Kayaks

Garry Boater X – why you should be there next year!

This is my third year at the Garry Boater Cross (X) second year competing and I’m here to tell you why you should be signing up for next year’s race!

The Organisers

Before I start talking on anything else, big shout out needs to go to everyone who helps make this event a success.  Daryn Hubbucks and Kev Barclay have been running the events since 2012 (I believe), supported by Gavin Miller and Howard Aspinall. The amount of effort they put in clearly shows in the smooth running and excellence of the event.  There is so much work put in behind the scenes from t-shirt’s ordering to organising running order, ferrying about podiums, arranging prizes and trophies, ensuring everyone is looked after on and off the water and about a million other things, as well as, competing in the event itself!  The guys’ whole families get involved and without these wonderful people events like this would not be possible.  Thank you!! 

It’s thanks to Kev, Daryn, Howard, Gav and friends that these events are such a success.

The Location

The past few years’ people have stayed in Cumbernauld’s Campsite in the town of Fort Augustus. It’s a beautiful town with only a few pubs and some really quaint wee shops including a wee jewellery shop called Iceberg Glass where they blow stunning glass creations like the Jelly Fish pendants I’m currently coveting.  People are very friendly and it’s not too far from the Garry.

The Set-Up

The setup is perfect.  If you arrive Friday afternoon as a lot of folk do you will congregate somewhere on the campsite to help draw names from a hat (plastic bag!) to see who you will be racing in the first heat.  Depending on how you place in the first race will determine your placing in the next race until your final where there is everything to play for because everyone has the chance to place on the podium for your heat.

Male champions Michael Brown, Gavin Miller and Ewan Campbell took 1st, 2nd and 3rd at this year’s event

The People and Atmosphere

This year there were 17 women and 42 men racing and it was glorious.  I was feeding off the energy that everyone was exuding, trying to calm people’s nerves and generally having a great time with everyone I met.  Everyone is honestly so supportive and the atmosphere is addictive.  When you’re nor racing you spend some time on the ‘cheering rock’ in the gorge of the bridge at the finish line, shouting words of encouragement to your fellow participants, inspiring them across that finish line!

Mulling around between heats (c) Linda Stewart

The Race

The race starts at 12 and is every hour after this.  When I took part in the race last year I was sh**ting myself.  I always seemed to put pressure on myself to do well, despite not having trained or even having the desire to race competitively.

Ride that wave (c) Linda Stewart

Coming back a year later I had managed my own expectations and had two ambitions.  To go as fast as I possibly could and to stay upright because I knew a capsize would place me out of the race.  Of course it is competitive as it’s a race but everyone plays fair and I’ve never had any problems myself with any of the other racers.  As soon as the whistle or shout ‘Go!’ is sounded everything else turns off and you race your wee heart out as fast as you can, trying to avoid a tussle that could slow you down!  Once in the gorge you use the flow to catch your breath before powering it down the rest of the course to a cheering finish line.

(c) Linda Stewart, GBX 2017

The prizes

Everyone who enters of volunteers on the day recieved a goody bag with a Garry Boater X t-shirt, stickers, juice, packet of crisps and a chocolate bar.  There is always a raffle of some kind at the end using bibs to choose a lucky winner and most of the podium placed winners receive a small prize of some sort.  This particular year the trophies were out of this world created by Jennifer Hartnett and I am beyond stoked to have one sitting on my sideboard at home!

Stoked and disbelieving Danger

The After Party

This year’s after party was not as legendary as previous years as the council have upped the licence costs of local businesses in the area and the Campsite staff couldn’t afford to open the Campsite Bar/BBQ as before, however, that didn’t stop most of us having a boogie and beer underneath a gazeebo in the Campsite grounds, with some attempting a mini pub crawl around Fort Augustus.  Hopefully we’ll be back to normal next year but safe to say the people make the party anyway.

Well deserved pints in our GBX 2017 tees

If you are having reservations about entering please don’t! This event is completely accessible to everyone no matter how long you’ve been paddling. An example of this at both Garry Boater X and Tully X this year was Andreana Caldwell entering and competing after only paddling a couple of months. She felt supported and energised by the events and would also recommend to everyone!

Andreana crossing the finish line at Garry Boater X 2017

Remember you can do your bit by sharing the Garry Boater X and Tully X events, offering assistance to the guys (as I’m sure there are numerous jobs they’d love help with) and simply signing up to give it a bash, ensuring it’s continued success!  See you all July 2018 

Hugs aplenty! Suzy and Danger (c) Linda Stewart

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Kayaking the Stunning Soča

We finally got to see for ourselves the absolutely stunning scenery, rivers and people of Slovenia. 

The Drive: We travelled through Scotland, England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy and into Slovenia!  It was a bit of an epic journey and we did get held up in traffic a lot in Germany due to a Long weekend, everyone was travelling somewhere nice for a day or two.  After about 24 hours driving, getting stuck in yet another jam we made a snap decision to pull off in Nuremburg, a quick scan of booking.com had is in a cheap hotel within minutes, showered, changed and out and about, stretching our legs and filling our bellies with pizza and beer! 

Early night for all and an epic sleep occurred.  Back on the road the approx. 5 hour journey to Bovec took a good 8 hours but we were here and the memories of the drive melted away.

All present and accounted for!

Day 1

Otona – Kobarid  (2 / 4)

What a day!  Through our pal Mat who was part of the 7 strong group we got to paddle with the Team Pyranha man himself Rok Rozman.  I usual Danger fashion I wasn’t really up to speed on what was happening and who we were meeting until we arrived at the get in.  There we were greeted by Rok and a lovely woman called Irene who had kindly turned up to run shuttle!  

Ronnie caught me doing something right!

We organised ourselves and started the long walk down to the river.  It’s really steep and maybe takes about 15 minutes but it most definitely is worth it.  When we finally emerged at the bottom, shaky and sweaty from the exertion we were greeted by the stunning blue/green water of the Soča and oh yeah a Grade 4 rapid!  Despite perhaps desiring a gentler paddle for day 1 on the Soča we were quick to start gearing ourselves up for more of a challenging run.  Rok was absolutely amazing at leading us down the section.  He allowed us to read and run most of it and advised when there was a particular drop or rapid which perhaps required more care.  From the moment we got on, tackled the first rapid, we were eddy hopping and boofing our way down this amazing section of river.  

Rok front looping a Machno

We also got to see Rok front loop (almost) a Machno and it was the best thing ever.  Not only is Rok a mega babe and an amazing kayaker, he was like the nicest guy ever and we were all super stoked to have him with us on the river.  At the get out there was a race ramp which had been built and some of the guys went for a blast and we then clambered up to the Campsite get out.  By the time we got there Rok had bought us all beers and he had firmly set himself up as the coolest guy on the planet.

The gang with Rok

After a couple of beers and soaking up the sunshine Rok said his goodbyes and told us of some cool waterfalls to go and look at, which we did.  It was about a half hour walk away and was well worth a visit.  I had a little swim with a couple of the others but be warned, it’s freezing!

Exploring the freezing pool

Day 2

Srpenica 1 – Tronovo 2 (2/3/4)

After a breakfast of fresh pastries we got from a friendly bakers next door to the Pivovarna Union Bar and super strong coffee we headed off to the get on at Srpenica 1.  After a bit of umming and ahhing we drove to Trnovo 1 as we were unsure where the Slalom actually ended before Siphon Canyon started.  I can confirm if you park at Tronovo 2 this is at the bottom of the Slalom course.  There is a final eddy about 100 feet or so from where Siphon canyon begins.  The entry to Siphon canyon is marked by two huge bits of rock (which look like an old structure of some kind) and the river channels between these. 

Ferg getting air on grade 3 section

At the get on the river starts mellow and wide with a few waves and rock splats to be had.  Soon enough you are coming around a slight bend in the river and the fun begins!  Pour overs, waves and whirly eddy lines make for a fun read and run section which is the flavour for the rest of the run down to the start of the slalom.  This was where the fun really started!  We scouted from the river to make sure we knew where we were getting out and to see if there was anything to avoid.  The first run down was pretty stop and start, I took a load of eddies to see where I was to go next and settle my nerves.  There were big waves, a few drops and some more technical twisty moves but all in a whole lot of fun!  

Ronnie chasing me down the Slalom!

We went back up to do another run and this time Ferg announced it was a “Fast is Fun” run and we all shot off!  Minimal eddies were had and we all blasted down, boofing, capsizing and whooping the whole way!  It was a bit of a rush and I was pleased to find my Axiom really took to being driven fast.  For the rest of the trip I reminded myself to look ahead more, avoid eddies whenever possible and keep the boat moving.

Day 3

Camp Soča to Tronovo 2 (2/3/4)

A misty, thundery and cooler day on the Soča.  

Levels had dropped but were on the way up with the rain coming in.  We decided to do a longer run down from Camp Soča to the Slalom course.  A varied day with a lot of grade 2 sections but there were a few interesting sections to be bagged.  Near the top there was a grade 4 gorge section, which I, after executing the perfect entry, missed a stroke on and ended up having some down time but I was stoked I eventually managed to roll up!  The rest of the river after this was read and run with long sections of grade 2.  We kept the pace on because most of us were in shorty cags and the day was cooler.  

Ferg nailing the line into gorge

When we got to Srpenica we started to recognise the river again and decided it had risen a bit with the rain which had started coming on quite heavy.  By the time we got to the Slalom the rain was lashing!  We blasted down again but I will tell you, the boils on the eddie lines were far more turbulent and keeping the power on was key!  By the time we got to the bottom I was shaking from adrenaline and tiredness!  It had been a long day, I’d had a ball but I was ready for that beer!

Day 4

Kortnica to Cezsoča (2/3/4)

A new day and for the first time in 3 days a new river!  With all the rain that had come over night the Koritnica had shot up but was falling fast.  We got up and on as quickly as we could (which wasn’t that quick to be honest!) and on this new river.  As soon as we were on we were in it! A wee boulder garden led into a twisty turny section before the gorge.  

Ronnie in the narrow gorge

This was awesome because after entering the gorge it kept getting narrower and narrower until you were sure it would not be wide enough for a boat until you were spat out round a corner!  A mix of small drops and boulder gardens followed until the river joined the Soča at Vodenca.  We had run the section below this on the first day and as  we continued down talked about how much pushier the river was!  

Ferg ear dips above Slalom

At the get out I decided to call it a day and ran shuttle for those who wanted to get back on the Spernica and Slalom sections at Medium.   

Ronnie on medium Slalom (c) Mat Wilkinson

Day5

Sperenica 1 to Tronovo 1

The second to last day was a mixed bag for me.  I was off to a shaky start, really feeling the weeks paddling and drinking taking its toll.  I was ready to get off after the first run and a short swim, however, was convinced to give it another bash and so glad I did!

Alfie hugs a rock

My runs down were poles apart and I was comfortable, decisive and controlled.  

Being brutal on my second run down…

When I got to the campsite I decided not to run anything else and Ferg and I went up to the beer garden instead!  Drinking beer in the sun and eating Marlenka honey cake while talking about the weeks exciting moments was perfect. 

Taps aff for this stud! Mr Tom (c) Mat Wilkinson

After the others got back we headed back to the apartment to get ready for our outing to one of the local restaurants ‘Guesthouse Martinov’.  The food was stunning but the head waiter/owner really made it a memorable experience!

Day 6

Otona to Kobarid (2/3/4)

Last day!! We went back to where it all started and got onto a slightly higher than first day section.

Alfie runs first rapid on Otona section

It was a lot pushier and grabbier and we all mused about how we were glad we’d been down previously with Rok or I’d have been getting out to scout all over the shop.  I had a couple of capsizes but also the quickest roll I’ve ever done in my life! I think this was my favourite day but it was really hard to choose because each day had something awesome to it.  

At the bottom there was the most amazing surf wave which I kept going back on because it was perfect!  I think my grin gave away how much fun I was having and too soon we were heading for the get out.   At the get out I found out (after huffily putting off for months because ya know, I can’t do it) I sulkily went to do a handstand to show everyone how much I could not do them, to find myself still in a handstand 5 seconds later, unsure how to get down…

Team celebratory handstands!

We headed back to Bovec to pick up the slackline and supplies before heading to a park to play for the rest of the afternoon, visiting souvenir shops on the way back down to the villa.  We packed and headed off after dinner to start the long journey back home.  

Playing in our last day

One tip for you when you get the vignette in Austria it might not look it but it has a peel off bit which you take off and stick to the window.  Do this as we got pulled by Austrian police on the way out because it wasn’t displayed properly.  They were cool about it but warned us it could have been a fine.  We drove through the night and had a couple of brief stops before stopping in Brussels for the day.  A beautiful if not expensive city I would recommend a visit to.

36 hours after leaving Slovenia we arrived home.  A quick nap and breakfast later we were on the Leny for a blast down as it’d be raining at home all week!  No need to waste a day sleeping when your local run is on.

In summary, Slovenia is an amazing country to kayak in, the scenery is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, the weather is amazing, it’s cheap and everyone we met were super lovely.  The river has something for every level of kayaker.  If it had of rained constantly there were still options and wold have brought more tribs into play.  There is plenty of things to do in the surrounding areas too so you’d never be stuck.  I would definitely go back in the future and if you would like to quiz me on certain sections or have any questions please get in touch.