In my head I was pacing around like a caged tiger waiting to be allowed back into Norway, in reality I was more like a poorly trained Yorkshire terrier. Yapping at the door, irritated at having to wait and excited to just go already. I burst from the door at the first opportunity I got and found myself deep in the frosty clutches of Norway’s early spring. Hands red raw from the cold, eyes wide open from the huge rapids but the smile much wider. There is something special about Norway and its rivers, this year I am happy that I spent as much time as I could up there this year.
I went straight to Voss, chasing waterfalls. I didn’t have to wait long until we where blasting down the classics. The early season crew where averaging at least three rivers a day. These are the days I live for; excited, a touch nervous, committed, relieved, tired, stoked and planning to do it all over again the next day. Just pure magic. I loved blasting down the rivers and trying to hit every line as clean as possible but I had more in my mind than clean lines. I feel like through all the twists and turns in my time spent on the water I have found the thing in the sport that truly excites me, downriver freestyle. I have been visualising the tricks I wanted to throw for the past two years, when I finally got chance to be there in person all that time spent problem solving in my head translated into fluid, practiced body movements.
Well, all except one. I was frothing to throw an orbit flip and tried to force one out on an imperfect waterfall for it. As the wave broke on me on the lip and I felt my rotation stop. I knew I was about to pay the price for not listening to what the water was saying. I landed directly on my head from close to forty feet up and took a huge hit before having to wrestle my way out of the cave behind the waterfall. Lesson once again learned, the river is always boss. Sometimes you can force things out but not with stuff like this.
I finally got lucky and found the infamous Flåm Stout at a runnable level. Well, sort of, it was high and nobody else thought it was a good idea but I saw my line and knew it would work. This lead in rapid to this waterfall is honestly crazy at these flows, an entire rivers flow constricted into a tiny crack. Fighting itself as it rebounds off rocks and pushes onto itself before spewing out over a sixty foot waterfall. I felt that something happened in my kayaking this year. If the 10,000 hours rule is true then I think I finally ticked over that threshold. My experience on the river told me the water wouldn’t allow me to get to where I wanted to be on the lead in rapid, but my knowledge said I could use the cushion on the lip to transition in the air onto the spot I needed to be on down the waterfall and my confidence told me I could do it. I ended up putting down one of my best lines ever. It’s good to listen to your friends but sometimes you need to listen to yourself.
I went to Oppdal, many of the Norwegian kayakers that I look up to told me it was a foolish plan. They didn’t make it sound too promising, especially as we where hoping for first descents but we went for it anyway. As always with trying to find new stuff there where days without kayaking but we struck gnarly gold fairly quickly with a couple of first descents. Proving once again that you don’t know until you go. Catching the Orkla river with water in it during this time was the icing on the cake.
Returning to Voss I took on the former job role of Palm’s Joe Rea-Dickins, creating daily edits of kayaking throughout the Ekstrem sports week. I have previously only ever helped Joe by being in front of the camera and passing along GoPro clips. It was a different beast entirely to be in charge of a team, co-ordinating drone pilots and delivering finished content on a savage production schedule.
I was hoping to push up North but alas it was not meant to be this year with the water levels and weather conditions not looking at all promising for what I had in mind. Northern Norway will have to wait for another year but for now, I am stoked, tired and a little bit sore from two months in one of kayaking’s most special places. Checkout my highlight reel from the summer … catch you on the water, Bren