Norway, again and again and again, paddling perfection, and at the heart of it all is Sjoa, a small hamlet at the end of the Sjoa, in fact located on the opposite side to the confluence with the Lågen, by the even smaller hamlet of Åmot. To Norwegian’s Sjoa, is known as Heidal, the principal larger village upstream, about mid point along the valley. Still here on this river, is a paddling life all Summer long, rafting, kayaking, river boarding and lots of tourists along with a local crowd and Summer blown ins just like me. My 16th Summer on the Sjoa breeze, I tend to aim to be there by mid Summer’s and look to head South by September, 12 weeks or so, a whole Summer season for one thing and one thing alone, paddling.
Over the year, strings have changed and other things have stayed the same, the river this year changed after some near 1000 cumec floods, so we have a new face to an old friend. When heading out after big floods, caution is always needed, river change, and in floods or after harsh Winter’s they can change significantly. On Skjerva, a near by run, a must run on the upper section, is now an epic portage, both Nick Horwood and Jakub Sedivy had a close call, trying to run an ugly slot. All ended well, we got everything, and now know the portage route. Moments like this reminds us that we are all but a continuum, and even those things as solid as rock, are as dynamic at times are is everything.
Before the Sjoa events, we headed to Valldal for paddling, the Micky Mouse run is ace, steep clean slides and a small drop in there too. The grassroots event, the Valdall Summer Games, has wider appeal to the local active crowd, with a new downhill bike route cut into the hill and some north shore to enjoy too. Its a Summer field like festival. The middle Valdall river is a fun creek run, starting with boulder gardens and then some bedrock slides, all in an open river bed, 20mins of action. Out in the fjord, there is lots of fishing too, spinning for sea trout and salmon is easy I understand, myself, I’d prefer fly fishing, but it’s a later project, for myself to enjoy.
Back in Sjoa, the River Festival now in it’s 15th year, is ace, some 200+ paddlers from all over the nordic realms and others too from central Europe and the UK, descend on the Sjoa Kayak Camp, for a week of paddling, competitions, parties and fun with friends. This year Gene17 took over the running of the festival, from my wife, how now has a flu time job. With both Jakub and Nick to help, along with others, we ran the event programme, added in Gene17 clinics to expose the Nordic paddlers to our charms, plus the Gene17 Ula Extreme Race on Rondane. We had great prizes from Art, again, prefect stuff. What to say about the Sjoa Festival, I go every year, I like it, it’s an open gathering and what’s not to enjoy?
Then after Sjoa, comes the Gene17 work, this year the Progressive Trip provided much entertainment, then again it always does. It’s hard to throw the net over an intermediate course, but it’s for Class III+ paddlers looking to get ahead, or an introduction to big volume, either way, it’s a world away from the Alps. Most of what is taught is tactics for river running, as the crowd tend to be from a group where they are not leading to much, plus there is a tendency to over edge at an and all transitions. These days, you point your boat in the desired direction, and go, plane over everything if you can, but you go, always go forward, if there is a problem, there is always a forward solution. This no nonsense style, can be an issue with the paddlers from low float destinations, but given the low ceiling of tactical effectiveness the push me pull me method of boat manoeuvring has, the paddlers get on board soon enough.
What to say about the work, I love it, its ace, and there is always a lot to do. With many new events to run, it’s difficult to get the other projects down, especially the video efforts. This Autumn is down for this, I have a 6 week window to get this done, but I will be busy with something else…more on that later. For now, Ciao from Nordkapp, yepp the northern edge of Europe, barren, striking and yet beautiful.
Next time, Nordland, the new Summer paddling destination.