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PADD PD DE LR L ER The International magazine for recreational paddlers Issue 40 Early Spring 2018

GOLDEN GATE Roger Aguirre Smith Paddle


OUTFITTING Corran Addison The lost art of

ABYSSMO Jakub Sedivy

NEPAL Ben Longhurst

Sea kayak

Seasonal Delights

Peruvian WW

COACHING Jennifer H.Yearley


SARAH OUTEN Interview by Sonja Jones

PATAGONIA Greg Paquin The ice fields of

MADNESS Angela Ward & Adam Evans Morar

CANOE FOCUS Pick your adventure on a challenge route 24-page

Coach Award launch Hurley Classic 2018 Intro toTootega and Silverbirch



Guy Dresser



Paddling P ddli paradise di off


Markus Stehböck

Oliver Bunn

World Paddle


Gorges duTarn





foreword ‘Our special sixth year’

I only pop up once in a while, in fact the last time was to celebrate the Paddler’s third year anniversary when I last penned a foreword for the magazine… and thank God for that I hear you say! So what’s so special this time? Well, quite a lot actually. A few weeks after the Paddler’s fifth birthday in October last year, we sat down with British Canoeing to discuss a new partnership. The result, is as you see in this issue, BC’s Canoe Focus has now been incorporated into the Paddler as a 24-page insert. It means the free to read digital version of the Paddler will now be made available to all British Canoeing members. Perhaps more significantly, is the decision to produce a litho printed, perfect bound issue, where two will be posted to each BC affiliated club and centre in the UK, plus over 1,000 for current and new subscribers.This figure we expect to grow rapidly as BC market the printed version to their membership at a reduced cost. This is as a direct result of members input, where a significant number indicated they would like to see the return of a printed publication. It seems that some paddlers just prefer the feel of paper, that you can take anywhere, anytime. The printed copy will not affect the digital ezine issue, that will remain free for now and in the future – guaranteed. So here you have it and hopefully it will be what members and non-members would all wish to see. What you will read are captivating stories from the high seas to wild rivers and scenic lakes – all the ingredients that paddlers in all forms truly relish. What you will see, is stunning photography, taken in sometimes difficult conditions but always conveying the characters, the exploits, atmosphere and professionalism that embodies paddling. Aside from the stories of courage and persistence from Peru, Chile, Nepal, United States, Scotland, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, France, Greece and Albania, we have a great coaching piece on entering surf, the lost art of kayak outfitting, finished off with an interview with Sarah Outen and a Young Gun feature on 10-year old freestyler Oliver Bunn. Add to that British Canoeing’s 24-page Canoe Focus and you have a truly eclectic publication to kick off what will be a new era for the Paddler magazine. Past Paddler’s have divided the contents into ‘canoe’,

‘kayak’, and ‘salty’ sections – that’s no longer going to be the case as we are receiving many queries and future articles on SUP and rafting – so we’re going to mix it all up, after all our call sign has always been, “If you can paddle it, then we’ll feature it.” We have been truly inspired by you paddlers out there who are ever-willing, generously, without hesitation and with always the very best of intent, to share your fantastic stories of your paddles and wanderings in the most stunning of locations and that in turn inspires us to do our very best to make that feature stand off the page. Going now into our sixth year, it only seems appropriate to extend our thanks and deepest appreciation to all you fantastic paddlers, for providing us with your beautiful, insightful stories with stunning photography to boot!. A big thank you too for British Canoeing, who also shared our vision of a publication for every type of paddler out there. So wherever you may be, please keep paddling, keep sharing and we’ll do all we can to spread your tales, recollections, advice and experience to fellow paddlers here, there and everywhere… The printed edition of the Paddler is for those who prefer paper to screens. A minimum of 132 pages, incorporating the new 24-page Canoe Focus and delivered direct to your door every two months. Available for purchase at: English-based BC members can now subscribe for the print edition of the Paddler at the BC member reduced cost of £3.99 per single issue or £20.99 for the annual six-issue subscription: benefits/communications/



Paddle Golden Gate, San Francisco, California by Mark Boyd Editor

Peter Tranter Tel: (01480) 465081 Mob: 07411 005824


2b Graphic Design Limited

Advertising sales

Anne Egan Tel: (01480) 465081


Apurimac River, Peru. Photo by Jakub Sedivy Thank you to: Rob van Bommel, Jens Thybo, Justine Curgenven, Phil Carr, Mark Boyd, Mark Berger, Andrew ‘Jacko’ Jackson and Miki Miyashiro for all your help in putting this issue together.

Not all contributors are professional writers and photographers, so don’t be put off writing because you have no experience! The Paddler ezine is all about paddler to paddler dialogue: a paddler’s magazine written by paddlers. Next issue is Late Spring 2018 with a deadline of submissions on Mar 14th 2018. Technical Information: Contributions preferably as a Microsoft Word file with 1200-2000 words, emailed to 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 40 Early Spring 2018

009 World Paddle Awards 2017 From Silkeborg, Denmark by Guy Dresser

015 Seasonal Delights

Sarah Outen interview by Sonja Jones

020 Testing, testing & new kit

Plenty of kit reviewed by our contributors

028 United States

Paddle Golden Gate 2018 by Roger Aguirre Smith

038 Young gun

Freestyle’s Oliver Bunn

044 Peru

Abyssmo by Jakub Sedivy

054 Scotland

Morar madness by Angela Ward & Adam Evans

067 Canoe Focus

British Canoeing’s 24-page magazine

092 Sea kayak coaching

Getting through the surf by Jennifer H.Yearley

104 Nepal

SUP’ing the Kali Gandaki by Ben Longhurst

114 Chile

The ice fields of Patagonia by Greg Paquin

124 European WW

Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and France by Oli Kershaw

132 Outfitting

The lost art by Corran Addison

138 France

The Gorges du Tarn by Mal Grey

152 Greece and Albania

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The Greek paddle paradise by Markus Stehböck

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Text: Guy Dresser Photos: Jens Thybo The World Paddle Awards took place late last month [24th February] in Silkeborg, Denmark at a highly successful gala dinner attended by some of the biggest names in paddlesport. Now in their fourth edition, the WPA gains in stature every year, attracting global interest in its celebration of the most remarkable individuals in the world of paddlesports. The Awards recognize not just the leading athletes across all disciplines, but all the others who put their time and effort into the sport – from coaches and officials, to club managers, event organizers and media outfits. Stars of the show in Silkeborg included South Africa’s 10-time World Champion Hank McGregor, who won the WPA Academy award in recognition of his dominance of marathon canoeing and ocean racing. Fresh from victory in the 2018 Dusi Canoe Marathon the previous weekend, McGregor said he was, “Delighted” with the WPA recognition and indicated he was not done yet, promising more great results later this season.

“I’m as hungry for success now as I ever have been and am looking forward to continue competing around the world this year,” he said.

2017 World Paddle Awards winners (L to R) Ole Torp (DEN). Inducted to the WPA Academy. Industry Professional: Pau 2017 - ICF World Championships Canoe Slalom and Wildwater Canoeing (FRA). Team L to R: Clemence Mathieu, Christophe Prigent and Jean Zoungrana. Media Professional: Nina Jelenc (SLO). Foundation Award: Dennis Newton (GBR). Junior: Barbora Dimovova (CZE). Sportswoman: Jessica Fox (AUS). Lifetime Achievement: Finn Larsen (DEN). Inducted to the WPA Academy. Academy Award: Hank McGregor (RSA). Inducted to the WPA Academy.

Right Hank McGregor (RSA) collecting his trophy from Ivan Lawler.



Australia’s 19-time World Champion Jess Fox, was voted Sportswoman of the Year after becoming the first woman to win five [senior] world championship slalom titles. She told Master of Ceremonies Ivan Lawler, the British Canoeing President and five-time World Champion, that 2017 had not been her bestever season. Fox ended her consecutive run of C1 world championship titles, a loss she described as a, “Massive disappointment”, but like all setbacks it had been an opportunity to learn something about herself, she said.

Right: Peter Kauzer via video from Australia Below: Jess Fox

“The trajectory to success is not a straight line,” she told Lawler after accepting her Golden Paddle. “It’s about bouncing back and I’ve learned to do that. My aim is still on the 2020 Olympic Games. I have a bronze and a silver medal, so there’s definitely one left to get. It’s unfinished business.” Slovenian Olympic Silver medalist Peter Kauzer, who has claimed a medal at every major event in the sport, won the Sportsman of the Year award. He joined the Awards via video from Australia where he’s on a three-month training camp and said he remained focused on a better-than-ever season in 2018.

The winners of the awards each receive the Golden Paddle, a symbol of how each discipline, however different in sensation it may be, requires a paddle used from a boat on the water. Other winners included Barbara Dimovova from the Czech Republic, who picked up the Junior of the Year award. She has dominated the junior women’s single class in Wildwater racing, her results including four medals at the Junior World Championships in Murau, Austria.

There was also recognition for those working behind the scenes. Slovenian photographer and journalist Nina Jelenc won the Media Professional of the Year for her work at the European Canoe Association and for the International Canoe Federation’s Planet Canoe magazine.The media category was hotly contested with recognition for the Paddler Ezine, published by Peter Tranter and Luis Pedro Abreu, whose website has become the world’s most popular platform for surf kayaking and waveski.

Above: Nina Jelenc Left: Barbara Dimovova



Dennis Newton from Great Britain won the WPA’s Foundation Award for his role in coaching and growing the sport of freestyle kayaking. With over 25 World Championship medals and 30 European Championship medals, Dennis is by far one of the most medal abundant coaches in paddlesports. A popular local winner was Denmark’s Finn Larsen, recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award for having introduced generations of world-class athletes into canoeing and his sterling work promoting his home club Maribo Kajakklub around the world on social media.

Below: Dennis Newton

The organizing team of the 2017 World Championships in Pau, France picked up Industry Professional of the Year after staging the ‘giant triple’, the World Championships for Canoe Slalom, Wildwater, and Extreme Slalom simultaneously – the first time this has ever been achieved.

There was a special award for Andre Santos, Chief Executive Officer of NELO Kayaks, now the world’s largest maker of competitive canoes. The company is an Official Partner of the WPA and a longstanding supporter of numerous top athletes worldwide. Santos received an inscribed luxury timepiece in recognition of NELO’s contribution to the sport from Canadian Olympic kayak medalist Mark de Jonge, who runs de Jonge Watch. Rob van Bommel, the World Paddle Awards founder and head of independent media company Sportscene, said another successful edition of the Awards confirmed the worldwide support for initiatives that unite all paddlesports.

“It’s at times like these that you realize there is so much that we all have in common,” he said. “We have a fantastically diverse sport and seeing all these top people, whether they’re competitors or doing their thing on the bank, come together is very rewarding.We’re looking forward to many more years of the World Paddle Awards.”

Above (L to R): Christophe Prigent Jean Zoungrana Clemence Mathieu Left: Barbora Dimovova and Jessica Fox



tour dates

Younguns Meet the Stars

Saturday 17th March

As part of the Hurley classic.

*Nene, Northampton

Saturday 28th April

9am - 10am Registration, 10am start.

*Holme Pierrepont, Nottingham

Saturday 2nd June

9am - 10am Registration, 10am start.

Paddle in the Park, Nottingham

Sunday 3rd June

More details TBA by HPP, check their website.

*Tryweryn, North Wales

Saturday 30th June & Sunday 1st July

9am - 10am Registration, 10am start both days.

*Bolters, Maidenhead, London

Saturday 15th September

10am - 11am Registration, 11am start.

* These events are part of the tour and will go toward the final results.

Check out our Facebook page and website for more details! The Younguns Freestyle Tour is open to any paddlers who are aged 18 and under on January 1st 2018. We aim to encourage new paddlers into the sport in a safe and friendly environment. The only thing you need is a reasonable white water roll and a lot of energy and enthusiasm! Furthermore parents are free to join their child on the water throughout the day.

The Doggy Paddle is an 18-mile charity paddle for Guide Dogs for the Blind Association The paddle is a flatwater recreational paddle from Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon, taking place on the Sunday 22nd July 2018. Kayak/canoe/SUP this beautiful stretch of the River Leam & Avon. The trip takes you from Royal Leamington Spa, through the spectacular grounds of Warwick Castle and Charlecote Park, ending in historic Stratford-upon-Avon.



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Recently, I have seen a surge in self proclaimed ‘adventurers’, spreading the messages of their exploits through prolific tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming,Vlogging… all of the electronic ‘ings’. Sharing the spirit of adventure has its place in inspiring others to DO, especially those that promote themselves as normal people doing extraordinary things, offering the idea that, “YES, YOU TOO, holding your head in despair at your desk, YES, YOU, you can be like me and dangle from a cliff edge in Thailand or kayak the Amazon.” If it didn't excite, there wouldn't be such huge online communities devoted to it; even if people simply use these Twits and Faceflap stories as adventure porn to feed an itch, rather than ACTUALLY doing. I have been known to make a few videos (usually to say thanks to sponsors) and send a few e-shout-outs (maybe to brag, just a smidge), I'd be lying if I haven't, but usually, most activity is after exploration, or at the end of the day whilst winding down, as a means of reflection and to document awesome times for older, future me… and maybe show the grandkids that I might have been slightly cool once. When adventuring, where possible, I try to remain in the moment, soaking up every inch of the expedition in hand such as how sleet stings on my face, or how beautiful the cormorant's plumage is when it majestically spread its wings, sat on a rock, glistening green and blacks in the sun.

Last year I was invited on a little kayaking trip; I was having a lovely time with a new friend paddling along to brambles over hanging the water, eating ripe and squishy wild blackberries that were hanging in grapelike bunches – scrunching our faces and giggling like children when tasting a particularly sour one. Our hearts skipped a beat as we saw a flash of electric blue dart between the trees – it was a Kingfisher. My whole life, that has been the one bird in the UK I have been desperate to see and there it was. Although I couldn’t see it clearly as it was so fast and small, it was enough to know that I was in the presence of a tropical beauty. However, our mindful paddles were somewhat disrupted by team mates constantly glued to their phones Tweeting, Facebooking, taking photos and videos of their lunches and saying thank you to the million and one sponsors that provided it. One girl fell into the water unexpectedly, got back into her boat, this time with someone filming it as she capsized again on purpose, acting to the camera like it had just happened. I mean – was that really necessary? All the while they’ve missed special moments like greedily gobbling blackberries, seeing the magnificent King Fisher and even the simple pleasure of taking time out to munch a sandwich whilst chatting to people that could be new friends, if they gave it a minute. The spirit of adventure means different things to everyone; although I am sure that to most it doesn’t involve seeing the trip through a screen.

Sarah Outen

To me, adventures, no matter how big or small are a way to re-set the body and mind by being immersed in Mother Nature; they shouldn’t be concerned with the noise of external life. It is a time to ‘just be’ in the task, surroundings and companions. Disillusioned with the disingenuity I witnessed on that trip and through my recent observations of online activities by a myriad of people promoting this somewhat a la mode idea of ‘adventure’, I was keen to seek inspiration by a truly authentic explorer; I found, Sarah Outen.



ThePADDLER 16 Sarah Outen is best known for her long, remote and often solo journeys by land and sea. She rowed across the Indian Ocean solo in 2009 and in 2011 embarked on a bid to loop the planet using human power by rowing boat, bike and kayak. It was planned to take 2.5 years, but in the end took 4.5 years to return home. Beyond the journey itself, the goals were to connect with communities and inspire young people, as well as raising money for charities. Sarah has raised nearly £100K through her adventures for charities and connected with tens of thousands of young people. She is currently making a film of her London2London: Via the World journey with award winning director Jen Randall (due Autumn 2018) and her latest book 'Dare to Do' was published in 2016. Married to Lucy, she lives in Oxfordshire and is currently working on various projects.

Your book, Dare to Do (a wonderful read by the way!) tells me about countless wild encounters on your adventures – do you hold any particularly strong in your heart? Glad you enjoyed the book - it was a mission to write. I love wildlife and I love the close encounters that you get while travelling slowly and quietly, and especially where you are immersed in an environment for a long period of time. My months on the oceans are some of my favourite for the wildlife. Looking into the eyes of a herd of four sperm whales, just a few metres from my tiny boat out in the Atlantic in 2015 is a particularly strong memory. These two mums and calves were logging and rolling at the surface, occasionally spyhopping, often opening their jaws. I saw their huge pink tongues and pegged teeth. It was incredible - and I don't use that word lightly.

I caught up with Sarah to learn more from the woman herself about her truly wild explorations.

What does adventure mean to you? Adventuring and journeying means so many different things to me. It is about release and holding, about inspiration and teaching, it is about space and peace, about energy and healing, about restoration and challenge. It is about being and doing in our most natural environment, I think. In short, it is essential – I couldn’t live without it.

Most adventurers, big and small, have a luxury item that they take with them – what’s yours and why? I have taken a teeny bottle of perfume on all my rowing trips – it’s such a delicious treat for making the cabin smell different. A bottle of nail polish, too, is great for making your toenails a fun colour. Spending so long staring at your feet while rowing, these things make a difference.

I saw your paddle buddy Justine Curgenven talk about your naked wild bear encounter - I'd love to hear the story again...I also happen to know a couple of my friends would too! During our kayak expedition through the Aleutians and Alaskan peninsula we encountered grizzly bears. Having being told by everyone ahead of that stretch that the bears would run away, we quickly found that they were very curious. One day I was having a wash in a stream when I noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye. Looking up I spotted that what I thought was Justine was actually a grizzly bear, making his way down the creek towards me. When I turned and ran, the bear (obviously) trotted after me to see what all the fuss was about. Happily, my clothes on the gravel bank distracted him long enough for me to get back to Justine and for us to shout and throw rocks to send him on his way. It was hilarious to watch back on video afterwards but pretty hair-raising at the time.

Bears aside, did you ever have any wild encounters, or moments with Mother Nature when on the water where you thought, "Hmmmmmmmmm, no good can come of this, I may never return from the murky depths?” I had plenty of moments when I thought that the conditions would overwhelm me and a few moments alongside cow-sized sealions in the kayak or swimming-pool sized whales in my rowing boat. The Pacific tropical storm of 2012 (I had to be rescued after this); tidal craziness in the Aleutians on the crossing from the Islands of the Four Mountains to Umnak, which threatened to sweep us out to sea are two particular memories that come to mind.

Our consumerist, wasteful society is having far reaching, irreparable


It cheers me to hear that you relaunched Petrels from their pirate like boat hijacking mission (read the book, people) but sometimes our wild encounters aren’t always so lovely as your petrels and cetaceans. Only last year I was sea kayaking in Menorca and found myself having to rescue a sea-gull from drowning in the water due to fishing line and a hook tangled round him. Have you witnessed any wild horrors on your travels? Seeing plastics thousands of miles out to sea and on the remotest coastlines always really saddens me – our consumerist, wasteful society is having far reaching, irreparable consequences. To think that the bellies of those giant sperm whales I saw are choked with plastic bags and the graceful albatrosses are returning home and feeding their chicks plastics that will make them starve is tragic. It is all the more so because it is preventable – we can all reduce our plastics and footprint and consume more consciously.

When it comes to the idea of solo adventure, I think the notion of being vulnerable to other humans would unnerve me most. What were your biggest fears? It was interesting to me to see the differences in perceived fears and threats between myself, my partner and my mum. For me it was road traffic that I felt was my biggest threat. For Lucy it was bears. For my mum it was people. As it turns out, I was lucky on all those fronts and it was in fact my emotional and physical health that came the closest to really truly harming me. Do you think it’s important for water users to help contribute to scientific research about our lakes, rivers, and oceans? Absolutely. There’s a great project being run by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, encouraging citizen science in the collection of water samples from wherever they are and then sending them back to them for analysis. I did this on the Atlantic stage of my journey. Across my 11 samples there were 27 pieces of micro plastics, which is shocking.

Now let's go a little off piste – What's the weirdest thing you've eaten on your travels, and how did it come about? In China I was invited to an impromptu banquet held in our honour (I was cycling with a Chinese guy at the time) and at one point a sheep's head was passed around the table. As guest of honour I was handed this sheep's head first. I think I got some nostril, which I found very difficult to swallow - and chewing was out of the question!


ThePADDLER 18 When you’re kayaking long distances, we all need to pee, and it's not like us ladies can create a fountain from our cockpits... do you have any top tips? If you can get ashore swiftly and easily, that’s always the best bet – stretch your legs and empty. But in tricky access areas or during long crossings it will need to happen in the boat. Depending on the weather and conditions (and therefore clothing and safety) and whether you are solo or in groups will affect how you do it. I’ve heard of some ladies using funnels or wide neck bottles and going while sitting down.

Justine Curgenven and Sarah Outen, Russia 2011

Sorry gents but how about girly times of the month, how do you deal with that on remote trips? I use a moon cup - I find it to be the cleanest and easiest solution. There is no waste, so it’s good for the environment and it's reusable so there’s no need to try and find supplies while you are away. I don’t react well to the combined pill and so I have used a mirena coil to try and control mine a bit (they get very heavy) and, sometimes I will take norethisterone with me to stop bleeding.

Aleutians 2014

On my longer kayak journeys I’ve always been with another paddler and so balanced between the two boats – one foot in my boat and one foot on the back of the other’s boat. It’s all about taking your time so as not to make mistakes but also being quick so as not to get a wave in your boat/get tipped in/blown backwards, etc.You get to know your kayak buddy very well! Racing in the Devizes to Westminster race a few years ago, I was told that people just peed in the boat. At the time I thought that was gross and I would definitely get out but, sure enough, in the first warm up race I just went with the flow, so to speak. I was so embarrassed about the smells that the race volunteers would be met with at the finish, 125 miles down the line, as they helped us out of our boats at Westminster.

It is really sad that there is still so much inequality and taboo related to love, sex and marriage but I am happy to be open and honest about my

relationship with Lucy I love how open you are about your relationship with Lucy; I'm getting married to my partner Emily in April – very exciting! How open were you about your sexuality on your travels when in the company of new people? Were there any particular places you thought, “Hmmm no, I'm absolutely being heterosexual should anyone ask me about my relationship status,” due to perhaps your safety or cultural differences? Congratulations on your wedding to be! I met Lucy while I was home during my L2L journey in 2013, following my rescue from the Pacific six months previously. I have always been very open about our relationship both on social media, film, etc and when meeting people on the road. Equally there were a couple of times in North America when I didn’t share details about who I was engaged to, for example, for the homophobic vibes I was getting from a situation. I would have needed to be careful in some countries in Asia, I think, due to illegality or persecution of same sex relationships. On a separate trip to Dubai in 2017 Lucy and I had to pretend we were friends and during a school visit I was warned not to mention anything in

relation to my relationship with Lucy. It is really sad that there is still so much inequality and taboo related to love, sex and marriage but I am happy to be open and honest about my relationship with Lucy. Here’s a big shout out to all those folks currently not feeling able to openly be who you are, all of the time – may this be the year for you. It has been a pleasure interviewing such an authentic adventurer, I’m feeling inspired, and can’t wait to see her film, London2London: Via the World when it’s released later this year.

If you’d like to follow Sarah and her explorations, or even buy a copy of her gripping book, ‘Dare to Do’, check out her website: ThePADDLER 19


Testing, Kitsound Immerse Active Wireless Sports Headphones By Peter Tranter

Kitsound have come out with a neat pair of headphones for the outdoors, with an impressive list of features including noisecancelling, impressive sound, wireless connectivity, a sweat-resistant housing, and call handling – all for a very wallet-friendly impressive price.

The first problem of listening to anything in the outdoors is noise pollution. Active noise cancellation (ANC) creates sound waves that mirror background noise in order to cancel it and the Immerse headphones do a pretty good, if not perfect job as a little can still be heard. However, in this price range it is a very neat addition, even though personally, I am always wary of using noise cancellation in the outdoors for obvious reasons. The second hurdle to negotiate are wires that tangle and hook on just about everything. The answer is wireless connectivity that removes the limitations of wired headphones with no cables to irritate using Bluetooth® V4.1 and it works a treat. The Bluetooth connectivity produces very decent sound for the price level but you will have to find the best personal setup with the differing sizes of buds and wings that are provided – it’s worth the effort though. Though the sound lacked dynamism, which is the norm in this price range, it does produce very decent results and you’ll be hard-pushed to get better audio quality at this price level. As with all the latest headphones, the Immerse has a magnetic recharging system provided in this instance by a square strip on the rear of the neckband that snaps to the charger. In theory, the charge should last for five hours and if you use the headphones without the noise cancellation, that is approximately what you will get. Use them with the ANC and they last for around three hours. So there you have it, you pay for what you get in this instance but the good news is that you will get a rugged, reliable pair of headphones and you’ll struggle to do better at this price point. Box contents l KitSound Immerse Wireless Earphones l USB charging cable l S/M/L silicone tips and stabilisers l Carry pouch l User manual Specs: Weight: Dimensions: Colours: Power type: Charge time: Connectivity: Battery life: Wireless range: Price:

15 grams 580 x 30 x 20 mm black, red lithium polymer battery 1.5 Hours Bluetooth, call-handling five hours up to 10 metres £59.99


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Duc-kit Premium Dry Bags

It’s not just straps that we have to check in the early spring but dry bags too. If you’re like me and tend to leave them in the shed, then any number of accidents may happen, including the favourite of being holed! If you do need a new one, you won’t go too wrong with the Duckit range of dry bags. Heavy duty, whilst being lightweight is the

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Helly Hansen Salt 50N Vest By Peter Tranter

What’s better than a comfy warm vest to keep the core body warm. Answer: one with a built in life vest - for that extra sense of security.The classic Salt design, now in a buoyant life vest version for added safety on the water. Helly Hansen clothing isn’t amongst the cheapest on the street and that’s reflected in the build quality of the products. From the moment you slip this vest on, the overall feeling is one of comfort and security, both provided by the snug fit.

It’s warm and nicely padded without feeling restricted and all the zips have a tough wear-resistant chunky feel to them.Two very generous fleece lined pockets to keep the coldest of hands warm and to finish off the high levels of warmth, this also applies to the neckline. Features l Full vest design l EN ISO 12402-5 certified l 50N buoyancy l Sectionized PE foam for comfort l Center front YKK® Vislon® zip entry l Fleece lined collar l YKK® Vislon® Zippered Hand warmer Pockets l Moisture wicking breathable mesh lining Colours: Navy only Price: Around £90.00; €100.00; N/A in N. America


t: +44 1629 732611 e: w: Paddler: err

ld eld. iver Der ent. Image: Pete Astles. Gear: Se i ong Jacket. iver est est PFD.


Watershed Futa Dry Bag By Phil Carr

I have been wanting to get hold of a new dry bag to carry gear in the back of my kayak for a forthcoming trip this summer. I have used loads of bags in the past but have always had to double bag gear as the roll top systems deployed on must bags will fail at some point. Usually in my case this has been due to user error! So I needed a bag that would be easy to store, seals well and fit the back of my kayak. First up is the Watershed Futa Stowfloat. This is a drybag/airbag combo designed to store gear and provide flotation in the back of a kayak. Now, all of the Watershed gear that I have ordered is in black – that is my personal preference. The Watershed Futa Stowfloat is available in black, blue, coyote (brown) and orange. You are looking at around £100 (Sterling) for this single bag. So what do you get?

Here is what Watershed say:

Stowage and flotation – the name says it all. Float bags provide kayakers with ease of rescue if they swim and ours give paddlers the added benefit of a place to keep dry gear. The Futa will fit in a wide range of boats and comes with a long inflate/deflate tube so buoyancy can be adjusted easily. The one thing that stands out with the bag when you check it out is the material is heavy duty and really feels robust. It has ripstop pattern to it and looks incredibly well put together with welded seams and barrack stitching. Since you will be putting gear into the bag that must stay dry this is reassuring. At this point it is worth mentioning that Watershed bags are designed to be waterproof even when they are submerged. This is achieved through the interlocking rubber strips (ZipDry) at the top of the bag.They provide a very neat and relatively low profile seal. Sealing the bag works in a very similar way to a plastic sandwich bag. The two parts are lined up and then pressed into place to create the seal.The seal is fairly pliable and it is very easy to do it up. I must admit that there is a knack to opening the bag.Two hyperlon type tabs are situated at the mouth of the bag and creating an S-shape with the seal allows the two parts to separate easily. Volume is around 13.3 litres which is plenty for a range of gear. This does means that if you are using in a creek boat that you'll probably still need to use the Futa in conjunction with the buoyancy bags you keep fitted in your kayak to ensure that you have enough buoyancy in play. Size wise the Futa is 91 x 47cm (tapers to 16cm). A number of straps on the bag allow you to compress the bag if required. A built-in handle has also been integrated into the system allowing the bag to be easily carried when loaded up. The tube that is used to blow up the bag is fairly substantial! I first tested the bag by blowing it up and then leaving it for a few weeks to see how the pressure would hold. A few weeks turned into almost two months and I found that some pressure had been lost. Not a great deal but I could tell that the bag was slightly softer although it had maintained its shape. The next step was to load it into a kayak wheel that I have kicking around and then filling the shell with water and the bag put in place. Once again, a test that was planned to take a few weeks ended up being over two months. Once retrieved the bag was still up, it had lost a little pressure as before but there was no sign of any water inside. In use, the bag works well.Through trial and error, I found that putting some smaller items into the bag, loading it to kayak and then filling it up worked the best. This way allowed me to maximise the space within. It also allowed me to load the bag in such a way that I didn't have my gear moving around too much. Having tested and used the Futa in anger for almost a year (and other Watershed products for much longer) I am really happy that the £100 investment will provide me with a piece of gear that will last for some time. So much so, I have ordered another one, this time in orange for the other side of my boat.

ULTRALIGHT KAYAKS award winning design, class leading construction.


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Text: Roger Aguirre Smith Photos: Roger Aguirre Smith, Mark Boyd and Mark Berger

It’s still dark, my mind in that five-forty-fiveante-meridiem-state-of-transition as I step out the front door of the Marin Headlands Hostel.Through the break in the redwood treetops I see stars, puffs of clouds and drifting fog illuminated by the moon. I marvel at the peace I feel in this protected wooded location given the one million people living just five miles away.

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Photo: Roger Aguirre Smith

Photo: Roger Aguirre Smith We motor back to check in with the classes taking advantage of the calm waters within the harbour. Gordon Brown’s ‘Boat Control Master Class’ is underway along with Sean Morley’s ‘Forward Stroke Refinement’ class. In the Coast Guard cove is Helen Wilson’s ‘Simplifying the Roll’ course. We idle to watch the students move about the harbour, my photographer’s eye is mesmerized by gliding colour reflected on liquid blue and green. Heading out The Gate, the seas come alive and we find several rock gardening classes including Bill Vonnegut’s ‘Rock Garden Skills and Safety’ getting back on the water following a lunch break at Kirby Cove. We watch these classes as they continue developing a more intimate relationship with swell, current and rock.


I arrive to an empty parking lot at the Travis Marina, a spectacular San Francisco skyline and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge washed in the early morning violet hues of a photographer’s dream. Today is day one of Paddle Golden Gate (PGG), the premier North American sea kayak symposium. I’ve arrived early to make some tea and to organize camera and kayak gear. Within an hour all available empty space will be filled with cars, kayaks, gear and paddlers filled with stoke for three days of kayak instruction from the best coaches around the globe. At the 07.30 coaches’ breakfast I walk in and briefly stand by as many of the instructors as I can without feeling like a stalker, hoping that osmosis is a real thing. The room is filled with a who’s who of sea kayak coaches; Gordon Brown, John Carmody, Justine Curgenven, Paul Kuthe, JF Marleau, Sean Morley and Helen Wilson to name a few: 41 of the top local, regional, national and international coaches will participate, all with high-level ACA and BCU credentials. The combined expedition miles alone of this coaching staff would likely approach six digits. Simply put, these men and women are the real deal and I, as well as 120 eager students, get to learn from, and paddle with these folks for three days.


My assignment for opening day is to join Steve Hayward of Sea Trek, as he captains one of two safety boats. I’ll tag along to photograph the day’s event. I toss my camera gear in Steve’s boat and we motor out of the harbour as pods of kayakers begin paddling to their assigned training areas throughout San Francisco Bay. Low fog moves in and out The Gate as clouds float higher among patches of blue sky.The scene is spectacular and remains this way the entire day.

Steve receives notification that the visibility in Raccoon Strait is down significantly so we head back in The Gate towards Tiburon and Angel Island to see (or not see) if we can help Justine’s class as they navigate from Peninsula Point to Point Stuart. Not seeing her kayak pod where we would expect, we circumnavigate Angel Island looking for them. This ‘Island in Mist’ is magical. We glide on glass as we pass civil war era structures – light and temperature constantly changing with our position around the cardinal points. We meet up with Justine’s class at Keil Cove. Our boat floats by a sea bird mass waiting for the tide to drop in order to expose herring egg-covered eel grass. Justine’s class is not the only one about to have lunch. We head back to the harbour for the 16.00 check-in, to have a cold beer and enjoy our first meal together as a tribe. Chris Hipgrave, from P&H, shares stories of his time searching for five-million missing penguins while kayaking in Antarctica.

The room is filled with a who’s who of

sea kayak coaches; Gordon Brown, John Carmody, Justine Curgenven, Paul Kuthe, JF Marleau, Sean Morley and Helen Wilson to name a few Photos: Roger Aguirre Smith

Steve and I push north through an ebbing tide, passing Yellow Bluff and the ‘Tidal Race Paddling’ class and a ‘Rough Water Rescue Skills’ class. Further up the shoreline toward Sausalito, we see the ‘Proficient Coastal Paddler’ class. Our eyes look northeast hoping to catch the glimmer of a kayak or reflecting paddle from Justine Curgenven’s ‘Alcatraz and Angel Island Tour’ as they navigate the tidal race, wind and low visibility crossing Richardson Bay to Peninsula Point.



San Francisco Bay California, United States Photo: Roger Aguirre Smith



Photo: Mark Berger

Photo: Roger Aguirre Smith

Day two: five-forty-five-ante-meridiem-state-oftransition, stars, cloudless violet hues, sunrise over San Francisco. This morning I gear up to be a safety kayaker for Paul Kuthe and David Santaniello’s ‘Advanced Rock Gardening’ class. The swell has dropped so we head to Rodeo Beach rather than paddle out The Gate. Today offers even more variety for students including Kenny Howell’s ‘Surf Ski the Gate’, ‘Sea Kayak Surfing’ with Nick Cunliffe and Chris Bensch, ‘Intro to Surf Kayaking’ with Mathew Hoff and ‘Rescues and Towing’ with John Carmody. Having been a student at a previous incarnation of PGG, The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium, it can be very difficult to select just one class each day. This year is no exception. PGG is a bi-annual symposium, now celebrating its eighth anniversary. California Canoe and Kayak has always put on a great event. Some of the instructors have been here for each event and many students

I find that the tribe that gathers inspires me to improve my skills and to keep exploring the breathtaking

California coast

come back to learn more. In the last three symposiums I’ve attended, either as a student or safety boater, I find that the tribe that gathers inspires me to improve my skills and to keep exploring the breathtaking California coast. Paul, David, myself and eight students launch off of Rodeo Beach and head south to Point Bonita for some coastal rock play. Conditions are perfect for getting students in close to (and over) rocks. I watch as Paul and David work with each student, helping to refine boat control, safety and rescue strategies and general comfort in more dynamic environments. I am thrilled to see the progression of each student over the course of the day. As we paddle back to Rodeo Beach I feel like I have several new rock gardening friends, now paddling at a higher level.

Saturday night entertainment

The tribe gathers at The Bay Model in Sausalito for dinner and Saturday night entertainment that includes a short kayaking film presented by the ocean whitewater crew, Neptune’s Rangers, and an inspiring presentation by Justine Curgenven, a serial sea kayak explorer. With bellies full of good food, beer and wine, we head back to the hostel for a well-earned night’s rest. Day three, final day: five-forty-five-ante-meridiemstate-of-transition, stars, cloudless violet hues, sunrise over San Francisco… again. Three days of sunrises so rich you can taste them. I arrive at the marina early to get my kayak kit ready, grab my camera bag and head out to photograph the magical light before the sun brushes the top of the north tower of The Bridge. Watching the students gather for the paddler meeting, you can tell their minds are overflowing, their bodies feeling the fun and stress of learning new techniques. Today is another full day with classes that include a US Coast Guard tour, ‘Boat Repair’ with Mike Kowalsky, ‘Incident Management’ with Nick Cunliffe and Bill Vonnegut, ‘San Francisco Waterfront’ with Mark Tozer and Kim Grandfield, ‘Big Water’ with Sean Morley and David Santaniello and ‘Girls Rock’ taught by PGG event organizer, Kelly Marie Henry and Laura Zulliger.

Photos: Roger Aguirre Smith


ThePADDLER 36 Perfect

Once again, as safety kayaker, I meet Sean, David and eight students at Rodeo Beach for a day of big water play. Conditions are perfect. Offshore winds greet us as we launch and head north toward Muir Beach finding a spectacular pour over that challenges all of us. We stop and play. Throughout the day I see noticeable improvements in all the students; their confidence levels are higher, their skills have improved, they appear to be less gripped and clearly having more fun. We land back at Rodeo beach at 16.00 exhausted and filled with memories to share with family and friends. This has been a fantastic event. Kelly Marie Henry, the event coordinator this year, put together a wonderful group of volunteers, kitchen staff, coaches and an offering of diverse classes for any level of sea kayaker. The venue is perfect for this symposium as are the accommodations at the Marin Headlands Hostel. As I gear down back at the Travis Marina, a buzz of stories and inspiring moments from the past few days fills the parking lot as photographer’s light is coming on for the last hour before sunset. I head into the fray of 19th street traffic as I begin the drive south to my home in Monterey. My body is exhausted, my social reservoir is full. Tomorrow I’ll drive to work and, as always, clock in and check the swell report – “I wonder where my tribe will be paddling next weekend?”

Photos: Roger Aguirre Smith


Roger Aguirre Smith is a photographer, kayaker, writer and filmmaker living on the central coast of California. He can be found photographing in the water, on the water or from the water’s edge. His photographic work has been in numerous fine art exhibitions and can be viewed at His words and images have been published in several international magazines and his short form kayak films can be found at


t: +44 1629 732611 e: w: Paddler: Doug Copper. Greenland. Image: Pete Astles. Gear: Adventure Single Jacket. Explorer Zip PFD.





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Text: Andrew ‘Jacko’ Jackson and Oliver Bunn

If you want to get into freestyle or improve your boating then the Younguns Freestyle Series (YGFS) might be just the ticket. Oliver Bunn tells the story of what they are about and his experiences amazing well in the text below. Before we get to that though a quick update on freestyle, which is in an incredible place right now: l l l l

Did you know that at the 2017 world championships, Team GB for the first time ever topped the medal tables. Many of our top athletes started on YGFS, so Oliver’s goal is a real possibility. For the first time ever, you can take a British Canoeing coaching course in freestyle! This spring, freestyle will recruit and train up 12 coaches to get out there to clubs, events and shows right across the UK. Want to be one of these people or arrange a club or event visit? In 2021 the Freestyle World Championships will be right here in Nottingham UK. It will be 30 years since the last worlds held here. Want to volunteer to be part of the team running this?

Contact GB Freestyle through our Facebook page or for more information.

Now over to Oliver… ThePADDLER 39


My first freestyle competition – Oliver Bunn aged 10 I’ve always wanted to have a go at freestyle, since watching the grainy VHS videotapes of my dad competing in the early rodeo events, but I had only just learned to roll in the pool, and didn’t have the confidence to try out the tricks on the whitewater in case I fell in. Some of my friends were telling me about the Younguns competitions, these are a series of events specially created for junior paddlers (aged under 18) and their parents, which happen across the country, where you get to practice in a safe environment and get to paddle with and be coached by some of the GB Freestyle team. These events sounded really fun, and so I convinced my dad to take me to the one of the competitions at the Nene White Water Centre. When I arrived at the venue, the nice lady taking the entries told me it didn’t matter about how good my rolling was, it’s more about having fun, and there was even a novice category where I could just have a go on an easy part of the course with others who weren’t ready for the main feature. Before the competition started, there would be a chance for some practice and so I was introduced to one of the coaches, Josh who was going to be teaching me. He reassured me and made me feel much less nervous, I even managed to learn some

new tricks! I really enjoyed it and thanks to the great coaching from Josh, I even managed to win the novice category – without swimming either! This boosted my confidence and so I was determined to practice some more at Cardiff (my local ww course).This was becoming addictive! When I heard that the next event was in Nottingham and was part of ‘Paddle in the Park’ event, my friends at Croesyceiliog Canoe Club and I hatched a plan to convince our parents to take us, as we would all get to paddle the course together! My confidence was building now, and I even got points for assisting in a rescue! I didn’t quite manage to get to all of the events last year, but I did get to paddle at some fantastic places thanks to the Younguns Freestyle competitions; Nene Whitewater Centre, Holme Pierrepont, and Boulters Lock. I won some amazing prizes, some just for taking part! I’ve had some great fun, and met many new friends. I missed out on Tryweryn and Hurley last year, however this year I hope to go to all of the events. I’m really excited about going to Hurley, as I can’t wait to go and meet more of the GB Freestyle stars there in March this year! In a few years’ time, when I’m a little older and have had some more practice, I’m going to go to the World Freestyle Championships and I’m going to win!

We donate 1% of our profit on all whitewater PFD sales to, an international campaign which supports the activities of local action groups.


Morača River, Montenegro – Andraž Krpič on the Balkan Rivers Tour eight day descent of the Morača, from source to sea. One of one of the last free-flowing large rivers of Europe, there are four dams planned along its length. For 2018 the Free Rivers Fund has awarded grants to Marañón Waterkeeper in Peru, and the Center for Environment's campaign for the Ugar Canyon in Bosnia. – photo Andraž Fijavž Bačovnik

PHANTOM 9.0 COMING SPRING 2018 Tel: 01732 886688








Story and photos: Jakub Sedivy “A gorge reminiscent of abyss, boulder choked white water, stony avalanches and

unstable weather having almost immediate effect on the water levels." I have heard many stories about the Abyss. One of those elusive places, where almost no one gets to and where one feels very small and vulnerable. I had wanted to return to the deep canyons since my last mission in Nepal. Although I had visited many absolutely beautiful canyons, none could be compared to the deep gorges of the Langu Khola in the heart of the Himalayas. However, the Apurimac turned out to be another story... The Apurimac starts high in the heart of the Peruvian Andes on the mountainside of Mismi at 5,597 metres above sea level and is one of the sources of the Amazon River. Its flow runs northwest of Cusco and its path is cut into narrow deep canyons, some over 3,000 metres. Although these are not the deepest or longest canyons in the world, their depth and especially their steepness is breathtaking. Abyssmo is at the heart of the Apurimac. Less than three hours drive from Cusco, close to the commercial stretch lies one of the toughest multi-day trips in South America.Three days of extremely hard white water, walled in deep by narrow granite walls.



The team

We all meet in Cusco. A week of waiting for runnable levels is spent by driving to the Chilca section of the Urubamba River and paddling around Cusco. On October 20, we pick up Canadian Kalab Grady and the team is complete with Nacho from Argentina, Aleix Salvat, Arnau Pons, Edu Pujol from Spain and me from the Czech Republic. At the airport we introduce Kalab to the plan Immediately and before he realizes we roll on to Puente Cunyac, the place of our launch. The calm, flowing water beneath Puente Cunyac bridge does not even hint of what awaits us. We pack quietly, divide the food and cooking equipment and gradually put on the water. The first part of day one is fast flowing flat water. The weather looks to stay good however and after the recent rains we have more water than we could wish for. We have no other choice than to hope that it is going to be just fine. After a short while, we stop for a quick lunch at the thermal springs. Short time later we say goodbye to the last bits of civilization, get back into our packed boats and nervously peek into the canyons downstream. The river is getting squeezed between the canyon walls but still flows relatively peacefully and gives us the chance to enjoy the grandiose scenery. The landscape around us is really breathtaking with cascading waterfalls and tributaries, cutting through the high walls but otherwise the canyon is undisturbed and isolated from the outside world.The river is getting steeper and the rapids start coming at us slowly but consistently. We are getting readying ourselves. It does not take long and the river literally ‘swallows’ us. Closed between two perpendicular walls are the first of many portages, and so we begin the ritual of balancing our loaded boats over large broken stones. The river is high. It does not take us long to realize but we are committed. We are left to look for lines among big rocks placed randomly in a brown monster of boiling water. Every obstacle creates the monstrous boils and pillows. In the canyon, the light does not last long, and the noise of the white water caught between the high walls merely echoes the disturbing feeling of oncoming darkness – Peru is dimming fast! Luckily, before dusk, we arrive at the Juanito camp. We look somewhat nervously at the sky, cook quickly and fall into sleeping bags with nervous expectations of tomorrow. It rains but we only took the necessary equipment, which meant our tents got left in Cusco. All of us crawl beneath a piece of overhanging rock and hope the rain will not last for long. It rains for most of the night.

The landscape around us is really breathtaking with cascading waterfalls and tributaries, cutting through

the high walls ThePADDLER 47


Apurimac River Peru Photo: Jakub Sedivy


unnerving and hard

Large boulders are covering our view into the rapids and high gradients make boat scouting ThePADDLER 50

No choice

Fortunately, the morning is clear. Nervously we cast our looks at the river flowing past our camp and hope the river will still be good to go. It has to – we have no choice! After a quick breakfast we peek through some Coca leaves into the morning breeze and hold a minute’s silence for Juanito, our beloved friend who passed away in Chile. Today is supposed to be the hardest day. The river is incredibly stacked up and feels like a never ending Wellerbrucke with high water. We feel like we are riding on the back of an angry dragon. Dodging holes and siphons, the Apurimac is a perfect example of demanding high water class V. Large boulders are covering our view into the rapids and high gradients make boat scouting unnerving and hard. According to Nacho's estimate, the river is a metre higher then on his previous descent. The rapids are different. The normal lines are closed by big holes and new passages have opened. The feeling of joy from running such a hard whitewater is accompanied by non-stop concentration on what is coming up – there are just no breaks and our minds and bodies are working on overdrive.The canyon only adds to our feelings – at some places it closes up almost completely and the river constricts to less then 10 metres across. The walls above us climb to over 1,000 metres and the light is struggling to reach us in places. This stretch is one of the hardest paddles I have

ever done. Big water, technical class 5, deep in the gorge, far from the road littered with siphons and big holes. The description was right – you don't go and try to run Abyssmo. You better be committed and good enough, because there is only one way out. Downstream through numerous dangerous class 5 rapids, which combined with demanding portages and high walls, create a special atmosphere. Around midday, we arrive at the only pedestrian bridge across the Apurimac and the access road to the ‘sister’ of Macchu Picchu, the long forgotten ruins of Choquequirao. It takes a few days walk from the road to reach them and from the bridge mentioned above, it is still a few hours up the hill. Because we paddle light and have food for just a few days, we keep paddling after a short pause. The river stays difficult, but takes its foot off the gas a little and consequently the lines get wider and cleaner and so we enjoy an afternoon full of big boofs and nice lines. For all of us it is one of the best stretches of the river where we can make progress without having to scout every horizon line so much. On the other hand, almost every one of us gets the message that the river is dangerous and a slight reminder of the necessity to focus. With more tributaries, the siphons are not so much a problem but the holes become bigger and more retentive. We play dodge and run with the features but this tires us and any mistake could result in a swim and here that is not an option. Our boats are the only way out of the canyon and the river is fast and difficult, so chasing a swimmer would be very difficult let alone their stuff. Without the kayak, there is no way out. By the end of the day, we are exhausted and our concentration lapses.Those moments are always the most dangerous and Arnau gets stuck in a giant pour over with no way out. We scramble for rescue, aware of the seriousness of the situation.This time we are lucky! The river is fast but relatively calm after the feature and therefore we manage to rescue him and his boat just before the next feature, where the river flows between and under two house-sized rocks! The canyon is narrow and the river roar is reflected from the perpendicular walls – we have had enough and after a while we find the camp. We cook and go to sleep vey tired.



The third day is a little easier, however, we still have a lot of hard rapids waiting for us. The river has risen on us once again – it’s like being on the Oetz in the summer.

The rapids are still hard to read and the river flows into and around large rocks. There are many lines to choose from but only one is safe and passable and signals become vital to the team! You have to be absolutely certain that the line you are choosing does not end in a giant siphon, hole or under a rock. The water level is very high and so we choose to portage some of the big ones, the rest we scout and run close to big holes and open siphons. The quality of the whitewater is amazing, but the combination of hard rapids, loaded boats and non-stop commitment wears us out. All of us all look forward to the confluence with Pachachaca and Puente Pasaje! We reach the bridge for 15.00. Tired but happy, we drain our boats and the water leaks into the cacti on the shore. We have done it – we have safely passed through the gates of Abyssmo!

Extremely complex

For me, Abyssmo has been one of the greatest experiences of recent years. Abyssmo did not disappoint and this section really earns its reputation. Kilometres of high-quality, big water of the highest difficulty, in a totally inaccessible canyon, make Abyssmo one of the toughest rivers I've ever paddled. The huge vertical walls dominating almost every view, cascading waterfalls and extremely complex white water, characterize this really magical place. If you decide to go, make sure you are up for it as there is no turning back and the stories are true...




“The secret of all victory lies in the organisation of the non-obvious.� Marcus Aurelius Sometimes appearances can be deceptive.A handful of pretty photos and interesting videos posted on social media may give little indication as to what has happened in order to produce those photos and videos. There is a starting point to a paddling expedition and also a finishing point.The expedition starts weeks, months and sometimes years previously and involves meticulous planning.This trip was less about journeying with a paddle but more about journeying lesser travelled places, involving portaging, sailing, portaging, lining and yet more portaging! Story and photos: Angela Ward and Adam Evans ThePADDLER 55

ThePADDLER 56 We knew that the route from Loch Morar to Loch Arkaig involved following an ambiguous path between rugged mountains and over a col. We knew that Oban bothy was closed for the deer-stalking season. We knew the terrain would be undulating and boggy. We knew there’d be midges. We knew the weather forecast was ’typically Scottish’ i.e wet and windy. We knew that although we had canoe trolleys, the lack of roads meant that they’d be useless for most the trip. We knew that we could more than likely be the only two solo paddlers attempting the portage this year.. It was likely to be most arduous/gruelling/challenging physical outdoor activity that either Adam or myself had ever undertaken. He’s a professional outdoor instructor but I’m “only a girl” so I did well to keep up. Anyone who knows me in real-life will tell you how delicate I am. Yeah right! There is something delightfully absurd about carrying a canoe across a mountain. There was no doubt that we would be able to do it and there were two reasons for this: 1. We knew that we were capable. 2. Failure was not an option. One of the biggest planning challenges was endeavouring to keep kit weight to a minimum, whilst remaining within the realms of safety or spending hundreds of pounds on extra-light specialist kit. On previous expeditions, we were able to take more in the way of food and various utensils to cook it but based on the fact that we would now have to physically carry everything that we needed, some more considered planning was required.

Fortunately, were kind enough to sponsor us when they heard of our stupid venture and they provided us with three meals each per day. We were both very impressed with their Firepot meals. They were quick to prepare and tasted really good. Breakfast was Posh Pork and Beans, and it was indeed posh. The other meals in their range are Orzo Bolognaise, Chilli with Rice, Porcini Risotto and Dal with Lentils. They all had a high nom, nom, nom factor and would be perfect for this trip. Light to carry, fast to cook and very tasty.

Day one Monday

After long hours of winding roads, we arrived at Heatherlea B&B, near Mallaig. Pretty much straightaway, we experienced our first micro portage of the trip, due to the fact that there was a small railway bridge on the approach road to the B&B which was too low for the car and boats to negotiate. The lounge of the guest house served as a perfect place to do final checks on our expedition kit. The terrain looked somewhat unforgiving but we were very well-prepared.

Day two

A hearty breakfast provided a deep calorie upload and we continued preparation. On previous expeditions, we had one large and one smaller portage bag but this time, we were pretty ruthless

with what we took. We set off from the jetty at Loch Morar in dull and drizzly conditions. We paddled a little way and then the wind picked up to an easy F2-3 so we quickly set up our sails and cruised steadily to the end of the loch. On our previous trip across Rannoch Moor, Adam described me as a ’Class A cheat’ on account of my large Endless River sail. Suffice it to say that my superior sail (which is 30% bigger than his and goes to show that size really is everything), which enabled me to accelerate away from Adam at an impressive rate of knots. There was no way that I could slow down unless I dropped my sail completely so I carried on storming ahead whilst Adam trailed behind me in the far distance. At the time of writing this article, Adam decided that he needed to join the ranks of the cheats. On my return from a recent training week in Devon, I called in to Endless River HQ and Dave kindly supplied me with a sail and some cordage. Sailing into the narrows of the loch, we were decked in sunshine and the crags rose steeply from the edges of the tiny feeding river. Knowing that days of lugging kit lay ahead was both inspiring and daunting, just as adventures should be! With still a couple of hours of daylight, we decided to commenced the savage portage. We knew the bothy was shut because it was the deer-stalking season and the padlocked door confirmed this as we cruised past. We’d planned in advance to tarp-camp as taking tents would only have added more weight to the kit which we had to carry. The terrain itself was somewhat unforgiving and isolated. Steep undulating hillsides alternating with sodden peaty sections made for exasperating conditions. Adam walked more quickly than myself, quite possibly due to his incredibly long legs. We settled into a routine of him walking ahead at his pace and me going at mine. It’s far more sensible to do this than me trying to match him for speed. I couldn’t decide whether it was worse to carry a 15foot canoe on my shoulders and have the wind trying to wrench it from my hands or simultaneously carrying two large portage bags and risk falling facefirst into a peat bog! Either way we quickly became aware that walking back and forth carrying boats and kit was quickly tearing through calories. Sustaining an injury in the

Steep undulating hillsides alternating with

sodden peaty sections

made for exasperating conditions



middle of nowhere could have led to serious repercussions so we pressed on with determination and mindfulness, both of ourselves and our surroundings

Day three

After another tasty breakfast of Posh Pork and Beans, we set off on the next section of the portage. It was basically mountaineering with canoes, paddles, poles, and portage bags in wet and windy conditions. The ground was slippy and slidy and sinking up to your knees in peat bogs was a regular occurrence. At one point, Adam was walking a little way in front of whilst carrying his boat. One minute he was there. In a split-second, he’d vanished and only the hull of his boat was visible. I could then see his hands appear from the underneath of his boat and grip the gunwales. He successfully managed to extricate himself from whatever bog he’d fallen into, which is just as well, because I couldn’t help him for laughing. Occasionally we could slide canoes down grassy slopes, but generally it was too rocky and we didn’t want to risk damaging our boats. We crossed several clear streams in spate. We went up and down hills, negotiated several false summits following ambiguous paths. I became somewhat of a ’midge-magnet’ whilst Adam seemed to escape the vicious little critters.

For what seemed like hours, the taunting flat green sections of easy-looking ground never appeared to get much closer. On occasions, the path itself narrowed to less than a foot wide, with a 10-metre drop to one side and steep ground on the other side. It certainly paid to be sure-footed. Finally, we used ropes to slide the boats down a small slope at the end of the portage and then emerged onto the much needed flat grass section. We had succeeded in breaking the back of the portage and entered Glen Pean. It would be all downhill from here.

We cruised to our

right finding a small beach where we could set up our tarp and enjoy stunning views of the loch

The anticipation of cruising gently onto Loch Arkaig was a welcome prospect but unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. A combination of tight rapids and fully laden canoes meant that we had to switch to lining and of course, yet another portage. There was a chunky Grade 3 section in a gorge with steep-sided banks. With light boats and fresh minds, it would have been fun to pick a line and paddle it. Considering that we’d had an extremely strenuous two days and were in an isolated location, a discretionary portage was the only sensible option. When there is doubt, there is no doubt. After about 800m portaging, we managed to get back onto the water for the final few kilometres of gentle smooth meandering river which carried us into Loch Arkaig. Finding the top of the river at Glen Pean, a tiny 1.5 metre wide stream a few inches deep, we managed to line them for approx 2km. It was such a relief to be able to walk in one direction after the previous two days of going backwards and forwards. Being able to use traditional lining skills certainly saved us a great deal of time and energy. Slowly the river deepened and widened which allowed us to paddle onwards and into a small loch. Under globules of thick heavy rain, we paddled past three wilderness fishermen who looked very bemused. I’m sure they were questioning how on earth we’d managed to get there in our canoes!

We cruised to our right finding a small beach where we could set up our tarp and enjoy stunning views of the loch. One very unexpected sight was of a tiny frog which we could see inching slowly up the outside of the tarp. It moved so slowly towards the top of the tarp and then put on a burst of speed which caused it to nose-dive over the top and land headfirst right in front of me. Remaining motionless and ’frogs legs akimbo’ for several minutes before it finally scuttled off into the grass. Sitting with this joyous view whilst savouring our Firepot Orzo Bolognaise and drinking steaming hot chocolate, we felt tired but encouraged.



Loch Morar Scotland Photo: Angela Ward


ThePADDLER 62 Day four

After our staple breakfast of Posh Pork and Beans, we set sail from the beach at Loch Arkaig and covered most of the loch using wind power, lashing the canoes together to take advantage of my mega sail. A Eurofighter Typhoon then approached and spotted us on the water. It circled, came up the loch before dropping altitude, flying directly overhead and opening it’s afterburners toward us. The noise was deafening but it was a brilliant experience and if it was any closer we’d have been dried out by the afterburner! We put up the sails again whilst on the water and made for the end of the loch and a short canoe trolley portage. By now, a couple of kilometres appeared little more than a stroll. We had already made the decision to portage the Arkaig River section to Loch Lochy but we paused at the weir en route.There was a faint line that we could possibly have paddled but to attempt it in a fully laden expedition canoe would have been foolhardy. There would have been no escape if we’d taken a swim. It’s a good skill to ask yourself, “What could go wrong?” In addition to this, I was unable to wear my paddlesuit due to a damaged neck seal and we hadn’t taken our whitewater helmets on the trip in order to save space and weight. The risks far outweighed the benefits so portaging was the sensible option. We arrived at Loch Lochy at the end of a physically and mentally draining day. I was riddled with midge bites and somewhat to Adam’s concern, my face had started to swell up. Bearing in mind that I didn’t have to contend with looking at my bitten and swollen face. I was more concerned with the discovery that one of my kneepads had vanished. I adopted the ’adapt, improvise and overcome strategy’, constructed a woolly hat and bungee cord knee-protector and we got back on the water.

Day five

We woke up to the clear blue skies and calm waters of Loch Lochy. The bizarre experience of carrying our canoes and kit across a mountain seemed like a distant memory. The prediction was for F3 headwinds but instead we paddled on calm waters in glorious sunshine. Our only concern was the presence of other water users who were bigger and faster than us. It was so warm that we needed to quench our thirst with a pint of cider at the Letterfinlay Lodge Hotel. We also thought it wise to refuel our bodies with freshly cooked chips. And burgers. And apple pie. And lattes. And more cider. It was at this point that we decided to make the most of the sunshine by paddling across the lake and set up a beach tarp camp. It was brilliant to enjoy a much-needed leisurely afternoon and evening, doing very little apart from chatting and enjoying our surroundings, because knowing when to rest is as key as knowing when to press on.

There would have been no escape if we'd taken a swim. It's a good skill to ask yourself,

“What could go wrong?”



before and that my boat and kit was now on the lawn outside the hotel, it seemed pointless to deny the fact that I did indeed have a boat. I must confess that the thought of yet another portage wasn’t exactly appealing but the thought of doing my public duty was very strong. It was at this point that the chef informed me that the Coastguard had been called. I felt a wave of relief surge over me that the professionals were now on hand and my paddling services would no longer required… or so I thought.

After a brief downhill portage, I lined my boat around the headland, set up my swimlines and painters, put on my buoyancy aid and headed off

towards the UFO Day six

As the hotel was less then 1km away we had promised ourselves a cooked Scottish breakfast over at the hotel. We packed up our kit, paddled back across the loch and did the shortest portage of the trip so far, up the drive to the hotel. After initially being declined breakfast because we weren’t residents, one of the staff recognised us from the day before and we shown to a table and welcomed as temporary residents.This was probably just as well because by this point, the wafting smell of hot cooked food was drawing me closer to the serving dishes. I would possibly have resorted to physical violence or hysterical tears if I had been denied my sausage and bacon. After a much-appreciated breakfast, I escorted Adam down the road to the bus stop, a bus to Fort William duly arrived and off he went into the distance. I headed back to the hotel and settled down on an incredibly comfortable sofa, armed with a latte and a piece of cake. I spread out my maps on a coffee table with the expectation that I’d be able to relax for around four hours, by which time Adam would have collected his car from Loch Morar and driven back to Loch Lochy. I hadn’t even drunk a single sip of latte when my plans for doing as little as possible came to an unexpected halt. One of the staff came to find me and asked, “What do you think that is?” She was pointing at a mysterious floating object on the loch. I had no idea what it was, so I zoomed in to take a photo and the waitress, the chef and myself attempted to analyse what we could see. It was a large suitcase/trunk-type structure with wooden struts underneath it.


The chef was extremely concerned that the UFO (Unidentified Floating Object) could be a watery hazard so he asked if I knew anyone who had a boat. Bearing in mind that we’d rocked up by boat the day

After chatting to the Fort William Coastguard Team, it transpired that they did not have a boat. They deemed the UFO to be a potential hazard so me and my Paddy were commandeered to carry out the salvage operation. Joking aside, conditions on the loch were relatively calm. I’d already checked the weather forecast and so was happy to oblige. After a brief downhill portage, I lined my boat around the headland, set up my swimlines and painters, put on my buoyancy aid and headed off towards the UFO. The Coastguard team leader had asked if I needed a tandem paddler but I politely declined. Based on my previous experiences of rescuing things, I was confident of my ability as a solo salvage paddler, plus an unknown and possibly unskilled tandem paddler could have put me at risk. In a short space of time, I’d paddled out around 300m and reached the UFO. I still had no idea what it was but it was larger than I expected. I used a Highwayman’s hitch to fasten my stern swimline through a metal loop and then set off back to the shore. By this point, a small crowd had assembled on the beach to watch me and my Paddy towing the UFO. As well as being large, it was also very heavy but we made steady progress. Once we’d got to around 40m from the shore, a Coastguard swimmer headed out to meet me. He clipped onto the middle of my swimline so the onshore team could then haul in him, me, Paddy and the UFO. By this time, the wind had picked up slightly so I was grateful for some manly assistance. After disembarking, we gathered around the UFO to try and ascertain what it was. The general consensus of opinion was that it seemed to be an upturned section of jetty which must have broken loose. After the UFO had safely been dragged out of the water and off the beach, we all headed back to the hotel and enjoyed complimentary bacon and egg butties. The Fort William Coastguard Team are actively involved in water rescue training on rivers and lochs. They use the facilities of a canoe hire station which is adjacent to their headquarters. They paddle canoes



and then do capsize practice so they can experience what it feels like and also how difficult it can be to get back into the canoes.

The main message from them is, “No Training, No Go.” They are called out several times a year to help people in difficulty on the water, many of whom have hired canoes but have little or no experience of canoeing. They paddle on the relatively calm warm waters of the Caledonian Canal and then hit the lochs. When the wind picks up, conditions on the lochs can resemble those on the North Sea. If appropriate clothing isn’t worn, hypothermia sets in very quickly. Even with a buoyancy aid or life jacket, the chances of swimming to the safety of the shore are relatively slim. Whilst I was working hard, Adam was relaxing on public transport. I sent him a few photos while the salvage operation was in progress and I think he was slightly baffled but quite proud. I haven’t received specific coaching on how to rescue anything apart from people and boats but it seems like I have transferable skills which are useful! This seemed like a fitting finale to what had been a fantastic canoe-mountaineering adventure!


Adam and I would like to thank for their kind sponsorship as being able to reduce the size and weight of our food supplies was really beneficial. I’d like to give my thanks to Jude at Downcreek Paddles for crafting me a lovely new deep-dish carrying yoke, which was certainly much appreciated during portages.

Pick your adventure with our challenge routes Read more on page 20

The Coach Award has launched! Read more on page 15

The Hurley Classic 2018 Read more on page 8

Early Spring 2018

Photo Credit: Emma Hedicker

Let’s Go Somewhere 15% discount for British Canoeing members

You can also use your discount with: | |

Stores nationwide | Full T&Cs apply. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer or discount. Selected lines are exempt. 10% discount only on bikes. Only valid upon production of your British Canoeing membership identification in store or use of valid discount code online. Offer expires 31.12.18.




Coaching and Leadership



My Pathway


The Coach Award has launched!


News p5 Introducing Tootega Kayaks & Silverbirch Canoes p16

News News


Things you might have missed


Promotion 16

Let’s Go Somewhere



Introducing Tootega Kayaks & Silverbirch Canoes

Things you might have missed p5


Pick your adventure with our challenge routes p20

Membership of British Canoeing is changing in April 2018


National Go Canoeing Week Pick your adventure with our challenge routes


Upcoming Events

Acess and Environment p22

The Hurley Classic 2018


Paddle in the Park


British Canoeing AGM, Stronger Clubs Conference & Awards Dinner


Environment Access and Environment


Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

Paddle in the Park p11


Welcome Welcome to our first edition of Canoe Focus combined with The Paddler Magazine. The digital version of the Paddler Magazine with the Canoe Focus insert, will now be provided 6 times a year to all full members of British Canoeing in England as part of the membership package. We have also negotiated a preferential rate of £20.99 for members who wish to receive the printed versions through their letter box. Whether online or in print I hope you enjoy your read of The Paddler as part of your membership benefits.


It is time to send out our AGM papers and so I am reminded that it’s just a year now since we launched Stronger Together, our strategic plan for 2017-2021. Real progress has been made in some areas during these last 12 months;

> We have a new 4 year plan for coaching, the Awarding Body website (www. which includes lots of information about our courses has been relaunched. The new Coach (old level 2) qualifications have been revised, repackaged and are now live and have received great reviews > We have published around 50 new canoe trails this year and there are now 141 on the web site, which all receive lots of views > We have become compliant with the new UK Code of Sports Governance and introduced many new policies and procedures including revised safeguarding and whistleblowing policies

> We have taken big steps forward to ensure the welfare and well-being of athletes and coaches in our Olympic and Paralympic programmes > We secured the rights to host 3 International events between 2019-2021 > In 2017 British athletes won 90 medals in World and European championship and 5 athletes won senior World Championships titles > We have reviewed and repackaged our membership scheme introducing a new category for club members and put plans in place to connect with the thousands of paddlers who are not in clubs

Of course there is much more to do. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and we are at the end of the first year of an ambitious 4 year strategy. During the next 12 months I will expect to see;

> The launch of an Access Charter which clearly states our views on access and the position that we would like to get to, and which encourages coordinated action to bring about changes to legislation on this critical issue (page 22) > The Star Awards reviewed, repackaged and relaunched > The launch of our new membership categories and membership growth above the 35000 of 2017 > The further development of Go Canoeing to provide weekly sessions for people new to the sport > The launch of a digital resource which provides lots of information about places to paddle > A major new focus on providing great resources to help clubs and centres with their own plans and activities > Continued success at international level across the disciplines > A new UK Agreement which clarifies the roles, responsibilities, and relationships between British Canoeing and the governing bodies in Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland > The development of new Terms of Reference for all of the committees within British Canoeing that report to the Board We will be publishing an Annual Report on 2017 at the AGM and will be making this available on the web site. We will also publish on the web site in March, a full report on the year 1 progress towards the targets within Stronger Together. We are making progress. 2018 is going to be another exciting year of change and progress. To achieve our ambitious goals will require us all to work together towards the same ambitions. Paddler, clubs, centres, coaches, volunteers, committees, staff, board, partners….all working towards the same targets and big ambitions. Exciting times. Stronger Together. David Joy Chief Executive


For regular news and updates from British Canoeing head to the news page on our website!


Paracanoe programme receives funding boost from UK Sport British Canoeing’s paracanoe programme has received a boost with an increase of National Lottery funding from UK Sport. The announcement by UK Sport will see the paracanoe programme receive an extra £268,000 during the Tokyo 2020 Games cycle for the new events in the Va’a.

Click here to read more

British Canoeing appoint Tim Brabants to senior coaching team British Canoeing has announced that Olympic gold medallist Dr Tim Brabants MBE is to join the World Class canoe sprint programme as Podium Technical Coach.

Click here to read more

Member roadshows!

Click here to read more


British Canoeing has been on the road, holding regional roadshows to update members on the launch of the Club Associate membership and plans for our Access and Environment campaign. If you were unable to attend and want to know more, the presentations and discussions from the roadshows will be available to view on our website.

Th ing s yo u mig ht hav e mis sed Canoe lifting series

s the n Enya Dale win r Sportswoma io n u J e ir sh rd Oxfo 17 Award of the Year 20

Click here to read more

We’ve got four different lifting exercises for you to try over the next four weeks, all used by our athletes as part of their training regimes. Every week we will release a new video, so keep an eye out on our Facebook and Youtube and give the exercises a go at your next gym session.

Sky News Ben Seal, our Places to Paddle Manager, was recently on Sky News discussing the need for there to be greater clarity around shared and fair access to the water!

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

has been ub’s Enya Dale Falcon Canoe Cl ortswoman dshire’s junior sp named as Oxfor 17. of the year for 20

We’ve been working on a few new exercise videos suitable for paddlers following the success of our ‘Wellness Wednesday’ feature on Facebook where every week, we would introduce some new exercises for you to work into your training regime.


Membership of British Canoeing is changing in April 2018 **Please note that these changes only affect members in England

In our last edition we outlined changes to British Canoeing membership and our new membership categories. follow this link to access the previous issue.


The key changes

FAQ’s Selecting the right category We will select a category for members based on the current membership held. At the point of renewal members will be able to select a different category.

1. The introduction of a free “Digital Sign Up” for fans, supporters and independent paddlers

Current Members

2. The introduction of a Club Associate membership category for members of clubs who are not members of British Canoeing

On the 2 April 2018, all active members will transfer over to the On the Water membership package. As your membership is due to renew you’ll be able to choose the right category for the activities you do.

3. The introduction of a new category of membership for national volunteers and officials who do not paddle 4. Improving the services for full individual members 5. Making some amendments to the Family membership categories

For more information including video outlines of each membership category click here

Members with an inactive membership Members who have not renewed their membership within the last few months will be moved to the free Sign Up category, and continue to receive communications from British Canoeing. These members can either stay within the free offer, renew their membership or unsubscribe from communications.

On the Bank Includes: Insurance for: - officials and volunteers Communications Free advice and support from British Canoeing

Special offers and discounts E-Membership Card

On the Water Includes: Insurance for: - officials and volunteers - club sessions - all canoeing activities - coaching

Voting Rights Waterways Licence


Access to competitions Special offers and discounts Access to coaching courses


E-Membership Card

Free advice and support from British Canoeing

Voting Rights Optional pay extra boat insurance

Club Associate Includes: Special offers and discounts (limited)


Optional pay extra boat insurance

Free advice and support from British Canoeing


Free advice and support from British Canoeing


Insurance for: - club sessions

Sign Up Includes:

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018


The Hurley Classic 2018 Billed as the Event of the Year, ‘The Hurley Classic’ 2018 takes place on the weekend of 17th and 18th March. Want to find out more about the event? We spoke to Chairman of the GB Freestyle Committee and Event Director Andrew Jackson (Jacko), to find out what makes the event one not to miss and why you should get involved in the whole weekend. Here is what he had to say:


The event is both one of the biggest and oldest for freestyle kayaking in the world. It has grown and stood the test of time because at optimum levels Hurley Weir forms an awesome wave and two play holes. This formation together with a location 20 minutes west of London makes this one of best freestyle kayaking sites in the world. The spirit at Hurley has always been about creating great competition alongside social activity that encourages community. Over the last five years things have evolved from freestyle and now we have SUP, Boater X, World Rolling Championships and many other get active elements. Most years we add at least one new big component. Our philosophy is that we want you come for a weekend of fun, not just for one competition. So there is always something to get involved with, something you can get excited about and something you can inspire others with when you tell the stories.

Workshops, live coaching via video feed, demonstrations, on the water coaching, trade stands and lectures. All happening on one site and open for everyone to get involved with. Take to the water, hang out on the bank, watch from the bridge, check out the trade stands or relax in the heated marquee. One thing is for sure, you will have a full weekend.

We try to cater for people of all abilities and ages. For younger paddlers, there’s Younguns Meet the Stars. It’s a unique event where young aspiring paddlers get to paddle with superstars in the sport and learn top tricks and techniques to progress and be the stars of the future. We encourage the social scene by providing a huge heated marquee with a café. Here you can sit and chat with like minded people who will share their inspiration and fill your head with ideas for your next adventure. Don’t worry; whilst you’re chatting we also have live streaming to large TVs so that all the action can be viewed. Then in the evening we use the marquee to host the Huge Feast where over 200 paddlers all sit down and have …. A Huge Feast! As important as any other part of the Classic is our potential to champion good causes and make a big impact with our audiences regarding these. We have been moved by the effort to help our environment and in 2018 this becomes action. Alongside other environmental initiatives the event will be banning single use plastics from catering services, encouraging cleanup efforts with our ‘Pick Up Two’ campaign, carrying out environmental audits, and providing practical environmental guidance. We will also focus on our key influencers, for example world champions and encourage them to lead by example and drive a proactive culture. The event runs through collaboration between organisers, industry and participants. Collaboration for us means that through careful consideration there are always multiple winners who all benefit from being part of the event. As we recognise our success the local environment and consequentially the global environment will become part of our collaboration and hopefully the impact of the event will be positive in every way.

To enter the event, find out more about the weekend and download further information visit the Hurley Classic website or Facebook page.


Saturday 2nd June & Sunday 3rd June 2018 Paddle in the Park is back for 2018 at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham! Join us for a weekend on the Lagoon and Rapids for our annual Paddle Sport Festival.With plenty to keep families entertained and workshops for all levels including white water access (for competent paddlers) and lagoon passes to try a range of paddlesports, the weekend promises thrills and spills to suit all ages and abilities. Look out for white water workshops including OC1’s, white water skills and freestyle. Keep an eye out on our website for more details on how to book We are looking for fun, friendly and enthusiastic people who want to share their love of paddlesports with others, if you want to find out more about volunteering at Paddle in the Park send an email to

British Canoeing AGM, Stronger Clubs Conference & Awards Dinner

On the 24th March British Canoeing will be holding their Annual General Meeting, Stronger Clubs Conference and National Recognition Awards dinner. The events will run after one another, allowing attendees to attend all three events if they wish. Find out more about each event and how to book your place over the next two pages.

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

24th March 2018 | Eastwood Hall, Nottinghamshire






British Canoeing AGM (registration from 9am, please bring your membership number)

The AGM is open to all British Canoeing members to attend. The agenda and voting by proxy form can be found on our website after Friday 2nd March.




For those attending the conference, lunch will be provided from 12pm.

Click here to find out more.



The Stronger Clubs Conference

Cost: free for British Canoeing members and Associate Club members, ÂŁ45 for non members

Our first ever Stronger Clubs Conference will bring together Club Officers, Coaches and key volunteers who all contribute to the growth of our sport in their club, centre or committee environment. The conference will provide the latest insights from across canoeing, as well as a range of informative workshops and networking opportunities. Click here to find out more and book your place.


The National Volunteer and Recognition Awards Dinner

Cost ÂŁ30 (free for awardees)

Enjoy a three course meal and celebrate the amazing commitment and service our volunteers and leaders have given to the sport over the last year. Seven awards will be presented during the evening with videos highlighting the stories of the awardees. Click to book your place.

More about the

Stronger Clubs Conference... 2018

24th Marc h 2018

Eastwood Hall, Nottinghamshire

Club representatives will be able to attend a workshop from section A and a workshop from section B: A.1 Building Greater Clubs A.2 Engaging Volunteers A.3 Excellent Events A.4 New Membership Portal A.5 Increasing Female Paddlers

B.1 Running a Youth Section B.2 Safe Data B.3 Club and Event Insurance B.4 Improving Communications B.5 Coaching Qualifications Update

There will also be a free 'Time to Listen' workshop available for Club Welfare Officers to attend. Networking tables will allow delegates to drop in and out to ask questions and hear about updates on the following areas: Talent Partnerships Membership Go Canoeing Access & Places to Paddle Satellite clubs

Coaching Welfare Insurance Assessing risk and safety planning Volunteer succession planning

Book your free space today (non members £45). For more information about the workshops visit:


My Pathway

In order to support and guide you through your qualifications and awards journey, the Coaching and Qualifications Department have developed this interactive pathway, to enable you to make informed choices from the full range of awards we offer.

From Coaching Qualifications to Raft Guiding or Discipline Support Modules, British Canoeing offer a range of options available to you, depending on your coaching and leadership activity. There’s something for everyone! Each pathway outlines the various options available to you, taking you through each award, the disciplines available and information about the content of your training and assessment.


ay is for you For example, the following pathw Coach. if you’re looking to become a Polo

This enables you to make informed choices of the right pathway for you, based on your activities, your aspirational goals and the progression you want.

Click here to check out your first or next steps on your Coaching and Leadership pathway.

The Coach Award has launched!


The eagerly anticipated Coach Award is now available The Coach Award creates discipline specific pathways across all disciplines and is designed for people whose core function is to coach paddlers who want to gain/ improve paddlesport skills. This will include coaching beginners new to the sport, or paddlers looking to develop their skills in the given discipline/environment.

Benefits of the Coach Award

Coach Award Pathway The learning programme for Coach Award candidates is split into four distinct parts; Core Coach Training, Discipline Specific Training, Independent and Supplementary Learning and Assessment.

> Direct entry options to training available – a British Canoeing membership is the only prerequisite of the Core Coach Training

Already a Coach and wondering what your next steps are? Coaches who already have a British Canoeing coaching qualification which meets the coaching requirement for the group(s) in the environment they are coaching are not required to do anything further. However, there are various direct entry options available for trainee and existing coaches to access the Coach Award. We also have guidance for clubs and centres about which qualification is best for the activities they run.

> Supportive eLearning resources to aid learning > Specific pathways across all disciplines, allowing you to take the Coach Award in the discipline you want.


Find out more about the Coach Award on the Coaching & Leadership section of the website, which includes information about the prerequisites, course guide, course content and assessment guidance.

Coach Award Pathway Direct entry

Core Coach Training 2 days

Discipline Specific Training


Assessment 1 days

2 days

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

eLearning / Supplementary Learning / Experience


INTRODUCING Tootega Kayaks & Silverbirch Canoes


Silverbirch Canoes and Tootega Kayaks are well known in the paddlesport world with Silverbirch now selling open canoes in over 30 countries around the world, and Tootega, which in eight years has gone from a brand concept through to an internationally recognised and wellregarded manufacturer of sit on top kayaks. Following paddling trips all over the world, the businesses were born out of a desire to quite simply get boat designs to do what founders Steve Childs and James Dennis wanted them to. They initially started designing their own surf kayaks and over the years it has grown into a much more diverse business.

We visited Tootega and Silverbirch in Norfolk and caught up with Steve Childs, who points to the way they do things differently as their unique selling point.

A paddler since the age of seven and a former member of the national freestyle team, Steve tells us how the pair’s ‘little business, run by enthusiasts in Norfolk UK, selling boats all over the world’ can help steer the future of paddlesport. “Both James and I have paddled all over the world. It’s a phenomenal sport with a myriad of opportunities.”

The pair hope to use their extensive knowledge and expertise to share their vision of the future, engage and build stronger communities of paddlers, coaches and partnerships; as well as promote products, opportunities and campaigns that inspire and increase participation within the sport. “Paddling is becoming a much more accepting sport as there are less bars to entry these days.

“We try and do things differently here. Our whole ethos is that we only design products we passionately believe in.

“With modern equipment, design and teaching methods allowing people to progress much quicker than when I started, it makes it much more appealing to a wide range of people.

“The only way we can produce the products we want to, with the quality levels that are important to us is to do it in house; so here we are, manufacturing canoes in a field in the middle of Norfolk.

“I’m increasingly seeing people use paddling to escape the modern world, to get away from technology and disconnect; and I think that’s where the growth in the sport is really going to come from.”

“Even as directors we are involved in the whole process, right up to the point of production; and because we do it all here, and test all the boats we make, it makes us quite unique.”

Amongst a group of other well known brands, Tootega and Silverbirch will be working on a number of objectives with British Canoeing as part of our new trade partnership.


“Stronger Together is the most important thing we have seen come out of British Canoeing in the last decade, and for us it means creating stronger links between different parties involved in paddling.

“Being a trade partner is our opportunity to be listened to and to share our vision of the future. The partnerships seem to be going forward in a very positive way and I can only see them becoming stronger.


“What we like about working with British Canoeing is that the modern British Canoeing listen and act upon change. There is a genuine desire to want to listen to the membership, the industry and crucially to grow the sport, and this completely aligns with our brand ethos.

“I believe any business that has a commercial interest in the sport should be involved, and should help to steer the sports future.”

The trade partnership includes clothing and kit suppliers Palm Equipment and Peak UK, alongside craft manufacturers Hou Canoes, Pyranha, Red Paddle, Tootega, Silverbirch and Wave Sport.

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

To find out more about the trade partnerships Click Here



Spring is finally here! One of our favourite seasons to explore the outdoors, as colour seeps back into the landscape after the harshness of winter. But it’s not summer yet, spring weather has a way of throwing everything at you in one day. But then, that’s what makes exploring it so exciting. We’ve picked out some of the best kit to make sure you can handle whatever this changeable season sends your way.

If you need any help preparing for your next adventure, or need a little inspiration, just visit your local Cotswold Outdoor store and ask our experts for some helpful advice. Don’t forget that you can find more colours and more choice online at

Mid layer: Rab Alpha Flux Perfect as a mid layer but warm enough to be worn as an outer on colder days. With Polartec® Alpha Direct insulation you get exceptional warmth, with extra breathability, while panels of stretch fleece offer you great freedom of movement. When you need versatile clothing to meet changeable conditions, the Alpha Flux is one of our go-to garments.

Outer layer: Berghaus Paclite 2.0


The Paclite is perfect for spring adventures. Lightweight and packable but with the guaranteed performance that comes from utilising a GoreTex membrane. Berghaus have stripped all the unnecessary features from the Paclite, leaving you with everything you need and nothing you don’t. If you’re looking for a reliable, just-in-case waterproof, this is one of our favourites.

Backpack: Osprey Talon/Tempest

Hat, gloves, Buff Sometimes it’s the little extras that make the biggest difference. A woolly hat will help you keep the heat in through windy conditions. Unlined gloves will lock out the wind chill, and they’re easier to put on with damp hands if you get caught out by a sudden shower. Don’t forget, you can never have enough Buffs!

With enough capacity for those extra layers and accessories as well as all the usual hill walking essentials the Talon and Tempest are ideal for your spring adventures. The Stow-on-the-Go feature lets you attach and remove your walking poles without having to waste time taking the pack on and off. But the most revolutionary feature is the AirScape mesh covered accordion foam back panel, which provides excellent ventilation, keeping you comfortable mile after mile.


The ancestors of these boots were some of our bestsellers, and the third generation of the Quest 4D line doesn’t disappoint. The Gore-Tex Performance lining keeps the worst of the weather on the outside, and a gusseted tongue protects from those deeper than expected puddles. The lug pattern has been updated to offer even better grip and the 4D Chassis design guides your foot on the roughest terrain.

15% discount for British Canoeing members You can also use your discount with:

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX




Pick your adventure

To learn more about all our challenge routes click here.

with our Challenge Routes Life is all about the adventure. However big or small you want it to be, we all love the thrill of achievement. With British Canoeing challenge routes your next adventure could be just around the corner.


Routes vary in length and difficulty, meaning there are adventures to suit all abilities. You may be looking for an individual experience or to raise money for charity. Aim for the top of the leaderboard or simply to savour and enjoy. Whatever your motivations, choose your challenge now and get your training plans in place.

We love it when you share your stories with us. Once you have completed your adventure you can let us know all about it through our challenge registration forms. Giving us the chance to celebrate your achievement and enter your name on the leaderboard.

Trent Loop:

the one of many contrasts.

peaceful countryside to urban Take in both river and canal, travelling from Starting from the home of British bustle, on this constantly changing route. through a history of industrial Canoeing, at Holme Pierrepont, you journey es along the way. Nottingham, passing some big sporting venu

The Worcester Ring:

the one with all the lifting.

Our newest route is a bit of a beast. Pretty, meandering canals belie the arduous nature of this challenge. With numerous portages over your 21 mile journey you are really going to feel this one in your legs and arms. The good news is not many people have taken it on yet! So you have a good chance of getting close to the top of our leaderboard.



the ‘make a weekend of it’ one. The Lake District is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in the UK. You don’t have to be super sporty to appreciate the surroundings and there are so many things to do that it’s the perfect place to go with family and friends. Plan a fun packed weekend away and bag one of challenge routes while you’re there.

Loch Awe:

the big and beautiful one. This one truly is a stunner. Fix your eyes on the mountains as you power your way along the 25 mile length of this tough loch. Get the right weather and you really will feel the peace and calm of being at one with the vastness of nature

Lake Bala:

the tough but achievable one. If we had to choose a challenge route for new paddlers to train up for this would be the one. A seven mile out and back trip gives you the option to have a halfway stop, enjoy the scenery and refuel if necessary. That’s not to say it’s easy however; it’s called a challenge route for a reason!

The Three Lakes:

the ‘I deserve a medal for that’ one. Complete all three lakes; Windermer e, Loch Awe, and Lake Bala over any time period to conquer our ultimate challen ge. Let us know about your achievement and you really will get a medal for that!

Watch this space! We have two more challenge routes to be releas ed in 2018. One will be coming before the summer and all we can tell you at the mo ment is it’s a capital idea! Watch out for big announce ments coming soon.

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

The Mystery:

the soon to be released one.


Do not underestimate Loch Awe, training and planning is definitely required for this challenge but you will feel a real sense of achievement at the finish.


Our Access and Environment team have been on the road updating members on their work on the Stronger Together strategy and plans for an exciting new Charter and Campaign in 2018.

An update from Ben Seal, Places to Paddle Manager

In the past year we have:


Access and Environment is an area we know our members and the wider paddling community are hugely passionate about; it fundamentally affects the special places that we go canoeing.

› In the last six months, British Canoeing launched almost 50 new canoe trails on the website, including 2 new waterproof maps in Manchester and Birmingham

In the last couple of years British Canoeing has conducted two rounds of consultation, face to face and online and access consistently comes up as the number 1 issue people want to see progress in. Access can appear to be a very confusing picture and there is a strong desire for much greater clarity on the situation around rights to waterways. Added to that, we are all united by a desire to paddle on clean, healthy waterways, so what more can we be doing to protect and enhance the environment.

› Launched an environmental Guide Module to train leaders and hopefully disseminate good practice

Taking onboard all the feedback, the Stronger Together strategy identifies 15 action points for places to paddle, access and environment and we are already seeing great progress being made against the things you asked us to do:

› Increased the amount of news and media we have put through our channels. We are raising our PR and lobbying profile, we have taken professional advice who is helping to make connections at Westminster › We are starting to build a Rivers Database, to support our case to be able to paddle on rivers where we believe there is a strong case for PRN. And 2018 should prove to be no exception to the continued progress in this area.

Looking ahead…

Later this year British Canoeing plans to publish a new ‘Access and Environment Charter’ to outline a positive vision for greater access and set out our commitment to protecting the health of our rivers and people. We want this charter to be a strong and bold statement on our beliefs as an organisation and set out the agenda on which we will be campaigning. Most importantly the charter will aim to unite members behind a really clear vision for the future. On this issue we genuinely are stronger together, not just as paddlers but as a community of water users.


Consultation Events Through February and March, the British Canoeing team have been attending consultation events across the country to seek input from paddlers. The intention is to seek feedback to shape the plans and unite the paddling community behind a common, forward looking vision. Events held to date have been very warmly received, attendees have offered lots of constructive thoughts and ideas, which have been captured and will go into shaping the final Charter document. Following the roadshow, British Canoeing will be publishing an online consultation as a second opportunity for people to have their say. Alongside the consultation roadshows, the team have been working extremely hard to engage new partners from a wide range of sectors, not only to secure support but also to help shape our thinking about the best route forward. Input into

the campaign and Charter will also be obtained through working with our volunteer Access Advisory group, made up of experts in the field as well as our Regional and Local Waterway volunteers. The current climate presents us with a unique opportunity to work positively for change. Major factors like Brexit, the DEFRA 25 year plan as well as the British Canoeing Strategy give us a really strong mandate really put access and environment firmly on the agenda - to find ways of helping all water users share the space in cooperation, rather than conflict. It is vitally important that we all work together to bring about change; there are roles members, clubs and RDT’s can play in improving access and environment, nationally and locally. It is hoped the new Charter will be launched early summer, so please take this opportunity to have your say and get involved in moving forward positively.

Core principles: 1. A commitment to future ‘shared waterways’ 2. Belief that a historic right of access exists and a lack of clarity over interpretations of the law creates a barrier to positive progress 3. Acknowledgement that the current status quo is unsatisfactory for all parties, it is a barrier to participation and creates a climate for conflict.

4. Paddlers have a positive impact on waterways, we have a vested interest in protecting the environment. We are stronger together when tackling big issues such as the health of our rivers.


Central to our charter will be our core principles, our core beliefs on which our campaign will be based

5. Canoeing contributes toward improving physical and Social wellbeing 6. Canoeing contributes a great deal to local communities and the economy.

Canoe Focus Early Spring 2018

National Go Canoeing Week Is Back National Go Canoeing Week is British Canoeing’s yearly campaign which aims to bring the excitement of paddlesport to everyone. Last year’s theme, The Big Adventure, was so popular that we are bringing it back for a second year. The week runs during half term week, 26th May to 3rd June. With a few months to go before it begins there are already over one hundred activities and events already listed on the National Go Canoeing Week website. It isn’t just through organised activities that people take part. A huge amount of people clock up their

miles throughout the week by getting out on the water with individual adventures. Whether it’s doing their regular paddle and just going that little bit further or planning a bigger adventure for the week, it’s time to get thinking about how you can take part. An ambitious mileage target of 45,000 miles has been set for the week, so it’s more important than ever for everyone to join in. As with last year there will be a photo competition running throughout the week, giving people the chance to be featured on the homepage of the website and enter a prize draw. There will also be prizes for top mileage going to individuals and organisations and the chance of spot prizes for everyone who enters miles.

from My wife and I paddled She Wroxham to Coltishall. d we is of limited mobility an do n have discovered we ca of this together with a bit planning Alan Hensman I had great fu n canoeing I am going to jo in a club so I can do it mor e Nathan Holland






Text: Jennifer H.Yearley ACA Level 5 Advanced Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor British Canoeing Advanced Sea Kayak Leader

The surf zone is a region of beauty and power. It provides a gateway to coastal exploration and can provide an unparalleled playground for those who become comfortable with it, but it can also be dangerous. For many paddlers, learning to handle surf with consistent control is one of the most challenging aspects of training that they undertake. Also, the surf zone is no single thing! Properties of different surf breaks can differ markedly from one another; can be dramatically affected by the reshaping of beaches and sandbars that takes place with storms and of course are always going to be subject to the variation that is imposed by different swell features, tide height and other environmental effects. However, there are certain principles that are generally applicable, which provide a tactical and technical framework that can be used to approach surf contexts wherever you may find them. This article is not intended to replace instruction by a qualified instructor and given the hazards that paddling in surf can present, even when the surf is small, seeking out such instruction is strongly recommended.

Photos and videos: Miki Miyashiro


Sizing up the scene Big surf or small, the principles for getting through are basically the same. What differs is the magnitude of the consequences for errors. The bigger and more powerful the surf, the more precise, consistent, and certain you need to be about your timing, tactics and technique. The take home? Start small! There is very little about large surf that cannot be learned in the lower consequences world of small surf. Work put into practicing in small surf translates surprisingly directly to much larger surf when you find that you need to do so. In preparing for any paddling session that will involve handling a surf break, it is prudent to first consult a reputable swell forecasting resource to begin to get a sense of how big and powerful the surf is likely to be. In some instances, the time taken to review the swell forecast from the warmth and comfort of one’s own living room is more than enough to make one decide that going to the movies may be a better plan than trying the particular paddle that was originally in mind. It is nice to be able to tell things like that before going to all the trouble of loading up one’s gear! However, often it is difficult to tell for certain from a forecast whether things are going to be manageable or not at the site where you are going, and different forecasting sites may disagree with one another by enough of a margin that the only way to be certain about what you are going to see is to actually go out there and have a look.

Taking a look One of the most important things to do before any surf launch that may have even a little bit of challenge to it is to stop‌ and just watch for a while. Take your time. Get a good sense of what you are going to be dealing with before you even think about getting on the water. In some parts of the world such as along the Pacific coast, it is very common to have multiple different swells coming through that are of differing sizes, periods, and directions. Really big wave sets may come through relatively infrequently, but if they are out there, you need to know about them! When getting your boat ready, make sure to clear all the gear off your deck that you can. For anything that absolutely has to be on deck, make sure it is very securely attached. The ability of even small surf to remove gear from a kayak deck is absolutely remarkable.

Anatomy of the surf zone

Getting ready to launch Study the anatomy of the surf zone you are planning to launch in. Important features to consider are properties of the soup zone (a relatively low energy area where foam piles from broken waves roll through) and the impact zone (the region where waves are breaking). Is there a nice wide soup zone that you can get afloat in, where you can creep up toward the impact zone, and can safely watch and wait and choose your timing from? The presence of a good wide soup zone is a very important factor in how easy a surf launch is likely to be. It provides you with a relatively relaxed way to get afloat, to choose your timing carefully, and to build good momentum to get over and through any waves in the impact zone when you make your decision to cross it. Also important to look for from the beach are rips, also called rip currents. These are areas where water flows strongly back out to sea and are often detectable by the fact that the waves are consistently smaller or even absent in the area of the rip. Rips are important for two reasons. They can provide you with a very convenient outward-flowing conveyer belt through a region of consistently smaller waves and can therefore make your job much easier if you launch directly into the rip. On the other hand, if you find yourself out of your boat in a rip, you can quite rapidly be swept out to sea. In this situation, it is important to swim parallel to the beach to get out of the outward-flowing current before you try to swim back towards land. Some features that can make a launch more challenging include a wide impact zone, as this takes more time to get across – putting one at risk of encountering larger waves for a longer period of time – or a narrow or very shallow soup zone, especially when there are good-sized waves breaking close in to the beach.Waves don’t need to be very big to cause you a problem if they are breaking in so close that it is hard to gain momentum to deal with them. While this is a hallmark of dumping surf beaches, it can also be seen on beaches with more variable break patterns, [ is worth looking for specifically.]

Video: Assessing the Impact Zone from the Soup


Steep break close in to the beach, with narrow soup zone and shallow water.These kinds of surf breaks can be challenging to get through and potentially dangerous. On dumping surf beaches, which typically have minimal to no soup zone in which to get afloat prior to choosing one’s timing to try to break out through the impact zone, both careful timing and a very aggressive approach immediately upon getting afloat may be required to make sure that one musters momentum as quickly as possible and does not get caught out by an explosive wave jacking up rapidly in the paddle out. As a general principle on such beaches, once afloat, it is wise to paddle like a herd of raging elephants is at your

Video: Launch from Beach with Dumping Surf

heels until you are certain you are beyond the impact zone. See video left. There are times this will be overkill, but it is a reflex that will serve you well over the long term. Another phenomenon that can make launching difficult even in the face of a nice soup zone is sidewash. When sand ridges along a beach, or other features such as creek or river outlets result in water that flows not just up the beach and back down with the rhythm of the waves, but also side or crossways along the length of the beach, it can be very difficult to keep one’s boat from broaching (turning sideways) as one readies to launch. When the water keeps rotating your boat sideways on the sand, there are three main options. Someone can hold onto your boat to keep it straight until you are well afloat or, if your balance is good you can try a ’scramble launch’ in which you hop into the boat with it already afloat or, you can try to be very fast and get yourself onto the water before you get turned sideways. If the sidewash is due to ridges of sand on the beach, launching from the apex of a ridge will minimize your exposure to sideways water flow.

Water washing up cross-ways can make it very difficult to stay straight while launching

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The scramble launch can be very useful when there is water pushing you sideways on the sand, or instances where you need to get afloat and immediately paddling hard on a dumping surf beach. However, it requires good balance and coordination. Practice is necessary for this to be a workable solution. When your evaluation of the impact zone from the soup tells you it’s time to try to cross – you have noticed a window in which waves are smaller or absent – paddle out with all the energy you can muster. For a challenging impact zone, the main goal is to get across fast. Paddle across it as if your hair was on fire. As if the very devil himself was at your back. If the impact zone is wide, you may be hard-pressed to make it across before a big wave rises up in front of you. In dumping breaks, a wave can rise up in front of you very suddenly and be on you almost before you have time to register it. With enough momentum and forward speed however, it is often possible to make it up and over very big waves before they break. Even if you realize you are not quite going to make it over the top before the wave breaks, momentum and proper technique will often let you punch through it. Tuck your body forward as you enter the wave, spearing it with your paddle. Plunge your paddle aggressively into the back of the wave and pull yourself through. Wherever possible, do not let the waves have their way with you! Take control! See video below.

Video: Committed Paddle Out

Occasionally, we all will mistime the approach to an ugly wave and find ourselves in a position where it is about to break right on our head.This is never fun. If one has a solid roll, one way to handle this with a minimum of pain and suffering is to strategically capsize right in front of the wave as it begins to break, taking the impact on hull instead of head, then rolling up on the other side. It sounds drastic, but as long as one is comfortable with one’s roll, this can yield a very satisfactory outcome, with all the worst violence of the wave visited on the exterior of the boat, while we ourselves are quite safe and protected underwater. One just needs the presence of mind to remember to capsize, which oddly enough, can sometimes be hard to do in this circumstance. See video below. Up and over the top of a big wave right before it breaks.This requires a committed and aggressive approach with lots of momentum. Practice on small waves first.

Video: Strategic Capsize and Roll

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Landing Of course, having made it out, eventually we have to come back in. As delightful as the ocean is, it’s lovely to be able to get out and stretch and have a proper meal on land from time to time. Determining the size of waves from the back can be quite difficult however, and it is helpful to have made a mental image of their size and properties at the time of launch (though these features can change dramatically across the course of a day). It can be difficult to assess the size of the waves from the back as one prepares to land. Visual references on the shore may help, but this is largely a matter of experience in a given location. There are three fundamental ways to try to approach a surf landing. If there are long lulls between waves, sprinting in during one of these lulls can be a viable option, particularly if the impact zone is narrow. It is

important to proceed quickly even if the lulls seem long however, as waves can still catch you out if you are too leisurely in your crossing. One of my own teachers used to describe dawdling in the impact zone as, “Playing on the freeway.” Don’t play on the freeway! It’s a guaranteed recipe for undesirable outcomes. One downside of paddling in between waves is that you are not able to make use of the waves’ energy to move you speedily toward the beach. Because of this, it can be a fairly slow and laborious method of landing. Another option is to surf a wave in. This allows one to make maximal use of the wave’s energy in proceeding toward the beach, and if one has good surfing skills, this can be done with a certain amount of control. However, it is not possible with some wave types (explosively dumping waves cannot be surfed) and may not be desirable with others (those with a violent wall-like closeout).

Paddling in during a lull between waves

Surfing in makes use of wave energy to get you across the impact zone quickly.

Low brace with edge into a broached sidesurf.

An additional option, and often the best one in dumping surf, is to ride in on top of a wave. On dumping beaches, which are typically steep, there is often a powerful suck-back of water as the broken waves recede. Because of this, it can be difficult to get high enough up the beach to be safe from subsequent waves when paddling in under one’s own power. While explosively dumping waves cannot be surfed, using a wave’s energy can still be important to make sure that one is propelled far enough up the beach to be safe from the next wave. If one can position one’s self to come in on a wave such that the tip of one’s bow hangs over the crest of that wave, one can make good use of wave energy, and be carried well up the beach to safety. See video below. Sometimes, regardless of how carefully one tries to time one’s progress toward the beach to keep it as controlled as possible, one will find one’s self caught by a breaking wave from behind. When this occurs, your boat will broach and you will find yourself parallel to the wave, which substantially reduces your control. To maintain the most control in the overall situation, it is helpful to pre-set an angle before the breaking wave hits you, so that you are certain that the wave will turn you in the direction you most want to go. This may be to make sure that you can brace and sidesurf in on your strong side, or

Video: Landing on Beach with Dumping Surf

Lean into the wave!

simply may help allow you to avoid a hazard ahead of you in the water or on the beach. As you begin to broach, lean into the wave and apply a good solid brace along the top of the foam pile (if it’s small enough) or jabbed right into the middle of it (if it’s a big one). The more energetic and powerful the wave, the more energetic and powerful your corresponding lean into the wave will have to be to prevent the wave from window-shading you toward the beach. With really big breaking waves, I throw my whole bodyweight into the foam pile with everything I’ve got, like a linebacker making a tackle in American football. No delicate edging there - it’s a full-on tackle manoeuvre. Smaller waves can be handled correspondingly more gently, but big or small, keeping one’s braces close to the body in these manoeuvres is important to prevent shoulder injuries. To maintain the best control in a landing, you need to pay careful attention to each wave coming up behind you and choose the ones you want to work with. Waves that might surf you out of control or that are bigger or steeper than you want to deal with, you can back paddle over or just let them pass underneath you. Paddling in right on the crest or high on the back of a wave is often a good solution, allowing you to use wave energy, and keeping you safe from waves coming up from behind. See video below.

Video: Controlled Landing ThePADDLER 101

Even with all these different landing techniques possible, when there is a wide impact zone and multiple lines of breaking surf, one will often end up making use of all of them at different points on the way in! On reaching the sand, wait until you feel your boat ’stick’ on terra firma before popping your spray deck

and hopping out or you risk a rude surprise as you find yourself still swirling about and potentially being pulled back toward ongoing wave action, with an open cockpit to boot. Once you feel the earth grab you properly, get your spray deck off, hop out quickly and pull the boat up the beach to make sure you are well out of the way of any bigger waves that may have followed you in!

Summary The surf zone can be a challenging environment. However, it is also exciting, skill-building, enormous amounts of fun and very rewarding if one puts the time into learning to handle it. Start small.The consequences are lower, the basic principles, tactics and techniques are identical and fear is much reduced. Small surf is a great learning environment and almost everything you learn in small surf can be directly transferred to larger surf eventually as you build your skills. Be patient. Take time to watch and learn to read the water. Many of the most common errors I see with paddlers in the surf zone are a result of impatience. Finally, seek out proper instruction.There are real hazards in the surf zone, so when getting started, work with someone who can help teach you to stay safe.The surf is an amazing place to paddle and play. Learning to do it well and safely is thoroughly worth the investment of time and energy.

Wait till you feel your boat ‘stick’ in the sand, then hop out!



S U P ’ I N G


Mention Nepal and the mind conjures up images of high snowcovered peaks, Sherpas and climbers in down suits. Or if you are a little older, it may take you back to the hippy trail and wild stories of happy times in Kathmandu. By Ben Longhurst, Water Skills Academy



On the other hand, a paddler may dream of multiday white water trips in seriously remote areas. For years, the rivers of Nepal have been a focus for the white water kayaker or rafter, a playground for kayakers challenging themselves against some of the world’s best white water. Taking an eye off the white water, Nepal has some flat water offering multi-day SUP adventures. This year, Live the Adventure Co, Himalayan specialists and the Water Skills Academy ran a Nepalese first. Whilst not a first descent, the Kali Gandaki offers in its lower regions, six days of easy grade water, with one section of white water. This river description has deterred many paddlers but for a SUP decent a perfect fit. The Kali Gandaki rises near the Tibetan border and flows to the River Ganges cutting its way through deep gorges and jungle corridors. One of the first things you learn paddling in Nepal is that the rivers change every year as the monsoon, which fills the rivers with its continuous rain in summer, can change a river dramatically.


Arriving in Kathmandu, late October the team assembled in Thamel, a fun vibrant tourist area with its bars, cafes and guesthouses. After a fun evening, the team of paddlers from the UK, Canada and Nepal flew to Pokhara, west of Kathmandu. Flying to Pokhara is the best option to save time, as the road between the two areas is a rough ride and can take six hours at best, or a lot worse. Pokhara sits below the Annapurna on the bank of Phewa Lake. It has a slower pace than hectic Kathmandu and is the gateway to some of Nepal’s great river systems. Last minute preparations and the team boarded the bus for a scenic drive to the put-in. The put-in is below the small town of Ramdi and alongside a grade 2 plus rapid, easily portageable. With our gear loaded on the raft supporting us for the river journey we pushed off and paddled downstream into the wilderness.

The Kali Gandaki rises near the Tibetan border and flows to the

River Ganges cutting its way through deep gorges and jungle corridors



Kali Gandaki River Nepal



Each day we spent several hours paddling before pulling over onto a

deserted beach for lunch


A river journey is special, each day waking to the unknown of what the day will bring. On many rivers kayaks and rafts have become a regular sight by local villagers, however the lower Kali Gandaki has seen very little river traffic and definitely no stand up paddleboards. Travelling for six days, we were treated to white beaches to camp on, fantastic food and friendly locals. River days start with early morning tea and breakfast, followed by breaking camp once the sun has dried the dew from the tents and tarps. Each day we spent several hours paddling before pulling over onto a deserted beach for lunch. From around 15.00, we waited for the best beach to camp as we floated past. Unloading the raft each afternoon, tarps erected and kitchen set up, we then proceeded to drink tea and eat popcorn as an early evening snack, before an amazing feast and fireside stories.


ThePADDLER 112 Grade 2 rapids

Every night we were treated to insect songs from the forest, stars and fireflies. Days were warm under the Himalayan sun with the continual flow of the river. Research and planning had confirmed an easy float trip, however changes to the river had made each day more challenging than anticipated. The flow was steady, however, following a long and heavy monsoon, we were surprised by the number of grade 2 rapids faced daily. Whilst these would be no issue for a raft or kayak, for SUP paddlers it is a challenge. Each and every day bought new experiences on and off the water. Amazing paddling, laughter, stories and friendly locals. All too soon our get-out was in sight and with boards and raft deflated, we were back on the bus for a challenging journey back to Pokhara and a last paddle on Phewa Lake. This river journey is suitable for the adventurous SUP’er with a good level of experience, happy to be on and in the water.

Places for April and November 2018 available! To find out more and join the team in 2018 get in touch or


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The Southern Ice Fields of


“Hold on to the truck door, or the wind will rip the door off!” Some of the first English words spoken after the initial greetings by our very gracious, expedition trainee and host. We found ourselves in the furious fifties, 54 latitude, South America,Tierra del Fuego, Chile. A journey to the end of the Americas to explore the Southern Ice Fields of Patagonia, mentor a top Chilean paddle coach and provide expeditionary training for a young local expedition company.

Story: Greg Paquin BC Coach, owner of Kayak Waveology, USA ISKGA Advanced Guide

Getting there

The journey began from Boston, Massachusetts in mid-January 2017. Standing in front of the Air Canada ticket counter with three-piece NDK Explorers in two bags, one additional gear bag, and a small back pack, Paula Riegel of Kayak Waveology (a BC 5 Star Advanced paddler and coach) and myself received many interesting looks from other passengers and security. First, a 90-minute flight to Toronto, Canada, then a long haul 14-hour flight to Santiago Chile. Upon arriving and before enjoying a rest evening with our coach friend and expedition company partner, Juan Paulo Ceron (JP) of Universal Kayak, we airfreighted our three-piece kayaks to Punta Arenas in southern Chile to arrive just ahead of us the following day. After a four-hour morning flight the next day, we arrived in Punta Arenas greeted by a young lad saying, “Welcome Greg and Paula, I am Camilo from Nativo Expediciones.� Nativo is the young expedition company seeking guide training experiences and coaching from Kayak Waveology and Universal Kayak companies.



From there we collected our three-piece NDK Explorer sea kayaks from the air freight side of the terminal without a hitch – then the driving adventure began. It started with a two-hour drive to the Magellan Straits ferry crossing and crossing in a small, open top ferry. Force 5 winds and opposing tides made for an interesting sea spray-filled ride. After another two hours of driving on dirt roads, we met up with Nativo’s other partner, Fredy. All said and done, we arrived in one of the last villages in Chile, Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego. We met all the expedition team members for a bite to eat and a trip briefing to review plans and whatever chart and map information the young Tierra del Fuego lads from Nativo Expediciones came up with. Then we packed up the off-road trucks, yes, the trucks are set up for some serious expedition off road driving.

Off-road adventure

We left at 22.00 for a race-paced, night time off-road adventure for the next six hours. With serious off-road lighting, oncoming off road traffic and animal critters, like guanacos, are easily seen at night, giving more time to react while travelling swiftly on rugged dirt roads. Finally, in the early morning hours, we all arrived at the remains of Caleta Maria, a 1940s saw mill site. A small cluster of logging camp buildings now remain, maintained by mountain climbers over the years. Positioned at the entrance of the Almirantazgo Fjord, all around us rose numerous mountain peaks reaching 10,000 feet. The journey used to take saw mill workers and mountain climbers five days by horse back to get to the location as the dirt road was only built five years ago by the Chilean military. This primitive, wood stove heated camp was a welcomed place of rest for the next day and a half and gave us a chance to sort through the local’s choice of expedition food for the next five days on the water. Our expedition would take us into the deeper fjords that just lie north of the Beagle Channel. After a good sleep to recover from all the jet setting and off-road driving, it was time to get busy working through the nutrition for this trip in the sub-Antarctic environment. Afterwards, we all drove from the cozy camp to a nearby mountain lake for a few hours of practice and to have a look at Camilo and Fredy’s paddling skills on flat water. Basic skills where there so we had a crash course to refine strokes and

manoeuvres. They proved quick learners and all was good enough if we didn’t have a big crossing with tide and strong, opposing winds.

Expedition food

After the practice session, we stopped at a local farm/ranch. Paula and I were asked to wait in one truck at the entrance gate while our friends took the other truck to the house. It puzzled us as to why we were not allowed in. We waited roadside for about an hour when they finally reappeared with the other truck. All sorts of crazy thoughts ran through our heads on what they might have been up to. Back at camp, and hanging out next to the blazing wood cook stove, a surprise was presented to us - a full lamb! That explained their secretive stop and that is what we took for meat/protein for the paddling journey. So, we had plenty of meat, crackers for carbs, onions, potatoes, rice, some fruit, power bar snacks and a token bag of frozen veggies. Lamb would be eaten for every meal they said, the best way to survive. Well, you must respect their culture and go with the flow, after all we are guests in their country. The rest of the evening consisted of butchering the lamb, baking bread, grilling up lamb for dinner and toasting to new friends with some nice Chilean wine. No worries about refrigeration, the water is quite cold with all the ice bits floating about. This was the southern Patagonia summer and all weather was to be expected. The next morning, while packing up the sea kayaks with kit and provisions, one of us had to keep constant guard as we had a very curious Zorro (fox in Spanish) stop by. He really wanted the lamb we were packing into the kayaks. Take one look away and he snuck up just feet from you. No bears exist in this region of Patagonia, but it is big cat country. With Pumas around, you always had to keep a keen eye on your surroundings. Paddling in these southern latitudes, one can expect five to seven low pressure systems to pass every two days, so we were always paddling in Force 5-7 with little breaks between the next approaching system. Winds come predominantly from the west, then veer around depending on where the pressure system was in relation to us. It took a few days of reminding myself that low-pressure systems rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere before it became second nature.

No bears exist in this region of Patagonia,

but it is big cat country.

Puma would be the cat and you always had to keep a keen eye on your surroundings



Patagonia Chile


ThePADDLER 120 End of the earth

With all the BCU training over the last 18 years and working with experienced mentors, like Nigel Dennis, you really dive into the critical thinking of expeditionary planning.You put your mind there before your body and study the effects of the sea with pressure systems and weather fronts coupled with tides, currents and places to be where and when. I thought I have seen a lot, with paddling in wild places like Scotland, Wales, North America, Mexico and Canada but this was an entirely different level of challenge, in a place that felt like the end of the earth. On top of that, we were training paddlers on this trip too. All of my guide senses were alive and firing on all cylinders. The first day on the water consisted of pushing into Force 6 headwinds heading west from Caleta Maria. I did wonder what the local lads thought about the weather, as they had been pretty quiet during the eighthour head wind push to the intersection of another fjord heading south into the Perry Ice fields, where the environment

became even wilder. Our assistant Chilean coach, JP, quietly reminded us that South America has a very machismo society and if Paula was working in those winds with no problem, then they certainly would not voice any complaints. There certainly were some good learning moments in the push of the first day into the wind, from mimicking our paddling body movements, trim changes, tactical places to hide and rest, to how much effort coupled with efficiency to apply. It’s one thing to have qualifications under your belt, it’s another thing to prove that you can paddle.The lads were curious – and constantly watched and judged us. By the end of that first day on the water, they knew we were serious and we were starting to get to know them better too. Coach to athlete relationships were growing and barriers to learning disappeared.

When you find

huge Leopard Seals,

floating on their own little icebergs, you realize why no other creatures are around, they kill everything

A vast region

After the first day on the water, a jagged rocky beach camp site awaited us where waves smashed the shoreline just feet from our tents. We lit a proper, roaring Tierra del Fuego camp fire and had lamb for dinner. We were all in it together and good bonding and trust settled in. From what we knew and what the area locals told us, no one had sea kayaked up into these fjords around the Perry Ice fields before. It certainly had that feel, the terra firma looked like it had never been walked upon. The Patagonia Chilean region is so vast, it’s almost unfathomable as to how big and untouched this part of the world is. It felt very pure and raw. The next four days consisted of working our way up into the Perry Ice fields and exploring. With each passing mile, brash ice become increasingly prevalent and then finally we found it – glaciers just falling into the sea! What a sight, 13,000-year-old ice being undermined by the sea water, relieving pressure and crumbling and calving. There had been, up to this point, some suffering to get to that place – wind, wet, biting

cold, sleet/snow - but it was worth every minute of it. Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful places I have been in this world to date.

Rumbling, popping and crackling

We established a base camp for a few days, perched on a smooth rocky headland. Views of glaciers all around us, hanging and tide water type glaciers. This created an incredible sound like a constant thunder storm of rumbling, popping and crackling. The first growing eco-systems were amazing to see, both on land and in the sea. The moss-covered earth is so thick, we sank up to our knees. With a base camp, travelling in lighter boats exploring four more tide water glaciers over the next few days was more efficient. With only three hours of twilight, exploration options seemed limitless. We stayed out for many hours and came back to a fire with lamb cooking in the wild and then slept in late the next day. It really doesn’t get any better. Back to the coaching side of things, this was happening on many different levels with the Nativo future guides. Much was still happening by observation because of the language barrier, so good modelling of strokes and manoeuvres, behaviours, and decision



making were all being watched carefully by Fredy and Camilo. Paula and I observed steady growth each day, and noted their different learning styles and different rates of skill accusation. We enjoyed sharing our knowledge and equally learning without egos. On the client care side of expeditionary training, Fredy and Camilo’s survival skills didn’t need any tweaking at all. They clearly knew how to manage dampness, cold, strong winds and nutrition for themselves and had some good ideas in how to care for others. Camilo was a great outdoor chef and created simple, tasty recipes from the largely protein based meat diet. Fredy is the master of making fire anywhere and doing it fast.This was clearly a strong point, as Tierra del Fuego is called the land of fire for this very reason. Grilling lamb on an open fire is always a treat, but for every meal every day? I certainly enjoyed it but not sure if other paddlers from different cultural diets or with different dietary needs would. Imported goods are expensive down in that part of the world. However, expanding the menu to get more vegetables, greens and complexed carbo hydrates into the mix would be good, especially if wanting to attract paddlers from other parts of the world. The guys were very good cooks, so I’m very sure they will create a great balanced diet menu for the next visit.

Challenging remoteness

Navigation and rescue communications are a serious concern down in those lands. Being so remote and never seeing another soul for days and weeks can pose real challenges, especially if one plans on taking clients to the area. Marine charts did not exist for the area. The best we could find was a large scale National Geographic adventure map and satellite images. Finding our way was simple enough, the only problem was creating an accurate scale on the satellite images of these fjords in order to determine distance. So, a little engineering project was started. With the mountain peaks so large, the scale of real life travelling on the water was deceiving.We made our own scale on the satellite images by timing how long it took to paddle between headlands and estimating paddling speed. By working the (distance = speed x time) equation, we worked out distances and developed a map scale. It is of the upmost importance to know where you are, as a rescue satellite phone call to the Chilean Navy would be the only way out.You are really out in the wilds in the Southern Ice Fields. Marine wild life can be abundant or you could see nothing for days.When huge Leopard Seals are in the neighbourhood, hauled out on their own little icebergs, you realize why no other creatures are around, they kill everything! Luckily, they were content on their little icebergs, or very full, as they showed us little to no interest other than a yawn with fang-like teeth as we paddled by.

The Patagonia Chilean region is so vast, it’s almost unfathomable as

to how big

and untouched this part of the world is

Exploration days took us to three more tide water glaciers deep into Perry Fjord Ice Fields, all very impressive to see and experience. Hanging glaciers surrounded us and some sheltered slopes showed the vegetation line right at the ice line, while more sun exposed slopes showed a raw earth zone between the ice line and vegetation line. Another sign that the sub-Antarctic wild ice mountain lands are melting fast by global warming and climate change.

A following wind

When our time came to start the journey home from our glacier camp, a great weather window opened up, coupled with a leaving tide down the

fjord. We had the wind on our backs all the way back to camp Caleta Maria. Force 4-5 winds going our way for a change created a delightful following sea challenge. What took us two and a half days going into the Perry ice filed camp, took us just eight hours to get back. Needless to say, the young Nativo lads Camilo and Fredy learned very quickly and had to put it all together to surf heavy expedition sea kayaks for miles on end. Plenty of time for practice. JP, the Chilean paddling coach, had some great learning moments as well during the expedition coaching journey, sharing coaching style ideas with

discussions and observations. Seeing how we applied different coaching styles, whilst all the time creating long-term learning moments broadened all of our horizons. From Caleta Maria camp, it took us four more days to get home back in New England, USA. The people of southern Chile and their culture, hospitality and willingness to learn and share was such a beautiful life experience. We are so honoured to have been able to share with them our knowledge and skills and can’t wait to go back for another adventure. Adventures like these make lifelong friends across the world.



Part two of two To read part one see here: Our paddling buddies had left France, so we decided to head off further afield and experience some new places. After a bit of discussion we settled on Slovenia. A bit of a drive from Briancon but that’s the point of a road trip, right? We knew our friends from Aston University would be there to share the river and shuttles with so now seemed as good a time as any! . Story: Oli Kershaw Part 2 of 2 Our paddling buddies had left France, so we decided to head off further afield and experience some new places. After a bit of discussion we settled on Slovenia. A bit of a drive from Briancon but that’s the point of a road trip, right? We knew our friends from Aston University would be there to share the river and shuttles with so now seemed as good a time as any! Slovenia truly is as beautiful as everybody says. Crystal blue waters and stunning scenery really do make the Soča River the perfect playground for dialling in your river skills. With guaranteed levels for such a large proportion of the year, it is little wonder Slovenia produces as many strong whitewater boaters as they do. With most sections being at a fairly comfortable grade for the pair us by the time of year we arrived, we weren’t expecting too much in the way of a challenge but were instead looking forward to some relaxed boating with friends in beautiful surroundings. There was just the one section that sounded as though it might give a bit of a challenge; the infamous Syphon Canyon. Having tried in vain to get some information on this section other than, “If you swim, you die,” I gave my good friend Andrew Bonney a call. I won’t go into the details of the 45-minute phone call, but the information gained could be summed up with the phrase, “If you swim, you die,” Chatting to the local shops about the section, I was warned off, told the grade wasn’t too difficult, but consequences severe followed by the now all too familiar, “If you swim, you die.” Not one to be scared off easily, the next day I found myself at the bottom of Trnovo 2, Tony getting off leaving me all alone above the daunting Syphon Canyon, about to drop into the unknown.





ThePADDLER 126 Alarming

The hour or two that followed was some of the slowest progress I’ve ever made downriver. Inspecting every bend, every rock and every feature. I could see how this place had got its name. The number of siphons really was quite alarming. Most were fairly easy to avoid with prior inspection and clean lines, but there were the odd one or two with tight lines that certainly got the heart pumping. All in all, Slovenia was a destination I fell in love with, particularly as a coaching venue! So much so, we’ll be back there running our development holidays next year! Where to after Slovenia? Somewhere had some big shoes to fill… Tony and I put our heads together and started flicking through the guidebook. We wanted somewhere neither of us had been before, somewhere challenging. After a little discussion we decided on the Upper Rhone region.The southwest corner of Switzerland and surrounding areas of Italy and France hide some magnificent rivers just slightly too far apart to have a central hub. Prime for a road trip though! Plotting our route on Google maps, we couldn’t help but notice our route took us within about half an hour of Venice. World famous for romance, Venice was a city I begrudgingly listened to my parents wax lyrical about for many years, and seemed the perfect place for our very manly rest day. I have to admit, when we planned this trip, I had never considered that Venice might have been one of our destinations.Yet here I found myself, sat in the passenger seat of my van en-route to Venice, Googling if we were allowed to paddle on the canals.

of a run I cannot recommend highly enough

An absolute belter

Our first run was the Rhône from Sierre to Susten.

As it turns out, that is very much frowned upon. A bit of searching on Google will turn up a map of all the canals in Venice and the restrictions on them. Unfortunately for us, all of the canals that we were

allowed to paddle on were on the far side of town from parking, and I didn’t fancy carrying my boat for several kilometres across the packed city. Though it would make a very amusing story, so I’m still tempted to this day! Walking (read: getting lost) around Venice, I couldn’t help but feel the magic was lost on me. The streets all looked the same, street vendors sold the same tat as the last, and it was far too busy. I did start to wonder whether another city may have done something about the flooding situation before it got quite so out of hand, but everyone seemed happy enough so I tried not to dwell on it too much. Before we could head on over to Switzerland, I had some business to attend to; the stag do of one of my best friends.Tenerife beckoned. Dropping me at the airport,Tony picked up his wife (who landed the same day I left) and headed over to a chalet near Lake Como. A time Tony insists he didn’t enjoy at all as he was missing me far too much. I might be paraphrasing… Back from the stag do, ever so slightly hungover, and now minus several hundred euros and my phone, I landed back in Milan last than 48 hours after I had left. I needed some paddling therapy.Time to head to Switzerland.

Upper Rhône Valley

The Upper Rhône Valley certainly had some big shoes to fill to following Slovenia. It did not disappoint. Our first run was the Rhône from Sierre to Susten. An absolute belter of a run I cannot recommend highly enough. Four kilometres of big volume Grade 4 like nothing I’ve ever found in Western Europe. Be careful though, this one starts with a bang! The first rapid certainly woke us up after a few days off! This was probably my favourite river of the entire trip. Although short, it was a completely unexpected big

Above: Slovenia Left: The RhĂ´ne


vast undercut

There definitely was a line and it most definitely was washing into a

volume playground. Fortunately for me, Tony didn’t fancy more than the one lap, meaning I had a shuttle bunny. After lap five, I decided it was probably time to call it a day and give Tony’s poor heart (and my tired arms) a rest. The next day we headed over to the Lonza, another four kilometres of stunning Grade 4, in the most beautiful of picture-postcard valleys. A totally different feel to it, the Lonza was low volume and in places even shallow. With few eddies to speak of and no let up for its entirety, it gave a whole different thrill to the Rhône, but certainly no less enjoyable. Except maybe for the fact the water was colder than any river I had ever known. How it wasn’t actually frozen can only be described as some sort of scientific miracle. After our non-stop paddle on the Lonza, we felt we had earned ourselves a nice easy meal on the way home and so stopped at a lovely local eatery known as McDonalds. If you haven’t ever been to a McDonalds in Switzerland, don’t. We ordered ourselves a burger, chips and drink each and were horrified to hear the server declare the price at 40… Forgetting briefly that Switzerland still uses the Franc, Tony and I were horrified at the thought that a McDonalds meal could come to 40 euros. We quickly dismissed this awful thought. As we sat down to our meal, I thought I would google just how much 40 Swiss Francs is in Euros – it’s 35! Not much better! Tony was so wounded by this I still don’t think he’s stopped telling people. His line, “I thought I was at the point in my life I could afford a McDonalds,” certainly made me chuckle every time he told it though. He still has nightmares about it now. It was time to leave Switzerland, fast! Both wounded by Switzerland’s outrageous prices. We hatched a plan to leave first thing in the morning. We decided to head off to the Dranse de Thonon, a popular rafting river not far from the ski resort of Morzine. Heading for the rafting centre, we hoped we might be able to blag a shuttle from the locals for the Middle Dranse de Thonon.

Clearly catching the place on quite a quiet day, we were greeted by several staff relaxing over lunch, one of whom kindly offered to help with the shuttle. We thanked him, and started getting changed. Baffled when we wandered over without a vehicle declaring he was ready to go, it was obvious there was something we hadn’t quite understood! After a little more discussion, I realised what he meant by his offer of help was that he would drop us at the top and drive my van back down to the rafting centre take-out. Quite nervous about the concept of letting a total stranger drive my pride and joy, I was unsure what to do. However, I was also river blind and conceded he seemed like a trustworthy fellow and probably wouldn’t steal or crash it. Fortunately for me, my trust was well placed and much to my relief we found the van unharmed and waiting at the take out to the middle section. Time for the upper! Tony had decided that the upper wasn’t for him, and would run the shuttle for me. We decided to take a look at the ‘definite portage’ before I committed to dropping in. After locating the portage and accessing it with relative ease, a good 20 minutes was spent considering just how possible the line was. There definitely was a line and it most definitely was washing into a vast undercut. Still, there was a tight but untidy line that would get you through and I was confident I could make it. I turned to Tony. “I think I’ll decide when I get there.” Not a response he was happy with. I could empathise, but didn’t want to rule out running it just yet. I had to consider how I felt once I was there in a boat. Half an hour or so later, a fun but fairly uneventful run brought me back face to face with the undercut, this time in my boat. This time the decision was almost instant – I was walking. I knew I could’ve boned down the chossy line and I thought I probably could’ve made the main line. A quick 50-metre walk saw me back in my boat and grinning like a Cheshire cat yet again as I flew down what remained of the Upper Dranse de Thonon with hardly a second thought.



Tony and I had a great time exploring, but decided we wanted a

nice easy end to our trip. Back to Briancon it was!

Risk your life?

So why did I walk around a rapid I felt I could run? For me it comes down to risk vs reward. The rapids I had encountered so far on that run had clean, fun, fast lines. The portage had none of that. It had the option of scraping down hard right, it also had the main line option, a line that certainly went but didn’t look smooth. All that with the knowledge that 80% of the water was going under a vast undercut made the decision boil down to the following; “Do you want to risk your life to run the worst rapid of this river?” That’s a no brainer! After our fun in Morzine, we had to consider where we were off to next. Tony and I had a great time exploring, but decided we wanted a nice easy end to our trip. Back to Briancon it was! Heading back to Camping Les Ecrins, the hub campsite of the French Alps, felt like a second home after such a long trip. With all the familiar faces it felt almost like being back on the Dee or the Dart, only with good weather! To paddle and share the evening with fellow coaches Chris Brain, Andrew Bonney, Paul Smith, Tom Parker really was a true pleasure. I honestly can’t think of many times I’ve been happier than the times spent boating in glorious sunshine all day followed recounting stories with great friends in the evening. I would like to say a massive personal thanks to every single person we encountered on our road trip, whether we shared good times on the river, off the river or both, or even just shared a laugh in a lay-by. Thank you for some of the best times of my life.

Oli Kershaw can be found spending his summer travelling across Europe, running his company Next Level Coaching and Guiding. Next Level runs chalet-catered whitewater kayaking trips to some of the most glorious destinations Europe has to offer including Slovenia, Italy, France and Spain, as well as providing whitewater coaching and British Canoeing courses here in the UK too. If you see Oli on the river, be sure to say hi! Oli would like to thank his sponsors Peak UK, Canoe and Kayak Store and Surfplugs for their continued support.

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YOU CUSTOMISE, WE BUILD, YOU RIDE Rider : Louis Hétier (Loulou) Photo : ©




Words: Corran Addison In the last month or so, there has been an inordinate amount of discussion about the change in kayak design that has pleasantly been referred to as, “Back to the future.”

The media has jumped on this idea, of the re-emergence of ‘old school’ type longer, slicier designs, with discussions and articles on the topic abound. I’m a protagonist in this movement, with all my new models being longer and in the case of playful designs, slicier, than has been the trend in the last decade or so.

In a recent interview with an American paddling magazine, I was discussing this with the editor, and he mentioned that one of differences between the ‘real’ old designs and the ‘new’ old inspired designs, was ergonomics and outfitting. In talking with the various manufacturers, the common thread was that these new boats were not the same as the old ones, because the overall fit was better.

I had to heartily disagree.

The outfitting in modern designs is more complex and more universally adjustable, of this there can be no question, but is it really better, I asked? There was a brief pause, followed by the editor in question saying, “No, I don’t think it is. I always strip all that stuff out of the boat and use glue and foam.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is it in a nutshell.

There was a time, when boat outfitting was such a black art, that the ‘good kayak shops’ differentiated themselves, not in a price war but in outfitting service. You’d buy your kayak and then the dealer would take a few hours to work with you to get the fit perfect. Those days are gone, as the universally and almost infinitely adjustable outfitting has ‘eliminated’ this process and the need of knowledgeable dealer/craftsmen.


Main photo: Jessica Fox. Photo: Peter Tranter Jessica’s lower body scan for the perfect fit.


ThePADDLER 134 But is it better?

I too, rip all the bells and whistles, straps and buckles, inflatable bits and bobs right out of my boat.The outfitting is the direct connection, the link, between my body and the boat. It’s through the outfitting that I get to transmit my commands to the boat and if there is any movement, any kind of play in the fitting, these instructions arrive incomplete, late or flat-out incorrect. Skiing tried this in the 1980s. Comfortable, rear-entry boots, with dials and knobs that you turn and twist to ‘close’ the internal padding around the foot and then the ski boot back would latch up and more dials and twists to get it snug. On paper, they were great. Easy to get into, comfortable to wear and tightened down to ski. However, as anyone who tried these in the 1980s can tell you, they simply didn’t work.Your connection to the boot was sloppy, no matter how much you cranked it all down and in turn your feel of the ski, and input back to the ski was vague and lacking in precise feel. It took a decade but boots went back to hard, tight, front entry. Sure, they’re more comfortable now than in the 1980s but they are still essentially hard to put on and when it comes to comfort, as any dedicated skier will tell you, the two happiest moments of the day are when you put your boots on to make your first turns and when you finally get to take them off.

Today’s designs

Today’s universally designed outfitting consists of variations (depending on manufacturer) of hip pads consisting of foam pieces stuffed into loose bags, strapped to seat sides. The ability to add or remove foam to these depending on your size, and what you’re wearing due to seasonal changes, might make them practical, but how can you possibly expect to control a kayak when these bags have anywhere from a half inch to over an inch of movement? Seats have plush foam pads, or little beads, sandwiched inside a ‘bag’ of some sort, which in turn is riveted, or velcroed to the seat in some form or another. These in turn all also have a little movement here or there. Adjustable back bands, while very convenient for easy entry and exit into your kayak, are the literal kayaking equivalent of rear entry ski boots: Slide in from the

back, and crank that a thing up using some sort of rope, at webbing, thereof. bbi ratchet t h t or combinations bi ti th f All off them th have play and movement. When you add all of this together, you have a system that can have anywhere from one to two inches of total body movement in all directions. The only way to combat this, is the lower body equivalent of the ‘toe curl’ that was required in rear-entry boots – a bunching of the toes and foot inside to make your foot ‘bigger’ and reduce play. In modern kayak outfitting, that’s accomplished by having to over tighten the backbands, consciously tense and grip with your legs and thighs and effectively make your lower body as ‘big’ as possible inside the sloppy outfitting (that no matter how tight you make it, serves only to cut off circulation, without actually solving the issue of movement). Of course, the solution used by the ‘pros’ is a seatbelt: hardly a solution with broad appeal.

Sand paper, glue and foam

In my opinion, while it’s far less practical if you’re that guy that stops to buy a new kayak on the way to the river and expect the internal outfitting to be ‘turnkey’, there is no (current) better solution that sand paper, glue and foam (and of course, time and drinks). Those dealers that used to do this for you are like the Jedi; almost extinct, and given that anyone who’s learned to paddle in the last decade or more has never had to glue and foam a boat, it’s a lost art amongst paddlers themselves. I regularly give paddling clinics and one of the key points I get into in teaching skills, is the understanding that th the outfitting in your boat is the critical link between you and what you want your kayak to do. My be general advice to people is, “Rip that crap out”. You’ll ge reduce outfitting weight and you can then pad your re boat bo properly. Ski Sk boot giant Nordica, lists a ski boot fitter as the single most important thing you can do when buying sin new ne boots. On their website they say, “Buying ski boots is easy. Pick a make and model. Hand over your money. Bear Be the consequences. Or, you can invest in a good boot fitter. fit Choosing the latter buys you a wealth of expert advice, a lifetime of personalized service, a trusted, spare ad parts pa and maintenance resource and boots that fit, feel and ski sk as they should.”

The outfitting is the direct connection, the link,

between my body and the boat

Top: The ultimate in personalised outfitting is to scan your body and then make a seat from that scan. Obviously this is not an option for everyone, so you’re trying to recreate this effect with foam and sandpaper.

Centre: A little padding for comfort on the seat from a scan, and if you’re really in the mood, a lap belt, and you have the best fit possible. Bottom Left: Replacing the backband with a hard plastic piece removes all the straps and ropes that slip and break, and gives a positive instant reaction from the boat to your movements.

Top right: As convenient as they seem, bits of foam stuffed into a sac and strapped on do not offer you boat control. Top Left: Remove that bag of foam pads, and throw them away. Replace them with foam and glue and then shape the foam perfectly to your hips. Bottom 2: replace the seat pad that can slide, with glued-in pads that have no movement.



ThePADDLER 136 Maintenance

Like the ski boot fitter, you have to learn how to outfit your boat, especially in this era where professionals barely exist and you have to maintain the fittings. If you just plonk your ass directly onto the foam and force your way into the boat the way you have with ‘the pad in a bag’, you’re going to rip it all off the boat every time you use it. You have to learn to manoeuvre your way into your kayak, like putting on tight fitting ski boots. You might have to adjust the fitting for summer vs winter gear,and even if you do everything correctly, it’s still going to require maintenance as invariably something here or there peels off. Now you can certainly go to extremes when it comes to fitting your boat. 2012 Olympic silver medalist Jessica Fox, daughter of nine-time world champion Richard Fox, had her lower body scanned using Creaform REVscan and they then CNC cut a perfect inverted replica of her to put into her kayak and C1. I have likewise done the same for myself and used this scan to create my latest version of the ‘Power Seat’. If you’re shaped even remotely like me, it’s the most form fitting ‘direct control’ seat you’ll ever get to use. But for most paddlers, this isn’t an option, even if it does illustrate the importance of a perfect, customized fit.

Regardless of manufacturer, foam bits in bags, whether on the seat or hips, plus ropes, straps and clasps, are never going to give you the control you need as everything can move about inside the kayak with your body, reducing control.

Tougher challenge today

Part of your challenge nowadays is going to be that the base that all these bags of foam are attached to are rarely nice flat surfaces that are foam and glue friendly. After all, most designers no longer think about this as something critical (I actually do, and the surfaces in my boats are all designed to allow the ‘universally adjustable’ outfitting to be taken out, and foam and glue to replace it), and as a result, the challenge to you, the paddler, is a tougher one today than it was a decade or so ago. This is not to say that the universal outfitting doesn’t have its place. Just like Aunt Suzie, with her ultra comfortable, soft and padded, slightly oversized ski boots will tell you, comfort and warm feet are more desirable than ski control. Many paddlers would argue that they’re not ‘performance paddlers’, and the convenience and comfort of these modern outfitting systems are more desirable than a ‘direct to boat input’ system that requires constant tinkering and is arguably less comfortable. But Aunt Suzie also wonders why after two decades of skiing, her skills have not advanced one iota, as is often the case for Joe Paddler. Maybe it’s not you… maybe it’s the way you’re (not able to) control your boat. So next time you go out, ands you’re trying to do a move, whether that’s an Airscrew, or a simple ferry glide and you’re wondering why you’re not getting it, ask yourself whether you’re really able to control your boat the way you should be. Are you slopping around inside, despite being uncomfortably tight, or having to ‘over grip’ to drive your input into your boat.

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By Mal Grey TheTarn is a river of southern France. Rising only an hour’s drive from the Mediterranean, on the high plateaux of the Causses, it winds its way westwards to join the Garonne and ultimately reach the Atlantic. On its 400km journey, it falls from 1,500m to just 60m. Most of this drop is in the first 100km, as it cuts deeply through the ancient limestone of the Causses, carving out huge canyons on its way.The biggest, and most impressive, of these are known as the Gorges duTarn, the main section of which runs for 40 miles through simply stunning scenery. .


Day one: undercut limestone


Day one: natural weir near Ispagnac

we were experiencing, temperatures were mild, and there are places to eat and drink along the way. In summer, you need little more than shorts, a hat and suntan lotion. Some locals wear less… The first day is quite shallow, and needs a little water. We had just enough, but the first few rapids were a little scrapy as we got used to handling our laden canoes whilst our paddles banged off the stones a few inches under our hulls. Mostly though, we paddled on gently moving water beneath steep wooded slopes, with the odd small crag poking through the trees, and numerous villages and farms about.

Day two: St Chely-du-Tarn

The rapids became more frequent, and the valley sides got closer, and steeper, the river winding its way around a series of bends. The river was now classic easy pool-drop paddling, with no difficulties other than the danger of getting stuck on a shallow bit. We didn’t have a great deal of information about this first day, but ‘The Bible’, Pete Knowles’ White Water Massif Central guide, suggested a couple of harder rapids and our map even had some blue chevrons marked near Ispagnac. The first of these we passed unnoticed, just another one of the numerous little riffles. However, ahead the water was slowing and deepening, the classic sign of a steeper drop approaching. At a tight left-hand bend, we came to our first proper challenge.

Here warm limestone cliffs tower up to 600m above the river but, perhaps surprisingly, the river itself is amenable and almost all paddleable at a modest grade. I’ve been fortunate to paddle here several times, but my most memorable trip was probably in summer 2016 when a group of us paddled the four days from Florac to Le Rozier as a continuous journey, and this is mostly the tale of that trip, with a few photos and observations from other trips thrown in for good measure. It was the end of May and France was wet. Very wet. We’d arranged to meet and paddle on the Lot at Entraygues, a nice warm up run for the Tarn later, but it had been in full flood and conditions were cold and wet. Not what we’d travelled to southern France for. We were surprised to find, though, that RiverApp suggested the levels over the watershed on the Tarn were modest but sufficient, so we abandoned the Lot and headed for Florac. Just a two-hour drive, and we were on a campsite at Pont du Tarn, by clear bubbling water at modest levels. Perfect for our intentions. Florac is a small and likeable little town in the deep valley of the Tarn a few miles upstream of the Gorges du Tarn proper, and has all the facilities you need to stock up for your trip. From here we would paddle for 40 miles to Le Rozier, dropping around 150m on the way.

Florac to Castelbouc

Having dropped my car off at Les Vignes on the way over, we were free to paddle straight away in the morning, no faffing about with the dreaded shuttle run. Soon enough, we were ready to go with laden canoes. Fortunately, you don’t need too much gear for this trip, as even in the slightly disappointing weather

A longish rapid fell away below us, briefly steep at the top, before levelling off through a bit of a rock garden. Just below the initial drop, a large, slightly evil-looking, rock pushed out into the flow exactly where your canoe would be taken. We’d need to be careful and to commit to the move.

However, ahead the water was slowing and deepening, the classic sign of a

steeper drop


Luckily we have a couple of daft keen types, John and Peter, who always leap at the chance of things like this, so we sent them down first. Peter bounced off the end of the rock, John avoided it to the right but too close to hidden underwater rocks which spun him round and he finished the move backwards. Both were fine, thanks to their paddling skills and eddied out. It was my turn. This was the first time I’d paddled a harder rapid with a laden canoe, so I was a little nervous. As I dropped down the initial slope, the acceleration was alarming, and that tooth was definitely looking at me with a greedy expression on it face. I paddled hard to move to the right, and just scraped by with a heart-in-mouth moment as the upstream gunwhale dipped, before I recovered it. Phew, I eddied out on the right half-way down, to fulfil my role as photographer. The rest came down in turn. Nobody had a problem, but everybody had a little moment I reckon, either just missing the rock or spinning on hidden boulders if further right. We’d passed our first challenge, but I was hoping there would be nothing any harder ahead.



Our next challenge was quickly upon us, a broken natural weir. I wasn’t sure it would go, but John spotted a slot we could get through, and in the end it was straightforward. We knew the day would now become easier, and stopped for a welcome lunch break. One of my favourite bits of French paddling is breaking out the baguettes, cheese and meats and sitting on a gravelly shore watching the sparkling waters bubble past. The afternoon was easy, the scenery becoming ever more spectacular as we swung west into the Gorges proper. The pastel-coloured cliffs became larger and more frequent, sticking their warm faces out above the clinging pine trees. At times the water undercut the cliffs, and we could drift in calm pools beneath the towering limestone walls. The day pressed on, and we turned our thoughts to camping. Enquiries before the trip had been met with a universal, “No need to book,” reply and the gorge was remarkably quiet. The season is so short here, this last week of May and first week of June was still too early for the French, something I find remarkable given the spectacular nature of the region; in the UK it would be rammed all year. Anyway, there were half a dozen campsites marked on the excellent IGN 1:25k map, so we happily floated past the first couple, where we could see just a few tents pitched and pulled up at the next. It was closed. As was the next. Hmmm. This left us with one remaining option, the site at Castelbouc. Fortunately, they were open and we had a home for the night.

Castelbouc to La Maléne.

The village of Castelbouc, just downstream of camp, is a spectacularly perched little hamlet on the south bank, reached only by another low bridge. Here a crumbling tower above the village is all that remains of one of the many castles which perch on little bluffs above the river. Today we’d be heading into the heart of the Gorges, paddling down past the villages of St Enimie and St Chely to La Maléne, right in the middle of the gorge. The river becomes easy, with long sections where you can drift happily in awe at the scenery above, broken up by fun little riffles where clear waters burble over rounded pebbles. At Prades, we had to portage around the large weir, as it was too steep with shallow water below. Kayaks would probably get away with it. In other places, huge piles of tree debris pressed against the rocks, an indicator of what the canyon must be like in winter floods.

At times, we simply lay back in our canoes, put our feet on the gunwhales and gazed in wonder at the

towering walls above

Relaxed camping along the way

Above St Enimie, another long pool heralded the next big weir. Here, the river drops off sharply on the left down a remarkable little channel, almost like a tunnel between overhanging cliffs and leaf-laden trees. A few rocks and some swirly water in the narrow gaps between them keep you alert, before you pop out opposite the town beach. St Enimie is the ‘capital’ of the gorge and here there are small shops, bars and cafés should you need them. Now you start to enter the true gorge, and the valley sides rear up above you. The paddling is a doddle, but you could never be bored. At times, we simply lay back in our canoes, put our feet on the gunwhales and gazed in wonder at the towering walls above, where small specks circled. These little black dots were actually Griffon Vultures with two-metre wingspans, for a healthy population lives in these parts. St Chely du Tarn has to be one of the most spectacular villages of the gorge. A stone span leaps from cliff to cliff overhead, above a welcoming beach and deep, slow pool, perfect for swimming. Here a tributary stream tumbles over a glistening waterfall into the clear water, where large fish can be seen swimming lazily below your canoe. The canyon opened out a little round the corner, and the rest of the day was spent paddling happily down easy riffly rapids, and along long slow sections with eyes upwards to the hundreds of crazy pinnacles that march towards the skyline. La Maléne arrived after a long straight stretch, lined up with the prevailing winds which tend to rise in the afternoon as the heat causes the air to rise and the breeze is sucked up the valley floor to replace it, so we had to work a little here. A big weir here can be run on the left if there is enough water below, or clambered down if not – this time it was easy enough. The campsite is a little further on after the bridge, within easy walking distance of the village, and that night we fed on excellent pizzas in a vault beneath the hotel by the bridge.

Keeping cool in the heat of the gorge

Griffon Vulture

Afloat on crystal clear waters

Day two: near Pougnadoires ThePADDLER 143


Gorges duTarn France


ThePADDLER 146 La Maléne to Pas de Souci

The third day is short but makes up for it by passing through simply astonishing scenery. There are only a few shallow rapids and it is likely you will see more people than on the other days, including the traditional flat-bottomed tourist boats that take people down this part of the canyon. On this trip, though, we only saw a handful of people even on this stretch, so quiet was the whole valley. After a few kilometres of sublime easy paddling, we found ourselves in the very deepest part of the gorges. Here, the walls close in, and limestone towers above your head on both sides of the river, above which steep pine-clad slopes lead to a final massive tier of cliffs over 500m above you. This is Les Detroits, the most famous part of the Gorges du Tarn. A small beach made for a perfect place to stop for a break. As we put in after a lazy lunch, a sleek shape glided along the face of the cliffs above, a short-toed snake eagle. The reason for the short day comes at the end. At the Pas de Souci, half of the valley sides has tumbled in giant blocks into the river over the millennia, forming lethal strainers and syphons where several people have died.These are continuous enough to warrant climbing up to the road, and portaging down that with trollies, a slightly risky exercise on narrow winding roads. We, though, had come up with a sneaky plan. We were staying that night at La Beldoire campsite (note this was closed in summer 2017), so had asked to leave my vehicle there and after the short day we’d had, there was plenty of time to complete our car shuttle by walking to the campsite, then fetching the other cars from Florac and picking up the boats on return. The get out above Pas de Souci is worth a little description. I would recommend inspecting this whilst running a shuttle, just so you know where it is.You can’t really miss it, there are numerous hire company signs and two battered old buoyancy aids suspended on a cable above the river. A track leads here from a layby on the road.Technically there are a few get outs, each owned by a different hire company, and no official public access. We had no problem, but as each is gated, you might not be able to bring your cars down from the road and have to carry up to it.

Les Vignes to Le Rozier

After camping at La Beldoire, just above Les Vignes, our final day would arguably be the most fun. The gorge sides open out a little, the steeper cliffs retreating upwards to form a mighty precipice along the rim, below which steep pine forests have an almost North American look to them. If you start at Les Vignes itself, you miss a superb long glissiére slide down the weir, but otherwise this would be the obvious launch for a day trip. You still get to enjoy a day of regular grade 1 and 2 rapids, with a little bit of spice thrown in with one slightly harder 2+/3. As

Day three: Les Detroits Day three: below Les Detroits

Avoiding the evil tooth on day one

Day two: crystal clear rapids

Day three: natural shade


ThePADDLER 148 we left behind the village, the valley ahead is clear and obvious, no longer winding as it has been for the last 30 miles, but straight and with an obvious downhill trend. Little drops appear regularly, each with enough eddies for as much or as little play-time as you want. I’ve done this run three times now, and I can honestly say that it’s my favourite white water open canoe day anywhere, continuous but not difficult, with the magnificent scenery of the Gorges du Tarn all around you, and all in warm French sunshine. On this occasion, there was a little more flow than on the others, so a little less rock dodging, but some good defined little play waves.We were loving it, especially as we’d emptied our canoes of the camping gear and just run a quick shuttle from camp to the finish. As the valley drew us onwards, our eyes were pulled to the rocky tower of Le Cinglegros, a huge limestone bastion that marks a turn in the river, and lies above the hardest rapid of the day. Here, La Sablière is a grade 2+ rapid, maybe a 3 in certain conditions. A hundred metres or so long, the flow pushes you straight at an obvious rock which regularly collects hire canoes. On this trip, it was almost washed out, but still required a definite move to the right.

From there onwards, the faster rapids come more quickly for a while. I remember the utter feeling of contentment the first time I did this part, watching my mate paddling ahead down these gorgeous sparkling modest rapids, whilst above his canoe towering walls of limestone hung under blue skies. All too soon, as it’s only a seven-mile trip, we approached Le Rozier as an afternoon thunderstorm built up, rumbling amongst the tops high above us and we finished under the bridge in a downpour. No matter, it had been a wonderful journey, through this spectacular canyon. Despite the villages, decent campsites and the nearby road, every time I’ve done this it has felt surprisingly remote, and out of the height of the summer season, we only saw one other paddled craft on the whole river. Sparkling waters, towering limestone, warm sunshine and whitewater paddling in shorts and t-shirts? What’s not to like?






STARTING POINT: Our route started in Florac, at the campsite marked on Paddle Points here:

RESOURCES: The book Whitewater Massif Central by Pete Knowles is the acknowledged bible for paddling in this part of the world and is aimed at families and open canoeists. Currently out of print, a revised and updated second edition is due out by summer 2018 from Rivers Publishing.

The Gorges du Tarn on Paddle Points

Gorges duTarn CAMPING: We camped at; Pont du Tarn, Florac; Castelbouc; La Maléne; La Beldoire, Les Vignes. All are typical relaxed, tree-lined, French campsites, though in the height of the season booking would be essential. Typically, bakery products can be ordered for the morning.

FAMILY PADDLING: The two middle days would be perfect for families of any age, and the final day for those who’ve done a little moving water before. The first day is a little harder, a mistake having more serious consequences.

TEMPERATURES: In summer, it can be warm, very warm, in the high 30s Celsius. However, on the water it doesn’t feel as oppressive, though its very important to cover up and use water-resistant sun cream.

If you want to hire proper open canoes, and to get help with the logistics at either end, a British couple, Mark and Louise, have set up a business targeting this market with bespoke hire trips on rivers like the Tarn, Lot and Cele. Based in Cajarc on the Lot, the Tarn is one of their most popular itineraries. More information can be found on their website:

SUPPLIES: There are supermarkets at either end in Florac and Le Rozier. The villages of St Enimie and La Maléne have small shops and a few hotels.

CANOE HIRE: Each village has plastic sit-on-tops for hire, which are fine for a short trip.





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By Markus Stehböck After one of those cold runs down the Saalach River in Lofer, Austria, we all got to dreaming of warm fingers, when one of my friends suggested a kayak road trip to Greece. Thinking more about Greece and what comes to mind are all those idyllic beaches, Ouzo, Tzatziki, olive oil, sun and islands – all perfect for sea kayaking! Well, that’s all true but Greece has a whole lot more to offer, as we would discover a few months later in April. For the last 15 years now, I’ve been spending at least a month a year in Greece with my whitewater school, offering kayak and SUP trips plus lessons.

The Greek geography offers a huge amount of mountain ranges over 2,000 metres with considerable snowpack, so in spring especially, you have an excellent chance of finding a good flow, while paddling in short sleeves in the sun. Apart from Class III, there are quite a few more demanding and extremely beautiful runs like Aoös and its remote feeder, Arcoudorema, in the Valiacalda, which means ’warm valley’. I guess the name is ironic, even if you are definitely warm when you reach the put in of the Arcoudorema, as you will have hiked in for several hours. In the laid back mountain villages, the support of the extremely hospitable locals makes it easy to manage the sometimes long and rowdy shuttle rides.

Diavolorema River



Kalaritikos Box Canyon

In the breathtaking scenery of the Tzoumerka Mountains, over the years, a friendship developed with Marina and Nikos from At the Arachthos River, which reminds me of the Soca River maybe 25 years ago, they are running a hotel, a raft company and a kayak camp.You’ll find them always with a smile, shuttling, sharing historical and cultural informations about the area or serving you drinks or a BBQ as soon you step out off the river. Their support and friendliness simply makes you feel like home as soon as you get there. Enjoy the outdoor camp life, or stay in the hotel, both options are available there.

It’s the perfect

place to stay for a week and discover the four sections of the Arachthos River and two sections of the Kalaritikos River. Furthermore, Acheron, Acheelos,Voidomatis, Langafzas, can be reached within 90 minutes. It’s easy to reach from the airports in Thessaloniki, Athens, Preveza or Korfu, which are offering cheap flights all around Europe.

When you paddle back to Greece you can find the next river and landscape highlight only 20km south: the Voidomatis River, which is known for its crystal clear waters. A 40-minute portage brings you down to a put in of almost surreal beauty in one of the deepest canyons in Europe. It offers Class III-IV whitewater in the upper section and still very beautiful Class I-II whitewater in the lower section. The area is a famous honeymoon destination in Greece, so you will find many restaurants, bars and hotels in the traditionally built Zagochoria villages. If you want to go for a hike to the Dragon Lake you’ll have a perfect view over the area.

Voidomatis at low levels

If you are up to longer and more venturesome holidays, it’s also possible to make a road trip and discover many other rivers of Greece. Among them you find some river gods such as the Aoös, 75km of Class III-V in three sections, making its way down through amazing gorges with some serious creeking and waterfalls at the beginning, with classic whitewater in the middle sections. As soon as the Aoös River reaches Albania, it simply changes its name to Vjosa and continues to offer open Class IIIII playful whitewater.




Upper Aoos River Greece



The Perivoliotis River is a small creek, whose course provides some tricky steps and Class IV-V in its upper part. The lower part with its picturesque black canyons, is a perfect shortcut for the Mileapotamos River, mostly Class III with a couple of Class IV-V sections. Whilst there at various times, we have had contact with otter, bear, boar and chamois. After a unrunable and almost unscoutable box canyon, the Mileapotamos changes its name to Venetikos, which offers perfect schooling and training whitewater for another 20km until the confluence with the Aliakmonas River, where you can find one of the best wild camps.

Kalaritikos at medium flow

The eastern part of the Smolikas mountain range, offers three main rivers and ski resorts – so during easter holidays you’ll have to choose between skiing or paddling.

Many other paddling opportunities

Of course, there’s much more to paddle in Greece. The Peloponnese Peninsula is also an option for the winter months and offers several rivers in all grades such as the famous Erymanthos. Central Greece can be reached quite easily from Meteora and classic runs like the Krikelopotamos with its glorious geology and entertaining Class III-IV+ whitewater are waiting for you there.

The Upper Aoos

It’s only a 45-minute drive to the monasteries of Meteora (James Bond – ’For Your Eyes Only’), which is definitely worth a visit. Beside the cultural aspects, it also offers many climbing opportunities.

The less known area for paddlers you’ll find is in the north east in the Rhodope mountain range at the Bulgarian border, which offers some of the hardest

Whilst there at various times, we have

Arachtos SUP descent

had contact with otter, bear,

boar and chamois

Arachtos SUP descent



runs in Greece such as the Diavolorema and Arcoudorema rivers. Both are Class IV-V and easy to scout from the road, where the granite riverbed offers demanding slides, waterfalls but requires also some portages. We still have some research projects in this area, where some of this rivers still do not even have a name.

Playful runs

If you’re less interested in hard whitewater, you can also find some nice and playful runs on the Nestos River with its Class II-III whitewater, where you’ll also find rafting close by. If you decide to come to Greece by car, it will of course take some time to get there, on the other hand the whole balkan offers many rivers, stunning natural scenery and the friendliest of people.The easiest way is to take the plane and book your equipment, guiding and transfers from the airports.This way you’ll get the maximum experience and a good idea of what is so special about paddling in Greece.

Acheron low

Hiking in Arcoudorema.

We are offering our trips from the end of March through to the end of April, where you can expect the best water levels. We have camps for beginners, intermediate or road trips. For experienced stand up paddlers, we also offer trips as well. There are still some first descents to make, like we did on the Arachthos River two years ago.

For more informations contact us via




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KAYAKING 4 CANCER CHARITY EVENT æ^“ƗƗƋƆƄ”“ƏƗƆƏƒƆƏƕƓƆƋƅ”ƌƆç    ơƾơƢƐŒL“ƕƾƠơƤ   MƆ“ƏƋƕƆƒƆƏƕƄ”ƗƕƐŒ“Ɛ9Œ“ƒƆƌƆƐ”ƒƆƏƐŒƆƕƆ“ƏŒ““ƗƋƕƄƆƆ•Ɛ”ƑƅŒƆƗƄƕ“•ƅƆƏƈ•”ƌƆƓ“ƕ”Ə“•”ƐŒƆƏČ                    LƕƆƋƇƈ•ƅƋƑƗƆƗêƆƅ“ƑƆ”ƇƐŒƈè9ƅ“••”ƐƐŒƈ•Ɗ”Ƈ“ƌ”ƏƆƓ”ƏƐŒƕƅ“ƑƆƐ”Ə“ƈƆƌ”•ƆƕƇ”Əƈ•ƐŒƆƇƈ‹ŒƐ“‹“ƈ•ƐƐŒƈ                      ƐƆƏƏƈƄƋƆƗƈƆ“Ɔê  dƈ•ƅƆƾƠơÕèƓƆŒ“ƒƆƓ”ƏƊƆƗƓƈƐŒ“•ƅƆƏ`ƆƆ“ƏƅŒnEƐ”ƏƑ•“ƒƆƏƕƍƆƅƈ“Ƌ“••Ƒ“ƋƆƒƆ•Ɛƅ“ƋƋƆƗE“ƕ“Ɗƈ•‹ƿ“•ƅƆƏ                     ”ƏEƿƈ•Œ”ƏƐ“•ƗƓƆŒ“ƒƆƏ“ƈƆƗƐŒ”Ƒ“•Ɨ”Ƈƍ”Ƒ•Ɨƈ•Ɨ”ƈ•‹”ê              jŒƈƕƆ“Əƈ•”ƗƈƇƇƆƏƆ•Ɛ“•Ɨ””•ƐŒƆơƾƐŒ÷ơƢƐŒL“ƕƾƠơƤèƓƈƐŒ“ƌ“•ƕ”Ƈƕ”ƑƉ”ƈ•ƈ•‹Ƒ“ƍ”ƈƄƋƆèƓƆƓƈƋƋ                                              “‹“ƈ•ƍ“ƗƗƋƆƾƋ“ƍƍƆƏƗ“ƕ“ƐƐŒƈƌ“‹•ƈƇƈƅƆ•ƐƒƆ•ƑƆƐ”Ə“ƈƆ“ƌƑƅŒƌ”•Ɔƕ“ƍ”ƈƄƋƆƐ”ŒƆƋƍƇƈ‹ŒƐ“•ƅƆƏê                   zƈƌƄƋƆƄ“ƋƋG“ƊƆƈ“ƇƏƆŒƓ“ƐƆƏƏƆƆƏƒ”ƈƏ”Ɠ•ƆƗƄƕd”ƑƐŒzƆƐG“ƊƆjƏƑƐædzGjçèƓŒƈƅŒƈƈ•ƈƐƆƋƇ“ƅŒ“ƏƈƐƕê                    9Ɛƈ“ƍƍƏ”Ɣƈƌ“ƐƆƋƕÖêƢƌƈƋƆƈ•ƅƈƏƅƑƌƇƆƏƆ•ƅƆ“•ƗƈƑƏƏ”Ƒ•ƗƆƗƄƕŒƈƋƋèƓ””ƗƋ“•Ɨ“•ƗƇƈƆƋƗè‹ƈƒƈ•‹ƕ”Ƒ“•ƆƒƆƏ                  ƅŒ“•‹ƈ•‹Ƌ“•Ɨƅ“ƍƆƐ”“ƗƌƈƏƆ“ƕ”Ƒƍ“ƗƗƋƆ”ƒƆƏƐƓ”Ɨ“ƕƈ•”•Ɔ”ƇƐŒƆnEôƌ”ƐƄƆ“ƑƐƈƇƑƋƆƐƐƈ•‹ê                        €”ƑƓƈƋƋƆƆƓƈƋƗƋƈƇƆƈ•“ƄƑ•Ɨ“•ƅƆƄ”ƐŒƈ•ƐŒƆ“ƈƏ蔕Ƌ“•Ɨ“•Ɨƈ•ƗƆƆƗƈ•ƐŒƆƓ“ƐƆƏèƆƍƆƅƈ“ƋƋƕƈ•ƐŒƆƇ”Əƌ”ƇƐŒƆ             ƄƆ“ƑƐƈƇƑƋ`“ƈ•Ƅ”ƓjƏ”ƑƐ“ƐŒƆƕƏƈƆƐ”ƇƆƆƗ”ƇƇ”ƇƐŒƆƓ“ƐƆƏƑƏƇ“ƅƆê                       €”ƑƏ‹”“ƋƇ”ƏƐŒƆƾƠơƤƇƑ•ƗƏ“ƈƆƏƈƐ”ƍ“ƗƗƋƆƐƓ”Ƌ“ƍƍƆƏƗ“ƕ”ƇƐŒƆƋ“ƊƆèƐ”Ɛ“ƋƋƈ•‹“ƍƍƏ”Ɣƈƌ“ƐƆƋƕƢƣƌƈƋƆê€”Ƒ                    ƅ“•Ɨ”ƐŒƈƆƈƐŒƆƏƈ•ƗƈƒƈƗƑ“ƋƋƕ”Ə““ƐƆ“ƌƓƈƐŒƐŒƆƊ•”ƓƋƆƗ‹ƆƐŒ“ƐƆƒƆƏƕƐƏ”ƊƆƓƈƋƋƄƆƑƍƍ”ƏƐƈ•‹“•ƅƆƏ               `ƆƆ“ƏƅŒnEƈ•ƐŒƆƈƏƇƈ‹ŒƐƐ”“ƒƆƕ”ƑƏƇ“ƌƈƋƈƆ“•ƗƇƏƈƆ•Ɨè“ƓƆƋƋ“ƌƈ•Ɔê                      R•ƄƆŒ“ƋƇ”Ƈ“ƋƋ”ƇƐŒ”ƆƆƒƆƏ“ƇƇƆƅƐƆƗƄƕ“•ƅƆƏè9ƐŒ“•Ɗƕ”ƑƇ”Əƕ”ƑƏƑƍƍ”ƏƐ“•ƗƋ””ƊƇ”ƏƓ“ƏƗƐ”ƓƆƋƅ”ƌƈ•‹ƕ”Ƒ     Ɛ”zƈƌƄƋƆƄ“ƋƋG“ƊƆƐŒƈL“ƕê


`Ƅ‹ƆƎƄƍƓ”ƏƍƅƍƄƄ“ƎƎƄ•ƕ“•ƃƄŒƄƍƄ      Ǝ ƎdzGjƁzƆ ƂƉ Ƃ ƉƉG       v ”•Ǝ“ƃƎdzGjƁzƆƊƂƉƄƂ“ƉƉG“ƈƄƎ”Ƃ””ƈƓ”ƏƍƕƆƃ”Ə•ƎƄƕƃ“ƊƋƆ•‹ŒƄƍƄèƏƆ•‹     ƈ Ǝ  Ƃ    ƕƆƃ”Ə•Ǝƃ”ƕƄëEƽL^ƾƟƢ             v ”•Ǝ“ƃƎdzGjƁzƆƊƂƉƄƂ“ƉƉG“ƈƄƎ”Ƃ””ƈƓ”ƏƍƕƆƃ”Ə•ƎƄƕ“•”ƄèE“Ɠ“ƈè^“ƕƕƉƄƂ”“ƍƕ      ŒƆƍƄŒƄƍƄƏƆ•‹ƕƆƃ”Ə•Ǝƃ”ƕƄëEƽ^#ƾƟƢ     “•ƃƄƍ`ƄƄ“ƍƃŒnEƁŒ“••ƄƉE“Ɠ“ƈƅƏ•ƕƍ“ƆƆ•‹Ƌ“‹Ƅ        v ƉƆƃƈŒƄƍƄƎ”“ƃƃƄƎŒƄ“•ƃƄƍ`ƄƄ“ƍƃŒnEƁŒ“••ƄƉE“Ɠ“ƈƅƏ•ƕƍ“ƆƆ•‹Ƌ“‹Ƅ     ëŒƎƎƋëƁƁƑƑƑêƇƏƎ‹ƆƐƆ•‹êƃ”ƊƁƅƏ•ƕƍ“ƆƆ•‹ƁƃŒ“••ƄƉƈ“Ɠ“ƈ    v ”ƋƓ“•ƕŒ“ƍƄƎŒƆƉƆ•ƈëŒƎƎƋëƁƁƑƑƑêƇƏƎ‹ƆƐƆ•‹êƃ”ƊƁƅƏ•ƕƍ“ƆƆ•‹ƁƃŒ“••ƄƉƈ“Ɠ“ƈƅ”ƍ Ɠ”ƏƍƋ”•”ƍƎ”ƕ”•“ƎƄ    

The Paddler Early Spring issue 40  

The International magazine for recreational paddlers. The best for all paddling watersports including whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, exp...

The Paddler Early Spring issue 40  

The International magazine for recreational paddlers. The best for all paddling watersports including whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, exp...