Monday, 30 May 2011
I couldn't wait. A small VHS tape had arrived in the post. I was still at college - parked outside my parents house my Mums mini metro had my Dancer kayak on the roof, a dayglow ribbed pfd hung on the washing line.
I placed the VHS into the top loading tape player and watched in wonder as Shaun Baker and friends descended the Prysor, Gamlan and Llanberis Falls. Now almost 20 years later, I live at the back of the Cresta-Prysor. The Gamlan just a short drive away is enjoyed when the rain falls and time allows. But still the mighty falls at Llanberis have taunted me. On 27th May 2011 after a brief chat on social network sites we, Dave and myself, drove up the steep lane that parallels the falls.
Awaiting us we saw water levels on the high side of good, camera crews in position and blue bird sky.
Stories and articles about kayaking drops can fall short of getting to the feelings and depth of emotion. The calculated risk, the dynamic assessments we make, these cannot be from the heart. Although it is my personal view that the heart matters. For me, for the ride - this inner being more than anything is why we push ourselves.
The place of magic - the place of bijou- is on the edge, the thin chance - the moment that is passed before it arrives. The moment that you have planned for in the sleepless nights. The moment of no return, no second thoughts - no second chances. For those that have the ability to think in this way our natural world will hold spells beyond belief, it will hold you in its charm and welcome you for the ride.
For my part, the cusp of the real, is the point where the use of meditative breathing slows the pulse and empties the mind. This is the point I live for - the point that matters most.
To see the film please click the Vimeo link.
Images by Pete@chargingarc.com & Chris Headleand@xsportmap.com
The straight facts are simple. Whilst not without risk this descent was a calculated affair. It was a graph of probability and possibility. Years of kayaking had brought us to this point. We were not some guys on a whim, cast adrift in chance. We would not have been able to tackle the fall if we did not understand the subtle ebb and flow. We knew too well the moves we had to make and the choices we had. We knew what games the mind could play and what emotions would come and go. Behind the scene we are not reckless or crazy fools who endanger our lives, just for the bit of fun. It is, and forever shall be, a settled and risk assessed scene that we play out time and again.
For my part the equipment was important, A creek boat and full face helmet were standard affair. Elbow pads, paddles, dry top and wetsuit vest top are perhaps obvious. But once in the boat the most important features for me were the padded shorts and the Z2 Chaco sandal. The latter thick sole acting as further cushioning if I needed it. I chose gear that I knew would work not because of some team deal or spot light promotion and for the gear that never fails, I thank all those involved. Pyranha, Lightning Paddles. Sweet Protection. Chaco and Nookie.
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
It has been a crazy week, too busy and its only half way gone. Yesterday I sent the day working with Slime (Pete Knowles) at the River Publishing office. Sat around the large office table surrounded by Nepal carpets and ancient images of the Zanskar we looked in great detail at the pictures that will grace the pages of the White Water Nepal, third edition guidebook. This brought many memories and we hope that the new edition will have some of the old classic shots in the final layout.
Its a hard job to get the right number of shots that 'show' Nepal in all its glory and some good shots with stories to tell had to be missed. These images included in this blog are just a few of the ones that missed the cut. These images were supplied by Pete,whose shot of Neil from edition 2 show some attractive eye wear. Whilst it is Claire O's still water on the Sun Kosi and Jim's snow bound shot that tells us all out expeditions kayak trips. Then we have the steep stuff of the AKC. I think they give a quick flavor of Nepal.
Look at these images makes me want to jump on a plane today, adventure awaits at every corner.
See you in Kathmandu.
Friday, 20 May 2011
Loki a rebirth.
I awoke to a text message. THE LOKI IS IN THE OVEN. This cryptic message meant the world to me. I had been using the prototype Pyranha Loki, both in the UK and Nepal and loved the boat. In Nepal the boat had been on loads of classic rivers, like the Sun Kosi, Bhote Kosi and Trisuli. I waited keenly for the production model.
So just as the boat came out of the oven I arrived at the Pyranha factory. It was a strange feeling, seeing the boat lying next to the Varun in the reception area. I say strange because it was the same feeling that you get when you bump into your ex –girlfriend in the street. We all know the awkwardness and then the mind races to all the fun times you had. You sort of forget that you drifted apart. In quiet times you then wonder what would happen if you had never split up?
Well that's what the Loki is like. I was around in an Acro 300 at the birth of modern ‘rodeo’ and remember how we all said the 270 was far too short for running rivers – but things move on. My mind still tries to capture the feeling of my first smooth cartwheel and the joy of the first flatspin. I often wonder if I can ever regain that simple please.
So here I sit at the water’s edge pushing off into the slow flowing eddyline. I wonder will the Loki light my fire.
It’s a crisp smooth ride, not bouncy like the Molan. It is not as fast at the Z.one (what is) but is more subtle than the Varun. The Loki arcs back to the days of slicey, smooth rides – long slow cartwheels, eddyline moves that flow with the current – not the cork and bounce of the stubby short playboats. Sure the Loki is never going to win a freestyle content, you wouldn’t want it to. What you want from this boat (and what it gives you) is that inner smile, the feeling of dancing with the water, not fighting it. It is a boat that gives me the same feeling I had nearly 20 years ago. For this alone I am going to paddle this boat many-many more times. I’ve avoided modern freestyle boats for many years, they never seemed to offer much to my ‘ride’. This is all set to change now.
So is the Loki a freestyle boat?
I guess it is in the true sense. I will offer chances to ‘free’ ‘style’ most stretches of water. It loves eddylines, waves and holes but I guess what it is best at is the feeling of running the river, stopping at that long fast wave, the one that’s been too fast to catch in the short boat, and surfing. Perhaps making that attainment your could never make before, or that rock spin. This is the one boat I could run most of the classic rivers in, more speed than the Varun and more play than the Z.one. In the ocean surf, Skooks, Menai or Stanley it’s the boat to be seen in. Riding the Nile or Zam, sure thing. It is a boat that will appeal to a wide audience, without taking from the other designs in the range. If you remember when freestyle was rodeo, or want to paddle with your heart not because of a score card, then this is for you. For me this is a boat I have waited a long time for and I am glad I waited.
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Ive been struggling with how to protect my eyes on the water, sure a visor on my helmet will help, but you still get the light bouncing of the water, so a solution was needed. Sea Specs glasses have been proven time and again with friends, so I was intrigued by them. These glasses have a very proven record and are seen on many athletes around the world - from kite surfers to river guides.
I will not say what doesn't need to be said, these glasses work, they are brilliant. No' if and or but'. The fit is good, even under a helmet and they not only do the job well but they look quite dapper. They float, have a built in strap, what more is needed. I have one regret. I just wish I had these for the last 10 years.
I am now convinced that having eye wear on the water is a good thing, although perhaps not in rain soak Wales.
I figure why risk your eyes ? If you need convincing about the damage your eyes get read on.
Prolonged and repeated exposure to the sun and wind can cause numerous eye problems, all of which are uncomfortable… some can even be dangerous. Many people are not aware that the sun’s harmful rays can cause the eye to become sunburned. Sunburned eyes are very uncomfortable, and along with wind exposure, can easily dry out the surface of the eye. This makes the eyes extremely vulnerable to various eye health issues.
Irritation from wind and prolonged exposure to sunlight, especially UV rays are considered to be the precursor to Pterygiums, a growth of flesh-like tissue in the corner of the eye that grows toward the cornea. This growth can eventually cover the pupil and impair vision and must be surgically removed.
Thankfully, there are options for those of us whom want to take precautions so we can continue to enjoy ourselves in the water and on land, too!
SeaSpecs offer watersport specific sunglasses that provide protection from the wind and the sun's harmful rays. SeaSpecs high-quality, impact resistant plastic lens are Polarized to block harmful glare and provide 100% UVA/B protection from the sun’s intensive rays.
Their secure strap system keeps the light-weight glasses comfortably on your head where they belong to protect you while you’re in the water. And SeaSpecs float in the ocean so you may never have to lose your sunglasses again!