I always want to be out on the water, always – especially when life on dry land gets complicated. The river never manages to take away the problems but I find it glosses over them and reminds me that, as long as I have the opportunity to be in my kayak and going downstream then life has to be pretty good!
I’m lucky in that most times, when I feel like running away to the river, I don’t have to run very far. I find myself throwing kayaks on top of my car, bundling up a motley assortment of Palm gear for different weather conditions and driving off to chase the whispers of rain on the weather forecast.
This time I was heading to Portugal. One of the few places in Europe that often has good flows in the early season. This year would be a little bit special as the country had been drier for longer than usual and the water table was not even close to being charged up. Undeterred in a way that only someone that desperately just wants to go kayaking will understand, I arrived at the first stop on my road trip.
The beautiful Pedrosa Tobalinas. I had seen a video of Ian Salvat sending this waterfall at raging high flows, I had seen lots of pictures of it on Instagram where it was basically dry and I was hoping for something in between to throw tricks off. What I got was a very desperate man’s ‘it goes’. Certainly not enough water to throw tricks off and if I’m honest barely enough water to scrape over the lip but things change when you’re frothing to go kayaking and you’ve just driven for twenty hours. I did eight laps on it and genuinely loved it. It was nice to be able to experiment with getting the nose up over a rock and into the air and then still being able to put it down for soft landing.
Packing up the next day I drove hurriedly over to Sistello where the rain was meant to hit and where many a river was waiting for me. Meeting up with Phillip Brunner and Lukas Reichelt who were also chasing the rain, we went to the Vez river. This river featured the thing that I like most in rivers, lots of different kinds of moves. Some fast-paced boulder garden action at the top quickly leads into a twenty-foot waterfall with a tight landing. I gave Lukas my camera to film with but didn’t do a good job of explaining how to use it, thankfully though we didn’t get the video shot I was hoping for, Lukas pressed enough buttons to take the photo below of me on the waterfall. *Note to self, must explain camera things better to people.
We lapped the Vez a few times and then drove over to the Oitavan river for the next day. This river is fantastic, boulder gardens and smooth slides the whole way down including a gorge section at the top. I loved it!
We had been waiting for a break in the rubbish weather to hit the Castro Laboreiro river in the sunshine, though the sun never came and when I woke up in the morning my Atom suit, Nevis and Orbit spraydeck were decidedly frozen to my car. A sure sign of a great day on the river for a person desperate to go kayaking that had now driven twenty six hours to be there!
What a day it was howling winds, occasionally raining sideways, ice on the rocks and plenty of really, really cool rapids.
It’s not very often that you get smooth slides in Europe but the Castro Laboriero river is full of them. From the start to the middle of this river is nothing but fast hilarious fun, from the middle onwards is a decent amount of chossy boulder garden before opening and smoothing out once again for the famous three waterfalls. I had high goals of freestyling off all three of them but the water level was higher than I would like for it and if I’m honest, I would need more safety to be comfortable with hucking myself upside down that close to a bunch of rocks. Still, I was happy to come and spend some time on this beautiful river and I’m excited to come back with a full crew next season!
After a few more laps on the rivers the forecast dried up on me and I went to the beach. Many of the team at Palm have thousands of hours surfing ocean waves, I have about six and with the storm bringing in undoubtedly the biggest, messiest waves I have ever seen I mostly just got beaten up by the ocean. Still though, I was excited to feel once again what a humbling training ground the ocean is and I’m keen to spend more time out there in the future!
Hoping everyone reading this has easy access and good times on the water when life on dry land gets a bit rough!