Friday 9 December 2011

Winter Creeking in Snowy Scotland.

With the start of our University exams coming up, Jonny and I thought we would put revision on hold and have a little boating adventure before everything got too hectic. We headed north, watching the temperature drop and the rain turn to snow making for a very cold adventure with lower than perfect water levels. After a long walk, which involved getting a little lost, we jumped on the Garbh Allt burn. I was a little nervous because it was bigger than anything I had done since I hurt my shoulder and was a new river for both of us. The main drop though was really fun and the rest of the river went smoothly enough even though we had to get off before the end as it was too low. Definitely going to head back up when there is more water and complete it.

We then headed to the Lui for a quick run before it got dark. The main drop was a little bigger than I was expecting as it was too cold to spend ages scouting so Jonny just told me the line and off we went! Was awesome to get on 2 new rivers and be back in a boat paddling some technical white water again after spending so long injured.

                    Cold Day Boating Dec 2011 from JDN Media on Vimeo.

Above is a little video of our day thanks to Jonny.


Sunday 27 November 2011

Postcards from New Zealand!

Greetings from...

...Eoghain plopping off Maruia Falls...

...Rachael cruising down the middle Matakitaki river...

... and Ben also on Maruia Falls.


Wednesday 26 October 2011

Inbetween swims on the Moose River.

I have been in the US for over two months now and for the past year and a half I have been trying to think up ways to go paddling with my Canadian friend Matt. In fact, between Debs and I, we have devoted so much time to this topic that I suspect that if last years freshers ever actually meet Matt he will have a hard job winning them over! So when I heard about the Moose in upstate New York, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up and get on the river.

Eager for adventure, I set off to drive the six hours from Philly with Devin (an American friend of mine I met going to Gauley Fest). It began raining pretty hard about three hours in and it didn't let up. This made the idea of camping pretty miserable. On arrival we found ourselves without phone signal and only the name of the campsite Matt and his friends were in. The campsite turned out to be more of a small town (welcome to America) without a tent in sight. Disheartened, I was about to give up when the campsite owner came over and started to look through his list. I wasn't optimistic as he looked shocked when I suggested they might be camping with actual tents. It was at this point I noticed Matts note. To my relief they had bailed on camping and were staying in one of the many cabins.

Matt spent his summer rafting on the Rouge, and had brought some of his buddies (Gab, Kyle, Chris and Fraser), two of which had brought playboats as well as the creekers which they had hired. Their reasoning was along the lines ‘I have never paddled a creek boat before.....I'm not sure I trust it’. It was at this point I started to get a funny felling that the next day might be interesting....

Standing in the makeshift car park at the get on for the bottom Moose that feeling had failed to subside. In fact it had grown considerably when a local friend of Devins who ‘knows the bottom moose like the back of his hand’announced that they were only going to paddle the first 4 rapids as the level was super high. Some clever sod then pointed out we were a group of thirteen which only helped lighten the mood.

Before I go on I would like to say we all had an awesome day on the river, but the following series of events read in a similar fashion to a disaster report.

Matt's friend Gab was bleeding before he hit the water (although there was only seconds in it), an altercation involving a paddle, a tree and a slide had set the pace for the day! The first rapid on the Moose is about 100m after the get on and really sets the pace. A big 50ft slide with a huge

recirculating hole in the middle. For me the second run down spelled the end of my (almost) brand new AT2s. Fraser went a bit far right and when he re-emerged from the hole he was without his helmet. Apparently the buckle had completely unthreaded. I have to admit it was a little worrying to see a helmet floating around without a Fraser.

The next couple of rapids we relatively simple and gave me a chance to get used to the Werners Devin lent me. He bought them off some random guy for $15, they have a 90 degree feather and totally symmetrical blades. Although I am sure they didn't start that way.

At the end of a big flat section we came to some big signs saying PORTAGE. On inspection it was a dam leading into a slide which didn't look too bad. After some persuasion by Gab (who had never been in a creek boat before) we decided it was worth a run. It was! It turned out to be a nice slide and everyone ran it ok. However my brand new habitat had a small disagreement with a rock when I seal launched back in from the side, denting the nose. This left me wondering why I had failed to listen to my own advice (AT2s break and all habitats, apart from Ben's, have dented noses).

Agers falls, a clean 20 footer with a big run out, saw Devins local friend swim and his group walked off muttering something about a broken dam releasing loads of water and some serious rapids. Keen to get the full Moose experience we pushed on. Some way around the next corner we saw an awful lot of boaters on the side and no one in any boats. On inspection it became clear what the locals had meant. Sureform, a big 60+ ft slide, looked pretty serious. Chatting to some Moose veterans the only info I got was that none of them had ever seen it look so big.

I was totaly unsure if the line would work at all, but after watching a playboat go down completely off-line I decided it was time to man up. Pushing through the lateral wave at the top I was faced with water coming from all directions, but before I knew it I was being spat out the bottom. Matt followed taking a super clean line with a huge grin at the end. Fraser followed but got flipped on the first lateral. From the bottom I couldnt see anything other than occasional flash of green from his boat. At the bottom is was obvious that he had run the whole thing human side down, and everyone was so relieved when he rolled up. His helmet had taken a total beating, the paint was chipped off most of the top, and between the vents the plastic had cracked. But it had done its job.

It was Christian's turn next, and 'Power line' delivered his opportunity to take a dip. Some swift throw bag work had him out but his boat had gone down stream and was pinned under an undercut. Some more clever bag work had the boat back in the flow and on a line. Well, that was until the line snapped and the Villain ran the worst possible line down the next big class V.

The final rapid, Crystal,
looked big and scary, but confident that I had it under control, despite the 90 degree tea spoons, I decided to go first to take photos. In my defence I got the line fine and was only capsized by a wave at the bottom. Nine or so roll attempts later this didn't seem particularly significant. No matter what I tried I couldn't roll and I had no idea what was coming next! Thankfully when I emerged I was in a large pool (a good 100 ft away from the next dam) and some friendly boaters were there to witness the dent in my pride which now accompanied the dented boat and broken paddles!

Matt once again styled the line only having a cheeky roll at the end. Devin, on the other hand, had a much more interesting line. This apparently involved a minute of being worked, a capsize between two of the drops and running the final drop distinctly human side down. All I saw was a bloody face drifting by clutching a boat and a paddle. I was on hand to help and dutifully took pictures of him as he drifted towards the dam.

All in all it was the most incredible weekend, which reminded me that we are all in between swims. Also on a positive note WRSI are sending Fraser a new helmet for his troubles and AT are replacing my paddles!

Nick Bennett

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Sitting on the side.

After a year of watching friends go out kayaking and having fun on the water I can finally start thinking about getting back in my boat myself. It has been a long journey since I dislocated my shoulder in Austria this time last year with a lot of bad news, broken promises, missed deadlines, a few tears and a lot of insurance claims without having much good news to keep me going. It sometimes got a little tricky to see if getting back into kayaking was really worth it. But now I am hopefully at the end of it all and can start think about getting out of the gym and back in my boat.

Since I capsized last year and embarrassed myself by missing my boof I have been on the mend. It started well with me being back in my boat in time to paddle for the British Universities Kayak Expedition (BUKE) selection weekend and getting picked for the team to head to Venezuela which I promised to my fellow team mates I would be fully fit for. I also managed to get another day on the Border Esk back in Scotland around that time but that was the last time in nine months I had a proper paddle.

However, after the delights of being picked for BUKE, my shoulder came out again during the Christmas holidays and then again and again until we decided the best option was to operate. March 17th came and I found out the reason for my shoulder constantly dislocating was due to a broken shoulder socket which wasn’t spotted in the scans or x-rays. After two shoulder operations I now have two screws holding a bone graft in place and a lot of ligaments that have been shortened to keep everything held together.
Choosing to have surgery though has meant I had to miss out on a large amount of boating. Firstly a holiday to Corsica followed by breaking a promise to Ben and Eoghain about going to Norway with them and finally the expedition to Venezuela. Luckily the trips all had enough members to go ahead and it looks like everyone had a super time. But watching all the blog updates and photos put online hasn’t been that easy to enjoy without a bit of regret and jealously.

I also didn’t manage to help out the canoe club in Edinburgh as much as I should by becoming a bit of a bystander having not being able to lead trips, teach and just help run the club. It is very hard to stay motivated and tell beginners how amazing kayaking is when I couldn’t join them. Instead I got to watch as the guys and girls progressed by learning to roll, running harder rapids and generally having a good time.
I don’t think I will ever forget the day when it all went wrong or all the pain I have been through. But now I can look back on everything and maybe learn a little from all of this. I have learnt that boating when you’re tired leads to mistakes, being strong and having good shoulder stability by going to the gym will help by making paddling possible for longer without getting tired and also keep your shoulder in your socket, while also keeping your elbows down keeps your shoulders in a much safer position.

Setting aims and goals, big or small, helps with training and motivation and is something that I should do when I go boating. I have been picking dates for when I can paddle again, first it was after Christmas, then Easter, then Wet West and now hopefully next week. It is really hard watching one go past and not being able to make it but having a reason for it has helped. In the same way choosing lines and making them, understanding why you didn’t make them and thinking about how next time you will make you them rather than rolling up at the bottom with a slight shake of the head and a laugh from your mates before paddling on without a second look isn’t the best thing to do.

However I have seen how amazing the kayak community can be, such as the guys at Sickline who asked what was up when I was holding my shoulder and all looked upset that I couldn’t race with them, to the guy who ran all the way around the river to make sure I was okay and then to the guys at Edinburgh who have given me a hug, cheered me up and will hopefully hold my hand as I get back in a boat and look after me over the next few weeks and months.

Sandy Douglas

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Debs’ Norwegian Top Three.

We arrived in Norway to see it experiencing its one in fifty year flood, which made Hedmark a very fun place to start our Norwegian adventure, with big long bouncy wavetrains and large holes.

The aim, after a few days in Hedmark, was to head to Telemark then up to Voss via the Zambezi section of the Numadelslagen – but things rarely go to plan do they? On arrival in Telemark we saw for ourselves what a smaller snow pack meant for water levels. Spånemfossen, a waterfall on the upper Austbygdåi, my great cause of excitement, was barely runnable. Everything was a scrape. We went to bed that night a little dejected as we had all been so looking forward to our first big waterfall. So then the plan was to set off to the Zambezi section first thing in the morning. I was hopeful that maybe the rain that had been hounding us so far would make the difference and get Spånemfossen up and running... and it did! We woke the next day to continued rain and a runnable Spånemfossen which we thought we “might as well” have one last look at as we drove past en route to the Numadelslagen. Everyone was very excited and my nerves cranked back into full swing as we parked up and started to get changed.
Spånemfossen looking a bit low :-(

Dave Maltby on the California Section double drop.

After running a few other sections on the Austbygdåi we finally got onto a much fuller Spånemfossen. It was super fun, and was so high compared to when we had arrived and looked rather more formidable from above when we got out of our boats to have a look. None of us knew when it was coming up and at the corner before it we eddied out and decided that if it just sprung out of no where we would just have to run it - no back paddling on the lip. So I was a little nervous at the thought of running it so suddenly. Thankfully Anne was waiting in a good eddy above to wave us over. Cleary none of us had seen it close up before as there is a little more to it than just dropping over the edge.

After inspection we took it on one by one. It took some time for me to work up the courage to paddle out of that eddy, deciding that this was quite enough excitement for one to be getting on with and I wouldn’t do anything else as the bottom I had a different story and was filled with adrenalin and clamouring for more. The next day we headed towards the big volume river running of the Zambezi section!
Setting off into the big lake at the start of the section, the sun was shining and we were all thoroughly boiling! We had taken the guidebook seriously when it said put extra layers on, which did turn out to be a good idea at the end. Someone told me that I would be too scared to notice I was cold, but it turned out that I LOVED it! It was my first day back in the Habitat after its swim down the Austbygdåi slide, and I was raving about staying and doing it again the next day. However, I was told that there would be other super amazingly fun rivers coming up, yet I was doubtful that anything would beat that. The wave train before the final rapid was colossal, and you really do think that you are about to plunge into an enormous hole on the other side of every wave. So much fun!

Onwards to Otta! On arrival our trailer broke again, this time beyond repair, so we set about buying a new one (not as easy as it sounds). But a few days later we had managed to rent one and were off to the Åmot section of the river Sjoa. The sun was shining and the levels were HIGH -we were loving it! The eddy lines were practically Ugandan in their ability to swallow your boat and the waves were huge. The Åmot is a gorge run, and was mental! I had no idea what to expect which made it even more fun because I wasn’t sure what dangers were around the corners as I dropped round after the others. It turned out there were no nasty surprises, which was amazing! We did this river many times in varying flow levels, and the first was by far my best run. The last run was on our final day boating when we crammed in as many rivers as we could to make up for lost time. We paddled two other sections of river above the Åmot (Asengjuvet & Play Run) and were all utterly exhausted by the time we got to the end. I did a fair proportion upside down with very little strength left to roll back up. But it was a healthy 38km or more, so that wasn’t surprising and it was still awesome fun.




So these were my Norway top three, I can’t speak for the rivers around Voss as we never made it there - maybe Voss has its own three? I will definitely be hitting the above again anyway, maybe next year. . .

Debs x

Photos by Deborah Perry, Will Sawday and Dom Burrow.

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Saturday 18 June 2011

Just another big day in Norway

 After arriving in Norway we discovered that our favourite runs in Telemark were a wee bit low due to a poor Snowpack in the area this winter. But for old times' sake we did have a quick blast on the Mår Homerun to wake us up after our two days of non stop driving in Eoghain's empty-red-bull-can-riddled, power-steering-fluid-leaking, police-magnet, stereo-less estate!

Big Dog... small dinosaur?
 So, the next day after a cool nights sleep up on the high snowy plateau of the Hardangervidda National park we jumped back in the car and drove a little further to the town of Voss, where we found 'plenty' of water. 

 As soon as we got into Voss we made straight for the Raundalselvi, and hopped on a very bouncy playrun in the sunshine. The steep waves, racing flows and grabby holes certainly got the heart rate up, especially follwing our pretty lacking UK paddling season this winter. As ever on Norwegian rivers it was a relief to make it off the river in one piece back to the safety of the camp... at least until the next day anyway.

After our brief warm up, the following morning we went out in search of what Norway paddling is really famous for: Big Waterfalls! After seeing a couple of photos, and hearing tales of a tall, clean, curving, 25m or so Foss hidden away in Eksingedalen we were very eager to check it out. On the road we passed the famous Teigdalselvi Double Drop looming through the trees. "Perhaps later when we've practiced our boof strokes a bit more, eh.." Then the ever so slightly burly Lake to Lake drop, which I persuaded Eoghain to run from the top so I could drive all the way to the other side of the valley to fit the whole sequence of events in the camera frame.

As we arrived at the bottom of Bergavatnet lake the loud roar and sudden horizonline at the end of the lake announced our arrival at Eksingedalen's Storeglupen waterfalls! With our hearts in our mouths we went to sneak a peek.

Yep.. so the first drop is certainly unrunable, unless you want to be scraped up of the solid rock landing below. The second drop also lands on a good pile of boulders, but it looked like there was enough curve to the waterfall to throw a good chunk of the water out into the pool... provided you got the line right. Too far right and its on the rocks... too far left and its into a dubious looking rocky corner pocket. Any easy run in though, means you shouldn't cock it up, so long as you make sure you remember where to hit the lip...  so after a bit of sliding about on the wet grass and rocks deciding this wasn't a really silly thing to be up to, we ran to fetch the boats and strapped on our helmets!

"Shotgun, going first." I called. Eoghain seemed quite happy with that, so after setting him up with his boat at the bottom for 'safety,' it was up to me to throw myself in and test the water... After triple checking I was sure which little waves to follow into the entry one last time. I strapped myself in, grabbed my paddle and slipped into the water.

Hmm it is quite high from up here.

I hope this is right.

In we go, nice and straight.



Here we go!

Into the white.

Time to tuck up.

Photo by Eoghain Johnson.


BUBBLES. Bubbles, bubbles

Time to roll up I think.

Woop! I'm out! 

I hope Eoghain didn't cock up the photos ;-)

"Your turn mate!"

Sweet. We drag Eoghain's boat back up to the top. I stumble back down, Grab the throwline and camera and wait for him to appear on the lip. Hmm.. quicker safety or better photos? I opt for a compromise on a grassy perch just a wee scramble up the side of the gorge.

The waterfall kicks up a constant drizzle of mist that rains down on everything in the gorge even though the sky is clear blue high above. I struggle to set up the camera ready for Eoghain's descent without the lens quickly covering in dewy drops of water that make it impossibe to see anything through the viewfinder let alone focus on the waterfall. Suddenly the blue of Eoghain's helmet and paddle appear above the white of the lip against the black of the dark rock behind. Quickly, I pull the lens cover off, focus and open up a stream of frames before he disappears into the cascade of white water.

4 hmm.. he seems to be taking his time coming out.
5 where is he?

Aha. The bright blue of Eoghains kayak hull floats out of the mist into the pool. 

Awesome. You can roll up now dude. 

Suddenly I catch sight of a blue helmet surfacing behind his boat. Uh oh... Time for action! I scramble down as fast as I can to my boat and throwline. I hope he's okay! It's going to be a bit of a bitch getting out of here if he's done himself in.

"Are you alright? Are you fit?"

I shout over the river to where Eoghain is managing to struggle out of the water with his swamped boat... and what seems to be the remains of his brand new paddles. aha.

Eoghain replies with a happy laughing face and a cheerful shout of 'Yes!'

Phew. Thank fuck for that then!

Turns out not only did the waterfall break his paddle in disgust of his use of two blades, but it also made sure he was well told by also imploding his spraydeck. Ha ha. Sorry mate ;-)

So.. what shall we do tomorrow?

Ben x

Photography: Ben McKeown
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Saturday 30 April 2011

Corsica Photos!

Check out the new collection of creekboating photies in our gallery, taken during a short but sweet mission around Corsica, April 2011.

Ben McKeown on the Rizzanese. Photo: Dom Burrow