Wild water course

Adam Gray: “You learn the most if you stay inside the boat.”

We’re in the Alps and have our packrafts with us. After our beautiful packrafting adventures in France we would like to use them here as well. Our first river is the Rienza. The river is a lot more impressive than the rivers we ran before. We put in and a few kilometers later we put out again. A week later we try again at the Drau, but don’t even get to the point of inflating our packrafts. These rivers are much more serious than what we’ve done before. Technically speaking they’re not more difficult, but the water is cold and there is a lot more volume than the rivers we’ve done before. Our packrafts can handle it, but our knowledge and skills are lacking. Time to change.

It’s not easy to find a kayaking school that would like to teach two packrafters the principles of wild water boating. We ask three schools and one is willing to teach us. After we’ve mountainbiked till we dropped, our telephone rings in the evening. Motion Outdoor Lofer wants to do a two-day course, starting tomorrow. The next morning we arrive in the pouring rain at the kayak school. Adam Gray is going to teach us the principles of white water rafting for the next two days. We’ll be running a few streches on the river the Saalach. Adam lives in South Africa, where he runs his outdoor company Oribi Outdoors. When the crocodiles have been fed in Africa, he comes to Austria for holidays while working as a kayak and rafting guide for Motion.

01
Start of the wild water courses with Adam Gray.

We borrow wetsuits and helmets and take our packrafts. Luckily Adam is open minded about our packrafts. He’s read about them in a kayak magazine before and is curious about how they perform. We are happy to do the course in our own boats. We learn about safety, ferrying, eddy currents. Some things we’ve already read about in the Packrafting! book from Roman Dial and practiced on our own, but with the detailed explanation from Adam it really starts to make sense. When surfing a large wave, Fred learns an important lesson: “You learn the most if you stay inside the boat.”

03
Fred takes a dive when trying to surf on a wave.

05
A swim.

We practice in searching and playing in the eddies, which we’ll do again the second day. Then we watch and analyse a more difficult and technical part of the river and try that part three times to practice well and try several lines.

12
Practicing a more technical part of the Saalach.

14
Practicing a more technical part of the Saalach.

Next we pay attention to safety: We’ve been swimming through white water and thrown our throwbags to help each other land after swimming.

11
Practicing going in and out of eddies.

We really liked the course. We’ve learned a lot in a good atmosphere. The flows at Lofer were: 13-aug 12 m3/s and 14-aug 10 m3/s.

Click here to see all photographs.

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