sheds enclosed within the cove’s rocky arms. We perched our tents on a grassy slope above the cove, overlooking Longships lighthouse. This was our first western view and allowed for a spectacular sunset. We ate dinner in the dark, watching the repetitive five-second flashes of light slip past, happy to be within the grasp of this tiny cove.
A series of late landings and 06.00 starts impaired my joy of the spectacular north coast mining scenery that followed. The journey north to St Ives (without any wives, sacks, cats or kits) is a repetition of towering cliffs topped by chimneys and derelict brick structures.
The morning shadow hid most of this coast’s true glory but it still impressed. The sun was out and the scenery was ticking boxes, but the long days, late nights and early starts had finally caught up with me by day seven. By the time we passed an unbelievably packed Porthmeor beach at St Ives, I was crawling along behind the others. Officially broken! And then came the culture shock – we landed amidst all the tourists in Cornwall. St Ives was teeming with burnt Brits! Despite having had limited company for a week, we were still unabashed about spreading wet kit in a 10m radius around us. We had reached saturation point, quite literally, and were desperate to dry our clothes. Bless the sun! Suitably recharged by Spanish tortilla in St Ives, the afternoon paddle saw the Cornish coast completely change character. The tin mines were
replaced by a fascinating collection of stacked sediments. Godrevy lighthouse has a secret (you’ll have to go there to find out) and the seal colony was surprisingly empty. However, the rolling swell delivered us to the Samphire Islands. We squeezed through the pair of islands, gawping at the layers of mud and sandstone.The bizarrely named Ralph’s Cupboard was next. We didn’t see Ralph but his cupboard was an epic alcove in the cliff. However, the sun was setting and Portreath beckoned. A quick group discussion determined that the camping opportunities looked limited and so a frantic 4km dash to Porthtowan ensued, as we tried to land before full dark. In the fading light, we could see the white capped tops of the waves that were rolling into the beach. A surf landing in the dark? What fun! Mark went first and was surfed wildly into the beach. He
imagined the rest of us were doomed. Amazingly we all landed, much wetter than before, without incident. Adrenaline and cold wet bodies fuelled a crazed run up the beach, with the loaded boats.
In the darkness, we found a flat spot within the dunes, right in the middle of Porthtowan. Not exactly subtle, but needs must and we urgently needed dry clothes and food.The forecast for early day eight was OK, but deteriorated rapidly as the wind piled into the coast. Options were limited as we considered the exposed Atlantic coast and the increasing surf. I certainly welcomed the first opportunity for a day off and we spent the day mending and drying kit. A bit of tin mine tourism and more café time was a welcome respite from the hours at sea. However the forecast for the next four days varied from unpleasant to awful to downright wild force 7 as Hurricane Gert swirled across the Atlantic. A difficult decision was approaching…
Unbelievably, eight days later, I was back in Porthtowan, sleeping in yet another car park. Mark and I had watched the intervening weather
forecast with amazement.Three days of calm winds and sunshine were beckoning; this trip could be finished, albeit minus half the team. After being driven to the beach and tipped into my (now much lighter) kayak, we launched at 07.30. As I slammed down off the back of the miniature clean surf, it was a joy to be back on the sea.The Devon border seemed to be achievable. This stretch of coast is filled with appealing gullies and I managed to persuade Mark that we had time to explore a few. There is also the delightful pair of islands called Man and his man, and the less imaginative Gull Rock #4. We watched the top of the Atlantic swell rolling into Perranporth and Holywell. In the shelter of Newquay harbour, we waited for the afternoon tide and spotted the resident seals. It was quite clear why they were resident: mackerel. They were being fed from the tourist boats!
Counting our blessings
cold wet bodies fuelled a crazed run up the beach, with the loaded boats.
Mark took one for the team and went down to the sea at 05.00 in the pouring rain. It was possible to launch, but where would we head to? We might get a few kilometres further north, and find a place to land, but then what? We certainly werenâ€™t going to make the Devon border in the few days that we had left. So we called in quits, 220km into our journey around Cornwall but still an annoying 115km to go. A few good weather days would see us finished. We left with the wild idea that August bank holiday would deliver a balmy summer delight. Iâ€™m sure Porthtowan were pleased to see the pop-up village depart.
The afternoon was tranquil. The sun shone and we made excellent time, the miles clocking up. The disappointment was the craggy coast that cried for exploration, slipping inexorably past on our right. Trevose Head, and its lighthouse, glowed in the evening sun and it was definitely time to find a landing spot. We’d progressed another 42km and were blessed with the most incredible evening spent above the beach at Harlyn. The sunset was wonderful and dawn, simply stunning. The lavender and rose skies suggested we were in for more cracking weather.
Another early launch into the glassy sea was barely a hardship. Day nine just got better and better. The unique outline of Pentire Head, silhouetted in the morning sun, was more reminiscent of a dragon’s scaly ruff. The decision to continue around Port Isaac Bay against the tide, turned out to be an excellent one. The tide was unnoticeable set against the fascination of this stretch of coast: caves, zawns, islands. It’s all there. The bizarre right-angled catacombs of Dennis Point fashioned the strangest cliffs I’ve ever seen; how does the sea repeatedly shape 90° bends? We rounded the point and came face to face with the masses, clustered on the rocks like oyster catchers, waiting for the tide to expose Trebarwith Strand. The kayaks slid onto our personal, private beach, overshadowed by immense cliffs; the kayaks tiny specs against the cliff ’s magnitude. Lunch at Trebarwith was hardly a chore. The sun beat down, the tide receded and the shallow turquoise sea filled with happy people. Eventually, our private beach joined with the main strand and we waded back to the kayaks. The transparent, glittering water allowed views right to its sandy depths. Even Gull Rock #5 didn’t disappoint. It looked like a blancmange! Suddenly, it felt like our final destination was within our grasp as we arrived in North Cornwall proper. Tintagel Island loomed on the horizon. From the sea, it seems separate from the mainland and it is easier to
understand why early Christians chose this spot and why the legend of King Arthur swirls around it. Our seafaring forefathers would have been equally impressed. We gazed up at the sightseers and they looked back down. Continuing northwards, we weaved in and out of rocky bays, arches and islands. At low tide the entrance to Boscastle harbour is a green forest of kelp, their huge fronds waving gently underneath us. In case of boredom, waterfalls are thrown into the mix. The grand finale was Seals Hole, a double cave of epic magnitude. Kayaking inside the dark bowels of the cliffs becomes increasingly disturbing. The deeper you go, the darker it gets and the more the cave continues. Finally the light disappears and you are left alone; only the sound of the waves exploding against the back of the cave reassures you that there is actually an end to the tunnel, somewhere far ahead. Leaving the cave, the zigzags start: contorted rocks in every direction. The chevron folding accompanied us all the way to Hartland Quay.
They are relics of tectonic mountain building that created the super continent Pangaea, a mere 300 million years ago. Given all this entertainment, it’s not surprising that we managed 49km that day. Landing through the small surf at Widemouth allowed us a camp spot on the dunes, watching the sun set into the sea. We had to drag ourselves away to shuttle cars, eventually falling into bed at midnight. It was a surreal way to end a perfect day.
The grand finale
Knowing that we had a mere four hours of paddling left, we enjoyed a late start, although this meant paddling against the tide. The sea was a mirror, another perfect weather day; an extremely rare occurrence for a British bank holiday. Our compasses resolutely pointed north. Those zigs kept zagging as we followed fold after fold along the cliffs. The dip became so steep on occasion that the layers of rock were vertical sheets, pushing out into the sea. Bude hardly made a blip in their inexorable waves. Neither did Marsland Mouth, but this tiny non-descript
bay halted our progress. We’d reached the border! There were obligatory selfies and congratulations. We’d paddled round Cornwall. Yay! Unfortunately there was still another 8km to Hartland Quay and the car. Our paddle wasn’t over yet. Gull Rock #6 and #7 passed in quick succession. More folds and rocky fingers pointed west, fingers that had ripped holes in the sides of a multitude of ships. This included Johanna that was wrecked in 1982, on her way to South Wales with a cargo of wheat. She floundered within sight of Hartland lighthouse, the headland known locally as ‘Sailor’s Grave’. We beached at Hartland Quay and joined the Devon holiday makers in the sea, finally able to cool off. It was done. The Cornish coast, all 337km of it. During those ten long days we only saw three other sea kayakers. Where are you all? Why isn’t the Cornish coast in demand, surrounded by our bobbing craft? There are so many sections that I will be returning to, to explore more fully; I deserve to give into my curiosity. So do you!
Chris, Eurion, Mark and I would like to thank P&H Kayaks and Palm Equipment for their support in completing this adventure.
t: +44 1629 732611 e: email@example.com w: www.peakuk.com Paddler: Doug Copper. Greenland. Image: Pete Astles. Gear: Adventure Single Jacket. Explorer Zip PFD.
S U R F I N G
Story and photos: Roger Aguirre Smith We’re almost clear of the final land mass jutting out into the Pacific; a bluff extending out from the base of Whale Peak. Our eyes have been on Soberanes Point for hours now. Six hours ago, under starry skies, we left our sheltered camp and began the paddle north. Now with only three miles to go, the wind is nuclear, every stroke is like pulling taffy, muscles beyond cramped, mush-mind has replaced any logical thought, wind pressures against our chests, our paddles flick in the wind. We round the point a quarter mile off the coastline and into chaos and the intensity of deterioration.The hardest part is yet to come. It was my idea to make the trip knowing the conditions might not be good. The small craft advisory should have been a red flag but it wasn’t. I’ve pulled the plug on trips with similar warnings before only to see little texture on the water. I was wrong, I should have known the winds would be apocalyptic south of Carmel despite the contrary forecasts.
I sent out an email to 20 of my fellow kayakers, “The Big Sur weekend paddle is on.Thirty-eight miles round-trip with ninja camping Saturday night. Who’s in?” All but one declined: Priscilla.
We were on the water by 08.00 Saturday morning with a cool NW breeze feathering across our skin. Blue skies, wisps of fog and stoke for our quick Big Sur tour filled the conversation as we packed our sea kayaks with food, dry clothes, sleeping bags and safety gear. Paddling along the white sandy stretch of Garrapata Beach and around Kaiser Point, the fog teased our visibility in an uncomfortable dance of hide and seek. The steep Santa Lucia Mountains to the east were our guides. Travelling further south these 1,600 foot ridge tops disappeared into another time. Castle Rock, our first critical navigational mark, emerged from behind a veil. Through dense fog we began to make out rock pillars and a large stone face rising out of the water – guards of an ancient timeline of mountains and erosion. The tall concrete supports of a coastal icon rose up to meet the sun. We stopped for water and calories under the Bixby Bridge; breathing in the morning solitude shared with two Common dolphins. We surfed our first waves after rounding Hurricane Point. Wind at our stern quarter, boats picking up momentum, we began linking waves together. Each swell increased our hull speed, allowing us to pick up the next roller. We were surfing to Big Sur and making excellent time! Point Sur was our next target. With winds blowing 20 knots, we approached an obscured Point Sur. Blindly rounding the point, we adjusted our heading to stay 100 yards off the rock. The spit of sand on the lee side of the landmark was a funnel for the gradient weather patterns. It was windy. Really windy. We set our course to 111 magnetic and continued surfing towards False Sur, Swiss Canyon and the Big Sur river mouth. We reached our camp at 12.30 where raking sand scoured a forgotten beach of lost shoes and wrack. Seventeen and a half nautical miles in four hours. This seemed appropriate for a travelling surf session. We hauled our loaded boats high up on the deserted beach and took stock of the afternoon’s potential. Priscilla opted for a long walk down the beach-of-searching-souls, while I hunkered down behind my boat to read about the birds facing into the afternoon’s gale.
I couldn’t remember the last time I was a human being rather than a human doing. Deserted beaches can do that do you. I read, I walked, I collected a dozen shoes lost to their owners. Who were these people and why did they all lose their left shoe? This, I thought, is what a human being does without Facebook, SnapChat, Email or Netflix. We ask questions, we create, we mark time by the sun, moon and tides… and hopes of diminishing winds. I hardly sleep at all but it didn’t really matter. The stars are out; the Milky Way offering opportunities of distant wonder – the wind too seems distant from our protected lee. We point our kayaks north and head home this morning. I hope the paddle is enjoyable, I know it won’t be… so does Priscilla. The small craft advisory told us so and we… I …didn't listen.
We launch our boats in the Big Sur river at 05.00
Guided by moonlight and pre-dawn stars, we paddle a few lengths up river and edge our long sea kayaks around to set up for the narrow channel we need to thread for the final hard left turn that will flush us into the ocean’s will. The wind hits us a half mile from the confluence of fresh and salt. We lean forward and dig in. The rising sun lights up Priscilla’s X18. Her white boat, a sunrise-orange bloom in the middle of wind’s hand. The sculpted blue troughs and high peaks speak of adventure, of challenge… of raw grace. Looking deeply, I feel connected to the moment… of the sublime. My mind looks hopelessly towards our next objectives. It is difficult for me to articulate. Words get lost, just as one hopes the mind will, when the physical body is pushed beyond assumptive limits. I've never had to work so hard physically or mentally in my 52 years as I have on this trip and we’re not even half way home; in fact we’ve only be on the water for two hours this morning. By now, four hours into the slog, I am feeling panic bubble up the back of my neck, floating all rationale and calm up and out of some invisible seam in my head. My mind, hardly wandering, is gripped solely on its objective; gripped on embracing the suck; gripped like my cramping
ThePADDLER muscles. Catch, pressure, rotate, exit.Time, distance, speed. My mind is falling into that abyss of fear, the frustration, the incessant mental smackdown… and with it, draining the precious few positive thoughts left. I am so screwed! Every time I look ahead, Priscilla seems unfazed by the experience, somehow living in a world of fuzzy bunnies only attainable through an enlightenment far greater than any I have achieved in this lifetime or any other. We land in the sheltered bliss of Bixby Cove, sip a some of water and attempt to throw some calories down rather than up.The absence of wind is deafening.The constant pressure, the strain, the wind's howling eddies forming in my ears, the salt spray with each stroke, the chill of sweat and exhaustion… gone.This is a snapshot in time. A molecule of the sublime qualities of being, wordless and lacking definition to the mind. We sit relieved and smiling under the towering concrete cathedral of the Bixby Bridge once again. I am thinking things will get better as we approach our final point, Soberanes. Why I am thinking this is beyond me.The wind is getting worse. With each point we clear, the pressure mounts.The wind is dancing with my paddle blades – teasing and encouraging each blade’s independence from my control. I am no longer the dominant partner. We still have hours to go in deteriorating conditions. Rocky Point comes after a two and a quarter mile slog across one of the most beautiful bays along the coast. Bordered to the east by an iconic bluff extending along Rocky Point, Palo Colorado and Rocky Creek, this bay is often tranquil and is the summation of California's Coastal elegance.Today, I see none of it. I am aware of none of it. We just need to clear our next point. I am paying no attention to our Mother’s beauty. How many of these moments of grace have been lost to my inability to embrace the suck? How do I experience beauty when all I am feeling is exhaustion, frustration and fear. Sixty enlightened moments lost to an unenlightened soul. This stopped being a sightseeing trip a long time ago.The conditions are too rough to enjoy a nearshore paddle. We are trying to shave off every foot we can from every mile just to get off the water sooner. A and B are the only two letters in our alphabet at this point. Mush-mind.The face relaxes and droops slightly, the eyes soften, the body, working at hyperovercapacity over time, begins to move without direction, without notice.The mind conjures fewer thoughts – a string of sentences melts to a string
We land in the sheltered and attempt
bliss of Bixby Cove, sip a some of water to throw some calories down rather than up ThePADDLER 53
I keep an eye on Priscilla as she navigates around rock, crashing waves and reflected swell energy
confused beyond recognition
of words melting into words coalescing to one word and into timelessness. Words create time and time creates need. Need creates words. Again. Relax the face, soften the eyes, move without direction, sentences to words, words to word, word to timelessness. Mush-mind; this is the objective when the body is suffering.
Final state of deterioration
We round Soberanes at 11.20 into absolute nuking winds and huge swells rolling in. If something goes sideways, a lost paddle, a swimmer, an injury, the wind will surely blow us into some place unrecoverable.There is no towing option, no resting option, no landing option, we have reached that final state of deterioration. We are two and a quarter miles from the take out and we dare not let a blade leave the water. Each paddle stroke is like moving a snow shovel through mud. Every stroke guided by a forward shoulder, deep catch, pressure on the foot and a strong rotation from the body. Our reality, no paddle stroke too shitty, no words too foul, no hate too deep. It’s a shit show now and we just want to get the fuck off the water. I keep an eye on Priscilla as she navigates around rock, crashing waves and reflected swell energy confused beyond recognition. Outside sets are
difficult to anticipate.The intensity of the wind is reaching a comical state at this point. I know we’re going to make it if we can just stay off the rocks. Priscilla arrives first and waits to land on the beach while I catch up. As I approach, I can feel the last seven and a half hours disappearing already. Memory is a funny thing that way. As the fear lifts, so too lifts the mind-fuck—the mind gripping tightly on the suck until it feels safe again. Surfacing between exhaustion, thirst and hunger, I now begin to embrace the raw beauty and depth of the experience. Priscilla looks at me and says, “That was so fucking hard!” We land our crafts; bodies unfold and we crawl out of our boats. Boats… extensions of our spines, vertebrae; connecting us to the sea. We haul our boats and gear up the trail, load our cars and change into dry clothes. We say goodbye. Priscilla has another long slog ahead of her through central coast summer traffic along Highway One—more beautiful coastal scenery. Three hours later she will arrive at her home in the South Bay…surrounded by concrete, cars and humans. It will be weeks before Priscilla and I have an opportunity to talk about the Big Sur trip. I wonder about her insights and how they will manifest in other parts of her life.
I drive home 20 minutes inland from our takeout. Exhausted and speechless, I take stock of my being. My sense is that this has been deeply healing for both of us, in our own ways, in our own lives. Tonight I will fall into a fog of physical and mental repair.
balanced and rejuvenated
Five days a week I make the same drive to work; sometimes in my car, sometimes on my bike.Today, Monday, as I cross the Salinas River, I feel different. My body feels whole, balanced and rejuvenated.
My connection to the land feels vivid. I feel saturated in the water that surrounds us all.There is a deeper relationship now â€“ a connection and admiration at an elemental level. I will not be spared from the wrath of the elements but I will be a more willing participant in their grace. Arriving at work, after clocking in, the first order of business is to check the surf report to see what potentials exist for the coming weekend. Catch, pressure, rotate, exit. Again.
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K A Y A K I N G T H E W E S T C O A S T O F
I live in India. A land often associated with strong religious beliefs, snake charmers and elephants. But we have kayaks and a coastline to boast about. People’s warmth will drive away the cold you feel in your bones after nine hours of kayaking out at sea.This is the story of how I kayaked the west coast of India. Story: Kaustubh Khade We left off in Gujarat where the effect of the gulf can be felt hundreds of kilometres away and ships anchors are prone to breaking. It was the first state I was to check off my list of six states and three union territories (cities that come under the central government’s jurisdiction). Incidentally, it was also the state where I encountered a rising sun over the sea.
I’m standing at the southern tip of the island of Diu and the water is a clear blue. But It’s not the water that has my attention – it’s the sunrise. Despite being on the west coast of India, the sun is rising majestically over the sea to the east. As the town wakes, I’m stretching for another day of kayaking. I am 10 days into my threemonth long, human-powered expedition to solo kayak the west coast of India (3,000 kms), the first attempt by any Indian. The sea is calm and as I launch, it doesn’t betray what is in store. I kayak, for the first time, into a golden sunrise and it is indescribable. Just 30 minutes, or three kms later, I am astonished to find the blue water has turned a murky opaque brown. To my left, the coastline is now jagged with rocks. A wind picks up and the calm sea turns into a whirlwind of raging brown water. As I enter the influence of the Gulf of Khambhat, I realize I am being sucked into the gulf at great speed. I’m suddenly propelled at 10kms/hr, often into the waves this head-wind is kicking up.
It’s fast and reckless all of a sudden, and a turbulent sea keeps me guessing my route. After 28 kms of horrendous kayaking and four hours at sea, I am three kms from Rajpara, the last big fishing village this side of the gulf. At this opportune time, dehydrated and aching, I get sucked into an eddie. Waves leap up at me as I kayak above rocks hidden from view. The water makes it difficult to decipher the right way out. A large fishing boat, the only kinds that can ply here, spots me. They take a U-turn, from their position of safety, to provide help. By the time they arrive I’m made my peace with the water and instead we quickly exchange information. Sitting two kms out at sea, they help plot a course, and I bid adieu to the rough waters in exchange for Gujurati hospitality. Day 11. Seventy-two more to go.
Detour: the ship graveyard
Nothing on this trip, and I mean nothing, had me more excited than the small town of Alang. There is that old question, “If you knew where you would meet your demise, would you knowingly go there?” For 30 years, ships have been, like dogs sensing their end, retreating to Alang for their last rites. Huge giants of the sea treading softly in on a high tide, and as the water retreats their death toll is rung. It takes three months to tear apart a medium size container vessel, says the guard, Prajapati. He tells me that once a ship is brought into land, the captain is relieved of his ship. Sold through bids to any one of the multitude of ship breakers, it’s now no more than a hunk of metal, wood and plastic – and not a scrap goes to waste. As we drive into Alang, five kms out, they start. Big open warehouses, fenced and categorized, big dusty yards turned orange by life-rafts of all sizes and states of disrepair. One lot has engines in that rustproof green. Cables, pulleys, ropes of
varying thicknesses and make. I ask for life jackets and the owner of the yard starts blowing into aircraft yellow inflatables. I can buy a bath tub with the works and a jerry can to fill it with. Furniture stores share a border with warehouses selling wood planks that share a border with waterproof doors. Buoys, anchors and winter down-jackets. An army of workers from all over India come here to work, says Ramprakash, the kindly, groggy attendant at ship breaking plot 134. What once took years of work, from parts from around the world and withstood the battering of a million waves, is now taken apart by a mob of migrant workers in the brown city in Gujarat. As the workers start entering the plots, I smell fumes. The kinds my lungs would avoid if they could take a walk off of this beach. Big chemical carriers, container ships, dredgers, drillers. 50% of the world’s ships due for demolition come to Alang. On a long enough timeline the chances of a ship ending up at Alang is higher than ships in the Suez Canal being attacked by Somali Pirates on a bad day. Definitely more than the chances of the workers seeing a ripe age of 60. Welcome to Alang,the dying graveyard. Alang’s beach runs for five kms, each plot shares a wall with another. Walls and gates meant to keep prying eyes and camera lenses out. Fate is not without irony as the one thing they all share in common are the words boldly painted on the wall — ‘Safety first.’ To drive home the humour – ‘Clean Sosiyo, Green Sosiyo.’ I’ve now wriggled my way on to the beach. The first ship I see looks a wreck. A container vessel whose stern literally fell out with the rest of the ship. Containers stand in the water while an open ship rotor sticks out over the brown murky waves. I move on. The next ship looks almost whole, only the top of the bow has been
removed. Prajapati has seen it all. He adds nothing to his explanation of permissions being revoked. As I stare at the hunk of metal that was removed before the paperwork arrived, I see the name of the vessel – ‘Friends’. So here it lies, dying and friendless. As I chat with said guard, two local women start picking up plastic gems scattered on this rocky beach after the departing tide. Prajapati shoos them off. Nothing is black and white here. Just various shades of brown, each squabbling for a juicier pound of flesh. There’s no going further than Alang. By sea that is. The sea is littered with shrapnel. Even if I launched I would have to wade out for miles to put the kayak knee deep. If I did that, the Gulf might take me, so at the advice of everyone who’s sailed or avoided sailing here, we cut across 30 kms to the beach of Dandi, where Mahatami Gandhi broke the British with his barefoot march for free salt.
Breaking past the peninsula of Gujarat has it’s benefits. One, the cross wind doesn’t play as big a role here. It does however expose me to a sea of rock under the sea of brown murky water. I launch from Gandhi’s favoured beach with the tide behind my back. It’s fast paddling and the calm you’d expect in a sheltered beach.The charts I’ve consulted show fishing nets and rocks and sure enough I’m dodging through poles and fishing lines about two kms out. I’m skirting danger by being this close but it’s a thin line between some of these rocks. By day three of this, I feel I’ve got the hang of it and skirt between a rock island and land. I’m sure I can touch the bottom where I’m paddling, but the sea is calm and I like my chances. #donottrythisathome Despite the sun and the murkiness of the water, I am buoyant. A little out of my third day halt, I catch waves of sandbars. Instead of weaving past,
Standing out a few kilometres out with your own kayak and
nothing but time and endless sea is true freedom
I stop at one. I name my island of sand and take in a 360 degree view of sea. Standing out a few kilometres out with your own kayak and nothing but time and endless sea is true freedom. After days of being the only crazy in these waters, I run into fishermen and it’s nice to listen to a voice that hasn’t been downloaded. We talk about nothing mostly, and then about Bombay, the city of dreams and home. I’m told I should hurry because there’s a leaving tide and it can get pretty marshy pretty quickly in this spot. So I head on. By the 23rd day I’m in Maharashtra and past my first state.
When you come to India people will use the word ‘diverse’ fairly often. But after 23+ days of vegetarian food, I dig into some chicken and I thank diversity. It’s also a beach where the water is maroon, thanks to effluents and a whopper of a fish jumps out, almost startling me straight into the depths of this hell that humans have created. But that’s quickly forgotten when I’m mistaken
for a hostile port researcher on landing and welcomed by a mob of youngsters and the media. It does help to know the language and I leave with a helping hand and a news piece by an eccentric journalist in the local paper. All in a day’s work. Before we wrap that chapter though, I should inform you that some prankster stole my spray skirt. Now this isn’t the kind of thing you account for. Broken paddle – sure, losing bottles – yes, drowning a mobile or two – why, not? But someone taking off with a Seal Extreme Tour Spray Skirt in a country where nobody has a kayak to match it and you can’t find a replacement for thousands of miles, just takes the cake. I have another small channel to cross to get into the island of Bombay (Mumbai), one that can get turbulent and see some big container ships. To run or not to run (without a spray skirt) is the question. I run.
Having squandered a month in the reckless pursuit of the sea, it feels good to return home. The fishing village of Uttan has been alerted to the return of the prodigal son and asked to come celebrate. I’ve barely walked 10 metres on the beach before I’m garlanded twice and the topic of a town hall meeting by the beach. The local politician is expounding on how vision and resilience has helped this son-of-anon-fisherman map the country’s coastline. I could correct him and tell him how it was
Abhilash Tomy, the first Indian to
the world non-stop, comes to see me off.
important for the country to recognize the sport and sportsmen, but the narrative is powerful stuff. I could tear up, but the aroma of the garland is refreshing and the confused look of the collective mob is distracting. I retreat to some of the best seafood I’ve had. What’s the helping after seconds called? Amazon prime, DHL and logistics partners are working to get me a new spray skirt all the way from the US, thanks to my kayaking partner in Bombay. A cyclone sets up on the east coast of India and grounds air traffic. Perfect. I sip some tea at home and stare out the window into nothingness. A couple of interviews make the evening news pan-India and I return to waiting out a cyclone.
Finally the parcel arrives and literally seven hours later I’m launching from the Gateway of India, a historic monument that sits at the mouth of Bombay’s harbour. Abhilash Tomy, the first Indian to solo circumnavigate the world non-stop, comes to see me off. He and Commander Dilip Dhonde have been instrumental in charting out this path and staying on course, so it is amazing having one of them here. And so begins a route I’ve kayaked before – Bombay to Goa. From financial capital to beach destination. Much like last time, it didn’t disappoint. I did however, have more confidence in this path and I found myself taking more informed decisions about which ports to dock and which ones to avoid. I was also less cautious
Iâ€™ve just dipped my hand in the water when the plastic pumps and its tentacles run a Mexican wave! Itâ€™s an
that I was going to pull out with my bare hands
this coastline. Often, I’m too dehydrated or out of the way to pick it up. Being on the water everyday for 7–9 hours, paddling in the harsh sun, perpetually wet, trying to maintain a steady pace doesn’t allow for too many detours. But when I am 4 kms out of the port of Ratnagiri, I am buoyant, optimistic and feel I can make a difference. So, when my kayak draws up next to a flat orange piece of plastic, I decide to pick it up. I’ve just dipped my hand in the water when the plastic pumps and its tentacles run a Mexican wave! It’s an orange jellyfish that I was going to pull out with my bare hands, as it drifts away majestically. I barely snap my hand back as the water around me changes. The clear green water comes alive with orange. My kayak is swarmed with Jellyfish. My paranoid mind tells me they are here to window shop their lunch. I paddle hard and fast out of it. When I’m clear I laugh, to no one in particular. When you’re so far out at sea, there is no one, you’re laughing at nature and it’s laughing back. I turn around and kayak back, get the camera out and take a moment to be with my new found friends. with my distances and where, on the last expedition I had taken four days to cover my first 120 kms, I found myself doing it in three this time. The state’s tourism board had offered me lodging at their beach side properties and it was a welcome gesture. Shanjali, my girlfriend, took ill on day three and we spent the day on a beach facing house with some clear water and a private sandbar. Maharashtra is home, and it sure felt like it. When we resumed, I found that it was faster to take the water route than land. With it’s unending hills that lie close to the sea, I’d find I reached destinations much faster than Shanjali did on a cycle. It gave me time to mix with the locals and talk shop, all with the complimentary coconut in hand. On the water, I was having a great time, having had most of my run ins with the police; it was quite jovial thanks to some high-level clearances dad had procured in Bombay.That is the trick to sailing under the radar – knowing the right person.
Indian waters are full of plastic
The beauty of our own backyard is often lost on us. However, one always wants to preserve it. Plastic. It is the enemy and no one knows this better than someone who’s seen it strewn all along
The next day, I chase a pod of dolphins. Eight of them surfacing together, forming lines of breaking spray just three metres ahead of me. One lone wolf consecutively dives out in glee. Just as I catch up to them, paddling furiously, they break away playfully and change course. I laugh and maintain mine. The waters of Maharashtra, India are blue, green, grey and orange! It’s day 36 and I have 47 more to go.
Goa – the beach capital
I enter Goa jubilant at how quickly I’ve crossed Maharashtra. As opposed to the 17 days it took me the last time, I’d saved four days by taking just the one rest day. So when we landed in we were ready to let our hair down. Our sponsors obviously had spotted this, as they sent down a crew to welcome us with video cameras. We took a well earned break and took some amazing shots, shuttling to butterfly beach and back. Yes, it’s as picturesque as it sounds. When we hit the waters a few days later and covered the small sliver of coast in just three well timed days, treating ourselves to some crab and shrimp along the way. As opposed to the regular fare of ‘local food’ this was a real shot in the arm. The jellyfish continued to follow me all the way into the next state though and the water turned even clearer.
The first time Iâ€™d visited this state was on a back breaking motorbike ride across some very broken roads. After 10 hours of riding and a bike failure, the road finally ran parallel to the most pristine pebbled beach Iâ€™d ever seen. Also, the local food is Idli, a personal favourite.
Crossing over from Goa to Karnataka was picturesque. The land is scattered with islands. To welcome me, a pod of three dolphins thrashed around darting one way and then the next. Karwar is the first major fishing village and we skirted past its calm waters into the infamous Gokarna, known for its ganja parties and drownings. Thanks to the tourists, the shacks by the beach were full and I spent the night in a small room that was 2x3 metres wide and called a cement block a bed. A window small enough to squeeze my face through allowed me to take in the full moon. Yet, I slept soundly and before the beach could wake up, I was already crossing the small channel that lies south of Gokarna.
Mangalore houses three surf schools but try as I might, I did not spot them on the water. It was pure luck that after having crossed two of them, a friend on Facebook reached out to me and invited us to stay with him. We readily accepted, after
having going a number of days without a break. We took in a surf session at the local surf school and paddled out to a wreckage of a ship that lies just under the water’s edge.
With us firmly into January, the winds started picking up in the afternoons and very soon the cross winds were blowing shoulder high waves into my path. It made the going considerably slower and to complicate matters I donated my smartphone to the sea. On the water it meant I had nothing to distract me, but for Shanjali it was a lot of , “Where ARE you?” moments.
Lasso of justice
I pride myself in being super friendly on the water, always stopping to have a chat with the local fishermen. So when I passed Shiriya and entered the
penultimate state of Kerala, I thought it was some curious fishermen flagging me down. I slowed down so the two of them could catch up and as they powered down and drifted close, I said Hi. I got nothing. Passive faces as the first guy asked me where I’m from. I answered him, while at the back I see the guy at the engine coiling rope. I turn just in time as he flings a lasso right at me! I’m stunned but I put the brakes on, and the lasso overshoots. I back paddle quickly enough and ask what this is about? The first chap starts telling me how I should speak to the police and I say that I’m happy to. He starts bringing his boat around, coiling the rope again.
I literally could not move â€“ my body cold and
hurting, dehydrated and unsure of where I was
I make it very clear that I am happy to talk to whoever he likes and even follow him to shore, but I will not have him lasso my kayak again. I’m not sure he gets the gist, but he thrusts a phone at me and says police. I go on to have a broken conversation about who I am and where I’m from. My name, which is not easy on most days to pronounce, finds particularly good form with an on-edge police officer on a shaky network connection. I tell him I’ll come and meet him and he takes my number down for good measure. I return the phone to the first fisherman. His captain is smoking a bidi (a local cigarette that is known for being cheap and of questionable content). He has a drag and then offers it to me as a truce. I’m a ruffled bird, but I politely refuse and just like that we part ways. The fishermen content they’ve done their bit, and I amused at how I found cowboys out at sea. The story ended well with a trip to the policemen later that evening, having a photo taken together with that photo (plus story) making it to the local newspaper the next day. Welcome to Kerala, a state laced with natural beauty.
God’s own country
At day 73 I had the option of kayaking in the calm, serene backwaters that run parallel to the coast in Kerala. These backwaters were built to once traverse the whole state and I thought it was a good way to get some kilometres on the pedometer. One of Kerala’s largest backwaters stretches from just north of Kochi all the way down to Allepy. A 90km distance through the canals. So far, the longest days I’ve paddled have been 45 kms, so I figure that on a calmer stretch, I can do 45 in about six hours of kayaking. This is a story of optimism vs reality. 45 km days are exhausting in hot and humid conditions. But such was my confidence that I took a morning interview with a newspaper and even took time out to let his photographer take some stunning shots in the backwaters. By the time I launched, I was already three hours late. However, I was not too worried and it helped to have scenery so close on either side. Big Chinese fishing nets stretched on my left and in the middle of the backwater, a fisherman cast out his hopes and pulled it back as I sauntered past him in my kayak. I had taken my DSLR out on the water, and I made good use of it, capturing the cars humming on bridges
overhead and the massive blue port of Kochi. As I entered the harbour area, big boats skipped past, leaving me in their wake. The backwater is treacherous in the fact that every path looks alike and I couldn’t distinguish routes on the line-drawing on my GPS watch. As the afternoon kicked in and the novelty of the backwater withered away, another truth dawned on me. It had been five hours that I’d been kayaking and only completed 22kms. I had 20 kms to go and the tide was against me. I also found that I was short on both food and water.The heat kicked up and I was burning in my jacket. Just as I took it off, a storm hit.The rain seeped through and I went from burning up to being cold and damp – it was painfully slow going. Standing in the rain, flailing his arms around, I saw someone calling out to me. Uncharacteristically, I approached, and in broken hindi he said , “Bada barish. Aap ruko. Fir jao.” (A storm is about to hit, please wait it out). Such was his sincerity and so beaten was my condition, that I brought my kayak alongside his boat, parked along the bank and just stopped. I literally could not move – my body cold and hurting, dehydrated and unsure of where I was. Over his shoulder, his brother peered at me and said, “Lunch kiya?” (have you had lunch) I mumbled , “No.” A wave of worry washed over their faces, and the next thing I know – they’re helping me out of my kayak, onto their boat and then to land. Minutes later I was walking through thicket and into their small house. The whole village seemed to congregate, as I was ushered in and given a fresh plate of rice and curry and fish. As I wolfed it down, someone brought me icecold water (a first in a state that has hot water with every meal). As I answered questions and showed the kids my GoPro, I was struck by how beautiful life is. How simple and welcoming people are. Someone fetched a pail of water for me to wash my hands and walked me back to my boat.The storm had cleared, and they helped me back in the kayak and bid me goodbye.The next 18 kms were the easiest I’d done on this trip.
Much of Kerala was spent paddling in a fair bit of discomfort. My fingers were swelling up and being locked in a grip for those many hours was particularly telling on my right hand. Despite the endurance training and the stretching I was doing every day, my bones were just not having it.
As we slipped past Kerala, with its shored up beaches and the pitch black jellyfishes waiting for the waves on either side of the kayak to trip you up, we were coming dangerously close to the tip of India. Here lies a point where the land goes from it’s gradual south east direction to a full east bearing. On the phone , Abhilash Tomy’s words of, “Enjoy Muttom Point,” are fair warning. The water gets rough and big waves lash out head first. The Palk Strait that connects the east and west seas, has its own influence here and I can do nothing but ride it all out. As we entered Tamil Nadu, I knew we had just three days of kayaking to go. A close friend of mine had travelled half the country to be at the finish with his wife, but thanks to an unscheduled stop we were going to miss him by a day. He visited us a day before the end and together we did a ‘recce’/dinner at the end point – Kanyakumari, arguably the best known city for 100 kms. My mother flew in to the nearest airport and it suddenly started kicking in that I was close to the finish. I’d paddled a 40 km stretch on the penultimate day leaving me with a meagre 22 kms to gallop on the last day. As I launched from the beach for the last time, I didn’t feel as accomplished as I felt the calm of completion. I recall singing my first 7–8 kms. I feel noise carries loudest over water, but I didn’t much care that
https://goo.gl/maps/iCPqj8dnCyN2 morning. I could see the large black stone statue that adorns the southern tip of India and distinctly remember my spirits lift. As I paddled between it and the mainland, I whipped out my phone and called home. “I did it Dad.” I didn’t tear up. That was waiting for my landing. I circled the spot a few times, and just took it all in. On land, Shanjali and mom were going to get a couple of shots of me coming into land. As I waited for them to set up, Shanjali calls and tells me to head to land. Not for the shot, but for my welcome party of cops. I landed to the grumpiest policeman of my trip, but so buoyant was my mood that it ended with me telling the collected press about the fab job he’d done, and him giving me his number to call in case of any ‘emergencies’. In a weird circle of life way, the expedition started and ended with cops telling me where I should and shouldn’t be kayaking. But I did it anyway. And that’s probably the best way to kayak the west coast of India.
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MOOR 2 PERTH Story and photos: Angela Ward and Adam Evans
Continuing Angela and Adam’s story from the Late Summer edition (read about the first three days here… https://joom.ag/Je4L/p50.
DAY FOUR Surprisingly for Scotland, the lovely weather continued and we awoke to a sparkling morning haze on the mirror-calm waters of Loch Tummel.We paddled to the end of the loch and onwards between the steep pine-covered slopes of Loch Faskally to Pitlochry and then we portaged past the huge metal water-holding dam. Rather than portaging through the town itself, we decided to follow the directions which were offered to us by a helpful elderly local gentleman who told us of a ‘short-cut’.
It wasn’t exactly the shortest of short-cuts but en route, we conveniently discovered a thing of great beauty – a pub. This gave us the chance to obey the fourth rule of expedition paddling according to Adam, which is to never pass up on the opportunity to use a proper toilet. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to rest in the sunshine and stretch our legs whilst enjoying another medicinal pint of Thistly Cross cider. Definitely another of life's perfect moments.
A tarp, a stove and fresh air
Past detours and dead-ends with our canoes on trolleys, we found our way back onto the River Tummel and slid our boats into the water, much to the amusement of nearby fishermen. We then paddled on gently in the fading sunshine to just past the poignant confluence of the Tummel and the Tay. Hauling the canoes up the river bank we camped that night on the edge of a farmer’s sheep field, again using the combination of our boats, paddles and a tarp. There is something truly magical about a tarp, a stove and fresh air. Next morning, we awoke to bright sunshine streaming through the entrance to our tarp and outside, the warm grass was sparkling with dew. Anybody can rough it outdoors, so for us to have a little luxury It’s become a tradition on our expeditions, so today we had freshly cooked pancakes with maple syrup. Adam always makes them. I’m capable of making them myself but he’s very proud of his pancakes so I’m more than happy to sit back, watch and eat. We’re a successful paddling and pancake partnership as he cooks and I eat. Appetites satiated, the farmer on whose land we’d camped was out checking on his livestock and came over for an early morning chat. There was no issue whatsoever with us being there. In
fact he was more than happy to see people travelling through and engaging with the splendour of the Scottish countryside. We discussed the importance of being respectful to the environment and that we closely adhere to the ‘leave no trace’ philosophy.
The farmer seemed impressed that we'd travelled by canoe from Rannoch Moor, saying that we'd had a ‘proper adventure’. He noted that many people and particularly kids like the ones from the local outdoor activity centre, could gain much more from doing something like this than their usual on-site thrill activities. Sadly, we were inclined to agree and also noted how much the concept of adventure has changed in recent years. There seems to have been a move away from deeper ethical learning experiences towards something less so and more focussed on simple thrills.
Next morning, we awoke to bright sunshine streaming through the entrance to our tarp and outside,
the warm grass was sparkling with dew ThePADDLER 77
Retrieving my beautiful boat and my well-loved expedition kit without any
loss or damage was an extremely emotional moment
onto my PFD and I went into the water as ‘live bait’ in order to retrieve as much kit as I could from my boat in order to make it as light as possible before attempting to haul it free. The first priority was of course to retrieve my two Downcreek Paddles. All the kit inside my boat was well-organised & carefully packed so although it was partly submerged and I only had one fullyfunctioning hand, I got everything out reasonably quickly and being organised on an expedition makes it easier for things to go right but also easier to solve problems when things go wrong.
Having meandered along Loch Tay and River Tay twice previously, I was familiar with the final leg of our journey. Passing through Dunkeld and Caputh, we made our way towards one of my most favourite locations, the grand point at which the Tay passes through a narrow gap, Campsie Linn. Although the current was carrying us along, the pain and attractive crunching sound in my wrist was getting progressively worse. The usual strategy of dunking my bare forearm in icy cold water had become a way of life for the past few days and that had been pretty successful. The constriction caused by the latex wrist seal on my paddlesuit had made my forearm swell up to the size of a small pink marrow and make noises akin to a badly lubricated old wooden door. Taking this and the water levels into account, we decided that rather than paddling over the main section of Campsie Linn and risk a large boil area and haystack-filled swim, we'd line the canoes and kit down one of the smaller side chutes. Discretion is the better part of valour and all that jazz. What followed next can best be described as ‘The Tale of the Two Point Broach at Campsie Linn’. What should have been a relatively simple manoeuvre resulted in being very complicated. It was entirely my fault. I was a split-second too slow in releasing my painter and the fast-moving current swung my boat and it ended up being jack-knifed solid across the base of the chute with the force of the water holding it in place. It’s not really something to be proud of but Adam did say it was the worst pin location that he’d ever seen.There was only one low boulder that we could use as an anchor point and we’d somehow need to lift the boat up by about a metre, as well as peeling it. It clearly wasn’t going to be an easy release. We constructed a system using pulleys and two strong floating lines which Adam reckoned was about an 8:1 haul. He attached a safety rope
The icy-cold raging water meant that the swelling in my forearm was much less and an added bonus was that my cuticles were extremely clean. It was like a little trip to a little natural beauty spa. Apart from the relaxation. I don’t think that jet-washing your hands is a conventional beauty treatment but it definitely worked! With a liberal application of rope work magic, muscle power and a fair dose of luck, We were victorious and recovered my Paddy from a watery grave. Retrieving my beautiful boat and my well-loved expedition kit without any loss or damage was an extremely emotional moment. The only sign of what had occurred was a minor blemish to the edge of my Downcreek Dipper.
Very crunchy to slightly floppy
The original plan was to line the small chute and then have a short break for a bite to eat but as we'd lost time, we decided to press on hard in order to reach the get-out at Perth Racecourse. Without wishing to sound like a wimp, the pain in my wrist was now getting progressively worse and had changed from being very crunchy to slightly floppy. I figured that I couldn't make it any worse than it already was so I'd just ‘man-up’ and get on with it. Rather than wild camping for another night, I was spurred on by the thought of having a shower under copious streams of hot running water in a real bathroom and the promise of beer and curry at the Balajee Spice Indian restaurant. Adam paddled on ahead slightly so that he could locate the somewhat non-descript get-out point and we reached our destination as the sun slid down behind the horizon. The final lugging of kit and boats up the steep wooden steps and onto the canoe trolleys heralded the final portage of this mega trip. True to form, this wasn't as simple as we'd anticipated but hey, nobody said it was going to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!
ThePADDLER 80 I’ve no idea how, but one of my trolley tyres had a split in it so that slowed down my progress to an annoying crawl. By the time we’d dragged the reluctant trolleys for a kilometre and reached the wooded path at the back of the campsite, our route was in darkness and an unfortunate altercation between a tree root and my wonky trolley ended up with a snapped axle, it failed just 50 metres from our destination. If it had done so at any other point during the expedition itself, we would have had to abandon the trip as portaging would have been impossible. As far as we were concerned, it was completely acceptable to ‘fail’ here because we could simply drag my boat and kit for the last 50 metres to our final destination. We almost fell into the campsite, pitched our tents and got ready to celebrate the completion of another tough, inspiring classic expedition. The fact that I’d nearly killed my Paddy, I had a painful swollen wrist and my arm was making some very peculiar creaking noises didn’t dampen my spirits. After all, it’s the tough bits and the hiccups which make the best stories and the most amazing memories. In Perth we enjoyed a slap-up meal whilst making travel plans to get back to Loch Bà the following day. Scottish public transport on Sunday wasn’t looking too promising and whilst consulting the train timetable at Perth Railway station, I was approached by a pair of local ‘Street Angels’ who asked if I was OK. I’m not entirely sure if I looked like I was in distress or if I looked like a down and out but it was kind of them to ask. Our plan to find somewhere that serves alcoholic beverages aka muscle relaxants aka Thistly Cross cider in Perth after 10pm was also unsuccessful, so we resorted to accepting cups of tea from a group of evangelists, who were probably looking for people to convert to Christianity. I was just happy to have a hot drink and some shortbread. It all helped with achieving a great night’s sleep.
Accompanied by a dawn chorus from the birds, we set off early from the campsite. We knew that the Sunday public transport situation was likely to cause us issues but we were confident that we’d ‘find a way’. It’s good to remember that if every part of an expedition is planned and goes according to that plan, then it’s no longer an adventure and instead, becomes more like a package holiday. With trains from Perth to Glasgow, we worked out that unless we wanted to wait hours for a coach, we could get a train to Lower Tyndrum, the closest station to our destination. We walked to The Green Welly and then came up with several ingenious options. Adam asked for advice in the petrol station about taxis and buses and the attendant said we’d have to walk. I’m not exactly sure how far it was but a very long walk uphill in blazing hot sunshine with super-sexy Crocs on our feet didn’t sound too appealing.
Itâ€™s good to remember that if every part of an expedition is planned and goes according to that plan, then itâ€™s no longer an adventure and instead, becomes more like a
ThePADDLER 82 experienced five days previously. It was now devoid of snow and the summer-like expanse of bright blue skies heralded the end of this epic adventure and the start of our journey home.
I haven't been coached in cadging lifts from complete strangers but I reckoned that I could be useful here by pretending to be a damsel in distress. Adam looked more like a convict on the run. Six-foot and three inches – unshaven. You get the picture! My initial plan was to approach a coach driver in the car park to ask if we sneak aboard but then I came up with another plan. Lurk around near the petrol pumps, find someone with a nice car who didn't look like a serial killer and politely ask them if they could take us to Loch Bà. I noticed a nice looking car with a driver who was wearing an immaculately pressed pink shirt and had a mass of white hair. As they refuelled, I made my move and politely asked, using my best ‘damsel in distress’ tones, if we could possibly have a lift. Funnily enough, the pink-shirted, bushy white-haired driver was in fact a very wellspoken and incredibly kind retired dentist called Freddie who was on holiday with his partner Johnny. And that's how we ended up being chauffeur-driven in a top spec Range Rover through the wilds of Scotland, back to the shockingly different Loch Bà, which we had
I'd like to give thanks to a couple of people
Firstly to Adam ‘Dipsy’ Evans for his excellent coaching and support with ongoing outrageous ideas! I'd also thank to thank Andi Riley for making my paddlesuit. It's served me very well on all my expeditions and certainly proved it's worth on this trip, due to the harsh weather conditions. DAM-X have been making drysuits for over 20 years now. Generally speaking, their suits last 10+ years and they have a meaningful ‘openended’ warranty. The paddlesuits themselves are custom-made and so are a perfect fit. Their seam construction is uniquely designed so that individual damaged sections can be replaced, rather than having to buy a complete replacement. Repairs and adjustments are done extremely quickly, usually within 2-3 days. As well as making paddlesuits, DAM-X also produce suits such as worn by scuba divers, by voluntary and professional rescue services and also by the British Antarctic Survey Team.
For further details, please feel free to contact Andi Riley on 01234 267314 or email@example.com
ROGEN RÃ˜ROS T O
Day one â€“ Oster-Vingarna
A Scandinavian canoe expedition By Mal Grey As the low-loader left the remote gravel car park with our only vehicle on its back, we were committed. Properly committed, as our only means of transport now were our canoes and our feet, and the nearest water was still 800 metres away. Ahead of us lay 100 kilometres or so of wilderness, a landscape of lakes, timeweathered hills, tumbling rivers and, above all, rocks.
ThePADDLER 86 Our trip had been months in the planning, and it had taken us three long days to drive here from the UK with canoes on the van. Rogen is a beautiful nature reserve in Sweden, bumping up against the Norwegian border at 62 degrees north, sitting on a plateau at around 700 metres and thus almost arctic in its appearance. A forest of pines and birch covers most of the region, growing on the thin layer of earth that clings to the rocky land. Above the woodlands, bare mountains are clad merely in a variety of mosses, one of the few things able to live here through the harsh winters. A series of lakes, including the eponymous centrepiece of the reserve, can be linked together to form a circular tour or, as we intended, extended into the Roa river system that takes one across the border via the
enormous Lake Femunden, before a final section of river leads to the former mining town and World Heritage site of RĂ¸ros. We expected this to take us nearly two weeks, allowing time for a few side excursions and with a few spare days to allow for being wind-bound on the lakes. Our journey would include big lakes, little lakes, moderate white water, gentle meandering rivers and, unfortunately, many portages where the rivers were too difficult to run or too shallow to paddle. We started as a group of six; for the first few days, Fred and Rob would join the core team of Mark, Dris, Paul and myself, before they circled back to the start, unable to get enough time off to finish the whole trip.
Into the wilds
Now we stood on the edge of the silent wilderness, as our van was taken away to be
Finally, with a sense of relief, we were afloat on our first lake, Ă–ster-Vingarna, and we paddled happily around its islands and bays before swinging south
towards our first proper camp
looked at, for it had been sounding a little sickly, in the hope that it would be returned to the end of this gravel road before we returned for it. It certainly put into perspective how reliant we would now be on our own ability to travel through this landscape. After a night camped by the car park, our first portage, and first test, began. This one wasn’t too bad, with boardwalks and an obvious track, just a few roots and stones keeping us alert. This became typical of the portages during the first part of our trip, down and into the Rogen reserve itself. Finally, with a sense of relief, we were afloat on our first lake, Öster-Vingarna, and we paddled happily around its islands and bays before swinging south towards our first proper camp, having planned an easy day to start the trip with. That night was spent in a lovely camp, with one of the ‘wind shelters’ so typical of Scandinavia
forming a centrepiece where we could light a fire and enjoy the first of our excellent meals. Food is a key part of any wilderness trip, and we were determined to eat well. Mark is now a veteran of several Sweden trips, and having his own dehydrator and vac-packer, as well as a high level of culinary skill, he had prepared the majority of our food, supplemented by my own efforts for the first three nights when fresh food could be used. Another 700 metres portage in the morning brought us to our next lake. Today we were making for Rogen lake itself, via a small lake and river system, about which we knew little. First we paddled another island-dotted lake, StorTandsjön, complex enough that a compass bearing helped find our exit. Would it be a paddleable stream? No, it was a rock-filled trickle, more stone than water. A 100-metre Day two – on Rogen
This amazing landscape, under the shadow of the hills, is basically a glacial moraine, a mix of small scraped-out lakes separated by hills
portage took us down into a beautiful, sheltered lake, where once more we took to the clear waters. The day progressed, short portage followed by short paddle, followed by more lugging. We now finally felt we had left behind the trappings of the modern world, enjoying a simpler life where all we had to worry about was the route ahead. We entered a stunning, reed-lined lake, where an old, uninhabited beaver lodge hinted at the wildlife around us. Exiting this into a larger stream, we were glad to see that all we needed to do was dodge a few rocks in the gently flowing water, and our way onwards towards Rogen was clear. After the enclosed feel of the river and its small lakes, where views were short, it was a bit of a shock to come out onto Rogen itself. This is a big lake, 18km long, sat high on the plateau at over
750 metres, and today it was looking rather grey and bleak. Around the lake, the bare hills were tinged with a strange pale green colour, the moss which is one of the few things that can live there. This shallow lake has a bit of a reputation, and waves can rise quickly, but we were favoured with only a modest breeze. Our plan was to head for RĂśdviken, an arm of the lake on its northern shore, where we would hopefully find a sheltered camp, before heading north into a maze of lakes where we would spend the next couple of days exploring. This was our first paddle of the trip on open water, and it was a useful exercise to get the hang of our boats in the slight chop. Dris and Paul were tandem in a long Swift Temagami, and quickly pulled ahead, following Rob and Fred whoâ€™d set off earlier, thanks to their more
Day two – making our way through the lakes
rushed schedule. Mark and I, each stubbornly paddling solo by preference, were a little slower. I had brought my Ally 15DR folding canoe, and so far, it had proven an excellent choice for this terrain. Now I was paddling it on open water, its least happy medium, but it was fine, a little slow but very sea-worthy. Every now and then, the cold, dark waters would reveal a huge boulder below us, even when hundreds of metres off shore, such is the nature of this large shallow scrape in the Scandinavian hills. A couple of hours later and we were entering the bay at Rödviken, where another wind shelter made for a comfortable, if slightly cramped, campsite. Tonight was the last of the fresh food, so I treated us to steak, onions, mushrooms and potatoes, washed down with a little red wine, known to us as ‘ballast’.
The thousand lakes
The next couple of days would be spent exploring the remarkable area we refer to as the ‘Thousand Lakes’, one of the most notable features of Rogen. This amazing landscape, under the shadow of the hills, is basically a glacial moraine, a mix of small scraped-out lakes separated by hills, peninsulars and islands. First, though, our toughest portage so far, an uphill climb on a path littered with rocks and roots, before levelling off as it approached the biggest of the lakes, Öster Rödsjön. An hour or so later, we were on the lake, and heading for our next camp to make a base for a couple of nights and give us time to explore without our heavy loads. The maze of islands confused us slightly, and it took back bearings on mountain summits to confirm our position and help us to find our camp. Here an old
Day six – Dris recovering in the hut Day three – Sami Lavvu at camp Day three – rocky portage to the Thousand Lakes
Day three â€“ sunset reflections
Sami Lavvu and fire pit marked a spot used for generations, and we quickly set up camp.This was a stunning spot, on a long, thin, peninsula, between the lakes of Väster and Oster Rödsjön.The views across this landscape of water and stone, to the snow-speckled mountains beyond, were magical. We spent the rest of the day resting, doing chores, or going for short paddles. On one solo exploration, I suddenly had the feeling of being watched, and looked up to find an osprey perched in a tree eyeing me suspiciously. Another appeared, and they circled, watching me. I suddenly realised I was near their nest, and moved further away. One returned to the nest, and then I realised there were three birds, one a juvenile that had fledged. Glad I hadn’t spooked them too much, I headed off to explore more of the lakes and inlets, a spellbinding landscape where the trees cling precariously to the rocky mounds.
Returning to camp, we were treated to the most amazing evening, the clear light of the arctic sun softening towards dusk, too much of a temptation for us not to have a stunning evening paddle on the mirror-like water. Before bed, the Norse gods offered us one last display of their power, the most amazing sunset outlined against the hills, and reflected in the mercury-like water of Rogen. A rest day followed, where we simply explored and lived in this wonderful landscape, before we brought our side-excursion to the Thousand Lakes to an end by heading back towards Lake Rogen. This required an early start, as we needed to hit the big lake before the wind rose, as was typical each afternoon. Repeating our rough portage to Rödviken, we were pleased to find the waters were flat and calm, and paddled out onto the vast lake before rounding a headland and heading west. Our destination tonight was
Before bed, the Norse gods offered us one last display of their power, the most amazing sunset outlined against the hills, and reflected in the
mercury-like water of Rogen
the west end of the lake, where the Norwegian border lies, and our jumping off point for the next stage of the journey. Paddling on this huge expanse of water in flat-calm conditions was an unforgettable experience, enhanced even further when the black-throated divers started their eerie calls as we rounded the point. Here we stopped for lunch on a pile of rocks sticking right out into the lake, a special place. The breeze found us in the afternoon, and the last couple of kilometres were a little harder work, but soon enough we were at a large, popular camping area with a small hut and a shelter. Popular, in that we saw another person walk though, and some kayak fishermen off-shore. I’d wanted to get up high and see a view of the landscape from above, so spent the rest of the afternoon climbing a nearby hill, Bustvålen. This
felt properly remote, and I was conscious to take extra care, alone in this wild landscape on trackless, rock-strewn terrain, but I was rewarded with an amazing panorama of lake, rock, forest, mountains and sky. Looking ahead, I could just about trace our onward journey towards the huge Lake Femunden, a truly massive 60km long lake that would make our next target. First, though, we had the Roa river system to descend, 20km of unknown travel on lakes, on rivers, and no doubt, on foot. This 20km would take us four days.
Rough times on the Roa
The map showed us the route ahead, and early in the day we crossed into Norway. The customs process was not difficult, what with this happening 200 metres off the shore on our final Rogen paddle. Now we were entering Day three – sunset over Vaster Rödsjön
Carrying the big food bag, he’d slipped on a relatively simple bit of path, and turned his ankle. Badly. It was unclear if
he’d be able to continue
Femundsmarka National Park, and after a short portage out of the big lake, we found ourselves at the start of what we expected to be the most challenging part of the trip. The Roa River links Rogen and Femunden, the two huge lakes that dominate the region. Dropping only a 100 metres or so, it’s a string of small lakes and short river sections in its first part, followed by a couple of bigger lakes. The last part is all river, and we knew this would include some impassable rapids, for it has the largest proportion of the overall drop within a few short kilometres. Our first rapid was marked by one of the trademark wooden suspension footbridges of Scandinavia, and formed a grade 2 rapid of about 50 metres in length. We ran it in turn, Paul going solo as Dris gave safety cover below, it
being our first proper rapid of the trip. This was followed by a wonderful series of lakes linked by similar short modest rapids. We were really enjoying ourselves now, reading and running the rapids, or whoever was leading hopping out for a quick inspection as required.This was one of the highlights of the trip for me, proper expedition travelling, not knowing what was coming next, but finding amenable grade water, all the time surrounded by this most amazing landscape of trees, moss and lichen-clad rocks. The next rapid was longer, the drop on the map greater, and it was time for a proper inspection. Walking, with difficulty, along the banks, it was clear it was a step up in difficulty, and too much for us to run in laden open canoes. A continuous grade 3 at least, with more than a few rocks to dodge. Time for a portage. By now we were
Day three – evening paddle
getting quite slick, each of us taking a trip with personal bags first, and returning for the canoes and communal food bags on the second leg. This portage was only about 150 metres, and followed a small path between the boulders.
would be able to move at all. We even wondered if he’d broken it, and if so, that was likely to be the end of the trip, other than finding a way to extricate ourselves, call for help, or deploy the ‘SPOT’ emergency device that we carry.
It was on the second leg that it happened, just a few metres from the end. Carrying my canoe on my shoulders, I came across Dris’s load abandoned by the trail; clearly something had occurred. Reaching the put-in, we found Dris sat on a rock in clear pain.
Fortunately, Dris reckoned it was only a bad sprain, but he could only just hobble about. I helped him bind his ankle, deployed some ibuprofen, and took stock. We were on the shores of a kilometre-long lake, it was midafternoon, and at the other end of the lake we knew there was a hut marked on the map. We decided to head for that, and have an early finish, giving Dris time to recover a little before we made any further decisions in the morning.
Carrying the big food bag, he’d slipped on a relatively simple bit of path, and turned his ankle. Badly. It was unclear if he’d be able to continue. Being lunchtime, we stopped for an hour to give him chance to recover a little. Everybody was a little quiet, each of us pondering the consequences of the injury, and whether Dris
Rain clouds approached, matching our unsettled mood, as we paddled the lake, the hut a clear target in the distance, a real haven in the
Day six – starting the River Roa Day five – perfect lunch spot
wilderness. Kløfthåbua was its name, one of the Norwegian State huts that have welcomed many a weary traveller before us, and it stood at the start of the next portage, the perfect place for us to spend the night. As heavy rain arrived, we made ourselves at home. The feeling of being in sheltered comfort, with a fantastic wood stove and piles of logs to hand, was a major relief and allowed us to take time to relax and take stock. Dris was in slightly less pain now, things were hopefully looking up. We would see what the morning brought; either we would continue with our journey, sharing the load amongst the remaining fit members of the group; or we would have to work out our easiest escape, not an easy option as we were pretty much at the furthest point on our trip from any road.
[Part two in the winter issue] Camp life
WE ARE ALL UNIQUE. WHY SHOULDNT OUR CANOES BE THE SAME?
COLOUR . OUTFITTING . CONSTRUCTION
R I V E R
R A C E
By Richard Harpham In the last edition of the Paddler magazine,we updated you with news that our roving reporter Richard Harpham, would be taking part in the Muskoka River X Race – 80 miles of wilderness paddling. His brief to investigate ‘Canadian Canoe Culture’, a vision of Ontario’s Steve Bruno. The Muskoka River X series is a brilliant series of traditional wilderness races by canoe, kayak or SUP. Without doubt it is the most welcoming and friendly race I have competed in, with plenty of encouragement and banter from competitors and supporters alike. There are different races throughout the year with a 24-hour endurance race in circuits, as well as the Muskoka River X Sprint and Classic, 50 and 80 miles respectively. The route has plenty of wilderness and tough portages (waterfalls, dams and obstacles) to carry around.
ThePADDLER 100 Hap Wilson
I was racing with Hap Wilson, a Canadian paddling icon, environmentalist and North America’s best known guide. We had just an hour-long warm up paddle together the day before from Algonquin Outfitters at Oxtonge Lake to Ragged Falls. Perfect preparation for an 80-mile race with 20 challenging portages, paddling lakes, rivers during daylight and darkness! We were kindly equipped with a brand new Swift Canoe, 18ft 6 inch Kaywaidan racing cruiser. The all carbon outfitting and carbon Kevlar finish make for an excellent fast canoe, which was incredible comfortable. Although not an out and out racing canoe, we kept pace with faster boats and overtook plenty. It is fair to say that our approach to the race was ‘gentlemen racers’, which resulted in a tortoise and hare approach, with fast cadence paddling and overtaking following by leisurely portages, planned food stops utilizing our stove and even playing the harmonica. This might have reduced our overall speed and record-breaking ability but it did not diminish our enjoyment.
Richard and Hap
The 80-mile race follows the same course as the 50-miler before looping back in a giant ‘horseshoe’ shape back upstream. Only in Canada would you paddle a race up and down stream with portages up to 1,700 metres over hills. It’s brilliant and changes your perspective on new journeys across old lands. The race start resembled a post apocalyptic scene with paddlers racing across Fairy Lake, through mist with an eerie sunlight. The river section downstream was lovely with some interesting portages around beautiful waterfalls and other features. As we reached Bracebridge at the 50-mile mark, it seemed we were on the homeward leg. Paddling upstream in the dark presented a few issues including snapping a paddle on the rock garden in one white water section (swifts). Hap was not retreating and demanded I paddle harder, which had little effect with the limp paddle. Eventually we conceded and liberated the spare paddle. Portaging the big dam, with its many steps and inconvenient chest height barrier was a little tricky to say the least.
On the trail portaging on the Muskoka River X
ThePADDLER 104 The final portage back onto Fairy Lake was exciting, the end was in site despite the pockets of heavy fog. A slight loss of bearings meant we did a little detour following the bright lights of the Tim Hortonâ€™s. But what would you expect of gentlemen racers? We retraced our tracks and arrived back to Huntsville Dock pleased with our completed mission.
Hap and I placed 24th in the race, several hours behind the winning crews of B49 (1st) (Glen Dawson and Mike Vincent), 13 hours: 26 minutes, O.D on Paddling, (2nd) (Oliver McMillan and Dean Brown), 14 hours: 10 minutes and Wolf Pack, (3rd) (Wilfred McIntyre and Edouard McIntyre), 14 hours: 33 minutes. Well done to first C1 Solo (Patrick Turner), 15 hours: 25 minutes, first kayak, (Shawn Urban), 15 hours: 47 minutes and first SUP (Mike Crouzat), 20 hours: 37 minutes. Congratulations to Courtney Sinclair who won the overall series competition with best points over five races. Full results are available at www.muskokariverx.com
Worth a mention, the post race banquet was a continuation of the friendly community approach â€“ prizes and swag galore and plenty of humour. Thanks to Algonquin Outfitters and Randy Mitzen in particular for your brilliant support and sponsorship. It was a brilliant example of Canadian Canoe Culture to be made to feel so welcome.
COMPLETE CUSTOM BACKCOUNTRY CANOE TRIPS WITH PREMIUM GEAR AND CANOES BY SWIFT CANOE
Family owned, Algonquin Outfitters has been organizing great Canadian adventures since 1961 Reservations and information online att www.algonquinoutfitters.com oor call 1-705-635-2243
Story: Richard Harpham Photos: Ashley Kenlock and Hap Wilson Our mission to explore and embrace Canadian Canoe Culture began with a trip to the world’s largest canoe and kayak museum at Peterborough, Ontario, followed by paddling Algonquin Park and the beautiful Hailstorm Creek with Randy from Algonquin Outfitters (we will share this in a future edition of the Paddler magazine).Things then sped up a little with the 80-mile Muskoka River X unsupported wilderness race, see previous feature – then came the ‘icing on the cake’ – exploringTemagami’s wilderness.
W I L D E R N E S S
P A R A D I S E ThePADDLER 107
generous hearted husband and wife team
One of the benefits of my world of adventure is meeting ‘my kind of people’ and it definitely felt like moments of serendipity and synchronicity meeting this
We were excited to explore Temagami, the world’s largest pine forest, with Hap and Andrea Wilson (and Oban their collie). Hap is a mine of information and wrote the guide books to this magical wilderness, documenting the history, wildlife and trails throughout the park and many other areas over a lifetime of trail blazing. One of the benefits of my world of adventure is meeting ‘my kind of people” and it definitely felt like moments of serendipity and synchronicity meeting this generous hearted husband and wife team. Sharing these slow motion opportunities in life with such people is one of the reasons we have chosen our lifestyle and felt like the perfect retreat.
Ash Kenlock, Oban the collie and Andrea Wilson on a portage.
We arrived at Lakeland Airlines to find their ‘Beaver Float Plane’ tethered to the dock and ready for action. Whilst you can access the park by canoe it is a long way to Cabin Falls Eco-Lodge so usually people fly to one of several more convenient access points. Having spent years on expeditions with float planes landing and flying over me in Alaska and British Columbia, I was truly buzzing to be flying into the wilderness with our canoes strapped to the struts. Hap and Andrea departed first with a roar of the engine, out over the lake system whilst we waited checking out the Temagami Canoe Company, founded in 1929, and the second oldest in Canada still making cedar and canvas
The team inside the de Havilland Beaver.
Arriving at Bear Island
canoes. Before long we were strapped into the little plane and powering down the lake, take-off. It was exhilarating flying above the tree tops and lakes of different sizes.We landed smoothly on a lake literally in the middle of nowhere with a 60km paddle to Cabin Falls Eco Lodge our mission.We loaded kit from the plane, standing on the sponsens whilst basking in the warm sun. Heavily laden with supplies and kit we headed across the glimmering water.
Our transport was two brand new Swift canoes, straight out of the factory using their carbon Kevlar technology and all carbon fittings. I have paddled a lot of boats in my time but they are surely are the â€˜Rolls-Royceâ€™ of canoes #acanoeforlife. One carried the Canadian Maple Leaf flag celebrating 150 years of independence. They were a joy to paddle albeit with the burden of responsibility of avoiding scrapes and scratches on the rapids.
The sunset transformed our camp, showcasing the full repertoire of
as we swapped stories of trips and adventures nestled by the camp fire
Lining the canoe. Photo: Ash Kenlock
Giant tranquil paradise
We made land quickly, literally a mile or so later full of paddling promise. Darren the pilot had departed leaving us with the deep peace of this giant tranquil paradise. We crossed a small sandy spit forensically investigating an old cabin, loitering another year and waiting for some much needed TLC. Onward we paddled, towards one of those beautiful wild campsites inviting adventurous types with its large ancient rocky shelf. We accepted the invite and made camp. Hap and Andrea came into their own with a host of tasty morsels fit for any banquet. I am pleased we brought the MSR Elixir2 tent with its geodetic design as it stood proud on the rocky outcrop. Given the ‘Indian summer’ and our sweaty attire, we opt for the obvious solution and embarked on the first of many memorable wild swims on Florence Lake. It is said that you can see almost 60ft below the surface with its crystal clear waters. This one was orchestrated in shifts as we ‘skinny dipped’ and swam around the bays and temples of rock, completely free in the moment. The sunset transformed our camp, showcasing the full repertoire of vibrant colours, as we swapped stories of trips and adventures nestled by the camp fire. Already away from digital inputs and demands, we were reconnecting with our inner dreams and ideas. Morning brought more culinary delights with waffles and local maple syrup heated on the reflector oven and ‘cowboy coffee’.The mist over the water burnt off quickly as the sun declared its intent to stay golden. More reflections, on the water and within ourselves, as we paddled along winding marshland, smaller lakes and connecting rivers. Periodically, we reached a portage trail around rapids or waterfalls. It was bizarre how a calm lake would transform into a raging torrent of white water with little or no warning. Certainly the relief and terrain was not sharing this ancient knowledge.The portages were traditionally Canadian in style with large boulder fields and uneven trails often hundreds of metres.
Trekking through the scrub
Wild swimming. Photo: Ash Kenlock The three musketeers, Hap, Rich and Alex. Photo: Hap Wilson
Garter snake at Cabin Falls. Photo: Ash Kenlock
We quickly became adept at balancing the lightweight Swift Canoes on our heads (well shoulders) and trekking through the scrub. Some rapids were runnable, although the carbon shiny boats and ‘boney waters’ made this a slightly more nerve racking experience. Reading the water is a skill like riding a bike and we were soon running chutes and ‘swifts’ confidently. Our next campsite was chosen for its vantage point over a rapid. Our team work and routine was synchronized into a smooth operation to light the fire, make camp and cook.Then came obligatory wild swim
Lily pad reflections. Photo: Ash Kenlock
followed the hot day’s paddle.There was a slightly amusing moment as I filmed the event for the obligatory edit and received a nip on the toes from a passing crayfish defending its territorial waters. All sense of pride and ceremony was lost as I flailed around.
Another lovely ash canoe portage. Photo: Ash Kenlock
Cabin Falls Eco-lodge
The warm weather highs stayed with us as we paddled on towards Cabin Falls on our holy grail of paddling trips. More portages, rapids, beautiful scenery and great company made us feel blessed to be in this wild paradise. We lined a couple of rapids (a traditional skill using bow and stern ropes to guide the canoes) through the fast turbulent water. Finally one last portage and we would reach our destination. Nothing could have prepared me for the incredible setting and scenery of Cabin Falls Eco-lodge on Lady Evelyn River. I have travelled and explored many places around the world but this surely was the most idyllic and yet rugged home from home – ever. The original cabin (the only one in the park for 60 square miles) was built in 1931 by Americans and then maintained by two brothers and the ‘Dirty Dozen’ club. Hap and Andrea have painstakingly added to the original cabin with three additional cabins, boardwalks over the falls and various home comforts including a wood burning sauna. The plunge pool is the ever-present waterfall with its grumbling undertones and mesmerizing glistening flows.This became our personal swimming pool along with riding some sections and chutes in rubber rings and inner tubes.
Detox and retune
Cabin Falls Eco-lodge seeps into your relaxed psyche and delivers a perfect venue to escape, detox and retune your priorities. Slowing down without the modern distractions, allowed us to unwind and achieve a rare peace and balance in our lives. Our agenda was simplicity itself, to explore by foot, on water and wild swimming sharing good food, conversation and time with our new close friends. Inspired by the waterfall swimming, we embarked on our next mission to
Waffles a la reflector oven Photo: Ash Kenlock
explore the Lady Evelyn North Channel and South Channels for more places to swim. It literally put the ‘wild’ into ‘wild swimming’. We also took time to hike the many trails guarded by large red and white pines often peppered with moose scat, as they opted for the same paths. The array of fungi and wild mushrooms was incredible with the forest
carpeted with so many different species. One of our favourite swim spots was at the aptly named Leap of Faith where the flow from the Helen Falls is channeled into a series of pools. If you search hard enough, there is a suitable ledge above the pool offering a spot to leap into the cool inviting waters. After a bit of scrambling, I was standing on the ledge searching my memory banks for the switch to enable to me to jump off and suppress my fears. Switch flicked, pride restored and I was free falling. Sacred Spirit Rock. Photo: Ash Kenlock
The next few days formed the most perfect retreat, with our mission to wild swim as many locations as possible as well as hiking the river and mountain trails flanking the cabin. We paddled further downstream to swim under the Bridal Veil Fall, which became a mission dodging more nipping crayfish from below and the vigorous shower from above. We all however, found a peace that we had been missing with busy lives. One of the most remarkable chapters in the evolution of the area and cabin is to remembering that Hap and Andrea had been instrumental in saving this incredible area from clear cut logging. What a legacy! Also incredible and worth a mention is that everything that has made Cabin Falls a deeply spiritual retreat was transported there by float plane and then by canoe and human portage. Many tons of equipment and materials, including fridges, stoves and mattresses were carried there by blood, sweat and tears – an incredible feat.
Our trip was coming to an end. We had extended our family finding kindred spirits, in Hap and Andrea (check out his guide books and new novel ‘River of Fire’) and we witnessed some incredible wilderness that they helped save. Our final stop was to fly to Lake Orbabika (place of the smooth rocks) by float plane to visit Alex Mathias, a First Nation elder who shared his stories around the campfire growing up in Bear Island. It was fitting knowing we were paddling with his blessing on his people’s traditional lands. Alex is the last fluent speaking member of his people (Ojibwa), which provided a sombre and poignant reminder of the price of progress of the modern world. Alex had also been a key activist in protecting the forest from decimation. We paddled across the Orbabika Lake to explore a rough trail with huge Cabin Falls. Photo: Ash Kenlock
Andrea and Oban at the waterfall
pines including the three sisters.The route led to Chee-Skon-Abikong (Spirit,Rock), the place of huge rock lake.The Rock, a jagged pillar of rock standing guard against a crumbling cliff face.There was a small sting in the tail as the wind picked up requiring us to bay hop and traverse back to Alex against strong winds and waves. Our time in this sacred and spiritual place was over, for now. We dipped our silver wings and roared back over the tree tops leaving this Temagami firmly lodged in our hearts. We will be back running retreats for our own customers in future to help share this place in a respectful and authentic way. We came to find Canadian Canoe Culture and left overflowing with inspiration and warmed hearts for new paddling expeditions and trips. We had the privilege to paddle and share the trip with many incredible pioneers and outdoor people including Steve Bruno and Trish, the army of racers in the Muskoka River X, Randy and Lynne from Algonquin Outfitters and of course Hap, Andrea and Oban who shared their world with us. The journey doesn’t end here, it is merely a rest stop before paddling on. Temagami, Ontario is an accessible wilderness paradise located a few hours north of Toronto. Perfect for paddlers from the UK and Europe
Cabin Falls Eco Lodge
wanting to explore and witness, some of the most incredible wildlife and countryside in Canada.
Richard Harpham is a human powered adventurer and inspirational speaker who has completed over 9,000 miles of expeditions by kayak, canoe, bike and on foot including exploring the Yukon, cycling the Sahara and Canada’s Inside Passage. At home he runs www.canoetrail.co.uk, a watersports and adventure business with his wife Ashley in Bedfordshire providing qualifications, canoe camping, coaching and paddling trips to some of the UK’s and world’s best locations. He is the editor of Bushcraft and Survival Magazine and writes for Outdoor Adventure Guide and Paddler magazine. His adventures are supported by: Flint Group, Paramo Clothing, Olympus Cameras, Silver Birch Canoes, Bamboo Clothing, MSR, Canadian Affair, Osprey Rucksacks, Reed Chillcheater and Exposure Lights. Follow Rich on his adventures @myrichadventure www.richadventure.com Hap Wilson is a prolific writer, wilderness explorer and canoe guide. A former park ranger and outfitter Hap and his wife Andrea run Cabin Falls Eco-Lodge and eco trail building in Ontario. Hap has been a driving force in saving many areas of prime pine forest as an environmental activist and had written many guide books sharing his knowledge of over 60,000kms of wilderness paddling by canoe, on foot and snow shoe. Hap is a self taught writer, photographer and artist and is one of North America’s best known wilderness guides. Hap received the Bill Mason Award for services to conservation. Hap is supported by Swift Canoes. Hap’s latest book was released recently, a novel entitled ‘River of Fire’. You can follow Hap and Andrea at www.hapwilson.com
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E X P L O R I N G
By Richard Harpham In the second in the series about paddling areas of the Scottish wilderness, humanpowered adventurer Richard Harpham shares some more of his favourite locations in Scotland by canoe.This time it’s Scottish lochs under the spotlight.
I have just returned from another paddling trip to Scotland to replenish my need for wilderness paddling, big vistas and stunning landscapes. It was our bi-annual ‘Best of Scotland’ paddling trip and this one was equally fantastic with challenging whitewater, new locations and world-class paddling destinations.
Scotland is famous for its lochs (and whisky), teeming with inland fresh waters and integrated sea lochs stretching around its rugged coastline. There is plenty to explore and escape from the over crowded pressure cooker of modern life.
Loch Ness & River Ness
Although part of the Great Glenn Canoe Trail Loch Ness can be paddled as a shorter half day or day trip to tackle this iconic location. Just last week she allowed us safe passage despite the Force 3-4 winds. Given its 26-mile length and moody disposition, even the lightest breeze can create significant waves. Stay close to shore and ensure you have the right equipment and experience for the conditions. We launched from friendly pub and beach site at Dores and headed into the wind on a suitable course. After a slightly rough ride we turned downwind to enjoy surfing down the two-foot waves towards Loch End. Our Silverbirch canoes and us enjoyed the work out, catching wave after wave accelerating each time to maximize the ride. Behind the stony spit likes the often overlooked Loch Dochfour, which splits into the ongoing original canal or the River Ness. We rigged a jury rig sail (impromptu sail) harnessing the ‘fetch’ at the top of Loch Ness and then enjoyed a full spread picnic in our rafted canoe on Loch Dochfour. We arrived at the weir accessing the River Ness and after a quick scout ran the right hand side adjacent the small sluice. Be aware in higher flows this may require a portage as it can have a full stopper and be extremely dangerous. The meandering flow was a welcome addition and our mixed group of coaches and novices enjoyed the new challenge. The River Ness is a brilliant intro river with a series of small weirs and chutes that can be run in low water or portaged. Just before Inverness, adjacent a lovely looking house (mansion), is a small fish weir with decent wave train running. This caused some excitement amongst the group with their first experience of bigger waves in a canoe. We finished the trip adjacent the car park/skate park near Bught Park Pitches and returned to Dores to shuttle kit and vehicles. We stopped in to the Dores Inn and ordered drinks to say thanks for allowing us access from their beach.
Loch Maree is one of my favourite places to paddle in the world with its folklore, ancient history and beautiful setting. Loch Maree is in Wester Ross in the north west Highlands flanked by an impressive Munro named Slioch, which resembles a craggy fortress. It is the forth largest fresh water loch in Scotland and 12 miles in length with a collection of islands including a nature reserve. Camping here amongst the small
islets and islands is a real treat and of course ‘leaving no trace’ rules apply. Isle Maree tucked away among 65 islands, has the remains of an old chapel, graveyard and holy well. It is believed to be the 8th century hermitage of Saint Mael Ruba (d. 722), who founded the monastery of Applecross in 672. The same island contains ancient stands of oak and holly which have been linked with Scottish Druids. There is also the ‘money tree’ with coins dating back over 150 years. Queen Victoria visited the Loch in 1877 which led to the naming of a waterfall on the south side, Victoria Falls (it is slightly smaller than the African version). We paddled and camped this at New Year and again in October to enjoy the autumnal colours, each time exploring a little more. We took the opportunity to feast on tasty campfire delicacies and of course sampling the whisky with friends telling tales of ‘daring do’. The loch definitely has a magical quality and we went to sleep listening to stags bark at each other. The next morning we braved the icy waters for a wild swim, which definitely took the breath away with a vigorous dip. Breakfast was waffles and Canadian Maple syrup brought specially from our recent Ontario Trip. It was perfect and that morning we saw several stags as we trekked around the larger islands in search of the ‘loch within a loch’. Loch Ness & River Ness
Diane and Aaron enjoying a river section.
The graveyard on Isle Maree
Exploring Loch Maree
The money tree, Isle Maree
Surfing on Loch Ness
Loch Morar is located in Lochaber on the western side of Scotland in the highlands and offers a mix of classic canoe paddling with islands, an 11.7 mile length and a portage route that is challenging to say the least.There are beautiful little islands offering shelter and wild camping at the western end of the loch.The portage at Tarbet connects your journey to out onto the sea loch Nevis and is just over 1km. Our last visit we used the islands as shelter and lee paddling to escape the huge gusts and prevailing gales. Once on Loch Nevis an easterly route will take you through narrows at Kyleknoysdart to sandy beaches 8km away with a small bothy at Sourlies. Heading west means increasing open water down towards Inverie. Further round the coast is Mallaig a beautiful coastal town popular with sailors as well as port for the Cal Mac (Caledonian Macbrayne) Ferries. Mallaig is a great place to ‘kick back’ and enjoy the local culture. I have enjoyed Hogmanay with local folk bands in Mallaig as well as stunning paddling.
Loch Shiel has been made a popular tourist attraction by virtue of the viaduct, featuring in a certain Harry Potter book and film series, as well as the Glenfinnan Jacobite monument. The young prince, ‘Bonny Prince Charlie’ raised his standard on the shore in 1745. The history of trade, exploration and voyages dates significantly further back than that, with one of the most popular wilderness canoe trips in Scotland being the Shiel Circuit. There are no roads for almost 33kms of the loch’s length and plenty of wildlife with otters, eagles and pine martins in residence. Although parts of the river system may be navigable in low waters this may involve longer portages that you envisage. This loch has also featured as inspiration for much of the work of artist Rob Campbell (my DW and Yukon River Quest team mate) for his sculpture and paintings (www.robhoustoncampbell.com). Loch Moidart to the north on the return leg of the circuit, has wild camp sites on islands and other places to call home. Our last visit coincided with heavy weather with a force 6 gusting 7 blowing down the loch. We battled out in ‘teeth chattering’ conditions, literally planting the paddle to hold station before eventually conceding to the fierce elements and flying back to the start point. Our retreat complete we ventured up the small river feeding the loch and practiced our poling and
subbing in the flows (poling and snubbing are traditional canoe skills using a pole to move up and downstream in rapids, swifts and moving water).
Loch Linnhe is a classic sea loch stretching up from the sea town of Oban and the Firth of Lorne 32 miles or so up to the Highland hub of Fort William. Paddling from Kinlochleven through the narrows at Ballachulish can be a mind boggling experience on the ebb tide as eddies and swirling waters aim to spin you around. The bridge at Ballachulish with the Pap of Glencoe and the Aonach Eagach Ridge makes a picturesque back drop. The Corran Ferry requires a bit of cat and mouse as you head up towards the larger sea lock at Corpach (north of Fort William) signalling the start of the Caledonian Canal. I have played Gran Mother’s footsteps with local seals around this stretch of water on many occasions. Remember if you are canoeing on a sea loch make sure the conditions suit the craft you are in. The western end can be extremely challenging and is open to the force of swells from the Irish Sea and Atlantic. I have canoed and kayaked on this beautiful loch and on its day it offers great paddling with incredible mountains flanking the loch.
General paddling rules apply
With all paddling in the Highlands be respectful of other users and local people. If you are using access points and car parks from local pubs, hotels and sites then make sure you ‘pay forward’ their kindness by spending some money. Equally leave no trace, minimize your impact and don’t block access ways. It is worth remembering that inland and sea lochs can behave like small seas, so make sure you paddle within your experience for the conditions. Longer lochs have significant ‘fetch’ and journeying far from shore can be dangerous. Make sure you have checked the weather forecast and have the right clothing and equipment for the day and season.The old adage, “There is no such thing as cold weather just the wrong clothing” applies. Hopefully you have begun to get a flavour of the world-class paddling on offer in Scotland. See you on the water. Rich
https://goo.gl/maps/WMSRGz4XFtr Loch Shiel
Poling on the river feeding Loch Shiel
Exploring Loch Morar
BEST OF SCOTLAND CANOETRIP
The next ‘Best of Scotland’ trips are running in spring and autumn 2018 for small groups looking to develop their adventurous side. Prices start at £599 (early bird offer) for the week including accommodation, equipment, food and coaching. Visit www.canoetrail.co.uk or contact the team @ email@example.com or 01234 825499
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SICKLINE 2 0 1 7
By Steffan Meyric Hughes Photos: C.Waldegger, D. Benedetto and J. Klatt All Sickline attempts start with an idle moment online, debit card in hand.You pay a little over £100, which gets you entry to the race and events, as well as five meals, a tee-shirt a goody bag, free massage, race insurance and more. You tick the box that says you are an ‘expert grade five kayaker’ or something like that then, if you’re me at least, fool yourself that you’re going to do some ‘training’ before spending the rest of the summer farting about in your playboat at the LeeValley Legacy course.
ThePADDLER 124 Google
Meanwhile, your nearest and dearest will have a Google of what you’re going to be up to for a week in October. Technically difficult – and DANGEROUS! Every little mistake has CONSEQUENCES! The Eiger North Wall of kayaking! Grade SIX! It’s the sort of hyperbole that’s pretty much required by a major event these days, but you try explaining this and she (statistically it will be a ‘she’) won’t believe you. Of course, any event is going to make a strong case for itself, particularly to the non-paddling public (the Sickline gets considerable air time on TV around the world), so it’s understandable. And, as Olaf Obsommer, event founder, points out, grade 5-6 is the guidebook description for this section, and it wouldn’t be much fun if the organisers claimed five and the insurers found mention of six.
I heard paddlers refer to it rather differently: “two boofs and a load of flat” and “grade 4+ at most.” Seeing a group of paddlers tackle it in playboats on YouTube and watching the 2016 low-water videos, along with the fact that paddlers are prone to gross exaggeration, was enough to satisfy me that the truth would lie somewhere between the two extremes, and four of us (Mike, Tom, me, with Rob coming along for the ride – all playboaters) decided to find out what it was all about. My ambitions were not high: running the qualies and enjoying a week in Austria were as far as it went. My training for the event even consisted of a single session in my brand-new creek boat, Pyranha’s forgiving Machno, on the Lee Valley Olympic Course. It is clearly a great boat; loads of rocker and volume to keep you on top of The free meals were very good, heavy on meat and satisfying after a cold day on the river.
things, comfortable with straightforward, effective outfitting, and just enough rail on the chine to break in and out. You can pretty much drift down the Olympic course in it if you like – it’s that forgiving. Best of all, it weighs in at under 22kg, as I found out at the Sickline boat-weighing station, which resembles a sex swing for kayaks. Mike, sponsored by Jackson, had one go in a borrowed Jackson Nirvana, pronounced it a good’un and got straight back in his playboat. Tom didn’t try out his (26kg!) Dagger Mamba, borrowed from his dad, at all. As the four of us – Mike,Tom, Rob and me – drove through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany en route to our final destination, the Tyrolean village of Oetz in the Austrian Alps, the texts started pinging in from those already there. They spoke of heaving levels and multiple swims. With the gauge reading between 185 and 192, just a centimetre short of the level where they cancel the race (193), this was not going to be a pooldrop year on the well-known Wellerbrucke section.
With the gauge reading between 185 and 192, just a I wasn’t alone, when first having a look from the crowded bank, to feel a little queasy at the thought of running it. A 20ft-high ramp leads into an easy section called Mandatory Left, which is followed by a flat pool before the course’s crux – the TNT Cataract.This leads into the two bestknown features on the course: Champions’ Killer Minus One, a surging, bouncy hole, and Champions’ Killer, a 10ft-high angled drop into flat water, quickly followed by a narrow, boily passage between the left wall of the gorge and a huge mid-river boulder, known as Exit Slot. After that it’s a sprint to the finish line down a rock-strewn section that marks the start of the slalom course.
centimetre short of the level where they
cancel the race (193),
this was not going to be a pool-drop year on the well-known Wellerbrucke section.
We saw one woman take Minus One on the right, to find herself with her boat
snatched away from
underneath her as though sucked to the centre of the earth
Grades are hard for paddlers to agree on, but think mostly G3/4, with a G5 section (TNT) and some big, technical but relatively consequencefree G4 (Minus One and Champions). It was big enough to make most there to feel very nervous but went nowhere near some of the deranged things we’d read about it and we were seeing it at one of the highest levels the Sickline has been run on. At peak snow melt in summer, the glacier-fed run must be monstrous. We watched as the world’s best paddlers did laps, and the nervous, those who’d come to this arena and found themselves wanting, wandered pale-faced, palms sweating, bile rising in the throat. We saw one woman take Minus One on the right, to find herself with her boat snatched away from underneath her as though sucked to the centre of the earth. It reappeared a full five seconds later. It was hardly confidence-inspiring, but most seemed to be getting through it alive. As a mediocre playboater and occasional riverrunner I found the qualification course (Minus One, Champions Exit Slot and a couple of hundred metres of the G3 slalom course below), a good, fun challenge, failing every time to hit a great line and flipping in half my runs, but not taking any beatings. After seeing more than a few paddlers swim from their boats while safely out of the feature and even one slapper (one who slaps the surface with the blade before rolling up – beginners’ stuff), I have a new theory about whitewater paddlers in general, and it is this: slalom paddlers and river runners/creekers don’t always capsize enough to have bulletproof rolls. The former category are busy perfecting their speed and turns on easier water, while the latter, in very challenging water, must avoid situations that will make them swim.
Plan ‘A’ and Plan ‘B’ paddlers
Of course, the good paddlers in any discipline will have their roll well sorted, but at an amateur level, slalomists and creekers are ‘Plan A’ paddlers, who read the river well and take a good line but are simply too unaccustomed to being upside down to be comfortable rolling in all conditions, every time. Playboaters and surf kayakers, even mediocre ones, spend half their time on the water upside down, and their rolls become developed beyond the level of the rest of their paddling. These paddlers might be less adept at getting down a river or seeing the best line, but they are great ‘Plan B’ people; when the shit hits the fan, the playboater will roll up, somehow. The drill for the qualies is to line your boats up in bib order, then to take them down some steep steps to the launching platform, the feeling of nerves quite palpable as you wait for your turn. You hear a race coordinator say into his mic, “40 on the course, 41 in the eddy” then he says, “you’re good” and it’s on. It’s an easy ferry to river left, then almost immediately Minus One, a short, turbulent stopper where you fight to stay left so you don’t get pushed into the rocks just under the surface on right, where many paddlers took a submerged thumping before rolling up or swimming, then into Champions’, where you hope you boof properly, or you can get endered out vertically (most likely), back looped or worked in the hole. One thing to bear in mind, when you watch Sickline on YouTube is that the boof on Champions is harder than it looks! The paddlers keeping their boats perfectly flat are likely the best paddlers in the world, and even they occasionally got it wrong. Having said that, we didn’t see anyone take a real beating in there. After that it’s left through the awkward, boily, narrow exit slot (again, trickier than it looks) then 200m or so of read-and-run G3 to the takeout.
The qualification course was enough for me at these high levels: around half the paddlers there were opting out of the entire course, due to the TNT section, particularly in the light that the safety team are not present for the training days (it’s too expensive). After some deliberation, Mike ran the whole course.To our disappointment, he was fine. He has never swum, and I had half-hoped he might do it here, with a humiliating man hug rescue from one of the many live bait guys lining then banks (the safety here is brilliant). Mike’s one run down the main course gave him 129th place out of 175. Only the top 52 men going through. If I tell you that Peter Csonka, ex-freestyle champion, only just made the grade, that will give an idea of how stiff the competition here is.
Joe Morley out of the running, were three-times NZ winner Sam Sutton; US phenomenon Dane Jackson, whose achievements in kayaking are so broad and numerous that he has to be counted as a contender in whatever he enters; last year’s winner, the Catalonian paddler Aniol Serrasolses and the 2015 winner, his brother Gerd.
Tom provided far more entertainment, taking four runs down the qualifier section, each one seemingly more comically awful than the one before it. On his last, the crowd erupted in cheers as he finally rolled up for the umpteenth time just as he crossed the finishing line upside down. Rob, Mike and I sighed in disappointment, having hoped for a swim. In all seriousness though,Tom showed some bravery in going out and getting battered again and again, and always rolling up.That’s what I mean about the playboater thing.The other thing about this is that the qualification course, although a stiff, intimidating challenge, is still a place where you can laugh about swims.
In the end Dane took the all-time course record in 53.8 seconds in the semis. But in the final, where it counted, Sam put in a good run of 54.9s to be crowned the 2017 Sickline men’s winner, for an amazing fourth time. It must have felt good, after having lost out to Catalonian paddler Aniol Serrasolses last year by just a hundredth of a second. In the women’s race, Nouria Newman beat her nearest rival by two seconds to take the crown for the first time.
“I was struggling in the high water levels,” Sam Sutton told Paddler magazine as he stepped off the podium, a modest statement profoundly belied by his run. I had a few minutes with race director Mike Hammel, who told me that inclusivity is a big part of the Sickline. “It’s not F1” he told me. “You can’t win it with money,” a point underlined by a survey conducted during this year’s event, where a two-thirds majority voted against carbon boats in the race.
On Friday night, the Big O movie night showed a short film of Bren Orton’s first descent of Norway’s steep, long creek, Megatron, and a fulllength film of some massive-volume expedition paddling in Pakistan – Into the Indus.We checked in at the well-named Losers’ Party on the way home. An angry, disappointed paddler… an eponymous loser if you like… stood outside, and angrily kicked a can against the wall as we walked past, while a few peers inside sipped beer quietly.We enjoyed this spectacle almost as much as the empassioned young man who nearly burst into tears at seeing his result that day, but we passed the party by, returning to our rented flat to watch Enter the Dragon and engage in puerile, vacuous banter until bedtime, an art we are well versed in.
Finals day saw the level drop slightly to the high 180s, still a chunky level, and the sun out. Favourites to take it, with double British winner
A slightly harder question to answer is how the event can call itself the world championship of extreme kayaking, when there are other races that are more challenging (like the North Fork or Green River) and in some cases have been around longer than the decade Sickline has been running for.
In the womenâ€™s race,
beat her nearest rival by two seconds
RESULTS Men 1. Sam Sutton (NZ) 54.9 2. Aniol Serrasolses (ESP) 55.2 3. Alexander Grimm (GER) 55.4
Women 1. Nouria Newman (FRA) 1.01.8 2 Martina Wegman (NED) 1.04.8 3. Jennifer Chrimes (GBR) 1.09.4
His answer, to paraphrase, is about the event’s prominence: it received a claimed 2,400 hours of global TV coverage, including on airlines and Austrian national TV, where a local paddler told me it was also one of the main items on the news while it was happening. Kayak manufacturers build boats specially to win it. And it is probably the best known of the competitions. But the real answer is in the calibre of participants: this is the race that the world’s best paddlers come to.The great achievement is its inclusivity, a word that Michael used.This is an event run largely by its participants for its participants, and anyone can have a go. Just don’t expect to qualify, unless you’re a local hero or international name.
You want to do Sickline? The first thing you might wonder is: am I good enough? I hope this article has made it clearer, but if in doubt, go. If you find yourself wanting, (many of us did this year), there is a nice G3 section below the course to run, not to mention plenty of other runs in the area, and you should at least manage the qualification course which looks a lot scarier than it is. You will still get to enjoy the movie night, parties, meals and spectating.
Book well in advance: Sickline was sold out at least three months before the race this year.
Photography: if you plan on taking photos/video of your friends (important, as the official photographers and videographers don’t catch everyone), a 50-200mm telephoto zoom or equivalent focal range would be ideal, as you can’t get as close to the action as you might hope.
Spend more than one hour in the boat you plan to use for the event! Practise your boof until it’s confident and consistent. Do some strength and endurance paddling if you are in it to try to qualify. If you don’t spend half your time in a kayak upside down (playboaters and surf paddlers!), then bomb-proof your roll, including off-side, back-deck and hands, if you don’t already. Take solid, grippy, comfortable shoes, preferably boots with some ankle support – there is a lot of clambering around on rough boulders, and long portages. Make sure your PFD, helmet and boat are approved (the event website is quite clear on this).
Transport: we drove there and back. It’s about 11-12 hours from Calais to Oetz, and free of all toll charges if you choose that option, which is a no-brainer, as it’s probably quicker than the toll option.This, along with of-peak ferry deals for about £50 return, makes it a very cheap trip. Speed limits, particularly in Germany, land of the contra-flow, are variable, so watch out. We saw nothing of the much-vaunted autobahns, and if you see a red light in your rearview, you’ve been done by a speed cam, but apparently fines are very reasonable if they materialize at all – we’ll see!
Accommodation: another bargain, as it’s offpeak time in the Tyrolean Alps, which thrive on winter sports. We paid about £150 for seven nights in a passable self-catering apartment with two double rooms, within boat-carrying distance of the course.
Boat lugging: if you are not concerned about cultivating a heroic persona, consider a small boat trolley – we calculated that Mike carried his 20kg+ Jackson Nirvana two miles on his shoulder on the first day’s training runs. Why bother? At the very least, have a thick sponge to slip under the shoulder strap of your PFD.
Passion for paddlesports? Share your knowledge & experience with our guests! Weâ€™re looking for energetic people to work with us in 2018 to ensure our guests have the time of their lives. Canoeing has been at the heart of PGL since 1957 and we have long recognised this sport as a great way to introduce children to the outdoors. We offer a variety of opportunities for qualified paddlers to introduce canoeing and kayaking to our guests. If you're a qualified UKCC Level 1 or UKCC Level 2 Coach or above, you'll be able to lead sessions in addition to consolidating your instructional skills, accumulating log book time and working towards higher level qualifications. The variety of our centre locations means thereâ€™s plenty of chances to paddle during your free time, from flat to moving water. We offer a competitive wage, meals and free uniform; accommodation is provided, plus transport from a UK departure point for staff working in France or Spain. Find out more and apply now... www.pgl.co.uk/paddle
Special thanks toâ€Ś Jackson, Pyranha, Mitchell Blades, Square Rock and Immersion Research. And last but not least, those who make it happen: Mike Hamel, Sonja Guldner-Hamel, Olaf Obsommer, the safety guys, and everyone else who gives their time to make Sickline what it is.
SICKLINE T H E E X P L O S I V E H I S T O R Y O F
Taken from conversations with event founder Olaf Obsommer In 2005, there were plans up for a huge dam project to take all the water from the Oetz river and pump it to the Kaunertal. Olaf and friends staged a big protest in the summer of that year, with 500 kayakers showing up.The highlight was kayaking the Oetz by night through the village Soelden holding flaming torches. “It was an impressive and really emotional moment” Olaf remembers.
“In 2006 we stopped doing those protests, thinking it would be more effective to do extreme races instead, as they are easier to sell to the media to show the world the beauty of this river and its valley. “In the summer 2006 we did an invitational boater cross on the Soelden cataracts at high water for 50 competitors, then we had the idea to start another extreme race in the fall on the famous Wellerbruecken rapids…”
One vantage point
The Wellerbrucke rapids, home of Sickline, were chosen for many reasons. Firstly, you can watch the start and finish from one vantage point. “The course is really technical with many spots where you can lose
time,” Olaf adds. Also adding to the appeal of the venue is the convenience. Once in Oetz, you don’t have to drive anywhere, and the town has all the amenities an event of this size needs.
Sickline got off to a shaky start after that first invitational race back in 2006. The 2007 race was cancelled for high water (210 on the gauge) and in 2008, it looked as though it would be unrunnable due to a river-wide siphon above what is now Champions’ Killer Minus One. “I was really depressed” remembers Olaf. “Then a local came to us and said no problem – he knows a dude who is doing all the dynamite stuff for the ski resort. And this dude was so fired up and motivated for that mission, we had just to pay his costs… so really early in the morning we blew away this rock.That was big, man! The rocks were crashing and flying everywhere. We got a call from the major of Oetz what the hell was going on the Wellerbruecke.The guys from the tourism board told him it was a military practice… and it’s why I named the rapid TNT!”
This year, Sickline had 32 nations enter [the British entry was the largest by number] and 175 entrants. It’s come a long way.
Links History of Sickline – the documentary by Olaf Obsommer https://youtu.be/QXquVcjbmKg
Sam Sutton’s winning men’s run
Nouria Newman’s winning women’s run
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By Ian Jones Photos: Ian Jones, George Younger and Anuj Kumar I am sat with Daz Clarkson-King and George Younger in a first-floor restaurant in Padum, Ladakh, a village at the confluence of the Tsarap and the Stod rivers before they merge to become the Zanskar. We are waiting for our egg and chips, reflecting on the world-class river we have just completed.The Tsarap has all the ingredients: altitude, remoteness, box canyons, pristine white water, all set in the spectacular Himalayan scenery, perfectly blended to give you a journey you will not forget in a hurry.
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Ian Jones in the Zanskar Gorge
ThePADDLER 138 Two days earlier we had left our tented encampment at Sarchu and put-in the Tsarap at the bottom of the Gata Loops on the Leh Manali Highway. The open vista as you seal yourself into your boat belies what is ahead.
Day one, the box canyons Six or eight of them depending how you count your boxes, but, truly, there is only one box canyon, number four on our calculator! The open nature of the river changes after two hours of floating. The river’s flow constricts between narrowing walls and you enter box one, a swirling mess of boil, whirlpools and funky water.
Exiting to a rapid offering multiple lines we are now committed to the river and the problems it presents. George was here just last week; the levels have dropped to the high side of medium flows. I am losing track of the boxes, more open than I had anticipated, when we drop into what I later discover is our box four. No mistaking this, barely wider than the length of our boats, sheer sided polished rock walls compress flows, things start happening, fast!
I look ahead and to my eye the river pretty much stops a hundred metres ahead, George disappears round, through the ‘blockage’ a wall of white water created by a kink in the route of the canyon. Seconds later I am through the same stopper, ooof, pull through and into a surging eddy above a very obvious horizon line, I am informed this drop is new this year. Left of centre, there is an obvious window.
Zanskar Valley monk’s view. Photo: George Younger
The peace and quiet of the high Himalayas is disturbed by two JCBs, working the roadside verge at our put-in. Photo: Ian Jones
George putting the kayaks to sleep before hiking up to Phuktal Monastery for the night. Photo: Ian Jones
Tsarap Chu view with Darren Clarkson King and Ian Jones Photo: George Younger
Tsarap Chu. George Younger and Darren Clarkson-King with legs out floating into the lake . Photo: Ian Jones
Tsarap Chu Reru Falls. George Younger and Darren Clarkson-King taking a brief rest at the bottom of the main section.
Tsarap Phuktal Monastery. Photo: George Younger
I drift to the horizon line and as I am committed, the line opens, there’s the tongue, angle right, left stroke and through to more messy water.
The altitude factor
One thing I haven’t really mentioned is the altitude factor. We put on a shade over 4,000 metres, 13,500 feet, by any standards, that’s high.That would be why I am gasping for breath, nothing to do with the effort I am expending to stay on line and upright, or maybe it’s a combination of the two factors.
The last third of the rapid is dispatched and a long paddle follows to Phuktal Monastery. A roll in sight of our beach completes a cold day and I land shivering uncontrollably. A down jacket and a small fire aid the warming process, as we are swamped by mini monks all demanding to know our names and where we are from.
We exit the last box and I seek clarification, just to be sure, “That was the last box wasn’t it?”The boxes have been playing out in my sub-conscious since 2008 when I first paddled the Zanskar and the possibility of a run down the Tsarap first crossed my mind. We approach the lake and our first overnight camp.The lake was created in 2014 by a huge landslide, however, the Indian army blew two channels to release the water in a controlled manner to prevent a tidal wave of water breaking through on its own.The next morning I have been bitten by bugs that get you in these parts – I am not at my best. By landslide rapid I am operating on autopilot. I can’t see the line; Daz carries my boat for the first section as I stumble over rocks to an eddy at the base of the side. George drops down below me, with Daz above, I have to paddle the remaining two-thirds of the rapid – portage is not an option.The line is simple enough but not in my current condition. I break out, make the line and arrive next to George in an eddy.The river disappears round a left bend, I follow George and paddling frantically to avoid the cushion wave. In my jaded state, nothing is happening until I catch a surf and arrive in the eddy breathing heavily.
Zanskar waterfall. Photo: George Younger
Day three brings us to the top of the page, Reru Falls and an afternoon of solid white water with little let up, before the calmer waters just above Padum. For some idea of the scale of Reru Falls, that flash of orange, behind George is Daz, in the trough of the wave that George is topping out on (see Ian’s photos right). As the river turns left, it disappears out of sight, the river steepens and a whole world of white water is delivered on a huge plate with all the trimmings, Daz, not one to over egg a rapid tells me “its steep” in over ten years of boating with him I have never heard this description of a rapid, I would worry, but this is not the place or the time to worry. Back to the present and our eggs arrive and ten minutes later so do our chips. Combining the two, we devour our food, order another masala chai and continue our reflection.
Tomorrow, the Zanskar, the copper canyon
The volume increases but the intensity of the rapids decreases, apart from another landslide rapid, this time man made rather than a natural disaster. The road being built requires ample use of high explosives to cut its path down the valley. Over use of such substances can create rapids, in this case, an intimidating maelstrom of turmoil with an almost river wide hole, come stopper, avoided only by paddling onto a boil river left.
George Younger, Chilling Rapid, Zanskar Photo: Anuj Kumar
Rapid now dispatched, our attention is drawn to the red flags flying above us, displayed by the road workers about to blow more rocks to bits. The workers don’t want us to paddle any further but as we are mid-rapid, we pretty much don’t have a choice. We paddle, quickly, rounding the next bend as there is a huge explosion behind us. As we exchange words as to just how close we had come to being blown up our attention is diverted by movement on the river bank. We have disturbed a bear having an afternoon drink. In all the descents completed by both Daz and George they have never seen a bear, rare in these parts, the road can only endanger them further. Our last camp deep in the heart of the Zanskar Gorge at Nyrak, leaves us with only the roller coaster rides of the lower river, the biggest at Chilling before the river spits us out into the Indus at Nimmu.
The team: Darren Clarkson-King, George Younger and Ian Jones
We didn’t take many pictures of the rapids in our 250-kilometre journey, if you want to see the treasures between Sarchu and Nimmu before the road is completed, book your ticket and get there before Jo Tourist in a jeep beats you to it.
Massive thanks to Darren Clarkson King and George Younger #purelandexpeditions
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R - R E V O L U T I O N
By Corran Addison Photos unless stated: Christine Pinsonneault A short boater and a long boater are standing on shore overlooking a rapid full of waves and holes, ferries, splat rocks and eddylines.
The short boater says, “Look at that awesome wave at the bottom of the rapid. Lets go down there and surf it!”
The long boater replies, “No, let’s go to the top of the raid, and play them all!”
Photo: Jacob Seigel
In theory, and for many people, the short boat revolution was a fantastic one. But as
Winston Churchill so deftly said, â€œHowever beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.â€?
Now I’m hardly going to be that guy that sits here and tells you that paddling sixfoot freestyle kayaks isn’t a load of fun. I was one of the main protagonists of the short boat and planing hull revolution, and this revolution happened because the short planing hulled boats opened up more and more possibilities in certain kinds of river features. Photo: Pat Keller
In fact, if you have ‘that perfect feature’ on your run, it’s pretty hard to beat the fun times that even average paddlers can have. But therein lies the catch: ‘perfect feature’! This does not have to mean a large ‘Lachines waves’ or ‘rock Island’ style holes. It could be the perfectly formed little loop-hole at the artificial slalom course, or an exciting little wave hole on an otherwise uninteresting river run. In theory, and for many people, the short boat revolution was a fantastic one. But as Winston Churchill so deftly said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” And the results have been trickling in over the last decade.
I’ve already touched on the problem. Freestyle kayaks are a whole lot of fun in that perfect feature. But that pretty much leaves the rest of the river run as a battle to overcome constant verticality, missing dozens of on-the-fly one hit waves, and essentially just flip-flopping down the main current in what amounts to sitting in a plastic turd (unless you’re on that perfect feature).
And so, paddlers grab their other boat; the creeker. We find ourselves in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, asking, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The answer, as Cat so eloquently states, “Depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” This is why people are paddling their creek boats on easy class 3 runs, and there has been a recent scurry to buy up older longer pre-2000 playboats out of ex-paddlers back yards: Craigslist has become the treasure trove of modern long boater.
ThePADDLER 150 Ask a paddler why they’re on a class 3 run in a creek boat, and they’ll tell you about all the cool moves on the river to make, fast eddies to zoom through, slots to squeeze between, mini boofs to spin off and some on-the-fly waves to hit. And they’re absolutely right. It’s just the wrong boat for the job. So recently we’ve seen the manufacturers start to come out with progressively longer and longer river playful boats. While some of these are still well under eight-foot, they are a good bit longer than a freestyle boat, and they do open up some more river possibilities.
Glide and carrying speed
Most creek boats nowadays are in the nine-foot range (270cm) and there is a good reason why they’re so fun to paddle. Somewhere around eight and a half to nine-foot, boats get back their glide and carrying speed, and this takes another giant leap in speed and glide as you approach ten-foot. Ironically, an eight-foot boat paddles more like a longer six-foot boat than a shorter ten-foot boat. While there are some decent sub eight-foot new style river play boats, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus more on the longer boats that truly do bring back a sense of being able to use the whole river, and exploit all its features. Photo: Pat Keller
Not everyone is looking for the same thing either, and this is natural. The current main focus is on ‘creekish’ style boats with squished tails. Given the predominance, especially in Europe, of alpine style rivers, it’s only natural that a rockered buoyant bow is desirable, while the squished tail opens up some of the possibilities of tail squirts, rock splats and more dynamic wave surfing than your average creeker. Some have displacement hulls, like the popular Braap, which keeps focused mainly on running hard creeks with some ‘play’ thrown in, while others are full planning hulls like the Gonzo, and are focused more as ‘all river’ playboats, with some ‘creek' thrown in. Between these two are a slew of varying interpretations with degrees of squirtability, bow volume, and semi-planing hulls. It’s all about where you live and paddle as to which is going to be the most fun.
But there is another alternative too. One which, so far has been largely unexplored, except in the resurgence of the popularity of old recovered boats like the Dagger RPM, and Savage Scorpion for example. Both really long (by today’s standards), and with more balanced nose and tail volumes than the new Braaps and Gonzos, these boats really allow you go back to a time where you’d explore every ripple, seam, splatable rock, and surfable hole or wave you could find. But the displacement hull on these older boats effectively excludes the last 20 years of design and paddling progression.There is no reason why you have to give up all the cool wave surfing moves we’ve mastered, just to have some speed and to explore your favourite rivers all over again. For my own personal paddling enjoyment, I’ve addressed this with a new design, the 303, and I’m sure others will be right behind me with a number of variations on the theme. I was looking for the same ‘back to basics’ river exploration as many, but I had no interest in making my creek boat, no matter how great it is at creeking, my daily paddler. Even the Gonzo, as remarkable as it is, wasn’t what I wanted. The joy that the 303 has brought back to paddling for me was one that I’d lost in the early 2000s, when I effectively stopped kayaking and went surfing full time (making it as far as the SUP surfing world cup). I was not alone, as paddlers abandoned their boats for kiteboards, mountain bikes and so on will attest – paddling got uninteresting (a bizarre concept when you consider what the young paddlers are doing today in freestyle boats on big waves).
Drone images:Yannick Larouche
While I could, now well past the peak of my paddling career, go to the Lachines in my 14lbs ultra explosive, air grabbing six-foot Super Sic and go bigger and do more than I ever could in the past - after about two weeks I’d once more lost interest; and I live at the greatest playboating spot in the world. For me, throwing an endless series of aerial moves was like Jenim Dibie’s Calligraphy of God, “This empty shell holds nothing but the echoes of what was.” Once I had my 303 prototype, I barely paddled anything else at the Lachines, (and consequently sold the Super Sic) surfing a half dozen waves, and squirting countless eddies and boils, between the put-in and the infamous Big Joe wave. Once at the main play spot, I was able to effortlessly jump from one wave to another, and back, while others spend half their session attaining back up the eddies. But even on my 30m3/s (900cfs) local class 3 play run, I have more fun with my long scything blade of a kayak than in anything else; squirting, splatting, cartwheeling and surfing every micro
feature I can find, racing from eddy to eddy making imaginary slalom moves, only to break up this set of invisible gates to pause for a giant stalled stern squirt.
In hindsight, the return of long boating was a foreseeable inevitability. Just look at surfing, where long boarding has had a remarkable resurgence in popularity in the last decade, and surf paddle boarding arrived with an explosion, taking the ease and enjoyment of long boarding to an entirely new level (the surfing equivalent of putting a planing hull on an old school long kayak). If you’re old and broken, like I am, these new long boats are really opening up doors to a new way of paddling the old way, and if you only learned to paddle after the short boat revolution, they’re bringing to you new ways of exploring your same rivers, making paddling them new and refreshing again. I believe Suanne Laquer must have been referring inadvertently to the return of long boating when she proclaimed, “You’re the best thing to ever happen to me twice.”
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Photos and story: Joe Thwaites Kayaker: Sam Ellis
As a brand owner and experienced paddle surfer, surfer I’d been looking at white water SUP for some time but ‘the scene’ (well the one that piqued my interest anyway) seemed to be largely happening across the pond. So when I got the opportunity to hook up with a seasoned kayaker who was interested in giving SUP a go in his native environment, I jumped at the chance to get involved! Originally I thought I’d actually be getting in the water too with a knowledgeable river rat on hand, who’d save me from drowning if things went south.
After the usual stoke-rich Facebook messages and pre-mission phone call as is often the way in this game, I was as excited as a small child on Christmas Eve. Cameras charged, drone tested and packed, assortment of kit at the ready, I set off on a two-hour trip down to North Yorkshire, not really sure what to expect.
After a few choice words with himself,
Yorkâ€™s own viking grew some stones and headed for the lip with a determined look on his face
Sam Ellis has been in the white water game for years and has paddled some of the world’s most challenging rivers and has a string of first descents to his credit, so I certainly felt like I was in safe hands. Finding Keld and indeed Sam in a remote, no signal location was more of a challenge than I had hoped for but finally our paths crossed and we went for a look at the river to see what was possible. Unfortunately the water wasn’t quite high enough, so it looked like my fun would be kerbed this time, as the risk of injury outweighed the opportunity to fuel my ego that I was a natural at all things SUP – well at least in my own mind anyway. I was also lacking the body armour necessary to fling myself off a waterfall, so we decided it was best to leave Sam to it and I’d snap in the all too familiar Yorkshire drizzle. In fairness to Sam he’d done very little SUP and at a vikingsized 100kg, I did worry he might struggle to even stand up on our 10’ x 32’’ Amigo Air iSUP – despite it’s generous 220L. After some ‘test paddling’ at the foot of the first waterfall, it was clear this lad knew his craft, as he was soon paddling around like he’d been doing it six months.
We both went for a look up at the top of the falls to see where the water was flowing and to assess any hard ouchy things that might take out Sam. He was a little nervous and rightly so but after the obligatory jump in the pool depth test, it was psych yourself time, while I walked down to the bottom and negotiated the rocks, over to the best vantage point to hopefully get the money shot. The tension was unbearable. Sam’s obvious anxiety had made my mind race: what happens if he knocks himself out? I have no phone signal, am I going to have jump in and drag him out, is he going to sue Loco if he breaks his neck? Talk about a full on fanny fit but this was uncharted ground! Thankfully both of our concerns were totally OTT and after some initial thinking and probably a few choice words with himself, York’s own Viking grew some stones and headed for the lip with a determined look on his face – or the snake was half out of the cage! Boom he hit the sweet spot and nearly rode out of it, cheeky bar steward! I was rightly impressed considering the flow and the 90 degree angle. He popped up, looking stoked and before I could even show him the snaps, he was out and back off to the top for another bash – some boy! This time he managed to get a full on boof stroke in and his projection was much better but sadly the side fins caught on a ledge on the way down, which catapulted him over the bars. You could see his confidence growing and like any seasoned pro, he was back on it and we repeated the process until I was happy we had a keeper.
I thought that was it but big Sam had a trump card up his drysuit-clad sleeve and after a quick refuel we jumped back in the vans and headed back to Keld. After a very muddy and semi treacherous walk (at least for me in my civvies), which involved some abseiling, which is always fun with an iSUP/paddle and fully laden camera gear, we reached two larger waterfalls downstream. Now this was the real deal, a tenfooter and a 25-footer, which looked bloody terrifying with a cliff wall you could easily smash into and slide down Wile E. Coyote style!
Zero room for any error
Again risk assessments were justified, so we went and had a look at both.The big one presented zero room for any error with a low flow, so it was decided to leave that for me to first descent another day, wearing a chainmail suit and with half a bottle of Scotch in me, for the necessary kahunas! So we concentrated on attacking the smaller tenfooter. Sam did his usual checks while I scrambled across the rocks to the mid-river outcrop to set up with my camera. The rain had stopped for a minute and the light was better than we could of hoped for, so I gave Sam the nod after some more deep breaths. He edged out from the eddy and headed for the shallow, jagged lip. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Sam Ellis flying forwards Superman style due to the fins getting caught again. I was glad to see him breach the surface, as it looked like he’d taken a proper slap – belly flop style. Thankfully he’s an ex-rugby league unit, so he just shook it off and was soon getting out and wanting a look at the photos. I sensed he was less keen to do this one again but the cover shot we wanted hadn’t happened, so it was a quick abseil back up to the top iSUP in hand for round two. He deserved a medal just for that in my book.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s
Sam Ellis flying forwards superman style due to the fins getting caught again
ThePADDLER 162 Thankfully his second attempt was much more successful and his exit into the water didn’t look quite as painful, moreover we had a couple of potential keepers! It was getting on, so it was agreed he’d have one more attempt then we’d call it a day as he wanted to get back to York for some family time and I still had to get back to South Shields. I couldn’t have asked for more on the final attempt, all sponsors, which including Kokatat, VE Paddles and or course Loco Surfing would be kept VERY happy with these stills.
The money shot.
After a couple of obligatory lifestyle shots we both scaled K2 and headed back to the car park to de-mud before heading off to a little café in
Keld for a well-earned brew and caramel shortbread, which is highly recommended if you’re ever up in that neck of the woods. Destruction testing at its finest for our standard construction all-round iSUP, which looked as new when it went back in the bag and a new contact with a fellow water nut – so no complaints.
I’m told I’ll get to pop my ‘falls cherry’ next time it rains, so I’m amped for that and I’m hoping Sam will also introduce me to some standing waves, where I can show him what I can do.
SUP Mag UK cover for the autumn issue.
S t a n d
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CROATIAN CHRONICLES Simon Winkley FRESHWATER BAY & THE NEEDLES Jason Swain LADIES STEP UP! OLYMPIC SUP Will Satch COTTAGE INDUSTRY shaping
ISSN 2397-8597 October 2017
OPINIONS Bryce Dyer, Dave Adams, Joe Thwaites TONY BAIN'S SUP knowledge SCOT SUP wilderness BEHIND THE BRAND SBS GEAR TESTS APLENTY
A W A R D W I N N I N G P O R TA B L E M A R I N E S T E R E O
HISTORY M A K I N G
Story: Paul Hyman Photos: Paul Hyman and Allistair Swinsco The tide is high as first light comes up over the river Thames.The river is already a bustle with the watermen of today, a hundred years of heritage can be felt in the air as countless numbers of rowing club athletes set about their Saturday morning ritual of training. Thereâ€™s a real feel of competitive sportsmanship about the place as boats and skulls move up and down the river, coaches and cox-men calling out with strict voices.The Thames is a river that has always bought life to the city of London, ebbing and flowing, giving this great city its life blood to thrive. It has many traditions and sports come and go, but Father Thames can now add to its sporting history stand up paddling (SUP). ThePADDLER 165
Walking on water
The sport of SUP has become more and more popular and accessible over the last few years, with many clubs springing up around the country giving the opportunity to anyone who takes the challenge. Many have described it like walking on water and as a great form of exercise, it’s understandable that the growth has been rapid. Keen competitors unload their SUP boards, integrating into an already busy riverside sprawling with rowing craft and weekenders up early to soak up the atmosphere of this exciting place. SUP’ers as they are affectionately known, know something special is happening here. In only its 2nd year, having originally piloted in 2016, the London river authorities have
given permission for the Big Ben Challenge to paddle and race 10km and 20km from Putney Bridge to Big Ben, returning back on their challenge in front of the houses of parliament at Westminster, and then heading back with the turn of tide. This is something up until now that was considered too dangerous to under take due to the strong currents and busy river traffic. The challenge has a competitive field of paddlers ready to take on the fast pace, with great kudos involved, coupled with a handsome prize purse, many have travelled from far and wide to participate. Above all, there’s an underlying feel that all here are privileged and excited about the experience.
London’s iconic bridges
On busy streets running along the Thames, bystanders crowd around the start line, looking on with intrigue at the spectacle of this new and fast growing sport. The challenge starts with great anticipation at the starting whistle as the 10km “challenge SUP’ers’’ command the power of the Thames’ full flow aiding them on their swift departure, a journey which will take in many of the London’s iconic bridges and sights.
The 20km racers soon follow suit with an explosive start showing the skill and stamina of both male and female paddlers competing side by side, quickly flying off out of view, soon passing under Putney bridge. The momentum of the water’s fast flow makes for an exhilarating paddle as the SUP’ers seek out its fastest current. Passing under bridge after bridge, paddlers witness multiple vistas of this cities vast and varied landscape, heritage and modernism thriving side by side. Londoners going about their business stop to cheer and encourage the paddlers as they powerfully glide by.
UK’s seat of power
The paddlers soon come alongside the UK’s seat of power, the magnificent Houses of Parliament. With the ever watchful face of Big Ben signalling to one and all the turning point barge, the paddlers work harder than ever to compete against the swirling waters as the Thames tide starts to turn. The SUP’ers crossing the river have to use all their skills to command the balance of their boards. Seeing the waters gradually rising lifts the spirits of the now tiring competitors on he return paddle back to the start. On their journey new sights
Bill Bailey and Paul Hyman
Glenn Eldridge and Paul Hyman
catch their attention, helping to combat the feeling of fatigue, as parks, grand buildings, heliports and boats slip by with every paddle stroke. Each paddler concludes the journey passing under the last bridge at Putney. Smiles radiate as they give their last efforts to cross the finish line of their personal journey with great gusto
Stories of the experience
Finishing paddlers wade out of the waters to cheers and claps from bystanders, friends and loved ones. Waiting on the water’s edge, paddlers who have finished, encourage the achievements of all who have partaken in this epic journey. Many stories of the experience are shared right there and then on the banks with hearty laughing, closely followed by groans as stiff and sore muscles carry boards off the shoreline The festival feeling rose in the air as SUP’ers joined the frivolities and music on the riverside at the Foreshore Festival event. Crowds gathered as the organisers took great pride in announcing the achievements of the SUP paddlers at the prize giving, with all involved cheering and showing that they truly enjoyed the privilege of taking part. As the SUP’ers slowly started to disperse and the tide fully returned, nobody was left in any doubt that this event would be back too. Big Ben had indeed seen all paddlers achieve their individual goals. The clock will chime at midnight on New Year’s Eve, signalling to all that 2018 will bring a fresh challenge for all SUP’ers to participate at, with friends new and old, once again enjoying this epic paddle.
INTRODUCING THE H4
THE HERON 4METER IS A FAST AND STABLE PADDLE BOARD BORN ON THE RIVER THAMES MADE FOR THE URBAN EXPLORER, CAPABLE OF ADVENTURES FAR BEYOND THE CITY. BILLBOARDSUP.COM
The International magazine for recreational paddlers. The best for all paddling watersports including whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, exp...
Published on Nov 9, 2017
The International magazine for recreational paddlers. The best for all paddling watersports including whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, exp...