Written By Fran Kohn
So after the obligatory long drive, multiple fried breakfasts and dodgy ‘value’ French confectionary, we arrived at our destination of Hawaii Sur Rhone for an Introduction to Big Wave Paddling course with Lowri Davies from FlowFree.
We arrived late in the evening but were keen to see what we had come for, so we went straight to see the wave. In the dark the most noticable thing was the never ending thundering and crashing as about 900 cumecs raced past us, just 10 feet away. In the glow of the street lamps it looked big, fast and exciting and we were all fired up for the next day.
While the clients went back to the comfort of a nearby hotel, Lowri and her Trainee coach (me) bunked down in the luxury of her camper-van.
The next day Lowri talked through where we wanted to catch the wave – ‘the sweet spot in the middle just on the surfers left shoulder of the pile’. We started with a straight forward run through the wave to get our up stream markers worked out, because the massive horizon line obscures your view of exactly where you are on the wave. As we ferryed out it became clear just how big this river was!! On the lip of the drop the surge of adrenaline pumping through your veins is unbelieveable as you are confronted by a river wide 10ft wall of water! We all punched through it shouting variations of “hell yeah” and then fought our way to the get out eddy all excited about our next rides on this awesome wave!!
Actually catching the wave proved quite difficult. Gauging where you were on the wave using your upsteam markers required a fair amount of balls as you wanted to go far enough river right to catch the wave but not so far river left that you got stuck in the sticky bit!! Both myself and Andy ended up going too far right and both had to battle with the consequences. For me, I firstly felt elation of having caught the wave, and then came the realisation that I was in the wrong place! And stuck! No amount of trying to carve surfers left was working. Both Andy and I got rolled over a couple of times only to roll back up in the meat off the wave! I managed to pull myself out on another roll, whilst Andy’s experience ended with him getting a little bit wetter…. Time for lunch, I think!
The rest of the day was spent working out how to get on that elusive sweet spot, but as the water level rose this proved even harder!!! But by using the techniques like positive thinking and visualisation we each got a few wicked rides on one hell of an awesome wave by the end of the day.
On the morning of day two we checked the river level and decided it wasn’t ideal for Hawaii-sur-Rhone so making use of Lowri’s expert local knowledge we headed to a slalom course just outside of Lyon which had two great waves on it. We spent the day there with Lowri doing some intensive freestyle coaching to great affect! At the end of the day we were all exhausted. It may not have been Hawaii Sur Rhone, but we had had a brilliant day and progress our wave boating loads.
Day three started a little faultingly as sadly Hawaii Sur Rhone was still not right so we headed back to the slalom course for some consolidation of what we had learned the day before. We then paddled down the course and onto the river Rhone after hearing rumours about another great wave. Sure enough just outside the slalom site another river wide wave WITH EDDY SERVICE!!! Usually this wave does not exist but there was construction work on the dam upstream so for the first hour this new wave was rising and falling right in front of our eyes and under our boats… but as soon as work finished for the day the workers left all the gates open, giving us exclusive access for the whole evening. AND IT WAS FANTASTIC! It had everything on it you could want, a hole, a wave with a pile and even a green wave! So we spent our last evening grinning from ear to ear doing all the moves we had learned over the past few days – we were very happy campers.
Thanks to FlowFree (www.flowfree.co.uk) for an awesome trip. If you are interested in a similar trip or some coaching at this fantastic playboating venue – drop them an email on email@example.com. Lowri will be back out there from mid-June to early July or courses for groups can arranged on request – just get in touch to make arrangements.