What can be said about the life of a white water paddler in the temperate zone in Western Europe, desperate may be? The uncertainty of rain makes our sport either a feast or famine, and this Winter has been no different. Right from the last weekend in November, wave after wave of Atlantic frontal systems soaked the South West Peninsula for the first 3 weeks of December, it was a paddling feast. During these wet days, Gene17 had its now annual Adventure Paddlers Weekend at the River Dart Country Park in Devon. Its a mass gathering of the white water clan of the UK. This years event had very high water on Saturday, making for news of high jinx and lost gear, needless to say, much fun was had, especially by a few of the girls!!! As Christmas approached, a dry easterly high pressure arrived to sit over the UK for 2 weeks, these are cold times of freezing mornings, lowland fog and crisp frosts. During this time, I take a few moments to get on top of other work, normally back office tasks for G17 and I get to mountain bike a bit more. However, the phone kept ringing and the work still flowed. During this time, you can do some ELF (Extreme Low Flow) descents of the Upper Dart, as the pool drop nature of the run lends to a perfect class room for teaching how to run drops. Rain arrived to Christmas and with my wife, Satu we had a great run down the Upper on Christmas Day, plus a BBQ with the Sells! Fine times indeed. Incidentally, at the put in on the Upper Dart I found a large Salmon, this beautiful fish was heading down river and was about 80cm in length.Just after Christmas it was a long awaited trip to Portugal with some of Ireland’s finest company. Now it had not rained for weeks and in fact the locals said it was the worst paddling season for years, so we went to Northern Spain for storm force surf. After days of wine, wind and wild rides, the weather forecasts turned in our favour, so we headed back to Northern Portugal for days of rain and a fine New Year with the UK’s latest batch of boozing kayak talent. Highlights were the social time, meeting the local paddling crew and finally getting to see and run some of the famed Castro river. We had to walk out as the river rose on us very quickly, and the prospect of heading further down into a closed out pool drop gorge with high flows was not so wise. So we headed to the Vez and ran the two middle sections in highwater, it was like a narrower Upper Dart, excellent fun.
Rain, rain and some more rain and we headed to Cavado, which the musical youth had just ran. On the next day, the Cavado was too high so we meet up with the local George’s for the Lower Beca. This was a little low! Still the run was a kin to the middle Vecchio on Corsica, and once passed the confluence on the Tamiga this high volume steep river was a classic. And then all of a sudden our Portugal adventure was over! Alas, we’ll be back, as its a very easy place to go, longer winter daylight hours, warmer winter weather and the accessibility from Porto airport was a breeze, in fact I would go as far as saying its as good if not a little better than Scotland for rain feed fun.On my return to the UK, it rained and we worked, a lot. In the shot above we see a bunch of paddlers on an advanced WWS&R course, going on a life bait rescue be hide the drop for my WWS&R boat I trapped in there a little earlier. Why I like this shot, for the big laughing face on Ceri Williams, the tall chap addressed in orange. Ceri helps G17 out on a range of BCU qualification courses and assessments. Below is a sequence of a rock spin on the Upper Dart, taken when on a 5 star training course, just showing that I really enjoy my work.As my UK Winter comes to a close, I am crazily trying to clear my in tray before the long drive to Slovenia to drop off my car, kayaks and new trailer!! I’ll hit Nussdorf along the way for a little skiing with Oli and Ingrid. By mid February I head back to the UK for Canoexpo to bang the G17 drum, so if you are going and wish to know a little about G17K’s adventures, come and find myself. After Coventry for the weekend, I fly to Finland for editing, skiing and resting before the Summer, the biggest so far for G17 and myself. Thus as one season of feasting closes and another one begins, a time of famine is needed, if only to rest the arms for the coming Spring, Summer and Autumn fun to come. Here is a little YouTube video of a new move I saw today on Euthanasia, its always nice when you find something new….