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