Sjoa – Åsengjuvet section, the Play Run and Åmot Gorge

We awoke to another day in Norway. The sun was playing hide and go seek with us but it looked like a splendid day lay ahead. Tuomas said we would paddle the well known Åsengjuvet section. This section is about 14 km in length and consists class III and IV continuous water. It has been described as the Zambezi without pools at high water and the good news is that most of the holes will not keep you. With that in mind I was feeling a little nervous beforehand.


We left Jussi’s car at the take-out bridge and he drove up with us to the put-in. He then left us there and drove back to get his car again as he still needed to hit the library in Otta where the internet access is free between certain times – there’s a tip for you. The section above us has some mean class V and VI rapids and should be left to the pros, especially with high water. We were blessed once again with fairly high water but this section was still fine with loads of water. Not overly wild like some of the other rivers.


I pushed off onto the Sjoa. The infamous Sjoa is probably Norway’s most well known river and you cannot go to Norway without paddling it. It would be a crime not to! The water is not too cold and runs throughout the season. I was using my H20-Team paddle again but after a few rapids decided that this paddle was just not working for me at all. It’s an awesome paddle when you’re in a play boat but just didn’t work for me in the creek boat at all. I felt I had too little power and couldn’t go exactly where I wanted to go. Some people like to paddle with a smaller blade but I like a bigger, more powerful blade like the H20-2 that I had and in the creek boat I was battling a little.


The Åsengjuvet is a great section and winds through a spectacular little canyon. With only Tuomas and me on the river we just bombed down all the rapids without any stopping or hassles. It is such a pleasure paddling with only one other person. That’s just my personal opinion though. We swapped the lead from time to time and just cruised on down. There are no pools on the section and the river drops a little, then it eases off, then drops again as the rapids charge blindly around the next corner. There are a few large holes and bad pourovers and you need to be alert otherwise you will be rudely awoken in a flash.


On one of the many right hand bends is a particularly bad spot that has claimed the lives of several people, particularly rafters. Luckily Tuomas remembered exactly where it is and we quickly got out to scout this bad boy from the river right bank. The line was on the far right and very easy. Basically you go through a hole known as Bus Hole and then about 20 metres downstream is the worst pourover I have ever seen in my entire life. This is known as ‘The Gut’ and also as ‘Johnnies Rest’. The rock that forms the pourover is totally exposed at lower levels but at these levels it was working the pourover to full effect. It is also backed up by some rocks just downstream and has a suck back measured in several metres! The pourover is very uniform and if you go in there, you will get beaten. Once you swim you may be recycled until you die. Be warned. About two months after Tuomas and I did that section two more people where killed. Take the chicken line on the right or portage if you’re not confident in your skills. Assuming you manage to get out, which could take a while, you may drown in the rapid that follows as it too has some bad holes. Being weak from a beating in a hole and then swimming into a big and long rapid can be bad news.


What happens with rafters is that they flip in Bus Hole and then swim into The Gut. Jeepers, that’s depressing! Stick to a kayak on this section and avoid the spot. If you don’t know the section then be very cautious. I can promise you now you will not see the danger until it is too late. There was a small wave/hole thing on the lip of the pourover and the view from the boat blocks your view downstream. When in doubt, stay right.


The rapid immediately downstream of The Gut is a big one and we narrowly missed being creamed in at least two big holes. To bank scout the bigger rapids would be incredibly time consuming and not as satisfying…


Tuomas staring in horror at The Gut which has already claimed a number of lives. Keep your eyes peeled or go with someone who knows the section!


The rapid downstream of The Gut as it drops and disappears around the corner.


A last look at The Gut / Johnnies Rest. My condolences to all those that have lost anyone to this horrible manifestation.


Tuomas on the last very easy stretch to the bridge. Pity I didn't take more photos on this awesome stretch!


All too soon the river eased off on the gradient and we were almost at the end. I got ahead of Tuomas and took one photo of him in some very easy wave trains where the river is broad and lazy. I only got some pictures at The Gut and nowhere else. What a shame. Sometimes the nature of the river just doesn’t necessitate it to be scouted and then you never get to take any cool photos unless you consciously are aware of it. All of a sudden you are at the end and you are left still thinking of finding a good spot to get a picture and then it’s too late.

The car was as Jussi had left it and Tuomas and I drove a little further downstream to the play section. But first we had a bite to eat at the camp and then made our way back up the road, taking the play boats this time. The play run is a really easy and fun section. 6km of class III and IV but much easier than the Åsengjuvet section. There are some pools of fast flowing water and allows one to just drift to catch your breath between the action. We had a fun little session at Jürgens Wave and I took some sweet photos of Tuomas as well as of Deb Pinniger and Simon Westgarth who seemed to be instructing her. You’ve got to be reasonably quick to make the eddy on river right again and if you flip and roll too late then you miss it. Luckily you can walk up on river left again and drop in on the wave. A few hundred metres downstream is the infamous Faukstad Wave and also a small but sticky hole where you can do some moves. The take-out is another three hundred or so metres downstream.


Tuomas on Jürgens wave - play section.


Jürgens wave - play section.


Deb Pinniger on Jürgens wave.


A calm section on the play run with my boat and killer Pelican 1300 showing itself.


Another small horizon line on the lekker play section!


The day went well all in all. My shoulder was very sore from the day but some strong rum would help to dull the pain, at least for while. Tuomas and I had a few beers and then Jussi and Colin came down to our camp. The plan was that we would head up to the bar and Colin would be our dedicated driver. Because beers are so expensive in Norway we decided to help our desperate situation with the aid of some Stroh Rum. Ah, that is great stuff. This one was only the 60% version and not the 80% one we get in South Africa. Tuomas got it from a mate who visited Austria and there are restrictions to flying with alcohol with high percentages. It’s one of my favourite drinks to mix the Stroh 80 with a red Grapetiser. The nice rum taste is really strong and about four or five doubles are usually enough for a good time, until the next day that is. Usually one seems to end up drinking beers and various other things too and this doesn’t help the situation.

The Stroh Rum had an incredible effect and I can highly recommend it for medicinal purposes. It seems to heal the body and mind! Soon we were ready to head to the bar and Tuomas, Jussi and I were on our way already. It was the weirdest thing going out at night and midnight came and went and it never got dark. Eventually it got lighter and I met up with Tuomas again who was well oiled at that stage. We headed for the hot tub and jumped in. There was a stainless steel box, underwater, with a fire inside with a chimney coming up and heating the water in turn. I threw in more wood inside of the box as the already ‘drowsy’ people inside were not aware of the wood situation. What a splendid idea to have a heated tub overlooking the Sjoa River valley. It was so good to just sit and talk nonsense and enjoy the early hours of the morning.

Eventually at around three in the morning Colin came to fetch us and off we went back to camp. Sleep came super fast and we both had a great nights rest. Except for Tuomas disappeared at some stage in the night… The following morning we staggered out of the tent feeling pretty rough. The wonderful qualities of the rum and beer which we consumed were now no longer there. I had the strong feeling that the paddling would be far rougher that day.

Later in the afternoon we hooked up with a friend of Tuomas’, Petteri Kuuskoski and his seven year old son, Lauri. They would be paddling together in an Eskimo Topo Duo. We drove up to where Jussi and Colin were staying and got Jussi out of bed. He looked as bad as we felt. The play section was on the cards again and I took the trusty Flip Stick and the four of us drove to the put-in. Petteri and Lauri make an excellent team on the river and they managed everything with absolute ease. They even managed a radical front surf on Jürgens Wave. With Lauri up front his section of the boat was clear in the air. The wave was busier this time and also a little better than the previous day. We had a few surfs and then moved on to the play hole below the Faukstad Wave. Tuomas managed a few good runs and then went to a loop, messed it up and it beat him properly. Quite a sticky bugger that one!


Local traffic in the Sjoa River Valley.


The bridge at our camp site.


Chocolate Canyon on the play run.


Tuomas messing around for the camera in the most styling surroundings.


Tuomas leaving me on the rocks in the Chocolate Canyon.


Petteri and his son Lauri doing damn well on Jürgens wave! The two make a formidable team.





Tuomas in a small but very powerful hole right below the Faukstad wave. The picture above shows the same hole. The river looks a lot smaller without a paddler being present.


Feeling still very hung over we returned to camp and started to relax. They said the Åmot Gorge was an excellent afternoon and that I had to do it. A short roughly 2km section of pushy class IV rapids. Some say the rapids are V- but that’s probably pushing it. Petteri would paddle this one without Lauri in his Nomad and Tuomas, Jussi and Colin joined us. They all seemed very excited about the run and this made me fairly nervous.

We got in and the river started off pretty fast. Within a very short distance we had arrived at an interesting rapid with a big wave/hole known as Washing Machine. Something similar to Oblivion (#18) on the Zambezi. Colin tried to shout across the water to explain the line quickly to me as we sped off towards the drop but it didn’t help much. He went ahead and I hung back a few seconds. I peered down the face and into the pit and saw that the foam pile was working both Jussi and Colin already. Lovely stuff I thought to myself. There was no where for me to go and I charged ahead, getting a chest full of Colin’s boat and joining them in Washing Machine. What an unsettling feeling to be getting worked in a big creek boat in a fast and violent wave/hole. After a few seconds I managed to flush and rolled up. The adrenalin was surging through my body and the pain in my shoulder was temporarily forgotten. The guys were having the time of their lives and laughing about it but I was fairly unsettled to be quite honest. Petteri is an amazing paddler and he will put 99% of paddlers half his age to shame. Not bad when you consider he’s probably in his forties!

We went past the slalom course which had some big waves and holes and then carried on. This is where we came to the infamous S-Bend rapid. To shout instructions to someone across the water about the line doesn’t really help too much. Because they had run it many, many times it wasn’t a problem for them. Scouting for me would have been a very good idea. Some of the rapids are only about ten metres broad and drop and twist as they go down. When something like one hundred and fifty or more cumecs come roaring through it provides the experienced boater with a good time. I was having a really bad day that day. A bad hang over with a bust shoulder and ever decreasing confidence levels made the Åmot even worse. I really crapped myself that day and I’m not afraid to admit it. Maybe on another day it would have been better. I just missed going into the undercut rock on S-Bend and by then I was shaking properly, once I had rolled, again. When we got to the section where they run the boater cross event I got out to scout the first narrow section but everyone else just ran the entire stretch and disappeared. Not exactly the ideal way to run rapids. I portaged that whole section and only ran the last drop, on my own. So much for paddling in a group.


Åmot looking upstream from the bridge just before the boater cross section.


Looking downstream from the bridge towards the start of the boater cross section.


The last stretch of the Åmot where the boater cross is held and was cancelled this year due to high water!


Boater cross section. Pity I never got any photos of the massive Washing Machine or dodgy S-Bend rapid upstream!!!


The second last section of the boater cross. Only one more, bigger drop awaits.


I guess we all have our bad days and I had had a number in a row now. That day through the Åmot Gorge was one I will never forget, that’s for sure. Not exactly in a good way but it was an interesting experience none the less. It was without a doubt a very humbling experience for me. When the water is much higher only the very skilled and experienced tackle this gorge and I can now see why. A good afternoon run once you know what it’s all about though.

That night I did my first load of washing. I sat around in the wash room alone and just waited. Eventually I went to bed just before two in the morning and felt utterly exhausted. At least the next day I would be able to visit the local kayak shop and then we would take a long drive back to Sweden for the Euro Cup.


That day I finally made it to the Strie Strømmer kayak shop and was helped by the friendly Kay-Arne. (click here to visit). What a lovely little shop to go and spend some hard earned bucks. I parted with only a few Krone surprisingly and bought myself a new Sweet Rocker, the full cut in a cool blue limited edition colour. I also bought some new wrists and neck gaskets, that book by Jens Klatt on Norway and a Sweet beanie. I couldn’t resist the beanie - for about R400 though! Crazy, yes. Worth it? Of course!!! Go and visit his shop, you won't be disappointed...


Some drop in Norway that we checked out.


The last rapid of the Gaustaälven with a huge hole underneath the bridge.


Jussi sitting next to our camp fire next to the Gaustaälven. This spot had THE WORST insects, EVER!


The following morning we got up, packed up and picked up Jussi. The three of us took a very long drive up north back to Sweden. Eventually, after driving the entire day we arrived at the fabled Gaustaälven. We made camp here and immediately were attacked by the most annoying little midges ever. These bastards had no respect for ‘Off’ and no matter how much we rolled onto our desperate skins, these buggers would just, well, bug you! After dinner we climbed into the tents and drifted off. Here we were safe from the mozzies and annoying midges and also some type of a horse fly which decided to make the car their home. Luckily they are very chilled and don’t attack like the ones in South Africa. A good nights rest followed after that long day in the car and I dreamed of better paddling to come…





Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Piteälven - creeking delta (Sweden - the warm up to Euro Cup)