For the second year Pucon Kayak Hostel and Huge Experiences have combined to offer Chilean youth a North American style kayak camp. It’s a traditional camp in a gorgeous Chilean environment. The Pucon area offers a variety of rivers fantastic for safe learning. Plus, if the days are cold the kids practice their rolls in one of the local hot springs pools. Now that’s a cool, or should we say warm, way to learn to roll a kayak.
This year three students from Santiago’s high school Nido de Aguilas attended the five-day camp session. Daniel and Lucas Miller attended for their second year as they begin progressing from rolling in the lake to whitewater combat rolls.
Nico Andrade is learning to kayak for his first time. While Nico was skeptical at first he’s learning that kayaking is super fun and a great way to be active and cool off during the hot summer months.
What do the whitewater kayak campers learn?
The goals of the camp are to have fun and introduce Chilean youth to the sport of kayaking in a safe environment. The program begins with safety protocol and introductions.
Students learn the basics of reading water, the sport of kayaking, how to use a throw rope, and boat repair. Students too have to plan their own breakfast menus and be part of revolving cook teams with one of their coaches. Academically, students get a brief history and geography lesson of Chilean whitewater and rivers. Students also write about what they experienced and learnt via their river crafts.
Wet exit teaches students how to safely exit their kayak.
Throw rope practice teaches students how kayakers can rescue each other win swimming.
Swimming rapids teaches students how to read and navigate the river and it’s currents.
Hopefully, a seed is planted and these youth become excited to continue learning their rolls this year and soon progress to many of Chile’s great rivers.
Chile’s Rio Nevado has become the Pucon favorite creek run. The Upper Nevado section boasts over thirty clean 6’ boofs, three clean twenty-footers, and a Cali style slide all just a short drive from Pucon. The Lower Nevado ups the anti of skill beginning with either portaging or running the infamous Demshitzler Cascade, named by D-Pooplar founder and first-descendlar Jared Seiler. The lower falls drop off the Earth into a deep green canyon. You can feel the depths of mother earth as you enter the stair cased cascade canyon. Six quick drops and you’ve experienced a deep-canyon cascade run.
“There’s Wood in There.” -Words Kayakers Dread
Kayaking on an April after rain special Upper Nevado day Ian (Garcia) told me (David Hughes), “Zorro said there’s wood in the twenty-footer on the left wall.” Upon first inspection there was a 40’ tree bridging over the lip of the cascade to the above steep banks, “ahh… we can get around that.” Ian observed. I peered over the edge of a boulder, “Ahh shitt! Ian there’s a log in the bottom too.”
The log underwater was vertically pinned in the middle-landing zone, limbs sticking out as flags. The word portage need not be uttered. We studied the straight up walls. Neither of us wanting to hike, climb, and drag kayaks up a slick, dirty embankment to the road. Ian announced, “You want to throw boats or swim and catch?” I replied, “You’ve probably got a better arm than me. I’ll go first and catch.” Then chimnied to the lowest point of a crack, jumped the remaining 15’, swam to a rock and waited on kayaks and paddles to drift to me. The perch/catching rock was immediately above a 6’ cascade followed by the known “Auto-boof” 10 footer. We understood that the log would be a problem for next season’s peak-flows and hordes of kayakers.
Portaging Would Miss Six Quality Cascades
Pinch-20 or Ecstacy
4-footer lead into a 6-foot slide
The walls are steep enough to cause a serious portage to the road and reentrance below a series of the 6 quality drops on the Upper Nevado. Yikes!
Extracting the Log
“Zorro do you want to try and get the log out next week?” –David
“Yea Hueon (pronounced way-on meaning dude). We need to get that shit out of there.” –Zorro
“Cool Robby (Dastin) said he’s in and Ian wants to help too.” –David
Two days later Zorro would go in alone, lose two axes, break two small winches, and bust his knee on a rock during the hike out.
Three days later we returned together.
Zorro set ropes and began rappelling. He chopped for a long time, taking breaks; fresh I was semi-eager to take my turn.
I’ve run big and difficult drops, hopped and climbed in every situation, have a strong sense of what I can and cannot do, and don’t scare easily. Let’s just say that being attached to a security line walking down a slippery cascade rock to a protruding log with ax in hand was slow moving. HELL YES! My nerves were spiked! We were 15’ high in the middle of a waterfall whacking with an ax at a giant log under water. The water was cold too. But the aerobic workout kept us warm… except our feet.
Chopping was off-balance and exhausting
The inside chopping angle proved ineffective. After chopping I’d climb up the waterfall, which too was tiring. Rest on a perch watching Zorro hacking away. He rested while standing in the middle of a waterfall. Every now and again he’d yell, “AAGGGHHH!”
Eventually, we realized we needed more people, more energy, more rest. Another day.
Maybe 75% of the way through a 2’ wide log the easiest angles were gone. Even trading turns we were exhausted, feet frozen. We climbed the wall, gathered gear, and began hiking, wading and busting ass up the creek bed to where we’d previously climbed down the canyon
banks. Zorro said, “I think the floods will break it and wash it down stream.” I replied, “It’s still 6 maybe 8 inches deep and at least a foot wide. Think how strong a board that size would be. I think we have to come back and finish it.” Both of us knew that finishing the job is always more likely than organizing a return mission. Now, the log is nearing its most dangerous state with a hard to hack underside approaching its breaking point.
About Running the Cascade
You peer past a log that you’ll have to slide your kayak over and then drop into a slope funneling to the left wall. It’s a rapid like no other… the funnel is so tight you have to tuck your paddle and ride a rudder. The left wall and giant boulder form the gap/horizon line. Then as you fly along the left wall time a subtle right stroke and land in the pool. The effect is a small gap forming a large horizon line drop… IT’S AWESOME!
As a leader of rivers one of my favorite things to offer is, “You want to try it blind?” It might be once in a lifetime that a kayaker can run a cascade blind.
For the last three years kayakers from around the world gathered at the Rio Palguin, a narrow class V river in central Chile for one of the most extreme kayak races in the world.” The Upper Palguin provides a class IV clean waterfall section that provides the perfect venue for an exciting extreme boatercross race. While, just upstream and downstream are serious once in a lifetime waterfalls including a difficult lead-in 40 footer, the famous Middle Palguin 70 footer, and now huckers are dropping the 85 foot Salto Palguin.
This year the hands down favorites to win the Palguin race were the Demshitz crew. “Demshitz” is a growing group of extreme river explorers notching top runs through South America. Demshitz call Pucón their winter home. Founders Graham and Jared Seiler have developed a team that includes names such as Evan, Ian, and Nate Garcia, Jake Greenbaum, Dave Fusili, Fred Norquist, Anton Immler, and more. Ask the boys, “who is a Demshitz?” and they’ll openly reply, “Everyone who loves to kayak is a Demshitz.”
Demshitz Domination It was a Demshitz kayak crew takes all event. And why not? The Demshitz crew of boaters has been exploring the rivers, bars, and women of Pucón, Chile for the last half decade. Demshitz chief visionary Jared Seiler would gracefully advance to the finals convincingly winning his heats. World Champ Jr. freestyler and renowned creeker Evan Garcia too would advance each round winning his heats. But the winner would be a surprise upset to the exciting international kayak venue.
Event Host Ben May Gives the Crowd an Entertaining Event Ben May, owner operator Kayak Chile, offered an entertaining extreme race that promises to improve annually. For 5,000 pesos (apprx. $US10) competitors got entry and a 6-pack of Escudo. That’s right beer with your entry! May loves to host a great event and this year was no exception.
First Rapid Carnage A four-boat slide was built to give athletes as even an entry into the first rapid as possible. Athletes sprinted for position to enter into a tight first drop slot and then over a 2 m cascade. With four boats/heat you can imagine the entertainment as boaters parlayed for position for the tough bottom lines. Sprinters got out front to the cleanest lines as athletes in second and third often knocked each other off-balance only to be passed by a trailing fourth place racer. Garcia and Seiler would in each round be the first to style the highflying race line corner boof.
It was Jake Greenbaum who surprised the crowd of kayakers. Greenbaum chose a relaxed game of patience only exiting the first crux rapid in first one time. But in each heat he would pass competitors using a line crossing the 6 m waterfall boil that no other competitor was able to perform.
Could’ve Garcia and Seiler Foreseen the Sneaky “Green Bomber” Plan? The final heat Seiler again reached the corner boof first high, dry and fast. This final experienced group spread out more and avoided the first rapid carnage and Garcia was close behind with 3 more minutes of drops to pass. As the director of Huge Experiences’ New River Academy I was hoping for NRA alumni Greenbaum to win the prestigious event. But with a fourth place exit of the first drop against top riders I wrote off even an outside chance. I like all others had underestimated the power of the “Green Bomber.”
Green Bomber Eliminates Athletes at Six Meter Cascade Boil Pass While, Greenbaum patiently cruised and saved energy during the first drops he had a charge plan for Demshitzlers and Palguin domination. Athletes were directed to take the right cascade. Meaning they would have to either travel a round about circle against a wall, try to go behind the veil of the left cascade, or cross the giant boil of the left cascade. Earlier I watched with New River Academy rider Tino Specht several athletes frustratingly miss the boil pass at the 6 m drop. Athletes would sprint to the middle of the boil to only barely be pushed back as riders taking the long route around the boil passed along the wall. Specht wrote off the line for his strategy and would later comment, “I was in front of Jake and watched him paddle right over the boil next to the waterfall to pass me. There was nothing I could do… he cinched our heat with that move.” The Green Bomber had successfully eliminated another top contender.
Greenbaum stated at press conference, “I kind of just relaxed through the drops, made sure I stuck my lines, stayed close to the leaders, and went for the pass on the third drop.”
While, other athletes continually missed the line the Green Bomber would make the pass each heat to secure the international championship title. And what boat was Greenbaum paddling? Greenbaum used a Liquid Logic Remix 69 donated for the day by Pucón Kayak Hostel. New River Academy is proud to announce the past two Palguin race champions have been Huge Experiences’ alumni. Congratulations Jake Greenbaum and Keegan Grady for illustrating your skills and the quality kayak program of New River Academy.
For your Pucón kayaking adventure your invited to the warm hospitality of the Pucón Kayak Hostel. PuconKayakHostel.com