Pucon, Chile

It was a blue sky Chilean day for the 2013 Palguin events. This year the annual Upper Palguin Race expanded to adding a Friday Giant Slalom and Sunday Lower Trancura Enduro Race to the featured Upper Palguin Boater-cross spectacular event.

Chile’s Rio Palguin is South America’s most run steep creek for good reason. The Middle and Salto Palguin sections attract top pro-kayakers and wannabe huckers to fantastic clean drops at all-you-can eat heights. A series of class V rapids keep the huckstars challenged. The lesser known Lower Palguin offers another series of cascades a step-up from the Upper Palguin.

upper palguin race
Men's finals Evan Garcia leads Momo Castiloo and Marcos Gallegos into the crux first drop of the Palguin.

The Upper Palguin is the crown jewel that keeps boaters coming back honing their skills. It’s the perfect section for paddlers who want to safely learn to run cascades and be challenged. Experts can push themselves too by racing or running laps on any of the drops. As Pucon’s goto backyard run the Palguin provides a consistent flow of stories and adventures.

This year Kayak Chile owner Ben May again hosted an exciting event setting the stage at the pre-race meeting, “If you don’t set safety during your rest heat then you don’t get the six pack of beer with your entry. The rule is if you touch anyone’s skirt your disqualified. Any questions?”

The buzz of the event was three-fold:  Could chargers like Marcos Gallegos, Aniol Serrasoles, or Momo Castillo pickoff Paddler of the Year Evan Garcia? Which uni-student would win a new class created for a large number of university student chargers? And will the girl talking so much shit actually win her class?

Great Britain’s Natty Cordon Crutches Path to Silver Medal in Giant Slalom

UK's Natty Cordon came to Pucon to kayak, broken foot or not. Who knew she'd win a silver medal and fulfill the 70-foot cascade dream of her life. Congrats Natty for being a badass and having great lines.

The Giant Slalom was an addition to the events boater-cross with 10 course gates well placed along what could be kayaking’s most idea extreme race course. The course is beautiful, adds gate challenges, and comfortable to racers which allows any intermediate boater to participate while separating the pro field. Racers would take the best time of two laps for the event placings.

“It was a good day. I reckon I raced against some of the best kayakers in the world today. Then ran the largest waterfall of my life.” -Pucon Kayak Hostel UK guest Tony Becker

The events began with the Giant Slalom Women’s division. Great Britain’s and PKH guest Natty Cordon with broken foot crutched her way down the canyon as fellow Brit Tony Becker carried her kayak. Natty would notch a clean first heat run while her United States competition Jessie Rice would miss the hard to make second gate taking a 50 second penalty. After Cordon cructhed her way out of the canyon exhausted she decided to stick with her clean first run and the pressure would be on Rice to clean her lines. Rice did clean her lines to win the giant slalom and Cordon would finish her day with a silver and later the 70 foot drop of her life. Congratulations Natty Cordon and Jessie Rice.

In the men’s event Pucon local Momo Castillo stepped up to put the pressure on champion Garcia. But Garcia with proven extreme race experience and a coveted fast line Remix boat would be too fast to catch. Garcia would claim the events first title and set the bar.

This year event coordinator Ben May and Patagonia Study Abroad director discussed opening a university class due to the large number of uni students entering. Now, student athletes had too had an extreme title allowing them to set goals and achieve. Patagonia Study Abroad filled the class as Wes McCue claimed first, Jacob Slobodian second, and Morgan Heimer took third.

Palguin Giant Slalom Results

Jessie Rice- Gold (Women)

Natty Cordon- Silver (Women)

Evan Garcia- Gold (Men)

Momo Castillo- Silver (Men)

Wes McCue- Gold (Men University)

Jacob Slobodian- Silver (Men University)

Jaime Lancaster- Gold (Jr class)

Palguin Boatercross Rice vs Garcia y Castillo

Anything can happen at the notch. Germany's Sebastian Striebel is idol as two boaters boof-pass to advance to second round.

The feature Palguin event has to be the boatercross. Event host and Kayak Chile owner Ben May lines up 4 kayakers on a 10-foot ramp to launch into the pool above the double first drop. This is guaranteed entertainment as racers parlay for position before a bottleneck funnel into two consecutive boofs. A botched line at the bottleneck can result in body checks, passes, bumping, rolling, enders, or plopping off what would be a normally easy cascade boof. It’s simply fantastic to watch.

Rice would be the sole female competitor in the intimidating Boater-cross and thus drawn into a men’s heat lined up against race favorites Evan Garcia, Momo Castillo and Jaime Lancaster.

“It’ll be good for me to be in a race against the men like Evan and Momo so when I beat them they can’t say any of that whiny whine shit that I was in an easier women’s heat.” -Jessie Rice lined in heat against event favorites Evan Garcia and Momo Castillo

Jessie Rice uses her "Riceps" to pull out of the notch hole as she charges for the Giant Slalom title.

Off the ramp Garcia would take and hold the lead from Castillo. While, junior favorite Lancaster landed off-balance giving Rice an opportunity to body check and pass. Garcia and Castillo advance to round 2.

“Midair I saw him (Jaime Lancaster off the start ramp) off-balance so I used the power of my Riceps to knock him over. What’s wrong with that? I didn’t touch his skirt.” Jessie Rice entertaining a crowd laughing with Jaime at his misfortunate start.

University Extreme Kayak Championship Wes McCue

Wes McCue wins the Extreme University Kayak Championships.

May agreed with Patagonia Study Abroad director David Hughes to open a university class due to the large number of students participating. This would be the beginning of goal setting to create the world championships of university extreme kayak racing. And what better place to host a world championships than at the Palguin Race events. The semifinal heat would match students Wes McCue, Morgan Heimer, Matt Whitson and Jacob Slobodian. McCue off the ramp would take the lead to not be passed. While, Canada’s Slobodian would have to make a pass of Heimer to advance to the finals. Wyoming’s McCue would win the finals heat against Slobodian to take the gold title.

Can Gallegos, Serrasoles or Castillo Catch Garcia?

Substantial Media owner Evan Garcia celebrates another Palguin championship.

Garcia would have his hands full in the final heat to hold off chargers like Marcos Gallegos, Aniol Serrasoles, and Momo Castillo. Gallegos had came off a 9-week intensive training program coaching Patagonia Study Abroad students with both am and pm on-water extreme race workouts. Gallegos’s speed and endurance are in top form and he was on an obvious mission. Castillo too was notching fast lines throughout the event easily holding his advancement positions. While, Serrasoles always a contender seemed to be taking dark horse lines and looking for his spots to pass.

Garcia would close all doors to wanna be winners by taking the lead from the start. Gallegos approaching the final cascade above the finish pool would make the last chance and risky line effort for a cascade drop to boil cross which gave Jake Greenbaum a last second pass in 2011 for the title. While, Gallegos made the questionable boil line Garcia had too much lead and reclaimed his Palguin Champion title.

Lower Trancura Enduro Gallegos Training Pays Off

Marcos Gallegos lowers his edge to hold off a boater as he approaches the Upper Palguin's first drop. Gallegos would later win the Lower Trancura Enduro Race.

Marcos Gallegos had been leading Lower Trancura am bridge to bridge races for almost three months with his Patagonia study Abroad team of university students. By now he knew every line and confidently possessed high endurance and strength. Gallegos would pass Garcia and Castillo and claim the over-all runner-up title while Garcia would be crowned series champion.

“It was easier than I thought. I just followed him and listened to his breaths. Then at the end I sprinted hard and was able to pass.” -Marcos Gallegos on strategy

Jessie Rice and Natty Cordon celebrate after the Giant Slalom awards. Rice-gold y Cordon- silver.

The women’s class happily hosted five females as three women from Pucon’s local university joined the tamer Lower Trancura race as well Pucon Kayak Hostel’s own Lauren Thomas entered. Rice would claim her third title in as many days as Thomas earned a silver medal. Rice notched the hat trick by winning all three women’s events.

Pucon Kayak Hostel Fun Facts

  • PKH proudly transported over 20 competitors to the three Pucon Festival events in effect comprising over half the classes.
  • Kayak Chile owner Ben May commences a new university class adjusting to the high numbers of university students charging during the holiday season.
  • Pucon Kayak Hostel is a proud affiliate of Patagonia Study Abroad university programs.
Pucon Kayak Hostel owner David Hughes happy as a clam.