10 Years with Square Rock

This year has been another great year for kayaking for me. I got the chance to travel to the Outdoor Mix Festival in France with Mathieu Dumoilin, head to Hurly, and Cardiff White Water Centre for freestyle, and to top it off, took a trip to Scotland in November. While, of course, also managing to fit in some fun runs down some of my local rivers.

I was planing on doing a year review and a video when I realised that this year has been my tenth year paddling for Squarerock. So, I thought I would go through some of my footage over the last few years and put a together short film with some photos of the fun I have had over the last ten years kayaking for the guys at Squarerock.

I would like to say a big thank you to Aaron and Rhona for the support, let’s see what the next ten years have to offer!

Scotland 2016

 

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So it was that time of year when Myself and Pete headed to Scotland for some white water action. This year we were joined by fellow team Squarerock paddler Nick Williams for some Scottish stomping.

 

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Scotland is such a great place for any outdoor enthusiast with mountains, lochs and amazing views, but we’ve headed there for the wide variety of rivers and waterfalls which make for some great kayaking adventures.

 

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This year due to low water levels we spent most of the week kayaking in the amazingly beautiful Etive valley.

 

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The Etive valley is the host to some fantastic rivers that can be paddled in different levels, making this a perfect location for some low water boating. During the week we had some fun runs down the Etive and some of its tributaries including the Allt A Chaorainn and the Allt Mheuran. Both these tributaries have amazing views and some nice slides and drops providing some low water entertainment and a chance for us to practice a little down river freestyle.

 

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At the end of the week we had a little rain so we took full advantage and got some great laps in on the Etive.

 

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Even though the water levels were not in our favour we all still had a really good time on and off the water, with the opportunity to paddle with friends and to explore some of the Mountains Scotland has to offer.

 

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See you on the water,

Alex

Scoltland 2015

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I’ve finally got round to writing a blog for our trip to Scotland back in November, what a trip it was!

On our previous Scotland trip we only had one car, and saw nearly no other boaters, so it limited what we could paddle, as we’d have to do the shuttle on foot, which sucked. Luckily this year we had two vehicles, and there was a lot more boaters about, so we got a lot more done.

Day 1

We wanted to start off easy, check out how well everyone’s paddling, and one of the group Joy, had a shoulder injury so we didn’t want to push it all straight away, so we headed to the Roy gorge, nothing too challenging and everyone had paddled it before. We’d had rather a lot of rain the past few days, so there was water everywhere!

Day 2

We decided to check out the Etive, as after one dry night, we were hoping it would drop, and it had, we were blessed by a perfect level, turned out a few other boaters had the same idea, and as we were checking out the first feature, we bumped into some familiar faces we didn’t know we’re also in Scotland.

We got kitted up, set up some safety, and ran the first section. Unfortunately Joy had to put in a big support stroke on her bad shoulder, and had to get off the water, so she went to the car and came back as our personal photographer/eyes on the back.

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The rest of the river was incredible, higher than I’d paddled it before, which made it that but more pushy, and the holes a bit more grabby.

We eventually got to the main feature on the river, Right angle falls. We got out onto the bank, and this is where the nerves started kicking in, as your stood looking over the lip of the falls.

One by one we all ran the drop, with only two unfortunate swims, including one self rescue.

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Day 3

The water had dropped some more so we went off to check out some of the tributaries of the Etive, the Allt a Chaorainn & the Allt Mheuran. First up we went for the Allt a Chaorainn, with Joy having another rest day, we again had a photographer, an injury doesn’t always mean you can’t be involved! This is such a fun trib, full of some super fun slides and drops.

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Next headed further down the road to find the next trib, the Allt Mheuran. Everyone was looking forward to this, with its big walk in, for about a minute or so on the water, depending how long you sit in the eddies.

We eventually got to the slide, and Alex and I decided we’d go up further and check out the drop above, after working out the line, a quick game of rock paper scissors decided who went first, so I went and got into my boat.

My line didn’t go greatly to plan, having nearly spun around and ran the drop backwards, and a big explicit being said as I noticed I was spinning. Alex then ran it, nailed the line.So back up I went to do it again, this time a lot better!

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We we went down to the next bit which was the slide into a drop, a super fun, super fast feature. We all ran it, all had massive smiles after, so we went and did it again, before the big walk out, this bit wasn’t so fun.

 

Day 4

The day of release for the Morriston, we couldn’t miss out on this. Alex and I had both been wanting to do this river for a while now, so glad we were finally able to do it. It all seems a bit daunting at first, as you get on the river straight into a drop without a warm up, but it’s actually a lot easier than it looks.

We only did the top half, as the water was dropping due to the release getting turned off. Once we we’re back at the car, Joy came up with the idea of driving to the drop on the Nevis, so Alex and I could go run it.

I like Joy, Joy has good ideas! (She also make a great apple crumble)

Off to the drop we went! We got there, for kitted up, and stood looking, working out what lead up line to take, etc etc.

Alex went first, it all went well, know I knew it was my turn, again, everything went well, and we were both stoked !

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Because it kicks you up before you go off the edge, you get a real sense of free fall, which feels incredible. We got off the water and looked at all the pictures, and as we were about to get changed, Matty Nicholas turned up and said he was about to run the whole river, and we could join him if we wanted.

It was starting to get dark, but he said it wouldn’t take long at all, so off we went! It’s fair to say me and Alex we’re both a tad nervous. But my God! What a river!!

As we were paddling down, it was raining quite a bit so the river was rising all the way, from a nice, good level, into a definite high level. It was so much fun, with some good pushy features, it was full on most of the way, kept us on our toes for sure.

This was another river we had really wanted to do, but one we wanted to paddle with someone who knows it, so bumping into Matty was quite handy. Best river of the trip without a doubt.

Day 5

We’d heard a lot about the Coe, and driven past it many many times, but again, never paddled it, and wanted to do it with someone who knew it. We met back up with Matty, and it was a bit low, but raining, so we went for a coffee whilst waiting for the river to rise.

It rose a bit, nothing major, but we still got on and had a great paddle through the narrow, deep gorge. This was done super fast, so we went off to do some slides out in the woods which aren’t ran that often These were also pretty fun, but over fast, so as we still had a good amount of the day left, we decided we’d go back to the Nevis as two others from our group felt up for paddling it this time round.

When in the eddy at the top, I couldn’t work out if I was more or less nervous now I knew what was coming up, but I paddled it a lot better this time round, which I was very happy about.

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We all had a great time on the water the whole week up there, and we all came back home excited about what we’d got done.

We all love paddling up in Scotland, and I know I can’t wait to get back up there paddling again!

Thanks for reading, here are a few more pictures.

See you on the water

Pete

Scotland 2015: Kit Planning

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So with only 2 weeks till Pete and I head to Scotland its time to start getting our kit ready. In this post I am going to take a quick look at some of the kit that I will  be taking on our trip.

DrySuit Kayak Extreme 4L

Sweet Rocker: The rocker by sweet protection is a high performance helmet built for the roughest conditions.

Sandiline Extreme 4 layer Kayaking Drysuit: I have been using sandiline drysuits for around 5 years and they never disappoint. Featuring a breathable and waterproof 4 layer fabric with reinforced cordura on heavy wear points including knees, elbows and bottom make this a great hard wearing drysuit choice for white water trips.

Sandiline freeride PDF: This buoyancy aid has been designed for the most demanding white water conditions. This buoyancy aid has over 75N in the S/M or 90N in the L/XL so has plenty of float if you do have an unfortunate swim. It also features side buoyant foam that provides extra protection from side impacts and comes equipped with a large front pocket great for putting all your kit in and quick release system.

Sandiline Kevlar Spray Deck: This deck is a hard wearing white water spray deck with reinforced kevlar for added protection

Six six one elbow pads: While on white water I like to protect my elbows from impacts and I have found the ones from six six one great and work well on top of my drysuit.

Teva Water Shoes: Good footwear while on a white water trip is a must I have gone through many a pair to find ones that suit me. I really like these Teva ones they are flexible and have great grip to stop you falling in while walking on the river bank.

SAFTY KIT

The photo above shows a selection of the safety equipment I like to carry while on the water

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The photo above shows the boat that I will be taking to Scotland this year. It’s the new 2015 Jackson Kayak Zen. Jackson kayaks say that “The 2015 Zen bridges the gap between river runner and creek boat” This boat is a great boat for Scotland as it’s super fast and responsive. It offers a new tier in speed and performance while being so much fun to paddle.

One of the things I have added to the boat is some Jackson kayak sweet cheeks (photo below) as I am paddling the large Zen and due to my lack of height I like to be raised slightly in the boat. They also make the seat super comfy for long days white water boating.  

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For white water I like to use the Ophion paddles Katana (All Star) with the ergo power torque. More information about these paddles can be found in one of my previous posts click here.

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I hope you have found this post useful. As the we get closer to going away, we will keep you posted on training and other useful trip planning tips.

Catch you on the water,

Alex

Trip Planning: Scotland

one month till scotland (1)

So after we had such a good time the last two years in Scotland we have decided to make the long drive from Cornwall to the Fort William area for some good old creaking to hopefully start off a great season of white water boating.

In the next couple of weeks I am going to do a few blogs that take a closer look in to planning and getting ready for a white water trip. Below are some of our favourite photos from our last couple of trips. Hope you enjoy and we will catch you soon.

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The Tryweryn and the Jackson Kayak Zen

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With the lack of white water in the South West meant that to get my Zen out on some moving water I made the long trip up to North Wales and the Tryweryn.

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The Tryweryn is a great spot for some summer training in the Zen. This boat is a a perfect boat for speed and manoeuvrability making it easy to hit all the eddys and boof lines down the river. 

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Now just got to wait for the winter and some rain to get out in the Zen.

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Cheers Alex

Italy 2014

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So this year I was lucky enough to travel out to Val Sesia, Italy, to get some river boating done and tick off some more rivers! The plan was to drive out there on the 10th May and return home in the early hours of the morning on the 19th. Well that was the plan anyway…

Before going I hadn’t actually been out on a river since my trip to Scotland before Christmas, due to injuring my shoulder, so I hadn’t really had any practise before hand. My shoulder still isn’t 100% but I’d been doing exercise’ prior to going out to try get it to the best I could, I just made sure that I’d just low brace or just go over on my right hand side rather than putting in any sort of big high brace which would more than likely do some more damage.

It was a group of 8 of us going out there so we took 2 vehicles, Alex Read and I were lucky enough to be in the van, along with Corinne Brown and Paul French which had lots of space for the long journey.
So Alex travelled up from Cornwall to my house in Stratford upon Avon a couple of days before to make sure we had everything we needed. Corrine picked us up on the Saturday, loaded the kit and boat and the journey began, first stop, pick up Paul, then to the Euro Tunnel, then the big old drive to Italy! Lucky enough for me, I’m not old enough to get insured on the van so I could just chill and sleep in the back.

On the Euro Tunnel 

 

Sunday 11th
Middles Sesia GIV
Water Level 85
Campsite to Quare

Once we arrived, we got all our stuff sorted out, had a little rest, and then decided to go for a nice warm up paddle before the others got there. From the road, the river look really low and I was in 2 minds about even getting on the water. Good job I did get on the water as there water more water than what there looked like! Was a nice little warm up paddle on the middle Sesia getting in at the Campsite.

Our accommodation

Monday 12th
Middle Sesia
Above Campsite to Scopello
Water level at 85 on the gauge

As the other arrived late on Sunday night, we did another, longer, warm up paddle for them, the same section as before, we just went a bit further along.

Tuesday 13th

Sorba Slides & Alpine Sprint
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Water level was lowish

After hearing about the Sorba slides, it sounded like something I really wanted to do!
There basically a set of 3 slides/drops. The first one is a nice big slide with 2 lines, either slide down the right, or try and nail the boof line on the left, which turns out to be harder than it looked! The next on was a nice small little drop which you could take anywhere but far left was best as it went straight into the eddy. The last drop probably looked the hardest, but was actually really easy. It was just a slide which kicked up in the middle then went off slightly to the right. Just slide off far right at the top with a low brace ready if needed and then you’re at the bottom. Simple but super fun!
When we got there we had a look at the Gronda, but that was too low, which was unfortunate as I’d heard it was a really nice section to paddle.
Anyway we got on the water and ran them a few times, with splitting up to take photos of each other etc.

Going for the boof line on the Sorba slides

Arron, one of the other guys we were boating with, said about the boof line at the top on river left, made it sound easy, so I gave it ago, thought I’d got the line, but was just slightly to far right and ended up sliding down sideways into the hole at the bottom! All good fun!

The Alpine Sprint was another really fun section, apparently people race it in good water in about 15 minutes so I hear, took us about 3 or 4 hours, with having a group of 8 and having to get out and scout sections etc. but it was really good fun, eddy hoping the way down, not knowing what’s around the next boulder.
Like most of the stuff we paddled, would preferred more water, but still great fun.

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Wednesday 14th
Egua
Low Water again
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First drop on the EguaEgua was just full of drop and run technical rapid which definitely got the adrenaline going!
The get in was at the very first drop, which I’d seen photos of before and thought it looked awesome!

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It had a little rocky lead in which wasn’t too much of a problem, then the narrowed off to the right, the sloping down into a fast slide which dropped off at the end.
The slop down made it hard to keep the position you wanted as it suddenly speeds up and makes you want to lean back, so the first time I (as well as others) didn’t get it how I wanted to, as I went deep at the bottom, but I ran it again and managed to nail it, which felt so much better.

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We then had some lunch and got on to paddle the rest of the river, which was full off really fun drops and rapids to get the adrenaline going!  Definitely up there with the best rivers I’ve paddled, as it was just so much fun and steep.

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Sat at the top of the rapids you couldn’t see the bottom or even where you really had to go until you were there. Luckily we got out and scouted most of them so knew where we had to go.
 

Thursday 15th
Lower Semenza
And the gorge section
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Low water
water level at 63 on the gauge

Before the gorge section this was a nice simple grade 3 to paddle down. Near the end someone came up with the Idea of a Boater X. So we all sat in a pool in a row, with the aim to paddle as fast as possible to the end, ramming and pushing each other out the water to try and get into the lead. I Knew Alex would enjoy this as he was paddling his Jackson Karma which is known for being very fast! And yes, he won, with James 2nd and me in 3rd.

We then went on to look at the entrance rapid to the gorge section, which I didn’t think looked too hard. It was just the fact that it was reasonably long and you really don’t want to get it wrong and end up swimming into the gorge and maybe loosing you paddle and being stuck in the gorge.
As once you’re in, you’re in till the end! Which made it that bit more exciting and really got your heart beating especially as I had no idea what would be round the corner.
I loved this section as the thought of being stuck in it, not being able to walk out if it got to hard or you swam and lost your boat/paddle, you’d still have to make your way to the end.
It had some most make lines and boofs with some big tow backs that you really wanted to nail the lines on, then it finished with a section of holes and wave which then opened up to a beautiful view with the sun shining under the bridge and mountains on the other side.
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Friday 16th
Lower Sesia
Getting in above little Canada
53 on the gauge

We weren’t too sure on where to get on for this, as the original plan turned out to be a no go, as there was a big meaty hole which kept surging up with another smaller hole with a big tow back just after. So you’d want to get the line right and catch it when the holes at its smallest point, which would be impossible to judge. So after a lot of looking at it, we decided to go and look at getting in on the section further down above what they call ‘little Canada’.
We looked at the rapid from high up on the rocks, it was hard to judge the size of it as we weren’t level with the river, so not having ran this before, and not being able to really see the main hole which was underneath the rocks we were on, I thought it was just a small simple rapid. When in my boat and running it, it was a bit different. Holes appeared which I couldn’t see from where we were before and the hole at the bottom was bigger than what it looked! So what I and some others thought would be a nice ‘bimble’ down was actually a fun big and bouncy rapid with holes you didn’t really want to get stuck in. This was much like the rest of the river, some nice waves and holes to go through/over with some nice rock boofs to find along the way.

Saturday 17th
Middle Sesia
Mollia to Quare
53 on the gauge

This day turned out to be rather ‘interesting’ as we had a few rescues to make.
We go in at a section with a small drop which leads into a larger slide/drop which all looked reasonably easy. Turned out the 2nd drop was meatier than it looked with it slowing a few people and giver other some side surfing fun. This wasn’t so fun for 2 of the paddlers, as once out of their boats, it didn’t really want to let them or their boats out still! Luckily enough we had a cameras on and people around to help and get the out sharpish. Once all recovered and happy we paddled on, which lead into the sections we’d ran before. Which was even lower so a lot more rocks to dodge so you really wanted to be looking ahead to check what’s coming up.
The original plan to get home was to get up super early on Sunday and start driving, but we changed plans and decided to have a rest after paddling then leave that night after food.
We packed the van up, went out for a meal where Alex and I opted for the massive mixed grill, which was really good, then we said our goodbyes to the other who were leaving early in the morning, and off we went.

This is when it took a turn for the worst…

After the Sat Nav decided not to take us down any motorways, we eventually made it to Switzerland, where we decided to have a quick break and it was then Alex’s turn to drive.

He didn’t get far.

group shealters

A few hundred yards after leaving the services we heard a horrible knocking noise then the engine management light came on. We pulled into the hard shoulder, smoke everywhere. We popped the bonnet and couldn’t see anything leaks or anything. Thankfully it was covered by Mercedes, so on the phone we got to get help. This was at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I was in shorts and flipflops, so a little chilly. We ended up sat over the other side of the wall in a group shelter till around 6am when someone finally came, but he didn’t talk English which wasn’t helpful. After several phone calls we got a recovery truck to take the van to the closest garage and then to a hotel, along with a hire van.

Turns out Brunnen, Switzerland, is a very expensive area!
Super cars were all over the place, and everything cost so much. To make it better, I only had Euros, and everything there was Swiss francs.

We had some pretty good views

We had no idea when the van was going to be fixed and ready to drive back, so Alex and Paul and I decided to book flights to get home for work. Paul left early in the morning to catch his flight. Whereas me and Alex didn’t need to leave till later, so we checked in on the van on the way to the airport, and it turns out it was fixed, once we’d paid and booked out flights.
So Corrine took us to the airport where we had to flight from Zurich to Dusseldorf, and then to Birmingham airport where my parents were awaiting to pick us up and get us home, well, me home, Alex then decided to carry on and drive all the way to Cornwall.

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Italy is definitely a place I will come back to, maybe next year, just hope for a bit more water next time, make things that big more challenging and get more rivers to run.
Loved the way my Wavesport Recon 83 handled it all, punching through and over the holes and turning quickly into the must make eddies to make sure I’m in it, the only down side is its bloody heavy!

See you on the water,

beer

Pete Bridgeford

Photos by Alex Read, Corinne Brown, Paul French, Michael Fox & Pete Bridgeford

We’re off to Italy Woop Woop

So its been a very exciting week for both Pete and me as we have just booked our tickets for Italy 2015 were pretty stocked about this, To see why we both love this place check out my recap of last years trip below

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Italy 2014 Recap

So I have just got back from Italy. It was a trip full of epic paddling in crystal clear white water with a great group of people. This was my first trip to Italy and it will not be my last. I enjoyed the fact that there is such a vast array of top white water to paddle meaning we could get in at least two rivers a day. I also loved the views and the culture of the places we visited. I will hopefully be returning in the near future.

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