Photos & reports by Steve Moore, Aaron Kendall, Armando Castro, and Chris Macdonald
EDITOR’S DESK: Magic, amazing, coolest, best, friends, party, Champions Killer. These words appear over and over when you ask about Sickline. Hosted by Adidas last month in Oetz, Austria, this event is the premier kayaking race in Europe, and perhaps the world, bringing together some of the top paddlers from around the globe to compete and enjoy the camaraderie of our unique community.
We asked four Dirt Bag Paddlers Admins to give us a snapshot of what the rest of us are missing. For family men Steve Moore and Armando Ormset Castro, this was a return to a much beloved event (in fact, Steve was a featured DJ at dance party! And we dirt bags are KNOWN to enjoy a good dance party…) and wondrous valley in the Tyrolean mountains. For youngsters Aaron Kendall and Chris Macdonald, this was their first event in what will surely be a yearly pilgrimage. We hope you enjoy the photos, videos, and reports, and make your plans to make it to Sickline next year! Cheers!!
“After a week on the course and enjoying off piste adventures, it all comes down to submitting your BA and helmet for checks, strapping on the Adidas wristband, and collecting your goodie bag which also included lunch vouchers for the event. Everyone has a bib and the start times are published for the mandatory run and qualification run 1 & 2. The atmosphere is tense; the racers line the course from the eddy all the way up the steps to the viewing platforms. Time is not something you have a lot of as you launch into the eddy, splash some chilly Austrian water on your face, then make eye contact with the starting Marshal… It feels like slow motion as he shouts “GO!” All your surroundings drop a level, your focus is now on your line and heading to the lip of CHAMPIONS Killer before the sprint down to the finishing line…
Steve on the course
THE DRAW OF OETZ
This is the one thing that is so hard to put your finger on, as so many factors contribute to what keeps pulling people back to this magical valley and event. One is the actual valley itself, with stunning scenery enjoyed on a trip up on the cable car, to taking the hike to a lake nestled in the mountains. Area 47 is the most awesome adventure playground for the adrenaline junkie.
This event is growing and selling out earlier and earlier each year. It is not just a race, it is an event with friends far and wide in a magical playground called Oetz which holds a special place in the hearts of many.”
~Steve Deecee Moore, DBP-UK Admin
Steve on the mic with Dane Who?
CHECK OUT THE CHAMPIONS PARTY
CHECK OUT A RUN DOWN THE COURSE HERE
“So what is Sickline? It’s an extreme river race open to anybody capable of Class 4/5 willing to go against some of the best professional race paddlers in the world.
So what is the huge hype about Sickline? When I spoke about going to this international event it seemed like everyone had a opinion. To me it seemed like if you had been there before it was the best event ever hosted in paddle-sports history. If not, it was a fixed half botch sexist set up with a silly amount of politics. I had to go to find out for myself.
After hanging around the small ski town of Otztal for a few days I learnt things were very different from how I imagined. It had the feeling of a ‘People’s’ Event’, very different to the rumours I’d heard before leaving the UK. It’s not a setup that seems to favour the elite, or a free life for the up and coming paddlers. Once you’re past the sign up session, you’re a competing racing athlete on the same level as every other male or female in the competition. It’s a very bizarre but special feeling to be involved with the whole Sickline event.
The next point I want to make is not about how the event is run, the structure of the event or even my own personal performance. It’s all about the people who were involved. I’m talking about elite athletes and part time paddlers all in the same place, racing, relaxing and partying.
If we compare it to the other end of the scale, look at football stars. As a big football fan, I was expecting my kayak idols and inspirations to be like the ones I watch play football for my team. Like untouchable gods. Unapproachable by all fans minus the odd few who get invited close but for a few seconds then sent away. I was expecting the big deal paddlers to be like this, seen from a distance but not spoken to! And definitely not to speak, help and encourage a dirt bag trying his hand in a ‘Big Deals’ race.
Sickline is where I found out that the kayaking world is so different. The big deals are just dirt bags like the rest of us. They are happy to chat and have banter. Laugh with you when you mess up and compliment when you do well. They are not just to be looked at from a distance. They are there with you on the river giving tips and just all round showing an immense display of the Dirt Bag ethos, the One Love One River way of life. I did not see one case of arrogance or looking down on any person during the event.
Aaron won the party!
This is what I learnt the most from the whole Sickline event. We are all the same. We are all paddlers who love the same thing and aspire to be the best we can be on the river. I really hope as paddling grows, showcased more and more on international media, that it stays like this, and as our people become more exposed and idolised the level of modesty and humbleness stay as they are at the top level. Keep the One Love One River Philosophy coming through!”
~Aaron Kendall DBP-UK Admin
“Going to Austria is always a pleasure. When it is time to go, sitting in your kayak to race 147 other people in one of the biggest events in the world… It is real magic! I recommend to everyone that enjoys whitewater and adventure to make it there one day.
This event grows even more every year. This year there were more than 20 people in the waiting line ready to compete if someone couldn’t. The people you meet at this type of event are some of the best in the world, from sick slalom paddlers to the kings of whitewater kayaking, and we get the chance to hang out with all of these people and see who they are as a person. You make new friends and hang out and have fun with your old ones.
The accommodations around the Tyrol area are super too, with some of the coolest mountain houses I have ever stayed at, filled with dirt bags from all over the world, with world class facilities. All needs are met, and the food is amazing, from Italian cooking to some of the most tasty Tyrolean dishes… sooo goood!
Racing here is very challenging. You gotta run Champions Killer -1 followed by Champions Killer (this is the easy task!) in the qualification run, then you got about 600 meters of boogie water. That is super hard to keep up a good pace with clean lines and all the nerves going.
The river, even though was low this year, was a lot of fun in the upper section, with some of the coolest boofs and moves around. Go to Sickline everyone, and let me know so we can party together
~Armando Ormset Castro, DBP Admin from Costa Rica and Norway.
“When I was ten, after just a few weeks of kayaking, I found out about Sickline. I made it my life goal and childhood dream to compete. As years went on I got better and better at paddling but hit a point where I wasn’t really improving much. Then in April this year my good mates Gary and Bazza organised a trip for me down the River Lune and Kent. This was actually my first time paddling a proper whitewater river in a modern creek boat. Since that day went really well, (meaning I stayed in my boat) I decided to consider actually entering Sickline. Up to this point I had thought of it as one of those childhood dreams that don’t come true. I asked around and most of my mates thought it was a good idea, so I entered.
Now I knew I had work to do. Being a student in Cornwall without a car made it nearly impossible for me to paddle grade 4/5 rivers. I was starting to feel like entering was a bad idea. But then the summer holidays began, and before I went on my adventure around Vancouver and Alaska, I bought a Waka Tuna 2 and ran the Upper Tees in high water and Aysgarth Falls in low water. Both of these went really well.
Going into September and a new year at Cornwall, I knew I still had work to do. So I decided to fly to Scotland to paddle for a weekend. I paddled the River Moriston and the River Orchy with George, Geoff, Luke and Trev. I had an amazing, successful weekend. Many thanks to all the people and companies that helped me out with kit and boats that weekend.
Now I was feeling more ready for Sickline. A week before I left for Oetz to compete I also completed a really well run whitewater safety and rescue course put on by Chucky Davison at Good2Go. After all this preparation I was feeling a mix between excitement and nervousness, but it was time!
After traveling for a total of 24 hours in a cramped car, I jumped on the river that same day and paddled the famous Wellebruke Rapids. I did a few laps on the qualification course and then decided to paddle the finals course. All was going well, and then entering the TNT section I made a mistake, crashing into rocks. One thing lead to another – WALLACE! I ended up running the end of TNT upside down and swimming Champions Killer -1. Thankfully I managed to get to the side before Champions Killer. Although I was lucky enough to escape any injury, I was quite shaken up. I decided to jump straight back on the qualification course, and laid down my best run so far, boosting my confidence. For my own safety, and knowing I wouldn’t qualify for the finals anyway, I stayed off the finals course and focused on the qualification course.
After a few days training and having the best days paddling I’ve ever had, race day was here. My training run was the best I had all week, but the first time qualification run went all wrong. After getting the perfect line through -1, Champions Killer and the Exit Slot, I let my guard down – WALLACE! – and swam on the “easy bit.” I was truly heartbroken. It was so embarrassing swimming on a grade 3 section knowing that I have run grade 5 successfully before this. But I learnt my lesson the hard way; in the heat of the moment during the first official run nerves got the better of me.
However I picked myself up, got my shit together, and calmed down. I slowed my second run down and made sure I finished. I did! I was so happy I started celebrating before the end. Haha. My final result was 146/147. I had honestly never felt so happy in my life! I had survived, laid down a valid run and somehow I didn’t finish last. Some people might say second to last is crap but they’re haters; I’ve learnt to ignore them or even take their hate and use it as motivation. Before the event, during the event, and even afterwards, I was criticised for entering, for in their opinion I wasn’t good enough. Well to all those people who said that stuff, I couldn’t give a crap. Sickline was the best experience I’ve ever had in a kayak! I learnt so much, pushed myself, and loved every second of it.
I would just like to thank the following people, without them Sickline would’ve never happened for me. Everyone I know has helped me somehow but these are special. St David’s College Outdoor Education Department for getting me into kayaking. Bazza and Gary for taking me down some proper whitewater. George and Geoff for making wet west possible for me. Stu Morris for making VE Paddles, best money can buy. Rob Softley for teaching me basic whitewater skills back in the day of slalom. Everyone at Sickline, my paddling buddies, the safety team and the organisers, especially Anton for driving me out there. And thanks Waka Kayaks for making the best creek boat EVER!!! Also I would like to thank my wonderful girlfriend Demi for being so supportive. Kayaking is as much mental as physical. So shoutout to her!
Sickline was AMAZING.”
~Chris Macdonald DBP-UK Admin
DBP CONGRATULATES WINNERS ANIOL SERRASOLSES & SANDRA HYSLOP, AND SALUTES ALL THE COMPETITORS! FOR MORE INFO ON ADIDAS SICKLINE: