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Nile River Festival 2020

Every year, on the end of the January, all eyes look back to the White Nile. It is time when Nile River Festival gathers both international paddlers from all around the world with local community to celebrate the river and what it means to everybody around it.

Over four days you can see number of kayakers running around and taking part in all fun events. This year thanks to banana kayak school we had one of biggest attendance to the festival by local paddlers and especially junior enthusiast which was super cool to see

Nile River Festival 2020

It all started on Thursday – with unofficial fun surfing event at beloved Superhole. That spot is known for fun surfs on a kayak to everybody who went kayaking to Uganda. On that special day you can see not only kayaks, but also all sort of inflatables, SUPs, Tandems and pretty much whatever you imagine. It is all about gathering with friends and starting a Festival celebration. After that everybody gets back to Bujagali where things are warming up as crowd gathers around famous Big Air Ramp. Here kayaks are flying off with big air screws, attempts of backflips, pan ams and other variations of aerial moves that can be done.. well not only in a kayak! If you look for long enough for big final you will see beer crates, palm trees or even fireballs shooting from end of the ramp! All of that is accompanied with music, SUP jousting and huge crowd cheering for all the competitors. This year the best of the ramp was Owen with his amazing tricks followed by Coby.. who set himself on fire!

Friday however is official competition day, this year we have had full day Friday Freestyle that included playboating at 7 features! Pretty much it is a downriver descent with showing off all your skills at some of the coolest spots that Nile has to offer. It includes downriver freestyle, waves and holes. From each of the spots video is taken and put together by video team to showcase on Saturday evening on the big party night. Based on whole performance your video is judged by both professional and not-at-all kayakers.

On the end of the day we have two additional events one being a technical freestyle challenge with two ICF scoring rides at Itanda hole where I took the win followed by Sam and Lowri. From there we went for a mass start race that happened at Vengance rapid where all the kayakers run down at once trying to place highest among the crowd. Flips, Laughs and general pushing through the crowd guaranteed! Sadat was quickest one just a bit ahead of Musa and Owen.

This year also there has been a new place opened just next to Kalgal – called an Overland Camp which is part of Lemala resort run by Adrift. It is place where you can stay just next to Kalagala which is amazing for paddling as it takes just 20 minutes to get to Itanda hole or Superhole, no driving is needed! Thanks to that – on Friday night we came back to OC and enjoyed a great evening with live band, grill and pizza. Sam Ward won with his Freestyle video while I came 2nd and Lowri taking 3rd.

Check out my edit from Freestyle Friday

Saturday is time for cherry on the cake – Itanda Extreme Race. To get there we had jumped on a boat from OC and made it easily for start of the race where bravest 9 paddlers contested for just 5 spots in the final. For preliminaries format is easy – you go head to head against your friend but it is the time that matters. Making main line is always good spectacle but watching two paddlers trying to do the same thing at once – that can get messy even for most experienced ones! If that wouldn’t be all – there is a last eddy which requires to use a curler shoulder from a Bad Place in order to get a quickest line. That has been a win-or-lose always even for best paddlers.

This year – Musa Mutamba despite taking a big lead against me in overall line – but got messed up by a bad place… and nearly missed the eddy which made him miss the finals ! In final, the bar goes higher – it is not about the speed but about the style. You have to show that Itanda is your playground and you can use it totally up to your taste ! Whether it is interesting lines, downriver freestyle, flatwater tricks between the features, surfing or even beatering in the biggest ones ! Whatever you choose – you have to make sure that you will impress the judges. This year the win went to Sadat Kawawa who managed to get some amazing dowriver tricks and finish with a kickflip into a bad place with a paddle throw, that, well ended up in an stylish swim but crowd stood behind him! Second was South with his downriver tricks and solid surf on Cuban followed by Sam who.. run the left line and used to to entry loop!

Nile River Festival 2020

After that spectacle everybody heads to NRE for final party that starts with decoration – where in overall standings Sadat took 1st becoming King of the Nile, Sam was 2nd and I took 3rd. Women category got dominated by Lowri who has won all the events in her category and was followed by Sarah Williams and Rebecca Jones. After that party goes into watching festival vidoes, a lot of dancing, Jelly Wrestling and laughs about the weekend.
For those that still had a bit of power – there was Raft Freestyle waiting which turned out to be a friendly run down the river.. including few flips and stack run of the rafts at Bobugo rapid. Well, who could tell that two rafts on top of each other are actually going to do well on that !?

Nile River Festival 2020

Definitely a place to be in the January – I will be there in 2021. If you want to get to know Uganda, surf those spots and enjoy the festival later – drop us a message at Love it Live it to experience the White Nile with us!

Uganda – Experience The White Nile

Check out Highilights from NRF 2020