northern Gathering

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Sat on the beach awaiting the ferry at the northern tip of Denmark has become part of the annual pilgrimage for myself, this being my 12th year to Norway kayaking. There is little to compare the adventure kayaking destination of Norway to the Alps, the northern Summer plays host to more superb paddling than any other place I have travelled. Its a location where pure fun and numerous adventures are had with your friends, car camping, deep gorges, clean drops and so far this year high water!!

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The Åmot section on the Sjoa River is famed for its high pressure Class IV rapids in a short yet very sweet canyon, as such its become the home run for after dinner fun all Summer long. Once I finally arrived in Sjoa, as the road from the Alps is ever longer in spite of having an Autobahn rocket ship for a car. Good levels meant several days of surfin’ it up of the Jørgens Wave, with Deb Pinniger and Matt Tidy. Heavy rain and a dam release on the Veo river brought the Sjoa up to over 300 cumecs, and as you can see the seam lines and boils below the bridge on the Åmot make for amazing whitewater and great viewing.

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Faced with highwater and a day of rain, we worked on our slack line skills under the shelter of some trees and then went for some big volume fun on the wave train just north of Vinstra on the Lången River. Flowing at near 500 cumecs Matze and Dave eyed up the kick flips on the entry wave and I drifted in to get the shot. The eddy lines were a boiling pot of fun and so were the whirlies. Matze subbed out in his Nomad, still it was best to stay away from the eddies themselves as the amount of drift wood and the speed it was travelling at, would of taken the shine of the fun!

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With clearing skies and keenness of adventure we all headed to Stør Ulla with its slides and drops, fun was had all around, especially as for a few greenhorns to Norway its always a special day out. We sent Killian Kelly of the slides blind chicken style, and the smile at the eddy above the last drop said it all.

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Grey yet dry days took us to the Skjelva, a favourite of mine for its range of drops, slides and rapids, proved a little too high, especially for the upper section, an early drop slot made a pudding pie out of myself and reminded me of early rodeo days. There is nothing more humbling than being blind probe on a run you know very well, having the stopper dish out the treatment and knowing what awaits. Do you hold on for a throw bag once someone realises that you actually need one or do you go for the exit and try to sort it all out yourself. Alas, my fine side surfin’ with an occasional cartwheeling was not going to well after a while, so the tactic was to pull the deck, swamp the boat and sink under the hole for a low float paddle in. As the boat was filling up, the bow pitched in for another end unravelling the well considered tactic. Once on the side, Matt was finally stood on the top of the drop, still no use to myself, its a very difficult place for bank support. My boat drifted on by, so in I went in hot pursuit. Now for those of you who are use to the blind probe status, will understand that if you lose your gear when you’re out in front in a steep side canyon of Class V, its pretty much up to you to sort it out, otherwise waiting for everyone else to catch up makes for in most cases lost gear. Anyway back to the swimming pursuit, it was within a 100m that I managed to pin the boat, and drag it to the side. By the time everyone portaged the drop, I had emptied the boat out and was ready to go, if not some what colder for the hole surf and wet exit. The drops came thick and fast, with some great slide combo’s, all the way down to an S bend. From here at this water level down at river level, its a portage festival for a kilometre, so we decided to climb up and hike along before dropping back in. After 30 mins of rope work we were up and traversing. Soon enough we found an old track down, and then followed a stream bed back to the river. We dropped in right at a steep cataract, were our bushwhacking was rewarded with a great 4 drop combo. The fun continues for 4 km with near slides and clean rapids to the take out. Needless to same, today is a rest day.

The weeks past by and paddlers from all over start to descend on the Sjoa valley for the River Festival, the annual northern gathering is upon us

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