Monday, July 25, 2011

Lower Rauma

Anyone who has been to Norway for paddling knows about this run. An ultra classic. Everything is BIG, intimidating but pretty clean. It also has the opportunity for those brave souls wishing to fire-up something off the Richter with Flemmingfossen, a burly 20m waterfall at the end of the run.  Joining us for our float were Ron, Marianne, Rafael, and new addition to the kiwi camp Maxi Siech. We had a very healthy flow, which made some things pretty intimidating, but everything went. At this flow it’s also a lot easier on the hull of your boat.
The Lower Rauma is a short run, and if you’d done it a few times you might bomb down it, but as newbies we took our time to scout, film and photograph the impressive drops. 3 and a half hours and we were down to the takeout, super stoked on what we had just experienced in our kayaks.

Maxi Siech on no.2. Ulvaa river coming from the other side. Photo - Sam Sutton.

Myself on no.2 in the distance. Pretty cool setting. Photo - Sam Sutton

Marianne boofing onto the slide, high tech film crew in place. Photo - Max Siech.

Jamie dropping in. Photo - Max Siech

Jamie and I truck and trailer. Photo Max Siech.

Waiting for us at the take out was Flemmingfossen. These falls have more than enough horror stories to make you twice about running it, and to be honest, after running everything on your way down you’re actually pretty satisfied and not too worried if you miss out on a waterfall with a big hit at the bottom. 


Sam was the only one of us keen for it to begin with, he had been since the start of the day, but with more and more inspection he decided for preservation of the body.  Good call. Leave it for another day we thought. Maybe come back just for Flemmingfossen.

Sam scouting the monster drop.

Not today. Photo - Jamie Sutton.

Takk for turen - Cheers for the trip.

Ron flashing the boys?

I don't actually know whats going on here.

Here’s a quick edit of our sick day on the Rauma...

Lower Rauma river, Norway. from brendan bayly on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sjoa Fest

Sjoa ('Shooa' for us kiwis) is yet another epicenter of a high concentration of rivers good for paddling in Norway. Sjoa fest is a week long chilled out event, with a steep creek race and a big water boater cross, and lots of hangin out and paddling in between.

Sam and Kat had left us for Germany (Sam temporarily), so it was just me and Jamie. The car seems so spacious, and we have turns at driving. Life is good. 
Since they've gone, we've had a week of beautiful sunny weather, something we haven't experienced in Norway yet. Before this week we could have counted the number of hot sunny days on one hand.
Arriving at Sjoa fest, I havn't paddled for 3 weeks, my back is still sore, I went to the chiropractor, he didn't fix it, I'm sick of resting, sick of taking photo's. My solution? I'm going paddling anyway, and damn it was good! So stoked to be back in a boat. I'm still weak and sore, but as long as I'm not landing any big drops flat, I can get down the river. If I do land flat then it just means a couple days before I paddle again.

At Sjoa fest there's an awesome vibe, with paddlers from all over the place. On the days with no competition you always find yourself in big crews for floats down the river meeting heaps of new cool people. 

The racing schedule went as follows - Qualification Thursday, Ula creek race Friday, and Sweet Rumble boater cross on Saturday.  With so many paddlers at the festival they hold a race qualification time trial, and take the top 40 paddlers into the creek race and boater cross events. I'm not sure why, but the qualification time trial is held on a 1min long, class 2 big water section on the Sjoa river. This means that out of about 80 paddlers, there's not going to be much to separate the field, and accuracy of times is questionable with manual stopwatch timing.
Anyways, I qualified way back in 28th place, just stoked to qualify having not paddled the last 3 weeks. Job done. Jamie Sutton had a quick time qualifying in 2nd place.

Ula Creek race

The race section on the Ula is so much fun. Norway has so many good racing rivers. We were lacking a bit of water on race day but the course was still fun, we just had to be a bit tighter on our lines. Who hits least rocks wins.
The race was about a minute and a half long, with a couple of slides on the way, so the unfit (me) can catch your breath before powering to the finish. Out of 45 paddlers, only the top 10 made it through to the final, with a combined time of your 2 runs determining your position. Luckily for me I sneaked through to the final in 10th place.  Jamie was a rocket down the course, nipping at the heels of Honza Lasko all day, and went into the final in 2nd place.

Welcome to the Ula hydroslide. And we get to race down it!

Good view of the finish. And its not raining!

Yay we made it to the finals.

First drop off the start line. All is smooth so far.

Entering the 2nd slide. Time for a breather, not far to go.

Lining up the fluffy whiteness at the bottom...

Getting shot out fast. This is where you can gain seconds.

Jamie Sutton flying off the last 3m drop/finish line
My second run down I fixed a few mistakes I made in the first run, and made a couple more, but was still a couple seconds faster and climbed one position into 9th. Jamie was again super fast but had to settle for 2nd behind the flying Czech Honza. Late entry kiwi Toni George had yet another strong race showing coming in 3rd in the Ladies.

1st Honza Lasko CZE, 2nd Jamie Sutton NZL, 3rd Daniel Klotzner ITA.

1st Marianne Saether NOR, 2nd Lenka CZE, 3rd Toni George NZL.

Sweet Rumble Boatercross

We'll I should have taken the qualification more seriously, as little did I know, that your placing in qualification determined where you start in the eddy for the boater cross. And little did I know that pole position out of this particular start eddy is a serious advantage. You have your work cut out for you if you're 3rd or 4th back in the eddy, and I had mine.
In the first round I was up against 2 very quick Italians, and despite having a couple of opportunities to pass them and seal the deal, I came up short. Out in the first round, awesome.
Jamie however stayed strong for the kiwi's making it through to the final, kicking out race favourite Honza Lasko on his way, but just missed out on the money finishing in 2nd behind Phil Gibbons of Australia. This guy is a power house.

Full Results of all Sjoa fest races can be found on the Striestrommer website, check it out

Here's a couple of vids from Finn Burrows of the two races...


Gene17 Ula Extreme Race 2011 from simon westgarth on Vimeo.

Sweet Rumble 2011 Sjoa Kayak BoaterX from simon westgarth on Vimeo.


We briefly heard about the Valldal summer games during the veko, apparently everyone was heading up there, so we did too. Supposedly a 6hr drive we set off at the crack of 2pm, hoping to paddle along the way, to stay in Valldal that night. From Voss there is no simple direct way of getting to Valldal, and with our slightly ripped and very zoomed-out map (doesn’t show small roads and towns) it made it even more difficult. We now know Norway is the land of tunnels and ferries, but lets just say we took a few more ferries than we needed to.

Enough rain. I wanna be right here.

The light at the end of tunnel 186.

The scenery up towards Valldal is stunning, with beautiful river valleys leading up to glaciers and endless fiords everywhere. Tunnels can be quite disorientating, as you just leave one valley or fiord and magically appear in another with only a couple minutes driving, and you haven’t gone up and over anything.

Jakub in front, asking the cows and sheep if we may pass.

Dead end? Thankfully Norway has a heap of tunnels.


We love ferries.

When I'm on the ferry, I prefer Statoil. Statoil has mear mmmmm.

There was a creek race on the Saturday of the games, which Sam and Jamie had a crack at. I’m not sure what the actual name of the creek is but it was known as the mickey mouse run. It’s a short, very low volume, super steep section (but pretty easy) with lots of slides and drops. After round one Sam was the fastest, with the top 5 going again for the final. Not too sure how accurate the timing was for this race, as his second run was just as fast if not faster and he finished up no where near the money. Bit of a kick in the balls really. Shit happens.
We managed to find a sweet camp spot down in the fiord for our time in Valldal.  We heard the fishing was good, so foolishly we all bought fishing lines thinking we could catch our dinner for the next few nights. We were wrong. Several attempts trawling in our kayaks brought the fish count up to a whopping total of 1. Luckily the Germans camping next to us had no shortage of fish and felt like sharing with some hungry fishless kiwi’s. Thanks Alex and Suzanne.  (they had rods with spinners).

Camp in the Fiord. Fishing trawlers in to dock for the night.

The boys also managed to get on the upper Valldalen while the weather was nice. Bung back was on hand to shoot photos. Again.

Alpine sheep inhabit the highlands...

... and own the roads.

Jamie the Sheep Whisperer, sorting out a barbeque.

Which of you would like to be roast lamb?

Not a bad view to start the day.

Boof to clench.

J Sutton about to take off.

Jakub Sedivy enjoying the crystal clear paradise.

Jakub, Sam and Jamie run safety.

Sam on the crux rapid of the run.

Jamie lining up to shoot the gap.

Sam 'super boof' Sutton.

J Sutton. Even has time to 'blue steel' on his way.