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Kicking off the Whitewater Grand Prix
Being asked to compete in the Whitewater Grand Prix this year was an incredible privilege. I figured out that I had been invited just a few weeks before the event, but I was set on making it happen.
I had to finish my classes two weeks early, figure a way around work responsibilities and raise enough money to finance the trip. It was a lot of work, but now that I'm here in Chile things could not be any better. Before I dive into this blog post I would really like to thank everyone that has helped to make this trip possible. To Dagger, my friends and my family: I would not be here now if it were not for your generous support. If you feel like making a contribution towards my trip visit my online fundraiser here. Thanks once again.
Traveling to Chile took a long while, but I met some cool people along the way. From my campsite in the Seattle Airport to the ten hour bus ride from Santiago to Pucon I saw some cool sites along the way.
My bivy at SeaTac
A South American sunrise from 30,000 ft.
Flying over the Andes
As soon as I got off the bus in Pucon I saw a truck full of kayaks parked in front of a hostel, so I went on in to see who I could find. Inside some paddlers from Wales, the U.K. and Austria were eating dinner and planning the next leg of their trip. They decided that they would be heading down to the Fuy for the next two days and said they had room for one more, so I said I would come along with them.
We had an awesome time at the Fuy. Good flows, beautiful warm weather and crystal clear water kept smiles on our faces and provided me with a good couple days of training.
Chilling around the campfire on the Fuy
Joe Thurgate sailing off the 30 ft waterfall on the Upper Fuy
Jo Taylor doing the same
Jo on the boof just below the 30 footer
Looking up at a ledge on the Fuy
After a couple days and a night on the Fuy we headed back to Pucon where I met up with some of the other Grand Prix competitors. Ben Marr, Mike Dawson, Dane Jackson... the crew was forming.
While in Pucon I was able to get some practice laps on the Marimon rapid on the Rio Trancura where the slalom competition will be hosted, and some laps on the Rio Palguin where, water levels permitting, we will have another race.
On the Palguin there was a massive group of paddlers making their way downstream, all of whom were extremely talented and respected paddlers. When we got to Middle Palguin, the iconic 70 ft waterfall no one held back. In fact the lead-in rapid, Stout Ten, which is rather gnarly and rarely run was not portaged by anyone in the group. It's been incredible to be around so many legendary paddlers, who are all at the cutting edge of the sport.
Daniel Rondón, a Peruvian competitor styling Stout Ten
Nouria Abou-Newman on Stout Ten
After spending some time on low water runs around Pucon I was ready to move elsewhere. From Pucon I piled into a van with about a dozen people to head South to the Rio Gol Gol. The Gol Gol is where we will be having our first competition, and I wanted to get some practice laps on it before the race.
The put in on a small tributary right before the Argentinian border
Galen Volckhausen and Daniel on Novios, the first waterfall of the Gol Gol (we won't be racing this drop, but regardless it's a fun move)
Lorenzo Andrade Astorga on one of the Gol Gol's many boofs
Lorenzo getting ready to boof La Princessa (this 20-30 ft waterfall is the last drop of the race)
Kyle Hull navigating another rapid on the Gol Gol
Galen about to fall off 50 ft Salto del Indio (this waterfall will not be raced as well, but is a powerful drop that pulls paddlers deep beneath the surface)
Lorenzo chucking away his paddle on Salto del Indio
Today was our last day of practice out here on the Gol Gol, and tomorrow the racing begins. I feel pretty well prepared for the race, but the course is still intimidating. It is likely one of the most extreme sections of river that has ever been raced, and up against the stacked group of competitors I have my work cut out for me. Keep your eyes on the Whitewater Grand Prix website and facebook page for updates from this first event and the others still to come.
I hope your as stoked as I am!