Tuesday 15 June 2021
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Kayaking Catalonia! Noguera Pallaresa River Festival 2013


Paddlers from Catalonia, Spain, France, Ireland, Scotland, Leichstein, Luxembourg, Germany, Andorra, and USA descended on the Noguera Palleresa river near Sort Spain to celebrate this clear water dam-fed river and the many miles of rapids it creates.   While there were many sections, I focused on the ”classic” section due to it’s ample waves for macho-moves and wave-wheels, slick limestone shelves for rock spins and boofs, and an excessive amount of crisp, clean eddy lines. Paddling the 2014 Rockstar was such a treat .. as it was just short enough to plug into so many features and really made the most of every one.  Most paddlers were in larger boats, like the Zen – and zipping around on the flatter waves in between rapids or just getting though the harder rapids in style.  It’s a fun little river in a beautiful setting, no wonder so many paddlers came out!  The event consisted of paddling by day and partying by night, and on Saturday there were clinics of all sorts as well as whitewater demo boats from Jackson Kayak as well as other brands.

I taught a river-running clinic where we focused on carving instead of sliding eddy turns, boofing, driving up and over rocks, rock 360’s, and of course the ”hand of God” rescue technique. If you don’t know how to flip an unconscious or otherwise not-rolling paddler back up without them grabbing your bow .. well I guess you need a clinic! I paddled the 2010 Fun so I could teach those in creek boats but also stern squirt and wave-wheel my way down this fun mid-volume stream.    There were all sorts of well-known padders on hand to teach other things:  Women’s Junior Silver medalist Nouria Fontane taught a women’s clinic, her brother Joaquim was on hand teaching beginners,  Mathieu Dumoulin took photos for France’s Canoe-Kayak magazine,  Junior Silver medalist Thomas Richard taught freestyle,  and Olympic Bronze Medalist Mailen Chorraut was teaching slalom ( and pivot-turning a creek boat)!
The Friday night party with Marty and Sonia Cronin as well a a huge Scottland contingent was a highlight (especially since 8 of us ended up in the same tiny car ride home) but the DJ cranked revelers until 3AM on Saturday night as well.   So the rivers and the parties were great, but what really sticks out about this event is the Catalonian experience itself:  the memories from the 2001 Freestyle World Championships in Sort, the limestone cliffs walls, dinner starting at 9PM, and of course the intricate stonework on every street, wall, house, bridge or rooftop.
If you haven’t been to Spain, this is a great region to explore far from the crowds of Barcelona.  If you haven’t paddled in Spain, consider coming for the festival next season!
Off to Germany in the morning for a big dose of Paddle-Expo carpet time before the Sickline…  Hasta Luego!
Clay Wright