Here’s a short slo-mo video I made of the Wellerbrucke a few days before the Adidas Sickline competition. The waterlevel is high this year and the changes to the course have made the run more demanding but more fun as well. Especially the hole before the Champion killer is fun to stay at as it offers some great quality carnage. You can see Eric Jackson getting stuck in it in the middle of the video. Enjoy!
September is here and I finally have some time to breathe. Unfortunately that’s how it is if you work in the water-sports business: Half a year you complain about not having enough work and when the season starts there’s not much time for anything else but work. If I had been constantly stressed out because I had been working without break for who knows how many days in a row until a week or two ago, I’m already a bit worried because there aren’t many tourists left in the Soča valley.
This year I mostly tried myself out as a rafting photographer and it had a great effect on my straightforward kayaking time. I must say I loved chasing the rafts and trying to be as fast as possible. Though this job has a downside to it, which is stressing out while trying to sell the pictures before the next trip starts.
Before the peak season I only managed to do one serious summer kayaking trip to Switzerland but the best thing for me was that I got to do it in a new Palm kit. I’m really excited that one of the most active and innovative kayak gear producers decided to trust me and offer me a sponsorship deal after I quit Duemstuff. I especially like my Spark immersion suit which is lightweight, sleek and just perfect for the very active and fast paddling style descents that we normally do. Thanks also to Shread Ready and System X, who sponsored me a helmet, which I really enjoyed working in even in the hottest days, while we all know they’re hardcore enough for the toughest kayaking missions.
I had a great deal with Positive Sport, that supplied me with Pyranha kayaks for years but after my second only a few months old Burn cracked, even though I mostly paddled class 2 for work, I decided it was time for a change. Luckily Palm crew helped me again by suggesting a new Dagger Mamba. I sometimes paddled my bosses old Mamba and I really loved the control it offered me on big water but I wasn’t too keen on taking it on steeper creeks as its hull seemed too flat and rigid to offer full agility on the rocks. And then came the day when I tried the new Mamba 8.0. I was absolutely blown away by how fast, responsive and in all amazing the new model is. It seemed a little too small for me so I ordered the 8.6 version. “This seems more like a ship than a boat,” I thought to myself after first seeing it. It is by far the biggest boat I have ever decided to paddle but I enjoy every second of paddling it – normally three times per day. Even though I only weight 72 kg and I’m quite small I have full control of it and I’m really looking forward to taking it down the hardest rapids. Its hull is more rounded than Burn’s and it is really stable in all positions. I feel really comfortable in it and the cargo space I gained is impressive as well. Not to mention how easy it became for me to follow the rafts.
The hopes for the autumn are Chile again so me and my friends are trying hard to gather some money to be able to afford it. But the pit stop for me will be the Adidas Sickline. I’m really looking forward to testing the race course again after 2 years – this time equipped with a new and amazing Mamba 8.6.
Check the gallery for some photos of the Switzerland mission. Thanks to the amazing crew of Andrej Bijuklič, Luka Štricelj, Jernej Mlekuž, Matej Grm, Rok Šribar and our super kind local host and an amazing kayaker Thomas Rogenmoser.
Thanks to Alpin Action for support. Follow their poster on the righ fore more info or to purchase the gear I use in an on-line shop.
By the way Pyranha, I can understand that your boats are not made for rocks. But why do you publish promotional videos with people creeking with them?
I think it is just fantastic to see how technology advancements over the years paved the road for the paddlers themselves to take control of probably the largest piece of the pie of media image of whitewater kayaking.
This sport, seems to me, has always been marginalized in relation to some other extreme sports, like surfing, skating, biking and skiing/snowboarding. It seems a bit unfair, but for whatever the reason, kayaking always lacked good media representations. I have been a kayaker since I was five but I must say that living in Slovenia, where slalom kayaking had always been the world of kayaking, I never learned about the world of creeking, huge rapids, narrow gorges, the waterfalls and the adventures that come with it until I stumbled upon Kayak Session and some old playboating videos a few years back.
Next to these few sources there wasn’t much to learn from. But over the years quality filming and photo equipment gradually became more available to all of us and the internet offered a perfect platform for the kayakers to take the matter into their own hands. The dramatic increase of coolnes and respect that whitewater kayaking connotes over the last few years can in a large amount be blamed on an explosion of cool internet kayaking videos, which are made by kayakers for kayakers. New organizations and production groups are forming rapidly and following the footsteps of “new school” projects like Tribe and it’s Grand Prix especially, which blew most of our minds last year.
I find competitions like KS’s Short Video of the Year Awards a great encouragement to further progression. When I was asked by Philippe of KS why I didn’t enter my video to the competition I replied because it is nothing special. It is only a short video I made to remember the trip and to satisfy the sponsors. And I do have an intention of making a better one just to enter the competition. But he replied that you can enter more than one videos and that the goal is to get more talented video makers to make and publish their products. I believe even though quantity can mean less quality, we could find a hidden jewel among more videos posted. Not many have published their videos since the beginning of the competition so I want to encourage everybody to keep posting and to contribute their piece of the pie. So here’s mine, a bit redone video When Trolls Piss:
Middle Fuy was one of the best runs I have ever done, not just in Chile
A title “Back to reality” is a bit misleading as I can’t really say I went to Chile on a vacation. Even though it does feel liberating to go to a foreign country, to a southern hemisphere summer and a whitewater paradise, I did have to work hard for my existence. Thankfully I wasn’t alone as my lovely girlfriend Ana came with me. It is that much easier if you have someone to cheer and support you, that much more if you get sick or injured.
Gabriel Cot-Valiquette boofing Middle Fuy
But back to the case, being a kayaker these days isn’t really an easy task. Especially if you want to be just that. Unfortunately you can’t really earn money being an extreme sportsman, as you can in a surf or snowboard industries. Professional kayaking is a bit of a grey area for me but I don’t think anyone of those lucky few is earning much more than just enough to keep them kayaking worldwide and year-round. Most of us need to work hard to keep paddling. Having a well paid job with a lot of free time is a good option I guess, especially if you live near a good river. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be an option in Slovenia; not at these times, when most of the employers here are paying only a minimum wage of about 550€, while using you till the edge of exhaustion and still making you feel like you need to be thankful for that. The last time I tried a serious job here I had less money when I quit it after two years then I had starting it still as a student. I also had about 10kg more of body fat from sheer stress and not much time for sports, even though I worked in a kayak-related company.
So a good option for me, if I want to keep kayaking, is working as a safety kayaker, river guide, kayak instructor or a photographer. I am aware those aren’t real and long-term jobs,, unless you make your own business, but they keep me happy and going. That is until I’ll be sick or injured again. There are no benefits doing these jobs, even though you need a lot of training, enthusiasm and your own and expensive gear for doing them. I don’t know how I would have managed it without my sponsors so I really need to thank them for all the support over the years. You do get to do these jobs in a great working environment, you normally have great paddling rivers nearby and you also get an exercise for free. I actually really like these aspects of these jobs, as even though I like reading, studying and writing, I really don’t like to sit in an office all day.
Anyways, I am looking for a next great location with good rivers, well paid job and a bit of culture as well. If anyone has a good idea I’ll be glad to listen/read it. You can leave a comment too. In any case I intend to spend this year on the water so say hello if you see me. Hasta la proxima!
Some pictures from Middle Fuy, work at Trancura and the Futafest final party:
Looking at the date I find it hard to believe that I have been living in Pucon for almost two months already. It is hard not to forget about the time when you have so much fun as I have had in January. Working as a safety kayaker on river Trancura is the easiest and the most fun job I have ever had in my life. The rapids are just big enough to keep you focused and make you enjoy every single trip you do. And besides the great “work environment” I must say that Pucon’s nightlife is just incredible regarding the size of the town. In all a nice mix of summer, party and holiday work atmosphere.
Unfortunately kayaking adventures slowed down for us as well in January. A very dry year means almost all creeks in the area are too low to paddle at the moment. The only “loco” run close that I am currently looking forward to is Middle Fuy, which we plan to do in the next days. While I missed the last days of rio Nevados because of my sickness at the end of November, I could say that December was quite generous to me. Palguin is so close to Pucon that you seem to end up on that river every time you don’t have any other plan. Unfortunately it was getting low really fast too. Anoter classic, rio Puesco was really low as well by the time we did it but it was still a lot of fun. We hit a perfect water level at upper Fuy but probably the most memorable day of my kayaking in Chile so far was a second descent of lower Llancague that I did with a crew of Americans. So much more because I missed a must-catch eddy and ended up running a crazy 100m slide blind. Not many things scare me a lot in kayaking anymore and I must say that this mistake made me a bit more anxious than I’m used to get on the river. Though I was wandering at the bottom if scouting this rollercoaster ride wouldn’t actually make me even more nervous.
While kayaking was much better in December, I must complain about all the effort it took to get all the licences, papers, cards, visas and who knows what else to work here in Pucon. It made that month that much more nervous for us 3 Slovenians. Most of the troubles and demotivations we went through were unofficial though. Being a foreigner looking for a job on rivers of Pucon will end up with some people (even officials) telling you it is impossible for you to get all the permits, to get the work or even to apply for it, for whatever the reason they might think of at the moment, be it language, visa or just not having the official translation of a certain paper needed for application – even though a lot of appliers have fake ones, but “psssss”, don’t tell it to anyone as they won’t be checking that. But “c’est la vie”, nonetheless this is Chile, so everything is possible, you just need to learn to do it South American way: “tranquilo”. Everything will come natural afterward.
I’ve been saying a lot of “damn” (the bad version) for the last few days. Yes, I’m finally in Pucon, a place I had been dreaming about a lot in the past few years, but I can’t say I’m currently enjoying it. No, it has nothing to do with the place itself, though I still can’t say much about the town except for what can be seen from the window of our hostel room. I’m also not in jail, even though it sometimes feels like it…
I’m writing this blog on a plane to Chile. I’m very excited that we were able to get our kayaks on board but we still have to worry about getting a car and a place to sleep. We booked our flights for three months and we all plan to work in Chile or Argentina to fund our trip.
I’ve taken quite some time to write a blog post but ending my Indonesian trip wasn’t much of an encouragement. I still haven’t written much about the highlights of that trip, such as the Tambra creek experience but I promise to publish some of the best pictures on this website soon. My way back from Indonesia was an experience of its own though. Travelling on your own with kayaking equipment has some disadvantages like being extremely immobile, clumsy, and not being able to go to the bathroom without worrying something might go missing wile you take a pee. Thankfully I didn’t have to bring a boat with me as well. But being alone and over packed meant I was a funny figure, bound to meet more people than usually. Talking to various people I met on the airplanes, airports, train and in between made my really long travel home a very pleasant memory. From a talkative Indonesian student/professor in Kuala Lumpur, to freaky Canadian emirates pilot at a party in Munich and a German skier on a Train to Ljubljana – I guess people that are most open are also most interesting and friendliest at the same time.
A short video Edit made of GoPro shots I made in Central Java.
After a sleepy but educational week, things started to unfold at an unexpected paste. Realising that I have not much time left in Indonesia we set up a tight kayaking plan. But first Toto Rusmanto got us invited to a monthly Purbalingga culture night with live traditional Javanese music. I guess we arose some attention bringing all the camera gear with us as we were soon invited to sit with Central Javanese chief of regency Drs. Heru Sudjatmoko alongside other important persons. We had a short chat, a lovely meal and I even got introduced to the rest of the public. Then I got back to filming and taking pictures as this colourful and authentic night felt just right to make it into the movie I’m filming.