9/12/14

Rey del Río in México

We just got back from the Rey del Río in México, an event organized by Altius and River Roots founded by the Mexican Government and the Board of tourism of México. 


I was stoked to meet team mates Sam Sutton and Egor who had also flown in for the event. With another 25 of the best kayakers in the world, good organization, huge prize money and waterfalls it was going to be an awesome weekend!


We flew in to Villahermosa (Tabasco) and drove to Palenque (Chiapas) where there are awesome Maya ruins. From there we drove to the río Tulijá commonly known as the Agua Azul due to the turquoise blue color of its water because of the minerals it contains. 


We did a few training runs on Friday and a time trial to seed everyone for the boaterX. Saturday started early with the first rounds of the boaterX. The course was really narrow with only one deep line so it was really hard to pass anyone, the time trial played a huge role on the boaterX as choosing your starting position meant a lot. In the end I didn't make the final (top 4) but I did manage to win the losers heat and ended up 5th. Not a good result but that's all I could do with the seeding I had (6th). Congrats to Pat, Dane and Egor and Isaac for going fast and taking the top spots.





Here's a sick video by RiverRoots from the BoaterX event on Saturday:  



On Sunday we all headed downstream to a set of three waterfalls, a 30ft, 50ft and 40ft. Every paddler had one run and he was judge on his technique, style, progression… There were sick lines, tricks off the waterfalls and all sorts of cool stuff. 
Personally I didn't have a good run and even broke my paddle on the second drop… Anyways it was a fun day. In the end I ended 7th 1 point from Sam. Pat Keller took the win followed by Rush and my bro Aniol.


Overall it was a great event, well organized and the media that Jared, Matt and Polly took is amazing so looking forward to see all the great footage they shot. This is a great step for kayaking to attract some main stream media and portrait our sport in great way.


After the event my bro, Benny and I drove north east for 8h or so to Tlapacoyan, Veracruz. We stayed at Aventured and had a great time going paddling every day. Big Bananas, Jalacingo, Tomata… There's a lot of quality white water and a lot of fruit too so it's a great place to hang out and spend some time.


After a week it was time for me to head back to the city and fly back to Chile where there are a lot of river waiting, so stoked I made it out to México, learned a lot and hope to do a lot better next year! Now it's time to paddle some rivers, head south and eat empanadas.

2/12/14

Chile Trip part 1

On late November I started a three day journey to Chile. Departing from Bracelona to New York and to Panamá for a couple days layover as my boat wasn't allowed in the plane after making it all the way there… a day of paperwork and 400$ less and my boat was on its way via Cargo with the same airline… thanks Copa Airlines!



Anyways made it to Chile and went straight to the río Maipo just outside of Santiago where my good Astorga friends live and fight against the Alto Maipo Project the Government and private corporations are trying to put on their river and land. The plan is to divert the river and all it's tributaries into 70 km of pipes to produce energy for the copper mines in the north. This means drying a whole region with multiple valleys and rivers and taking all of the drinking water for Santiago polluting its waters and mixing them with residual waters from gold mines and others to be purified later on… I really hope that the Government and politicians that rule Chile can see further than their own pockets and decide what's best for Chile and for its people, NO ALTO MAIPO! Learn more about the Alto Maipo Project here: https://www.facebook.com/NoAlProyectoAltoMaipo



After settling down and paddling the Maipo for a few days we started the drive south with a first stop at the río Claro. The Claro is one of the most amazing rivers in the world, clean water and the most beautiful lava canyon you can imagine with all kind of drops and rapids, it truly is a kayakers dream. 


The last time I was there was in 2007 together with Chris Korbulic on what we thought was the first descent of the 'Garganta del Diablo', my favorite section. It took us a long day to scout as much as we could from the canyon rim, and I think we only saw the 20% of it? Anyway we put on the next day hoping everything would be fine and we discovered one of the most awesome places on earth. It was such an awesome  feeling to go back and remember everything from that tip… We got there late afternoon and put on straight away. 


The water was low but we paddled some of the best white water ever so we war so stroked!! The next day we ran the 'Cocina and 22 saltos' into Garganta and finished off with the 7 tazas. Such an awesome day of kayaking surrounded by the most polished and smooth basalt walls you'll ever find, its amazing, you have to be in there to understand it and  experience it by yourself. After another day of some more paddling we started to long drive south to Pucón. 


The levels in Pucón were still good when we got there so we rushed on paddling the Nevados, Trancura, Palguin and Puesco at good flows. All this runs are really close to town and it's easy to paddle three rivers in one day so within a couple days I was already pretty sore but so stoked to be down there after so much time since I paddled any of this runs, for me it's like a rediscovery trip as the last time was 7 years ago and a lot has changed since then, the rivers, the rapids, the gear and myself so its an awesome personal experience to live it all again. After a few days of great weather levels started to drop and we decided it was time to head south.



8/11/14

The last few months...

The last few months have been non-stop, ending with a crazy unfortunate trip to Chile to finish it off!



I spent July working as a raft guide in Whistler and paddling on the Cheak and Callaghan daily waiting for the Stikine to come in, which did and really early! August 2nd and we were getting ready to drive north for our first run of the season! We got there to find great water levels and amazing weather! We had an awesome season opening 3 day trip, another 3 day trip and a one day that was great. Overall we had great weather, some nice/high flows on our second trip and lowish on the others which still make it an amazing run! 

We shot a lot of footage during our trips with Nomade (Tino and Lore) and Eric Parker Photography for a Red Bull project with my brother Aniol. There's a lot of amazing footage and I can't wait to watch the edit they are putting together, coming out real soon!


After that we drove south to Revelstoke to try to get some waterfalls but the ran wasn't enough so we only paddled Sutherland at a very low flow but it was still great.
We then drove back to Whistler, paddled the Ashlu a bunch with great flows and time to go home came by!


Landed in Spain mid september, hang out for a week painting my grandmas house and paddling in Sort and left to Sickline.



Sickline was great, there was 7 of us from Sort so the drive went by pretty fast. Once there it's a great life, wake up, eat, kayak and sleep. It was great to sleep on nice beds and cook in a kitchen after so many months of traveling and camping!
The race started really good for me, winning the qualification and quarter finals, made the super final in second place as lucky loser after Sam knocked me out on semis but my final run wasn't good enough and ended up taking 4th. Started off and hit a rock, what made me make more mistakes and  not have a nice rhythm, felt slow throughout all the course and yeah I was almost 2 seconds slower… Hope to learn from this year and be more prepared next year!!


Right after Sick-Line we flew back to BC to finish the Red Bull project as we needed Fall lows water flows. Everything went great and went back home.


I spent some time paddling in Sort, went surfing in France and the Basque Country, got sick for a week and flew to Chile which took a bit lover than expected as I had to spend a couple days in Panamá as they didn't want to let my boat in the plane once there… 


Anyways summer and fall were great, lots of kayak in amazing places like the Stikine, Revelstoke, Sick-Line… overall an awesome time a bit busier than expected but sweet times. Now I'm hanging out in Chile where I'll be all winter long escaping the cold and enjoying the great rivers and places this country has to offer.

2/6/14

My White Water Grand Prix

For the first two weeks of May I went to Canada to paddle and compete at the White Water Grand Prix in Ontario and Quebec. The WWGP is a 6 stage competition (3 freestyle and 3 racing events) over 15 days on some of the biggest white water!

I had been racing and doing quite a bit of creeking before the event, but I hadn't sat on a play boat for a while and specially for a big and cold wave like the ones they have in Canada, so I was pretty nervous about the freestyle events.


It all started really good with Stage 1 - Big Trick Contest on Gladiator, Ottawa. We had an awesome sunny day with a nice wave and lots of positive energy. I felt good in the wave and managed to land a few big tricks that later on would give me a 5th place finish, I was pretty happy with it!

We then moved on with Stage 2 - BoaterX at the Rouge river. We had a time trial and then the boaterX. I made onto semis and then got unfairly disqualified at the finish line unable to made it into the finals. I was pretty disappointed with this result as the decision was wrong and I lost a bunch of points that would later affect on the overall ranking.


Stage 3 was the Time Trial on the Shawinigan river, we gad three runs and the two best counted. The race was super short (under 1 minute), I had an ok first run, a bad second and a good third. Not stoked with my racing but luckily it was enough for a 4th place finish.


Stage 4 was on Black Mass on the Mistassini, a really big, fast and dynamic wave that allows for a lot of moves but it's pretty tricky. However I did some good tricks during training I didn't manage to put a ride together for the competition which put me in 15th place, another result I'm disappointed with due the fact that I didn't throw any trick…


Stage 5 was the Freestyle Showdown also on the Mistassini river, we surfed an amazing wave that allowed for every trick and awesome rides. I couldn't have the ride I wanted but I was able to put some tricks together and came away with a 9th place.


Last Stage 6 was the Giant Slalom on the Base Caché river close to Quebec city. We had two runs, I had a 1.20 on my first and a 1.17 on my second that would have given me the win if it wasn't because I touched one of the only 4 gates there were on the course… Bummed about that for sue but it was over!



At the end a 5th place overall which I'm happy with but I want to think that I could have paddled a lot better, specially on the races. The Grand Prix is a tricky event with lots of great paddlers, constant changes and some difficulties, so I'm happy I was able to improve my 7th place finish from 2011. I'm hoping I can paddle the way I want on the next edition!


7/4/14

South Island and the PNW

For the last 15 days of our stay in NZ we decided to go down to the South Island to paddle on the West Coast and do a couple fun races. Unfortunately things didn't go as planned with me getting hurt on the first race.


The day after we arrived was the Citroen race, an awesome BoaterX down a big volume rapid called Citroen on the Kawerau river in Queenstown. A really fun rapid with a cool entrance around a big boulder in the middle followed by some big crashing waves and diagonals, and the walk is not too bad! I got there Saturday morning and did a couple laps before the event to get to know the rapid a bit, then we started the boaterX. I did a few rounds and after a few heats advanced to the final. 


Unfortunately though as I pushed off the ramp and landed in the water another competitor landed on me so the bow of his boat hit my hip really hard. That moment I paralyzed and screamed like never before, so much pain! I tried to paddle but I had no power and the pain was really high, but I was floating fast into to rapid so I had to do something… I paddled/floated down the rapid and eventually ended up at the bottom where I got out of my boat. I couldn't walk but I did float down to the take out. Thanks Brad for carrying my stuff and driving me around! 


I had to rest for the next three weeks, the pain eventually decreased being able to walk and move around but not able to do any king of effort or sport, and to this day my hip still gets sore after an hour in my boat.

I'm now finally back on the Pacific North West, specifically White Salmon in the Washington/Oregon border by the Columbia river. The Gorge is an amazing place, extremely beautiful and wild it offers many awesome runs really close by, and the amount of kayakers in town is huge, so there's always someone keen to go for a lap!


Big storms early spring made the levels rise from low to extremely high after a really dry winter, and now we have perfect water levels on all drainages! 


My favorite one is the Little White Salmon, only 15 minutes away offers the best amount of white water per lap; super fun moves, drinkable water and amazing old rain forest.
There are a lot of paddlers here this Spring including my brother so we are always going to the Ldub, it's really good!
So all in all life's real good! Stoked to be where I am and doing what I love. Thanks y'all!

26/2/14

NZ living - Okere Falls

Being based in Okere Falls at the banks of the Kaituna for the summer is awesome. Amazingly beautiful location, super good folks to paddle with and an amazing local run to lap and lap everyday. Besides surf within 20 minutes drive and amazing mountain bike trails in Rotorua.


Time's been flying between laps on the Kaituna and Wairoa, some surf trips to Gisborne and the East Cape, Waihi… and of course some work too!


Lots of events happened on the river this season already, first of was the 6 hours Enduro team race which I had to miss due an injury on my ribs while kayaking another river early December. Next up was the Xmas @ Kaituna event held just before Christmas; progressive BoaterX with 4 different courses while going down the river, 8Ball race, beach ball team race and blow up toys float. This was a super fun event and I was stoked to be back in my boat after a few weeks off due injury and really happy after taking the boaterX and the 8Ball race with some lucky rounds! The swim/float down the river with another 30 persons was sick! Cheers Brendan and Lou for organizing it!!


On Jan 11th we had the Andy Duff Memorial, where you get to race down the river in play boats, creek boats, tandem, swimming and rafting. It was a super fun afternoon and very exhausting, specially the swimming, but really cool. Thanks Douglas for organizing that year after year! A week after that was the Okere Falls Champions a multi sport race organized by Jamie Sutton. You start sprinting to your bike and biking for a couple k's around the lake, then running a bit and swimming on the lake and down the slalom course, after that you jump on your kayak felling dizzy and with no power at all and try to make it down the river as fast as possible, carry your boat up a bit and run up the road to the Okere Falls Store where you have to skull a beer, which after doing all that is probably the last thing you want to do… Anyway a really fun race which includes 4 different sports and takes about 30 minutes of going all out. Mad props to Tim for crushing everyone on that one! Ben Robson was second and I was happy with third place!


Next up was the first round of the NZ Extreme Racing Series, with the Kaituna Time Trial and the Wairoa Extreme Race. The Kaituna's been really low for the last couple weeks, at about low 200's, so the race was really physical with some nice and long flat stretches but still fun and fast rapids. Mike killed the time trial with a 7'16" and I was third after local legend Kenny Mutton.
We also raced long boats and after a nice lap with the Hurricane I got first place which I was stoked about! We finished the afternoon with a three person team relay that was really fun as well!
On Sunday we had the Wairoa race with a 5 minutes time trial to start with and a head2head down the 'Roller coaster' rapid. I managed to get second on the time trial behind Mike who again did a great time trial run but unfortunately I got knocked out on the earlier rounds. Overall a great weekend that wouldn't have been possible without the time and effort of Brendan, Lou and Tyler, thanks guys!!
Here's a link to full results of both events and a little write up by Brendan: http://nzextremewhitewater.com


All and all summer's been great so far, lots of good kayaking with friends and having fun on the water, the best way to get ready for next spring!

I just want to thank everyone in Okere Falls for being one of the best/coolest kayaking communities out there and helping us out with everything! Super happy and stoked to have made it this way for the winter and hopefully I can come back next year!

13/1/14

NZ living - South Island

Hace ya casi dos meses que estoy en Nueva Zelanda y el tiempo está volando. Es muy bonito y hace buen tiempo y siempre se puede remar después de trabajar, de hecho no hay tiempo para nada más.


I've been in New Zealand for over two months now, and time is flying here. It's nice and warm, super beautiful, there's paddling every day and long days working and paddling keep you so busy!


Volé a mediados de noviembre directamente a Queenstown, donde me encontré con Dylan, JV, Shannon, Willz y Brendan. Lo primero que hice después de no se cuantas horas de vuelo pero muchas fue remar el río Nevis cerca de Queenstown que sigue siendo uno de mis favoritos. Muy continuo y muy divertido, con movimientos técnicos, pendiente, rocas y rápidos muy interesantes durante horas. Un río increíble con buen tiempo y buenos amigos.


I flew mid november straight into Queenstown, where I met up with Dylan, JV, Shannon, Willz and Brendan. We paddled the Nevis river near Queenstown which is still one of my favorites, just super continuous, lots of fun and technical moves, good drops, good water, steep and really long. Such a good run with nice weather and good friends to show me the lines.


Después de eso nos fuimos al sur de Fiordland para explorar algunas cascadas nueva s y primeros descensos. El paisaje es increíble, y aunque no remamos mucho vimos unos paisajes magníficos. Después regresamos hasta Queenstown/Wanaka hicimos algunas bajadas más en el Nevis y nos fuimos hasta Christchurch y volamos a la isla norte.


After that we drove south to Fiordland to explore some unpadded rivers and waterfalls. The scenery over there is amazing, and however we didn't get to paddle much we got to see some amazing places. After a few days hanging out south we drove back up to Queenstown/Wanaka for a few more laps on the super fun Nevis. It was already lower but still really nice. After that we drove to Christchurch and flew to the North Island.


Ahora estoy viviendo en Okere Falls donde trabajo y remo todos los días en el Kaituna. El agua está caliente, cañones y paisajes increíbles, buenos amigos y gente para remar todos los días, un gran sitio para pasar el verano. Súper feliz de estar aquí trabajando y remando todos los días.


Right now I'm living in Okere Falls where I work and kayak everyday on the Kaituna. Warm water, amazing canyons and scenery, great friends and people to paddle with and super fun white water, overall a greta place to spend the summer. Super happy to be here and having lots of fun just hanging out and paddling daily.


Photos by Justin Venable