Piteälven – Euro Cup Boater Cross Event


The following morning I woke up and the tent was very warm. I thought I had woken up at home but no, I was still in sunny Sweden. The boys wanted to paddle the creeking delta again so I thought I might as well join them. I had initially planned on taking it easy but the day before had gone well so I thought, what the hell, what could possibly go wrong.

After breakfast Tuomas, Jussi and I went to the put-in and started paddling. With the knowledge I had gained the following day we just ran all the drops without scouting. The first major rapid went down without a hitch. We navigated a few others and I wondered when the biggest one would come up. Because we were paddling right behind each other and just having a blast I hadn’t noticed that we had entered the big one already but from the river right bank. All of a sudden I didn’t know this section at all and it was quite a rush. Luckily I managed just fine and it was great to be paddling like that. The painkillers had obviously done their job.


The end of the largest of the rapids.


Right below the biggest rapid and also the 'auto-boof'. This was also the starting point for the boater cross...


The typical scenery around the area.


An unknown group of Swedish paddlers running the right channel of the biggest rapid.


One of the memebers of the same group finishing off the rapid on the trickier left side.


Trouble for Juho Niskanen on the biggest rapid. He recovered damn fast and still styled the line...


Some paddlers trying out the right channel that misses the 'auto-boof'.


Another channel to the right of the 'auto-boof' run!


The 'auto-boof' on the right (river left) and an alternate channel on the left.


The famous and fun to run 'auto-boof'. You can see the people in the background walking back up for another run, again and again.


A good view upstream into the creeking delta. There is fun to be had on every line!


I followed that same group down all the way to the end running the final slide. Their slow speed being attributed to them carefully scouting all the rapids in preparation for the team event.


Sami cruising down the huge final slide.



We ran the ‘auto-boof’ on the ‘auto’ part and had sweet lines. Shortly after this is a sticky hole with an undercut rock on the right. I was having such a great run that maybe I got a little relaxed and I messed it up. The hole caught me and I got side surfed. After a few short seconds I decided to just bail out. So while surfing I grabbed the deck and pulled and leant upstream. I got out and swam frantically to the bank nearly going down another small slide into another hole. My boat went down and took a bit of a beating. The front grab handle came out slightly bent. All was well otherwise and I climbed back into the boat somewhat more sobered and alert.


The rest of the run went along just fine and we ran the big slide again one after another. Then the final hole caught me out a little this time. I flipped and rolled up in the back wash but luckily it didn’t get me, another close call. Phew.


We lazed around camp for a little while and then the boys wanted to paddle again. This time I would stick to my plan of taking it very easy and resting and decided to chill. I slept that afternoon for a couple of hours and then went off on a hike alone. In the creeking delta I managed to get some more photos of some paddlers and explored the section we had run from the bank.


That evening we had some traditional Finnish sausages and I ate these several times during the trip. With a bit of mustard they are really good. Eventually I went to bed quite late and off to dream land.


The next morning it was the same story. Nice and hot in the tent. The only downside is that there wasn’t any shade if you wanted a river side camp spot and it could get quite warm during the day. Not half as hot as South Africa but judging by the expressions on some of the people’s faces it was rather hot for them. The only saving grace was a slight wind that would sometimes blow and this warded off the mosquitoes too!


The starting line. Satu (right, #3). Tuomas Kuronen (#41) also visible.


Jussi easily punching the hole and his no challenge for this powerful Finnish paddler. This was the only worthwhile obstacle on the course. It looks far worse in this picture which is usually the opposite of what happens with photos.


Samuli Suokko (#5) followed closely by Juho Niskanen in the red boat.


Samuli still in the lead as he enters the hole before the buoy.


Juho just taking Samuli on the inside! Both paddlers showing good form in this photo.


Satu (right) with Deb Pinniger paddling hard just behind in the red boat.


Satu Vänskä-Westgarth entering the hole.


Deb taking the inside line on the buoy. The same happened to Samuli in the previous set of photos. So I guess the extreme race turned out to be more a test of slalom skills than anything else.   :-) Technically quite tricky.


An unknown paddler running through the course nicely.


The boater cross event was on the cards so I got some food into the system, packed in some water, readied the camera and took a walk upstream. There were plenty of other people making the pilgrimage and at some stage I passed an abandoned generator. Obviously the people carrying it had given up after walking a while. The course was still a mystery to all of us and I was eager to see what they had chosen. The course started below the ‘auto-boof’ which is right below the biggest rapid and then turned right and then left through some really easy water. Then down through a hole that was interesting but not retentive at all and nothing to write home about. It has a left to right exit. About five or six metres after the hole they placed a buoy in the eddy but almost on the eddy line. Competitors were supposed to paddle around from the left and then continue down for roughly another thirty metres to the finish line.


In my honest and humble opinion I thought this course was sub-standard. No doubt about it. The other boaters I spoke to felt the same way as did the more knowledgeable spectators. I’m not certain if anything has been said elsewhere but I think it’s only fair to give what I think is some constructive criticism. There were some great rapids where the contest could have been held and yet they did not use them. The two other extreme races that I attended here in South Africa had far better courses and more challenging rapids. Maybe they should make a vote and see what other people have to say. I hope this doesn't offend anyone and can at least can be used postively.


Apart from the course there was fierce competition on the water and at least a little bit of action. There weren’t many spectators but the majority of them were stationed around the buoy near the end. I got a couple of photos and enjoyed the spectacle none the less. There were the senior and junior men as well as a senior ladies category. Everyone paddled with a lot of gusto and I think a good time was had by all.


Ingrid Schlott far ahead of this group and she won the senior woman's event too!


Some other guys battling it out with the spectators eager to get a closer look.


Ingrid (top) running a very tight line against another lady. An aggressive and impressive show from the ladies.


Deb looking relaxed as she goes through the final hole.


Miku (left) fighting to get ahead of his Swedish competitor.


The spectators packing up after the event and taking a walk back to the camp. There are no roads up here so everything surrounding the event had to be carried up making it a little more challenging.


The results are fairly unimportant at this stage seeing as though they were published on various other sites and the competition was quite some time ago. What I do know is that Finnish paddler Tuomas Kuronen won the senior men’s and Ingrid Schlott from Germany winning the senior woman’s event; a fine show from the both of them and indeed all of the other competitors. It was Kuronen’s first international victory and he seemed very excited when I spoke to him afterwards. Usually he is a rather serious and quiet character. Finding a 13th overall spot at this years world champs in freestyle in Canada meant he would be a serious contender in the freestyle competition too.


I took some more photos of the people paddling down and also witnessed a good beating from some unfortunate female paddler in an interesting hole. But she held fast and eventually got out. My respect!


Sami next to the sticky hole where I swam out of the previous day! hehe. Note the undercut rock on the right.


A closer look at the rock. They tell me that this rock was one of the reasons why they didn't want to hold the course through here... Oh well. They could have held it upstream from the top of the biggest rapid to below the 'auto-boof'. A nice short 100 metre section ending in style!


A look downstream again from the same point. Another larger hole can be seen in the distance. This one is quite easy to punch though.


Samuli waiting to make sure the others were getting down safely.


Samuli easily clearing the back wash of this hole in the normal fine style he displays in his paddling.


A lady not being as lucky. But my hat off to her as she eventually got out after a long struggle. Nice one!


Samuli Suokko trying to melt the final hole. He got beaten but held on and eventually got out...


Samuli had to try again to melt the hole. He can easily punch it but the challenge was to see if this hole could be melted.


Satu opting for a different line.


Again he could not melt it but exited without swimming, after receiving another working.


How's this dude??? If you haven't seen it already, he has no spray deck!! hahahaha.


Another view on the hole just above the hang bridge. It may not look like it but there is a LOT of water going through there.


Another melt, another beating, another day for Samuli. Conclusion: this hole is extremely difficult to melt and just punching through or boofing it works a lot better. Some people just have this sick fascination with big holes...


For about two hours I chilled at the play wave downstream and took some great photos of the guys. Peter Csonka, Mikael Lantto and Jon Best were really pulling the moves and I couldn’t wait for the freestyle event to see who would win. Luckily there was a lot of light still and the pictures came out really nicely. You’ll have to wait for the article after the next one for the photos. 


Back at camp I chilled in my tent and read the Norwegian whitewater guide book by Jens Klatt. Eventually Mikael came to visit and said I should hit the tent sauna. This was something new so I joined in one time. Ah, what a pleasure to enjoy a fine sauna in the middle of no where. Now if you’re wondering what the hell a tent sauna is, let me explain. Basically you have a small stainless stove with a chimney coming out the back and up through the tent. There is a metal ring sewn into the tent to stop the tent fabric from melting. Then there is obviously a fire inside of the stove which you need to keep stoked for about 3 hours or so while the rocks, which are in a separate compartment on top of the fire inside, get heated up! Then all you do I climb into some underwear, (as this is an ‘international’ sauna most people didn’t go in naked until the booze was flowing heavily) grab a beer or some other alcoholic beverage and then you sit or stand inside and enjoy the heat while talking non-sense with your mates.


Then of course when this gets too boring you can always do some traditional Finnish spanking. Spanking?! Yes! Take some branches off of a birch tree and strip off some bark to wrap up the small branches. They must still have lots of leaves on etc. Then dip them in the water and let them heat up on the coals. Then you whip yourself all over. Kinky isn’t it? This really improves blood circulation and makes your skin feel great. Of course after a few a beers you can whip each other and the effect increases exponentially in relation to the alcohol consumed…


Looking back onto the camp from the river. It is broad and slow moving here before it drops down to the Palt Wave a few hundred metres downstream. What more could you ask for in a camp? Dancing girls? :-)


At some stage Peter Nilsson (aka Pekka) came in to visit us with a mate of his. They were well on their way and dangerously passed around a half empty bottle of whisky inside of the sauna. Later on that night he would strain or break or do something to his ankle and this would slow him down, just a little! With a nice moon boot on his leg he still had to commentate for the freestyle competition. For about two hours I sat in the sauna only coming out twice to briefly cool down in the river. This was the life - a beer in hand, a sauna nearby and nothing else to do but relax. After about four or five beers I went to bed at around 01:30 but first grilled some sausages before climbing into bed. Overall a pretty good day for all.




     H20 PADDLES


Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Piteälven, Sweden. Team Boater Cross Event.