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I can’t imagine many better places to learn to paddle than the Amazon River or its tributaries. During the first week of filming Kaiak II in Brazil, we had the opportunity to paddle on the Amazon proper, where waters of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes meet at the “Contra das Aguas”. It’s an amazing place, where two of the biggest rivers in the world swirl together to form the biggest river in the world. Here, Andressa, a champion canoeist and new member of the Kaiak team, took her first strokes in a kayak. She couldn’t stop smiling and we could barely get her out of the warm water!

From Manaus and paddling on the Amazon, we came north to the small town of Presidente Figueiredo in search of our first waterfalls of the trip and to get Andressa on some faster water. We ran a section with a few waterfalls and fast water and small rapids between. Andressa came along for the small rapids in between and to see what it’s like to get a nature tour from the seat of your kayak. She started in the clear, warm water and paddled ahead of us in the current downstream. She’s been racing canoes in the ocean for four years and it shows in her vertical strokes and posture. I don’t know if she will ever canoe again after paddling the Hero down her first rapids!

Day one in the Hero and she was paddling class II/III rapids with little trouble. I never thought I would see something like that, but I guess I never thought there would be a boat to make it possible. Now there is, and after paddling the Super Hero and feeling the super stability and surprising speed I’m even more of a believer.

The next day we put on a river with the local secretary of tourism, Souza, little more info than what we heard from him, and typical Brazilian late start. His info was vague as any good river beta, and we ended up paddling into the take-out just after dark! What he didn’t tell us was that the “section between rapids” was all flat and about 7 or 8 kilometers long. And that it was a first descent! Andressa is getting the high-speed intro to kayaking! Second downriver trip and it was a first descent.

Her attitude is the real game-changer. If she was nervous and weary of paddling on the river, we wouldn’t risk her getting more scared by bringing her along. These are the perfect rivers for her to learn on, with moving flat water, eddies and small class II/III rapids, and some waterfalls that are easy to see, portage, and dream about. It’s exciting for me to see someone getting into paddling and loving it, just wanting to do more and improve.

We ran some nice falls and rapids in the following days as well, with more than 50 to choose from in the small area around Presidente Figueiredo. Souza brought us to the big ones, and lucky for us, they were (mostly) good to go. There was some deliberation, but in the end Ben and I got to run three pretty good ones between us.

Up next is a drive farther north to Venezuela and the promising Tepuy region. We’re hoping for rain and safe travels!