This year I wanted to try something a little different, so I got a Katana 10.4 not knowing quite what to expect. Unwrapping the boat, I was super excited to see the hull that looked like it could definitely handle whitewater. Plus, it had all of the extra features to make it the perfect boat for long over-nighters on rivers and even to explore the San Juan Islands outside my back door in Bellingham, WA.…Continue
Posted by Brendan Wells on July 14, 2014 at 7:00am
Rivers are simple, yet amazingly complicated things in our modern world. Without kayaking I'd never have realized just how complicated they can be.
Thomas Moore runs a slide on the Devil's Postpile section of the San Joaquin.
This year the San Joaquin River was listed as one of the top three…Continue
Posted by Darin McQuoid on July 2, 2014 at 2:58pm
Every Memorial Day weekend, some of the world's best freestyle paddlers descend on Buena Vista, CO to compete at CKS Paddlefest's BV Pro Rodeo.
Buena Vista is a beautiful little town located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 7965 feet or 2428 meters. To me that is crazy as 2428…Continue
Posted by Tomasz Czaplicki on June 9, 2014 at 4:00pm
This years Sjoa River Festival was yet again a big success with people from all over the world meeting up to enjoy a week of kayaking, racing, hanging out and of course partying. Taking place in the Sjoa Valley the festival has been taking place for more years than I have been kayaking, so it always feels like a bit of an honor to attend such a great week.
Huge waves and scary boils was the water theme for the start of the week. The Sjoa was running at around 300 – 350 cumecs which made for plenty of exciting kayaking. On the Tuesday we paddled the Åsengjuvet section down to the bottom of Åmot in around two hours, with Åmot only taking eight minutes from the kayak camp - Not bad going.
One of the many great things about the Sjoa River Festival is that it caters for a large levels of ability and experience. Wednesday was the first real day of the festival and the kind volunteers were out and about guiding other paddlers with less experience of the area on some of the easier classics. Meanwhile, over at Gene 17, I was running our first coaching clinic of the week. This is a chance for paddlers to come out and have a day of structured teaching. We had a wonderful day on a very high Otta River.
The evening rolled around and the infamous P & H party kicked off in the usual style, probably the less said about that the better!
Thursdays highlight was the team race. Held from Strie Strømmer kayak shop down to the football field, it's designed to test endurance. Teams of three started with a 500 m run down to their kayaks followed by a thirty minute all out race to the finish line. It was a super fun race for all involved!
This year we had ideal water levels with great weather for the ‘G17 Ula race’ combined with plenty of male and female racers and many spectators, it was a fine atmosphere for some fun.
The race course is set on a very classic piece of Norwegian whitewater. It comprises of a slot drop, into a short section of moving water which leads into the first fifty metre slide. This is then swiftly followed by the main slide which includes a ninety degree turn into a two metre drop. The final piece of action is a tricky move across a short slide into a four metre boof and a sprint for the finish banner. Its the perfect racetrack!
Both the female and male competitors put down some great times, at the end of it all I was very happy to end up in seventh place. Here's a quick video of one of my runs:
Saturday saw us back at the Ula, but this time running a coaching clinic, we had a wonderful day and I really enjoyed helping the guys and girls who had been spectating the day before styling the same lines as the racers – so I hope to see them at the starting line next year!
That evening marked the mighty Sweet rumble held in the Åmot Gorge canyon. This is where the Sjoa shows off its real power, compressing its strength into the narrow gorge creating spectacular whitewater. The atmosphere was intense, with the river already at a solid level and on the rise. From the start ramp four paddlers battle it out through three major rapids, finishing in a crux move to make the finish banner pinned up in an eddy guarded by two large holes. After each race the top two finishers move through into the next heat until its the final four standing.
The Sjoa River Festival was yet again a wicked event and one I cant wait to roll around on next years calendar.
The 2014 Freestyle World Cup is finished and what a series it was! My personal favourite event was the second one in Salt, I think most of the athletes will agree with me. The final event at Sort was a crowd pleaser too.
At Salt just about everything was on a very high level, it was the best opening ceremony of freestyle event ever – starting with the human tower of Catalonians, the red carpet, and official speeches (even I got on stage to great the athletes in Catalan); followed with dance show, drums, fireworks, parade and dinner. They also had a very good quality playspot, smart training schedule and good organisation, which resulted in the highest standard of paddling from all the athletes. Free accommodation in the old centre of Girona made it comfortable and interesting, as the medieval old city itself is a treasure of its own.
The scores were just sky high in every class, I think because we finally got plenty of training – every competitions day started no earlier then 15:00, so every day 'til 15:00 and every evening we could practice. I got my second best ICF competitions ride (410 points) and made the finals, finishing strong in 5th. In the finals the girls were pushing the boundaries every round, taking the lead in turns and making each other go bigger, I wish I could keep up with this level. The winning score was 736 points (Emily Jackson), second of 678 points (Hitomi Takaku) and third was 590 points (Marlene Devillez) – very impressive! Even the junior women's were throwing big moves, first place went to local paddler Nuria Fontane (over 500 points), second to junior women's World Champion Rowan Stuart (over 400 points) – two girls who kayaked like seniors. Junior kayak men's victory went again to Max Karlsson, he continued to impress judges going big in his Dagger Jitsu. Thomas Richard finished second and Lane De Meulenaere was third.
The most entertaining was of course K1 Men. In the prelims Sebastian Devred went crazy and scored the highest ICF ride again, bettering his last week record (1,700) to 1,740 points in one ride, leaving a 600 points gap between him and second place (Dane) in first round. Prelims left high expectations for the Brits with Pringle in third and James Weight in fifth. Tomasz Czaplicki did good and took fourth position. In the next rounds it all mixed up for many athletes, neither Tomasz or the Brits couldn't make it to the final. Sebastian wasn't able to repeat his performance. But in the semi-finals things heated up to boiling point – just about everyone had a super high scoring ride, making the cut to finals ridiculously high at 1,218 points (this is a winning ride in last Worlds). Sebastian was the last to go, having to watch all the amazing paddling from his rivals and (possibly) got a bit nervous, he had a few unfortunate flushes and kayaked way below his abilities, not making the finals and ending up in ninth place, making it easier for Dane to win this event. The fight for the medals was more about who will get silver and bronze. Mathieu and Peter Csonka fought hard, but the main drama being made by Quim Fontane, who had all the support from the crowd, as he is a local star here in Salt. He couldn't quite put it together in the beginning, but was going in the hole again and again like to battle, giving everything he could and bettering his score every run, accompanied by the loudest noise and cheering and electric energy coming from the full stadium. Supporters almost made him do it, and his last score tied with Mathieus (second best), so in the end Quim took bronze, leaving Peter just outside of podium, but making his local fans ecstatic. It was great to watch!
There was no break! The next morning after the finals in Salt we drove four hours up to the mountains to the next spot, as national training sessions were due to start at 13:00. Sort is a little mountain town through which the Noguera Pallaresa river runs. The hole used to be tricky, but they said they improved it, however when we got on the water it seemed much trickier than last year! I couldn't do a move and even lost my paddle once in training due to the feistiness of the hole. You can describe this feature as: powerful, wide, trashy, flushy, shallow in places and hard to retain for fourty-five seconds. Boats, paddles, fingers and egos started to get damaged, but practice does miracles, and by the end of our two days of training everyone could scrape together some kind of ride. On the plus side sometimes you could go very big, on the minus – you were most likely to flush on huge moves. For spectators it was great, lots of drama and unexpected action, a bit like gambling.
I was glad to make the semis, as I knew chance to get zero points was high. I ended up sixth, sadly just missing the final, but I was glad I had been consistent enough to make it that far. Scores weren't that high, but a very happy Hitomi put it together to take the win (about 300 points), she paddled very well throughout whole series and took the World Cup victory to Japan! Second was Marlene with her big loops and space godzillas and third Emily Jackson.
The junior men final started slow, boys battled with the feature, the rides weren't as good, but by the end Max Karlsson got some control over the hole and managed to do several nice moves, being very light in his Jitsu he is always going quite big and gets huge bonuses. He took the win here, confirming his World Cup victory, not giving any chance to his opponents to come even close to a first overall standing. Hunter Katich, who struggled to perform well in the previous two finals (in earlier rounds he often had the highest scores) here finally kayaked properly and took second, becoming third overall. Thomas Richard (second overall) was pretty unlucky in the semis and didn't make this final, opening the opportunity for local paddler Ian Salvat to make the cut to the top five. Ian didn't waste the chance and with solid smart ride climbed the podium here in third, making Sort crowds very happy and proud.
The men's battle was a great show again. In this feature paddlers understood it would be hard to get a high score the usual way and you need to outsmart your opponents, so people got more creative with how they use this pretty wide feature, moving across to a different parts of the hole and even add some wave moves in their rides (on the left shoulder). It wasn't clear if they scored, but for spectators it was fresh to see airscrews and back panams in a hole competition. From the first trainings it became obvious this spot suits some paddlers more than others. It definitely looked very good for Nick Troutman and Dane, as they were the most consistent. Tomasz Czaplicki was in promising fourth position after prelims, but the feature wasn't kind enough to him and he got out in seventh. The Brits almost made it to the final with very solid performance from Pringle in the semis, but was just left behind in sixth (matching my position). Sebastian didn't look as consistent in his rides, but in the semis paddled great, breaking the 1,000 points barrier (which was a lot for this feature), he arrived to final in first 1,076 points. Jason Craig had some shoulder problems and didn't train at all, however made it to the final with his huge McNasties in a stickiest bit of the hole.
Maybe, for the athletes, Sort event didn't feel as smooth as the over two events, but for spectators it was great, because of the night finals! The whole town came to watch, leaving no empty spaces at the stadium. Big screens, light show, fireworks, music and of course battle for the medals made it an exciting, loud and intense experience.
The men's finals started very strong with first ride by Mathieu looking like a win, he set the bar high and it was very spectacular. I thought it was his best ride in this feature. We expected it would be a 1,000, but judges gave only 820 points, leaving some room for improvement. No one beat it in the first round, but then Dane a great fifteen seconds in the end of his not too smooth second ride and it was enough to go over 900. Sebastian started his second run very well, with some lunar orbits, tricky woos and McNasties, but then whole stadium heard a loud hit on a rock – he broke his paddle! The final went as unluckily for Sebastian as it could go, taking up a new paddle for his third ride he didn't kayak as well as he could. With his best score under 600 points the hope for podium was lost. Sebastian had the highest scoring rides in every event of this World Cup, but his consistency and luck let him down, leaving him only in third overall. He was probably the only one, who could prevent Dane (first overall) from an easy win. Mathieu (second overall, second in Sort) showed himself as a great and solid competitor. He's done a lot of work on his mental strength and competitive abilities since his last year "missing the Worlds final" experience. We were very impressed watching him pulling off his best rides in the finals and climbing the podium at every event in World Cup. Nick Troutman had his best showing here in Sort, taking third and climbing the podium for first time in this World Cup.
I also like to mention and thank some paddlers and teams, who maybe didn’t made it to the podiums, but showed a lot of potential, improvement and was pleasure to watch and paddle with:
Japanese team are getting better and better and now female paddlers a serious force. It was entertaining watching Kazuya Matsunaga (K1M) throwing 1,000 point rides and some new young faces appearing too. I am sure there will be more medals for Japan in upcoming years.
The German team has some young meaty talent! Marvin Gauglitz was one of the nicest paddlers to watch in this World Cup, he goes big on every move, he just can't do them small! We wish him keep working, to add more tricks to his rides and we'll see him in a finals soon enough! Also Yannick Munchow and Paul Meylahn had some awesome rides occasionally showing that the younger generation of German team matures in to real K1 men!
The junior and kids teams were the biggest from Spain and they already can paddle well! I think future of Catalonian freestyle is very bright. It is inspiring to see the development of youth sport here and it's a good example for all other countries. I liked the spirit Salt and Sort kayak communities have: very family like, very safe and fun for the kids to start and grow, they have a good role models to look to as well.
The French team always were strong, now some new faces coming up in the juniors impress us by the high level of skill they already have. A team capable of a real senior rides.
The Polish team are gradually getting stronger and also very involved in everything that is going on a competition scene: judging, competing in K1 and squirt, commentating, and assisting. They maybe not the largest, but they're some of the most useful teams out there. Zosia Tula very impressed me in this series, making the finals twice. She progressed so much in last two years.
The Korean team is just starting on the international scene, but show a lot of commitment in developing freestyle in their country. They are maybe the most stylish dressed team on a bank.
The Russian team – I could not miss this one – this year we got Olympic track suits and finally do look like a national team, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Things are going on in Russian freestyle, in last couple of years people became enthusiastic: they organise, find sponsors, build, teach, train. In next years we’re planning on holding a big international event in Russia and very excited to do it good.
I can't really mention everyone, but I wish well to! All athletes, organisers, judges, volunteers, spectators made this series special and memorable – Katya
You can find full results here: www.facebook.com/pages/2014-ICF-Freestyle-World-Cup-Series
Right, you have made the decision to go to Uganda, first off fair play its a great choice! It's an indescribable place, you just have to experience it for yourself. I’d recommend it to anybody with a pretty solid roll. Water levels are prime 365 days of the year.
First stop is to the health clinic. All details for injections for Uganda can be found at www.mdtravelhealth.com. These injections are expensive but some will cover you for up to ten years. If you are planning a trip for less then two months I recommend getting the Malerone malaria tablets. They are more expensive but the best, other types can mess with your stomach and energy levels.
Next are your flights, the main advice I can give is obvious; the earlier you book, the cheaper flights will be. Both times I have traveled to Brussels and flown direct to Entebbe from there. Brussels airlines are great, hassle free and very friendly. If you contact Kayak the Nile, Sam and Emily will be delighted to book your flights through their contacts in Brussels airlines, this gets you the cheapest option with your boat and extra baggage included free of charge. There are other possibly cheaper options, I know Emirates fly from London to Dubai and then down to Entebbe and they are a solid bet as well. Some people fly with Ethiopian airlines; I have a friend who spent a week in an airport because of them! Long story short there are many airlines who will bring your kayak hassle free, do your own research and find the cheapest, reliable choice for you.
Tip: Always cover your boats and paddles in some kind of bag cover, use a roofrack strap to make a nice handle. It protects them and saves awkward questions. If you have bulky items like a towel or a hoody, tape it to your paddles, this saves space and provides protection.
On arrival almost every nationality will have to pay 50 € visa to enter the country. Luckily for the Irish, Ireland has a waiver to this and entry is free. To avoid any airport related stress, organise with Kayak the Nile for a shuttle from the airport. Tell them what time your flight is landing and they will pick you up and drive you to the river, it's a two hour journey. In this time you will become slightly accustomed to the madness that is the roads. The journey costs around 120,000 shillings for small car, 150,000 shillings for big car.100,000 Ugandan shillings is equal to 28 €.
You have three choices now that the Bujagali dam has flooded the Silverback section from Bujagali. Most people opt for the Hairy Lemon, it is pure paradise. A tropical island with monkeys and birds, delicious food, not mention that it is right beside the world famous Nile Special rapid. The price for the Lemon has gone up in recent times, this is mainly down to the vast improvement in food and the addition of flushing toilets and showers. It costs 55,000 UGS a night, which is 15 €. Not bad for three full meals (the evening meal is always two course). I've always liked the absence of power or internet here as well.
If you want to live ultra cheap, you will save quite a bit of money staying at the local village. It seems to be pretty cool living among the locals, on the other side of the river beside Nile Special. The downside is preparing your own food and the lack of any power. The standard thing to do is to set up your tent within a mudhut. This is possibly the better option if you plan to be in Uganda for a few months or more.
The third option is staying at the top of the river in Bujagali. Despite the dam which flooded the Silverback section and turned the famous tourist attraction of Bujagali Falls into a lake, this small town is home to an amazing and interesting community of people. Power and internet are commonly available here and it is only a fifteen minute journey from the city of Jinja. However, staying here to go kayaking requires much more logistics now. The closest whitewater is over a half an hour drive away and shuttles to and from the river need to be arranged every day.
A difficult question between whats essential and what is handy. I’ll try to be balanced here:
Tip: Buy a ridiculous suit and have a night in Jinja casino, you are playing with small cash by British and Irish standards but you feel and are treated like a high roller! Free beers accompany your participation! Go mad! Barry ended up winning two million shillings over a couple of nights in Jinja casino. Be warned, it can be addictive it is so much craic! Parties are still epic in the rafting company hub in Bugagali, especially on weekends. Treat your hangovers to some delicious chapatis (Nutella and banana ones are awesome).
That's a ton of information but I hope it proves useful. If you are still considering Uganda as a destination don’t think twice, do it! You won’t regret it – Andrew
Started by Shanna Gachen Jul 7.
Started by Barry Hestermann May 22.