DBP’s UK QUEEN ~ Wendy Welch-Smith’s amazing paddling & partying WorldTour 2014

We asked DBP-UK Admin Wendy Welch-Smith, a kayaker who definitely lives the ethos of Dirtbaggin’ to the UTMOST, to share with us some snapshots, both written and visual, of her amazing year! Every time we’d check in with her she was off on another epic mission! Wendy’s got the moves and the looks of a true Queen, and an appetite for the party to match! Cheers!

CORSICA ~ April. 
“Corsica kicks off spring European boating with low volume, steep creeking at it’s finest. Mediterranean sunshine, steep mountains and snow melt are a cocktail for technical and challenging Class IV and V runs on this beautiful Mediterranean island. Committing steep boulder runs with fun slides and drops require you to have a long neck or be athletic with your jumping out the boat to scout. Simply because it’s so steep with big boulders blocking your view, you can’t see what’s coming up. You gotta be fit, as the runs can take all day and there are some Class VI portages where you find yourself scaling up rock faces, winching kit, doing Spiderman impressions. If you’re lucky to get a sunny week you will have optimal levels, and a paddlers tan! Hurry though, the snow melts early in April due to the Mediterranean climate. Kayak Session Magazine holds a river festival bringing boaters together for the usual shenanigans.”

ITALY ~ Valsesia ~ May
“Alpine steep creeking in the Piemonte region of the Northern Italian Alps? VS is the sort of destination you can repeat year after year. The Sesia runs through the region and has many steep tributaries creating a creeking Mecca all in close proximity. You can go as steep as you like, just hike higher up the tribs to find amazing slides and drops. VS has it all. The Sesia itself is an alpine roller coaster. Gene 17 hosts the popular VS River Festival in May on the race course section of the river, a fast and technical run. Paddling maps and guide books ensure you spend all your time boating and no time faffing! Pizza, red wine and partying fills your nights at Campertogno campsite on the Sesia.”

FRANCE ~ French Alps ~ June/July. 
“THIS is classic alpine paddling at it’s best. Fast icy runoff from the snow pack high up in the peaks starts the season with a bang in June, and continues through July depending on the amount of snow and temperature. Some rivers are glacial fed and then of course you have rain too. There is something for everyone, often the chosen “first time abroad” paddling destination. Don’t be fooled though. France has awesome rivers to challenge anyone: Alpine conveyor belts, committing gorges, park and huck, play spots. The Pyranha boys stop by in June and there’s always a party going down at the Argentiere camp site at the slalom course on the Durance.”

AUSTRIA, GERMANY & SWITZERLAND ~ July/August 
“Austria spells big volume alpine boating European style, and beer! Sport camp Tirol is the hub of kayaking in this region where the Sanna is the signature river. The holes on these bigger volume  rivers mean business. There’s a river for everyone and you can step up as the week goes on, hitting the gorges and steeper stuff. It’s easy to get to rivers in neighbouring Switzerland as the river Inn runs through both countries.  Bavaria also has some nice runs with slightly lower volume characteristics, and is only a day trip away. Austria hosts the Sickline world extreme kayaking championships on the Oetz at Wellerbruck. Austrians love a beer and a bit of banter!”

“So that wraps up my European tour; if 6 countries weren’t enough, I had to pay a visit to South America for a bit of sweaty jungle boating in Ecuador!”

ECUADOR ~ December
“Put all the rivers together from Europe, add some more volume, warm water, jungle rain, Equatorial sun and wildlife and you have 2 weeks of blissful boating. Big V’s, big holes, big waves, technical and fun sums up the Quijos. What’s great is you have a variety of different style rivers.  Steeper lower volume stuff like the Otakachi, technical boulder gardens such as the upper Missahauli, steeper runs like the Cosanga and upper Jondachi. It’s all there, it’s quality boating but beware.. There’s gossip that the damming project may get out of hand. The Upper Jondachi is under threat. Get there soon and in the meantime, support us to stop the damming of this gem of a river!” For more info about The upcoming Jondachi Fest, January 16-18 2015 ,which will highlight the battle to save this river, go to www.ecuadorianrivers.org or their Facebook page www.facebook.com/jondachifest

ENGLAND ~ December
Wendy finishes: “I’m off to run some UK rivers. Yes, when it’s raining and miserable in the UK winter months, there is phenomenal boating to be had.  The last pic is me Dirtbagging the Swale 20footer in Yorkshire, England. Come join me some time. ?”
GOOD ON YA, WENDY! If you’re not charging full steam like this Queen, you might consider starting in 2015. Life is short, Dirtbag HARD. 
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