For the second time in as many weeks I was back at Dublin airport at some cruel hour attempting to put a my boat on the plane once again.This time I had the company of ex shackelton and someone I got to know well last week in Val Sesia, Graeme. So with the boat left at oversize baggage once again with the promise it would this time actually be taken we went for breakfast beer..... It was still only 4am
We were leaving Dublin once again in search of white beer, white snow and Weiss beer, we were heading for the Merano region of Italy for King of the Alps, the third event if the Exo Italian series.
landing into a 30 degree Verona we waited until no one was around until finally the boats showed up!
For this trip I decided the New Mamba 8.6 was going to be my weapon of choice with the new Dagger play seat and leg lifter I was interested to try it, all I did on arrival at the river was slide in the seat pad shim and a few hip pads otherwise the boat was straight out of the factory, More about the boat later.
A quick stop at the hire car office to be handed the keys to a brand new Alfa Romeo Guillietta, little did they know We were about to strap two creekers and a handirack to it.
From Verona, Merano is only a short 2 hour drive, we found the canoe club with some ease, mainly luck. On arrival we met two guys who were definately going to change our trip. On first notion two lads from switzerland who wanted to boat and planned a shuttle up to the gorge, with the water too low we headed for what we thought was the race get on to take a look at the course. A bouncy section of class 2-4 white water fun river running in beautiful clean alpine water.
As we got to the final drops and the gorge above the canoe club we took a hike to assess the drop, a hole to punch before sticking right to avoid a syphon and then double drop with lots of water pushing up against the wall, rescue would be difficult but it looked to be flushing from the wall, O and stay away from the syphon!
As the three of us headed down Yair took a quick spin in a fast eddy to push him against the wall which slowed Graeme down as he got pushed into the wall failing to roll left his boat, with the unmanned boat on the left I took the initiative to use it as a boof platform to drive clear of the tow back, Graeme took a tough time lots of bubbles before resurfacing on the right in a daze, still clutching his blades.
A quick tow and him and his boat were reunited on the river bank just above the slalom course.
The slalom course was amazing, right at the bottom of the canoe club steps a series of boulders creating eddy's, waves and holes to manoeuvre around. This was also the site of the boater x.
That evening we found possibly the, largest pizza and beer in the area!
By Friday we had found out that the section we had run was not actually the race course but it was also forbidden by the canoe club because of the big syphon in the last drop..... Oops
So we went to hit the race section another bouncy alpine read and run river varying in grade, the section is about 6.5km long and continuous so after a run we chilled out for a bit before hitting the Exo ramp for some boater x practice. With Ruedi having a tough time falling off the ramp and then losing some fun head to heads he called it a day I did a few extra runs looking for fast water feeling confident.
Race day came with the temperatures soaring we hit the long race 6.5km mass start with the top 32 heading onto the exo ramp a tough cut with so many class paddlers in the field, slalom racers, champions, top ww racers and big creekers, with everyone having their own battles on route, it sounded like Graeme tried to kill someone pushing and stealing their blades :-) Luckily I made the cut along with our new crazy friends
So the two guys from Switzerland the Dynamic Dudes Ruedi Gamper and ex Professional Snowboarder is Probably the craziest guy we met, the other lad Yair is a mad Mexican who loves dropping,
Onto the Exo ramp and the course not had three slalom gates in the worst possible places (obviously) I started well, getting off the ramp and out in front but ended up in a tough fight with one of the exo team paddlers while we were pushing allowed another paddler to sneak around us, so finished a disappointing third in my heat and out in the first round, both Yuir and Ruedi also got knocked out in the first round so after watching some more racing it was time for a shower and time to start the party.
Id love to be able to say we had some quiet drinks before an early night but unfortunately by the end of the night we had not only taken over the bar but also decided our best drunken Saturday night plan that we would drive to Switzerland the following day with the only reason because we could.
Sunday came as one of the worst hangovers ever but we stuck to our word and set about driving across the alps to Switzerland, in our subtle states we were then taken on a whirlwind tour of Ruedis Bars, going to a big show after party and some of his locals before a Mexican cooking lesson until 6am.
Luckily a good sleep and we were fired up (Graeme was feeling the worst of the epic amount of tequilas) we hit up the Urnasch river their classic home run with a good entry boof followed by boof or die and solid class 5 gorge some nice drops and lines until the get out waterfall a steep slide and a low pool with epic tow back had me and Yair surfing until Graeme almost killed us dropping in on us and a rescue by Ruedi who could just walk in and pull us out by the paddle, video should be hilarious only downside a awful amount of steps to hike out. Overall an absolutely class run with one quick dip by Yuir who had a fight with a tree and the tree won. And Graeme had an interesting line through the entry rapid luckily missing the drop into boof or die as he was either backwards or upside down at that point :-)
I really had a great chance to test the new Mamba 8.6 on a variety of rivers and I can report it didn't disappoint! This boat was like paddling an old friend, responsive and predictable, I knew and could trust the boat would do everything I asked with out limitations, Over the course of the week I had her flying off big boofs, running steeps slides and cruising big volume waves as well as racing this boat actually did everything. I always liked, a big volume boat with a rail which the Shiva was super safe but lacked that rail, The Mamba has put me back in love with paddling! In all my years boating I had never even tried one but after a week in it she's the boat for me this season!
A quiet evening eating the best chicken nuggets in all of St Gallen and a good sleep we were heading back on a mammoth 5hour drive back to Verona, with boats loaded and car dropped back in almost the same condition its feet up and wait to land in Dublin!