Select Page

What can I say other than that China is amazing! I have had the privilege for the past 4 years to work with Bo, our JK distributor in China. During that time Bo and I have discussed getting myself and some other JK team members to go for a visit and to teach some kayaking. We also had everything lined up for the first World Kayak Hometown Throwdown this season. Well, Bo got it done by involving Red Bull and the end result was EJ, Dane, Nick, and I got the trip of a lifetime. After Bo recommended us a visa company as he knew Evisumservice een visum China and some last minute preparations I found myself departing home for a straight travel time of 2.5 days! The Beijing airport delivered on some standard travel excitement. I took the 20 min shuttle bus to another terminal, to then be told that I was no longer on that airline and I needed to go back to the original terminal. Shortly after going back through security I linked up with the boys and found out that they had a similar bus ride.

One last flight and we were in Kuming. We were meet by our friend Tom. Tom was there to ensure we did not get lost in the jumble of buses and other ground transport needed to get to our final destination. We took one bus for 6 hours or so and were supposed to get on another, but it was no longer going so Tom arranged for a mini van to take all our gear and us the rest of the way. It was a bit sung, but we made it work. Another 6.5 hours later we arrived on the banks of the Nu river. It was late at night, but the reception we had was out of control. A good number of the boaters had stayed up waiting for us, and needless to say they were stoked! After our first round of introductions we were treated to a traditional Chinese hot pot dinner. With a good dinner in our bellies we were all ready to get a bit of sleep. The dogs and roosters did not really agree with us on that, but oh well.

The next morning brought another great meal of breakfast beef noodles, and then it was time to head down to the river to go kayaking. We broke up into our groups and had the morning to run two rapids and make our way down to the competition site. I had a group that was focused on river running so we started off with strokes and concepts and then it was time to get into the moving water. I quickly realized that most of the boaters had never had the opportunity to break a rapid apart and to really understand the water. Typically these guys would take just about everything down the gut and see what would happen. They run some really solid WW! This revelation gave us a ton to work on for the rest of the clinic time, but there also happened to be two good waves just below the freestyle hole so guess where we went first?

We took out and used a full tour bus as our shuttle. Boats under in the luggage compartment as well as down the aisle. It was a 35 min ride up stream, and along the way we were glued to the windows! The Nu River, which is named for the native people, delivers constant WW that all looks good. Most of you will know this river by its name in Burma, which is the Salween. The river drains the Himalaya and currently has no dams on it. Unfortunately that is scheduled to change with a large number of dams in the next 5 years. On our drive we saw so much good play and the Tiger Leaping rapids, that we could hardly contain ourselves.
We got to the put in and there was a large rapid that was our put in. It is basically a 3M high river wide ledge with a house sized boulder or two out in the middle to keep things interesting. There are a variety of lines that look like they will come in at different water levels. We had a fairly straightforward line on the river right shore. This rapid was also going to be the location for one of the races later on. After everyone ran or walked it we were on our way down stream. We had a bunch of really fun class 3+ big water rapids to work with. My group made great progress in their river running skills, and we had a chance to bunch up with the other groups in some of the pools. Nick and Dane put on a show by doing tandem “Mary Lou’s” off the bow and stern of my Fun Runner.

The day ended with another big juicy rapid. We all agreed that it reminded us of a more compact, steeper, and angrier version of Pillow on the upper Gauley. Some of our students opted to give it a go. The boaters who made it through with out a swim, from a very big hole, were rewarded with a sweet shirt and carry bag.
The next day brought a “demo” of sorts at the tiger leaping rapids. These rapids are no joke. We spent a good bit of time scouting, and after starting to feel ill the night before I decided to take the morning off so that I would be good to teach at the wave in the afternoon. EJ, Nick, and Dane opted to run the last two rapids and had a crew of the Chinese boaters to follow them. The boys had great lines but there were some sporty lines to be had and a few swims from the Chinese crew. The Chinese boaters truly embrace the booty beer concept.

Fortune cookie wave was up for the afternoon clinic location. The wave is every bit as good as you have seen on the Internet. The boys were able to throw down every trick in the book in their Rockstars, and I was even able to get a bit of air in my trusty Fun Runner. I will admit that I was a bit jealous that I was not in my Rockstar for this part of the trip. The wave proved to be fairly difficult for most of the students to ferry onto, but that did not stop them from trying. The wave train in the run out made for a great place to practice pushy ferries and peel outs. We all left that spot tired and happy to say the least. This spectacular day was not over! We were treated to a Chinese beach party. This included another great meal cooked in a wok over an open fire on the river beach. After plenty of food, beer, and some sort of home made liquor a big bonfire was lit. The different kayak clubs that were in attendance started to sing their regional songs and then the dancing began followed shortly by fire jumping.
Competition day started with a police escort up to the put in rapid from the river run. This time we arrived to the full on Red Bull show. The arch was inflated, signs hung, and the Red Bull girls armed with all the Red Bull you could drink. EJ, Nick, Dane, and I were scheduled to do a demo run and then to judge and run safety. Our run went well and then the real show began. The river right bank was full of people. There were tons of media folks, local farmers, and everything in between. It was crazy to see that big of a crowd literally in the middle of nowhere. We saw some good lines over the drop, we saw some spicy lines over the drop, and we ultimately had to choose a winner. First of all you needed to stay upright to have a chance to win. After that we looked at smoothness, line difficulty, and overall style. The awards ceremony was super cool. They gave each of us a river rock and we got to put it into the helmet of the person we thought did the best. After we went the rest of the boaters got to contribute a rock as well. After the obligatory media show and interviews it was another police escort down river to the freestyle venue.
Once there we were supposed to do a demo boatercross heat and then run safety for all of the prelim heats. I got off to a bit of a bad start and ended up bumping fairly good with Dane on the long first ferry across the river. At that point I was chasing Nick and was not able to catch up. Nick took the win, I got second, EJ got third, and Dane was in fourth. It was cool to watch the variety of lines that the Chinese boaters took to try to best their buddies. Some took safe lines, while other took lines that required much effort to make the challenging ferry. I think the best heat was won by the only female paddler in our clinics. She took a smart high line in the slack water while all the rest blasted on a direct route to the first buoy. Needless to say they all came up short and were scrambling to attain back up while she strolled down to the buoy and proceeded to make her final move for the win! That evening we had dinner at this unreal spot on a 300 ft. cliff over the river. The lodge is built into the rock; so much that one of the 4 walls in our dining room was the cliff.
Our final day on the Nu River saw the finals for the freestyle event with Nick, Dane, and I judging and EJ running safety. Safety was needed due to the retentive nature of the feature. Competitors were judged using the World Kayak Hometown Throwdown system, so style counts big and so does persistence. Paddle up that eddy if you flush and never quit! A fair number of the competitors were trying entry moves, which was a good plane for sure since the hole was sticky. This was after they got to slide down the entry slide that Red Bull built. We did see some controlled cartwheels, spins, and assorted other freestyle action once folks got in the feature. The awards were next and then it was time to hit the road.
5 hours of driving and three long flights later I made it back home, where I am now doing battle with some nasty flu I picked up on the trip. However, it was worth the price of admission. China was full of wonderful people, great food, and certainly one amazing river. If you have the opportunity to go I strongly suggest you take that trip. Thanks again to Bo for making it all possible.
Later; Colin
Team JK