KOKATAT: KLARÄLVEN SOURCE TO SEA
By Johann Kristan
Living near the ocean in northern Germany we are used to waves, tides and wind. Whitewater is totally unfamiliar to us, so who would have thought paddling class 3-4 whitewater rapids with a composite Sea Kayak would be a bad idea?
Suddenly, my world turns upside down: The kayak flips over to one side, no time to react nor to brace with the paddle. With my head submerged, I see big stones on the ground shooting past me. The buoyancy of the PFD brings me up to the surface for a second, I glimpse over to Nico and Eike, who are standing several meters down the river. The rapid sucked me in. In the last bar-rel, when I thought I made it through. The noise of the water around me is frightening. Finally the sprayskirt opens up and I am released from the boat. I hold on to my kayak and drift down the river. With perfect timing, the throw bag is flying over my head and I grab hold to one end of the rope, while holding tight to the boat.
I am pulled to the bank, to safety, breathing heavily. I’m sobered and relieved at the same time when I realize that I got away with just a small scratch on my nose. Without a helmet, being in this kind of water things could have ended worse. But this was not the last river bend, nor the last rapid. So this is what grade 3-4 whitewater looks like… It was just the beginning of our tour, the second day to be more precise, and we’d just had our first experienced of the conditions we’d only heard about, but could not imagine before this.
We are doing this journey using three sea kayaks made out of GPR, with narrow and sleek lines, built for long distance paddling on the ocean. I think at this point you have come to realize that we have very little knowledge of whitewater kayaking, not to mention the proper boats and equipment for these conditions. But what should we do in this situation? Give up and end the journey just after two days? Or take on this adventure, adapt to the challenge, and continue following the river… continue reading the full article.