Paddle4Play: October 2014

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Pyranha Kayaks 9R Review

The New Pyranha Kayaks 9R just how good is it?9r_ts

I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the first Pyranha 9R’s coming out of the factory with the plan set for 5 weeks of travelling and paddling it was a great opportunity to test the new machine.
After collecting my new toy from the factory and hastily unwrapping it from its plastic cocoon the first thing that stood out was "boy she's a narrow one!" and we weren't wrong at just 64cm almost the same width as a new small Burn 3 it was narrow. Length wise she tucks in at 271cm or about 8ft11” to sneak inside that 9ft race limit
With all of the Pyranha boats using the new C4S outfitting is a dream come true, having been out of action the past 3 months with a shoulder injury I've had a lot of time to look at outfitting and seat positions in relation to comfort and optimal position. I really believe the seat in a boat like the insole of a shoe. It is what provides the support and balance for which everything connects. If you have a good seat the backrest and hip pads are just a luxury.
So once unwrapped I took to the outfitting, lifting the seat both front and back pitching it ever so slightly down at the front. I feel that this keeps you sitting upright and by holding good torso tension really allows you to get the power down.
Adding the foam plate to the footrest and some hip pad shims to really lock off the fit she was ready to hit the water
At 190cm and 86kg the thoughts of a 72.4 gallon boat just sounded small but with ample footpace and a really nice knee position this boat felt comfy from the off.
The boat came as a display and flat water demo for the 2014 Junior Paddlefest (flat water because there was no water in the river) with a lot of hype and attention, the rocker profile had just about everyone astounded wondering if you'd ever touch the water.
Weighing in at just under 20kg makes this boat a dream to carry and lift with some big boats around all carrying big weights this made a healthy change.
As I arrived in Oetz with my new toy I couldn't wait to get her on the water, starting with a warm up on the lower Oetz, a cruisy run nothing big and scary but enough to get a good feeling for the new boat.
Being my first time on a river in about 4 months since my last visit to the Oetz with the Pyranha team van after King of The Alps I was working my way slowly to try not to aggravate the injury
From the off, she was fast... Like really fast.... Really really fast! The light weight boat meant you could accelerate quickly and once at cruising speed extend the stroke and she will glide on all day long.
As you accelerate you feel the boat lift keeping the nose high and dry, shedding water and crushing over just about anything. In and out of eddies she was fast and manoeuvrable, turning on a sixpence and charging out, the new rail was predictable and true. The narrow width meant you could really pitch the boat into turns to snap it around. Something the Shiva just wouldn't quite do, the ability to switch edges on landings meant you could carve away from drops and flares without as much as a paddle stroke, just speed and edge.9r3
Whilst pushing the boat on the Vent and middle Oetz and you start to get an idea just how good this boat is, On first look this boat is designed primarily for racing but in a river environment the 9R is fantastic, responsive and fun, surfing waves and carving around the river, the lifted bow stays high without pearling, boofs are stable and predictable and the landings are soft.
Having spent a week warming up in the Oetz valley it was time to play on the Wellebrucke, now this was what the 9R was built for so I really wanted to see how she behaved.
Unsurprised the boat was just plain brilliant, it couldn't be faulted, fast and smooth (maybe something to do with the pilot) but a fantastic ride. She held the lines tight and switched edges with ease the feeling of accelerating away from champions killer and towards the finish line is something words cannot explain with this boat its all about the feeling, the feeling as the boat lifts and drives, the feeling as it releases and the skip and bounce as the power goes down and the speed you come away with, blink and you'll certainly miss it.
Having leant my boat out to a few guys to demo the feeling seems to be mutual, its such a fast responsive boat that just wants to be pushed, by easily adjusting the seat position you can slip forwards or back to engage the rails and hold her online. I did wonder if I'd see her again with all the love of the boat i felt like a mean old man taking the toy away from the kids.9r6
So the question on everyone's lips 'your boat works in Austria now lets see it on your local low volume runs! Will it work?' So on return to the Emerald Isle I was straight to Cranafest taking place in Buncrana, Co. Donegal for a dam release race down the claw a class 4 drop. Still not ready to race I set about lapping the course to see how the boat worked now it had to touch rocks. Again the boat handled superbly hitting the flare in the centre and engaging just enough rail to pull right, by getting in an extra stroke on the lip let the bow continue to lift as you pulled the last stroke the bow cleared the thundering foam below and sailed away towards the finish line.9r7
With the lads watching in astonishment they thought I had just got lucky but after them test driving her for themselves they were hooked! 2 near on perfect lines took 1st and 3rd place out of 122 people taking part in the night time floodlit time trial. The 9R was really proving her worth then taking a third place in the silver expert men's boater x and a 2nd place in the expert women's boater x, the 9r was on fire, only just managing to get it back into my van next up was the Dublin local run the Avonmore.
Many paddlers first taste of whitewater, a class 2/3river with plenty of S moves rock spins and the mighty Jacksons to finish. The 9R was still so much fun making every move with ease even the extra length never once inhibited her on a shallow Irish river. spinning like a demon. As we hit Jackson's I was but a passenger, the nose stayed high as I came through the curler and skipped down the ledge as if it wasn't there. The drop took but a few seconds the smile on my face endless! The 9R had passed the Irish test.9r9
If your looking for a fun, lightweight, responsive, predictable, comfortable, elegant, fast, and fecking deadly boat you need a 9R!
I'm loving the extra speed offered by the boat as well as the rocker makes the river a drier place, This is certainly going to be my boat of choice. Over the winter I'm keen to try and push it to its limits with some big plans already in motion and plenty of steep technical Irish rivers to run the 9R will look after me, and once the races kick off again I'm certainly going to struggle with my boat in hot demand by some talented paddlers its going to get a lot of use.
If your thinking of changing boats certainly don't write the 9R off as an out and out race boat, its definitely needs to be pushed more than other boats but will reward you for the extra work. its going to make a fantastic day to day creeker and river runner with huge potential.
If you want to give her a go give me a shout instore
Or get yours online here
god green logo
Thanks to Shooter and Maria McNally for the extra photos

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Back to France

After a super weekend at Cranafest and an enjoyable evening in Dublin with Martina, I had more time booked off, as normal all my plans changed and was left with no plan, having been at Mick Reynolds in France the week before we had talked plans and rivers. I took a look at cheap flights and booked a last minute flight to La Rochelle grabbed a hire car and drive over to Micks where the adventure would really begin.
DSCF1201Arriving Monday evening just in time to check the levels and make a rough plan, the van was loaded the scooter shuttle in the back along with full expedition kit for any eventuality and a pair of lovely Dagger Nomad 8.1s a size smaller than I would have been accustomed to but beggars cant be choosers, luckily she was lime green to match my kit :-)
So Tuesday we awoke early to drive down to the Allier a 16km stretch varying from grade 2 -3 with a couple of 4/5s. During its entirety it never really let up. An enjoyable paddle, great to familiarise myself with the new boat,
This is an amazing stretch for a group or club giving something for everyone, smooth lines to read and run with S moves galore you could spend all day hitting flares and spins on all the rapids,
So that evening we made a plan by pure guess work and a little hope as well as some of Micks aspirations we picked the Number one river in the region the Fontaulière. Dropping 149m in 3km this is also the steepest river in the region.
We drove over to the river staying in Chateaux Traffic and awaking to a freezing morning with cold winds and just generally fairly miserable, with low motivation we set our shuttle, using the scooter and the van made for easy work. Kitted up and ready to go we descended down to the waters edge, the cold water and the chilling breeze kept us on our toes,
When we met the river we were welcomed with drop after drop,as the gradient fell away so did we, some smooth lines and some big moves this river was a great way to go. At the halfway point we found the big drop, Micks eyes lit up with that look that nothing was stopping him, having spent nearly 5 years without much gradient he was finally home! eyeing up this drop a stlick slot entry leading into a 10m vertical slide. Before hitting the kicker and ejecting away from the base on a huge plume of white water sending you up and out a spectacular drop. By this point the flamingo was flapping he was ready he was up. A slight wobble on the entry and the smile as he reached the lip before plummeting downwards at Mach 10 he hit the kicker and planted into the whitewater below grinning from ear to ear, Reynolds was back in the game!
My turn as he set the camera I hit the entry slot taking the wobble and driving hard to the line I was looking as the boat kicked up the rush of air as I hit the kicker I drove with my knees to get the bow high up into the air landing flat with the noise echoing around the canyon the line was beautiful (even if a little sore)
but at this point we had come to the right river, descending and dropping further down the valley with the gradient stacking up behind us from smooth chutes and cascades to cruising rapids, a little more water would of cleaned up a few of the lines but we were having fun, some pinball fun in the bottom drop and we were out.DSCF1253
The short shuttle made easy with pizza delivery boy Mick and we were away to find our next run,
This time heading south back towards Millau where I hurt myself all of those months ago we headed for the Haut Tarn another absolute French classic, dropping some 223m with most of the gradient in the first two thirds of the river. The levels were low but runnable with a quick text to the local boys to confirm it was on, dropping into the valley and the walls just seemed to lift, greeted by horizon line after horizon,  this river had us smiling from the off.DSCF1304
A short way in we were greeted by the biggest drop of the run a technical series of rapids coming around a left elbow of 90 degrees before swinging right onto a sliding kicker dropping maybe 15m from the top. The drop was on but the lead in was tight, Mick had his mind made up to portage the lead in and drop in above the chute as he took off down the flow he was but a passenger plugging hard below,DSCF1327
I was already sore and looking at the right hand stroke I was starting to walk, having seen crash dummy Reynolds forget to pull any stroke and realise the run was easier than the portage I booted up. Ferrying out onto the flake pulling a left stroke through to lift the nose as I hit the crux lifted the knees and sailed through the air, bow high, once again landing flat on another big drop, it looked and felt stunning but knowing I'm going to be sore tomorrow. Continuing downstream being met by horizon lines meant plenty of scouting, with some incredible cascades and rapids the river left a lot of flakes to run with sticky holes hiding keeping the bow high was essential. Another committing rapid opened up in front of us on inspection 4 drops with the crux the constriction style drop as the third down a a 8 foot channel where the water had to flow uphill to leave the pool causing a huge towback and recirculation,
on inspection Mick was out, but something on it felt good, to link the 4 drops in one series looked good, with Mick on camera and rescue I fired it, drop one right flake, drop two left flake, then charge at the third, on the green chute pull a right stroke to keep the bow high of the first wave and plant the left into the pile to keep it moving, the small nomad skipped and sailed straight through the drop not stopping to look back, as I reached the 4th drop I was far to excitable and forgot to pull the stroke so came through a little tail happy but wow what a line.
The river didn't let up throwing in  gradient behind big boulders some with consequence scouting was the order of the day.

Another big flare leading to just off vertical pour over made me think of champions killer, again I was paddling well and it was on, probably because the flare entry just looked soo sweet, it was worth the rest of the rapid, again the line went and stayed the nomad flying through with ease, at last I was back on my game, paddling with confidence. the bigger the water the better I got.
Mick was back in his element after so long off of big rivers, many would joke he cant paddle big rivers anyway too much water for him, but I can assure you all he held his own, safe and strong, knowing he had the line and would pick me up was a good feeling, his lines were improving as the trip went on shaking off the rust quickly to paddle these 3French Classics at last minutes notice.
As we eventually reached the dam to mark the get out after a full day on the water he was already planning the next adventure...... Jura
A short flight back to Dublin with a bank holiday weekend upon us time to load up and hit up this magical place called Kerry before my holiday ends.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, 27 October 2014

October Travelling

The trip started with a work trip to Nuremberg for Paddlexpo the yearly European Kayak trade show to check out the latest and greatest and to see what we can do for the next year, as I was on holiday I decided to drive out this year with boats, bikes and about any other toy that would fit in the van,oetz 3

Paddlexpo is a great opportunity to meet up with friends from different brands who we may  not have seen during the year as well as new acquaintances really makes the show a great place to start my trip.oetz 10

After a busy start to the season to then be hampered by a shoulder injury, its given me a lot if time to reflect on what I'm doing and where I'm going,
Firstly I'm an awful patient, like any active person I'm the physios nightmare, they give a little and we take a mile then wonder why recovery is delayed.

From the moment I got injured I had my sights set on competing at this years Sickline event, since last years event I know I can be competitive, I just need to be fit, So id planned a holiday around the event bringing friends with me to paddle and share the experience, unfortunately in the weeks leading up to the event I knew myself I wasn't getting stronger and still in a great deal of pain I've hardly sat in a boat and holding a set of blades made me hurt, I had been teasing myself with the prospect,

oetz 5

On arriving in Austria and the beautiful Oetz valley as I looked at the course and pictured the moves I knew honestly that I was not able for it, in the days leading up to the event I took it easy paddling the lower and upper stretches of the amazing valley just testing the water and the shoulder knowing I had a lot to do before I was ready to start pushing, after a couple of days on the water I felt I was smooth and comfortable the boat was paddling well and I was confident on the water, having not been on a river since I was Last in the Oetz the beginning of June I was just happy to be out, unfortunately after paddling I noticed a lot of inflammation and soreness. So at registration I made the decision not to risk racing and didn't take my race number, for me this was a tough call and one I was worried I may regret.
As the competition kicked off I was sad not to be a part of this years race but it was fantastic to see the young lads, Cian, Conor and David holding their own against some if the best whitewater paddlers on the planet.

oetz 9
The lads paddled without fear showing no nerves to push their own performances to the highest level
If I had raced would I of beaten them? ?........
Mentally - I know the course, I know my ability and I know my strengths.
Physically - Not a hope! I cant pull a right stroke confidently and rolling or bracing leaves me in huge amounts of pain.
I can look at the event now knowing I made the right decision, Personally I had nothing to prove, a couple of years ago id of paddled regardless, but I guess a sign of growing up, what's more important, the fame of that 90 seconds or the next 12 months of paddling?
Its important that paddlers understand their own abilities and limitations as a good coach can understand their athletes strengths and weaknesses, the motivation to get back up after a fall is it to prove to themselves or others around them? Its important to do things for the right reasons.
Sickline was once again a spectacle with some of the fastest paddlers pushing hard with the slightest mistakes punishing them for valuable seconds.
Personally its a chance to paddle and catch up with friends from around the world who descend on the valley each year,

oetz 2
It was great to have a great crew of Irish paddlers at the event this year, having the craic and causing trouble like usual! A great bunch that really was a pleasure to spend time with.
After the event many paddlers headed away soon after but a few stayed behind, as I was on holiday I really had no plans with many of my plans already changed in the previous few weeks, I decided to stay where the water was, paddling and biking with friends, exploring areas of the region we hadn't come across before and enjoying the time away.oetz 6

The Oetz Valley really does have so much to offer the paddling in the region is top class, having paddled there this year in both Summer (high) flows and the autumn lower level theirs just so much to keep you amused, from technical creeking to big water fun and some big holes in between the Oetz will keep the best paddlers on their toes.

oetz 8
Aside from the paddling the valley homes some amazing bike routes running high into the mountains from easy road rides to technical single track, higher up is the glacier one of the largest around so if skiing is your thing this place is made for it, as well the climbing the paragliding, they don't do things by halves with routes marked and set up for ease of use and maximum time taking part, just over 2hours from Munich leaves you astonished in what you will find this is definitely one of my favourite spots to be.

oetz 4
During the week I was lucky that Jenny decided to hang around (some peer pressure) which meant some really nice chilled paddling on the upper and the vent sections, taking in the views and cruising down the rivers before heading back to the qualification course and slalom course to push the boat around.

After a night at the aqua dome relaxing and chilling it was time to depart the valley but not before a couple of laps on the Wellebrucke, by now, a week after the event, I was confident I was strong enough to paddle the course without further hurting myself. Some nice lines really got the new 9R running, a superfast boat and a joy to paddle, keep her straight and smooth and she will reward you with speed and lift.
After paddling it was time to say goodbye and head off to Switzerland to meet the lads and deliver a boat.


A couple of days rest in St Gallen left me feeling much better the shoulder looked normal and the soreness had died down so I decided to head back over to Oetz to milk the last of the water, not knowing the next time id see water I decided I should make the most of it, just running laps on the Wellebrucke to really test out the boat before meeting Luca in Innsbruck for a few beers and to plan for 2015.
Another day in St Gallen and it was time to start for the ferry, calling in with Great Outdoors Team Paddler Mick Reynolds at his new place in France, drinking wine and talking waterfalls long into the night.
After a look at some local waves it was time to hit the ferry back from Cherbourg into Ireland before starting the drive up to Cranafest for the weekend.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,