Sunday, March 28, 2010

WCKA in Chile: Life Abroad

When I first told my friends that I was going to the World Class Kayak Academy they didn’t know if I was attending high school, or just going on an extended kayaking vacation. At the time I didn’t know how to explain World Class to them, but now after two months of traveling, kayaking, and studying throughout Chile I know what it’s all about...
On a typical day we wake up at 8:00 A.M. to begin our morning workout. After either an hour of strength building or a competitive game of ultimate Frisbee we all meet for a breakfast prepared by our Chilean chef Israel. With breakfast and coffee digested we continue on to classes, and depending on the day either have five hour-long classes or three ninety minute classes. After lunch and with school out of the way we hit the water. What river or section of river we paddle depends on where we’re staying, but throughout the trip we hucked the waterfalls of the Palguin and Fuy, surfed the big waves of the Maipo and Futaleufu, and even navigated our way through the massive class V rapids of Inferno Canyon. Back from paddling we lay out our gear to dry and meet together at the dinner table. Over dinner we discuss events from day and plans for the upcoming ones. Then, following dinner, we finish what homework we still have, hang out for a while, and catch some shut-eye.

A typical scene at World ClassGovernment ClassLunch straight from the river
Huddling before getting on the water
Warming up in the flats

The majority of our time in Chile was spent living at campgrounds, but occasionally we’d bunk down for a night or two at a hostel. On days that we didn’t have school we’d either be paddling all day, exploring the cities and countrysides, or traveling between locations. Days off from school were always relaxing, but long consecutive days of traveling in our stuffy 17 passenger van could become somewhat stressful.

Loading up the van for a travel day
Broken Drive Shaft... this happened 5 times
One of many quick-fixes to our fail prone trailer
The ferry to Argentina

Though there was lots to get done each day we managed to find plenty of time to hang out, kick back and relax, and enjoy the culture surrounding us. Whether we were playing hacky sack between classes, rocking the discotecs into the wee hours of the night, or just shootin the shit around the campfire there was never a dull moment in Chile.
Here are some of my favorite photos from Chile (many documenting what we did when we weren't on the water)...

Kayak Pucon Headquarters
Stretching our legs after too many hours in the van
Risto Beatty on the Maipo
Luis our noble bus driver
Scouting a class V in Inferno Canyon
The Men of the Maipo
South American Sunsets
Another Chilean Asado
Bariloche, Argentina
Race Day at the Futa Fest 

Photos by Jason Cohen, Eric Parker and Ben Kinsella

Sunday, March 21, 2010

WCKA in Chile: El Rio Fuy

This post is a little off chronologically but none the less sums up one of the better portions of WCKA's trip to Chile. On our way to the Futaleufu and after spending the last couple weeks in Pucon we decided to spend a few days paddling the Rio Fuy. We rolled into the town of Choshuenco in the afternoon, and after camping in tents for the past four weeks were surprised to find ourselves staying at a school close to the put-in with abundant beds, a full sized gym, and a fully functional kitchen. We all enjoyed a good night's sleep, then after school the next day headed out to paddle the Upper Section of the Fuy.

Putting in righ
t below Lago Pirehueico we paddled a short section of flatwater before entering the first class III-IV rapids. To navigate our way down this stretch of water we were lucky enough to have one of the most renowned role models of world class students, Evan Garcia, fill in as temporary assistant coach. In the 5km Upper Section E.G. the Killah lead us down numerous thrilling class III-IV rapids before reaching the 25ft. Las Leonas Falls. On the first day only a handful of students ran Las Leonas, but by the end of the trip everyone had stepped up to huck 'er. On Las Leonas we chose between boofin' the auto-kicker on the right and pluggin' the green tongue in the center. The center line provided for some major beat downs, but Risto Beatty showed us up with his 30 seconds of down time before popping up 20ft. down stream.

One of the class IIIs on the Upper Fuy

E.G. boofin one of the many ledges of the Fuy

Capo taking the plugger line on Las Leonas

Seth Stoenner's steezy boof-to-plug

After Las Leonas begins the steeper and more technical Falls Section of the Upper Fuy. One particular ledge on this section with a technical lead-in creates a pretty burly hole and during our time at the Fuy dished out two gnarly swims. After 2 kilometers of non-stop adrenaline pumping whitewater the river flattened out and ended in a final kilometer or so of crystal clear flatwater.

Ben boofin a ledge directly below Las Leonas

Eric Parker on the burly ledge hole

Our soon to be asado dinner

In addition to paddling one of Chile's classics, one day during our stay at Choshuenco I was able to take part in preparing a sheep for an classic Chilean asado later that night. Though not appealing to everyone I was glad to have taken part in the entire butchering process, with the help of Israel our chef, to experience what goes into making each meat meal possible. After four hours of slow cooking aside a small outdoor fire the sheep was ready to feast on and we all enjoyed a seemingly endless supply of food.

Photos by Jason Cohen and Ben Kinsella

Saturday, March 13, 2010

WCKA in Chile: The Futaleufu and 2010 Futa Fest

As a sport and as a lifestyle kayaking has brought me to some amazing places, but the Futaleufu with its steep high volume persona and crystal clear water stands out as one of the best. We spent our first few days at the Futa getting familiar with the classic Bridge to Bridge section. This segment of the Futa was full of continuous class III-IV rapids where we spent our time riding to the top of monstrous waves and dodging turbulent holes. Once more familiear with the Bridge to Bridge our group spent more time surfing the dynamic waves Pistola and Magic Carpet and grew comfortable throwing big blunts, pan-ams, pistol flips and airscrews.

After some time on the Bridge to Bridge our group explored further down the river and enjoyed the more technical and violent Mas O Menos and Casa de Piedra rapids. Mas O Menos had some of the biggest standing waves on all of the Futa, and Casa de Piedra had some tight moves that led into a series of standing waves and munchy holes.

Entrada, the first rapid of Inferno Canyon

On a day off from school half the group spent the morning paddling Inferno Canyon and met up with the other half to complete the 55km. todos day on the Futa. Inferno Canyon had a series of technical and turbulent class IV-V rapids, my favorite definitely being Throne Room. Only our guide Jorge, our coach Ben Kinsella, Eric Parker, Seth Stoenner, and I decided to run this burly rapid. Throne Room started off with a steep lead-in where we kept ourselves busy dodging laterals pushing toward the consequential right side. After the last lateral we had one more stroke before flying into the massive pillow that split the river in two. The right side of the pillow flushes into ‘the toaster’ which pulls paddlers deep then spits them back up (like a toaster) for round two before finally flushing them out below, and the preferable left side flows into a munchy hole that, with a good surf on the pillow can be skirted far left. Each of us that decided to run Throne Room were able to flush off the left side of the pillow, but Seth gave us a scare when he flipped over in one of the lead-in laterals and rolled up in the pillow just before plugging the river left hole.

Jorge leading the way through Throne Room

My line through Throne Room

Seth Stoenner's line... narrowly avoiding the toaster

Shortly after Throne Room we met up with the rest of the group and paddled Terminator, another class V, before arriving at and paddling the Bridge-to-Bridge section.
This was truly a sic day and I was glad to have had the chance to paddle Inferno Canyon and to have paddled so much of the Futa in one day.

Hannah Kertesz on the bottom half of Terminator

The group below Terminator

Towards the end of our ten day stay at the Futaleufu we were lucky enough to get to be a part of the 2010 Futa Fest. For the two days that we were at the Futa Fest we were able to compete in the Mundaca head-to-head sprint and the Bridge-to-Bridge mass start race. Competing were the local Chilean and Argentinan paddlers as well as students from New River Academy, WCKA’s rival kayak school. In the Mundaca sprint 25 paddlers competed in the playboat division and about 15 paddlers in the creekboat division. The playboat division, in which WCKA students competed, was split into five different heats of five with the winner from each division moving into the finals race. Risto Beatty and I representing WCKA were the only juniors who progressed onto the finals race, and in a close and physical competition I was able to grab first place with Risto close behind in fourth. The next day an impressive turnout of over 50 competitors in both creekboats and playboats raced head-to-head in an exhausting 7km. race from the put in bridge down to the take out bridge. In another tight competition all the way to the end I ended in seventh in the playboat division, but Eric Parker represented for WCKA with his third place finish.

Looking down on the Futa Fest registration

The downriver race on day 2 of the Futa Fest

My experiences at the Futaleufu were some of the best in my kayaking life, and I can see myself spending a lot more time on the high volume rivers of Southern Chile. For any and every kayaker I would recommend putting the Futa on your hit list, and if you’re down there at the right time of year plan on spending some time at the Futa Fest.

Photos by Erik Parker, Risto Beatty and the infamous Jason Cohen

The Futaleufu video update by Conner Jackson and Josh Larsun