Thursday, June 9, 2016

The End

And this is the end... This blog has followed my travels for the past 10 year but its time to move on. I am writing this post as I plan to turn this blog into a book for my coffee table. So the adventure continues but the story for now finishes here. Thanks for following! Cheers Josh

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Breaking my back

After a big Spring in Canada and a good week at Voss Extreme Sports week I was feeling as good as it gets in my boat.  We had left Voss after Veko and headed north to find some good rivers.  It started with just the 5 of us in Sam's van but after a few days we met up with the Pyranha team van and the rivers continued to impress.  A stand out area was in Hellesylt.  We started with the upper section of the Hellesylt then in town headed up the Bugdelva to find some more classic whitewater.  The next day we headed to run the drop in town before heading further North.   My time on tour for Norway was running out fast and I would soon be back behind my camera and out of my kayak.  We had made it to the Rauma but it was too high for my liking and opted out of that one.  The decision was made to do a quick run on the upper Jori then head to Matze's Drop on the Ula.  I had seen this drop a few times before on photos and video and it looked awesome.  For the first time in weeks we were soaked from rain but we chucked on some jackets and scouted this impressive drop.  The consensus from the crew was its good to go so we headed back to gear up.  While getting ready the rain cleared and we made our way back to the top.  With a big crew we all separated to different spots to get footage, photos and further scout the drop.  Anton lead the way followed by Sam, Jamie, Jared and Barney.  I was up next and I checked my line one last time and got in my boat.  When I got the high sign I pulled into the flow and started toward the lip.  Everything seemed to be going well as I rolled off the lip.  When I reconnected out of the top drop it was soft and seemed good until I noticed my nose was lifting pretty high.  I got forward as far as possible to get it down but it was not going to happen in time.  I braced for impact but nothing was going to prepare for the pain I was about to feel. The realisation was instant that I had in fact broken my back but before my lungs released the first screams I wiggled my toes and that was quite a relief.  A split second later I was floating out of the pool releasing the air from my lungs with quite loud noises of pain.  Jamie and Anton were right there to grab me and start the process of piecing the puzzle together.  I was in huge pain but needed to be out of my kayak.  Once a few others were there using my drysuit as enough of a splint my kayak was pulled from under me and I was lifted to a nice small grass ledge.  By now I am realising the severity of the situation but stoked to have the crew I had there.  It pays to choose your crew well so situations like this can be dealt with well.  After a few moments to make me comfortable with blankets, jackets and a kayak to block the waterfall spray there was word the helicopter was on its way and would be 25 minutes.  This was quite a relief as I knew that would be the time till I got some morphine.  During this time the guys made sure I was warm and Ben sat and confirmed some of the things I was going through as he to had broken his back in the past.  The muscles in my lower back were now feeling like an electrical storm erupting but took comfort from Ben saying this was all to be expected.  Finding it hard to breath we tried to hold my neck gasket open before realising the paramedics were just going to cut it off anyway so the guys started the process.  In true Norwegian efficiency the helicopter came into view and circled the waterfall I was lying below.  We were all thinking they would land above the canyon and carry me out but we were wrong.  With absolute precision the pilot dropped down and landed less than 10m from where I lay.  The first paramedic approached, said hi and then explained that when he did the first descent of this river they had walked around this one.  I knew I was in good hands! The guys loaded me into a inflatable stretcher and into the back of the helicopter.  There was a lot going on so for a few minutes I forgot that I was still in pain and it wasn't till the paramedic asked that I realised the first lot of morphine had not done anything.  He fixed that and the rest is a little bit of a blur.   I was taken to Lillihammer Hospital for scans and after an afternoon of different X-rays, CT scans and other things I found out the damage.   The outcome to that moment on the Ula was a burst fracture to my L1 vertebrae and the need for surgery to stabilise it.  By now the boys had arrived and were sharing their stories of injuries and letting me know id be back in the boat in no time.  From here I was transferred to Elverum Hospital for surgery.  I have been traveling for 8 years now and had a range of different insurance policies.  Every year I make sure I choose one that covers me for Class 5 kayaking for the chance something like this happened.  I called my insurance from my hospital bed and they were amazing! The asked a few questions, double checked things from their end and minutes later I was told I was all covered.   They sent my dad over to help me get home and have done everything to make the journey as good as possible.  Next time you travel give World Nomads a look and make sure you are covered! A month and a half on and I am up and about.  I walk about 500-700m per day and a few other exercises.  I know ill get back in my kayak as soon as I can but that date is still a while off.  Thanks to everyone who is helping me along this journey! Massive thanks to the boys for sorting me out on the day and making sure I was looked after well.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Wairoa Extreme Race 2014

Well 2014 has been great so far! I have been busy with photography work so far but decided to take a well needed day off to head to the Wairoa Extreme Race! This is the North Islands premier event with all the best racers heading to Tauranga for the Race.  The sun was out and it was set to be an epic day! First up way the Time Trial with a 5-6 minute down river sprint.  My idea was the same as usual, keep it clean and don't use all the energy up to make mistakes.  All went well and I seeded in the middle of the pack with a 5.36 time.  1st place races last place for a tough/easy race for some but being in the middle meant my first head to head race would be against someone who was equal speed and could go either way.  My first race was against a Canadian called Jeff.  He posted a 1 split second faster time trial run so he got choice of side at the start.  In previous years the left has been faster so he chose left.  I had been watching a few races and noticed all the wins off the start were coming from the right so I was not worried at the start for a good time off the mark.  I lead coming into the first hole but only by a nose.  We both came off the waterfall at the same time but with that nose length lead it spat me out into the flat a bit further ahead.  Entering the Roller Coaster I was a bit flustered because I hadn't seen the race line since the river changed so was going off beta from someone else.  I managed to mess it up pretty good and do the bottom half upside down but rolled to catch the eddy and take the win.
Next up I drew Mike Dawson and my day was statistically speaking well and truly over.  I would give him a run for his money anyway and not give him any space if I could.  We took off and he went right and I went left without any contact.

Coming into the waterfall I was still on his tail and even landed on him to let him know I was there.  Again into the Roller Coaster I was a lot slower but nailed the eddy turn to come in just as he was touching the banner.  That was one of the most fun races I have done to date! Well done to Joe Morley, the current World Champ who progressed with Mike to take the overall win of the 2014 Wairoa Extreme Race. Also congrats to Lulu Jull for taking her first win in the womens devision!  The day did not end there as we headed to prize giving and the OFM gathered in the Mount for Burgers and Ice Cream on the beach as the sun went down on another epic day!
Cheers to Tyler Fox, Brendan Bayly and Lu Urwin for organising the race!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

South Silver

Well its been a little busy since the South Stan mission... Some of it is a little blurry but I think where were headed next was the South Silver Creek. This one is a classic close to town and provides some nice slides and you definitely feel good at the end of the day.
It has a pretty good window from high to low and everything in between is good to go.  We ran this a couple of times but I think these pics are from the second round.  Nick and I were the only ones keen to paddle this day and Jamie decided to come take photos.   While we waited for Jamie to run shuttle and run up from the bottom to take photos we rallied a couple of laps on the put in slide then headed down the river.  Jamie was waiting at Boof, Boof Slide for us.  I haven't had much luck on this in years past but with a little line alteration I have it better now.  Without much stopping we both dropped into the Tea Cups and then off Sky Scraper and Off Ramp.  After a little portage and some more sweet drops we were off back to Coloma.  This run is a great warm up to the bigger slides you will find on the High Sierra runs here in Cali!

- Coming down above Boof, Boof, Slide

-Boof Boof Slide - Photo Jamie Garrod

- Dropping into Sky Scraper - Photo Jamie Garrod

- Sky Scrapper from a different angle - Photo Jamie Garrod

-Nick coming down Off Ramp - Photo Jamie Garrod

- Nick on Sky Scraper - Photo Jamie Garrod

-Chilling at Myles, Chris and Niges place in Coloma - Photo Jamie Garrod

Sunday, May 12, 2013

South Stanislaus

I arrived in California on Sunday the 5th of May in San Francisco where Myles and Jesse picked me up  and we made our way inland.  After a couple of days to get sorted and catch up with Nick and Harmony it was time to get to business.  Ryan Mac had a plan and although there was a pretty good recipe for disaster the crew soon grew from not many to a lot and then back down to a solid 6.  The idea for the trip was, in Mac's terms the ultimate "Lifestyling" trip.  Now this word gives off this feeling of ease and achievability not usually associated with an epic adventure so spirits were high and we all felt good.  After a few hour drive we set camp at Pinecrest Reservoir and settled in for the night.

- Camp one at Pinecrest Res - Photo Ryan Mac

 In true  "Lifestyle" fashion we rose late and made coffee and oatmeal before packing up camp and heading to the boat ramp.  From here we would see across the Lake and up into Cleo's Bath and our run for the next day.  Now there is another far easier hike in from the ridge but word from the ranger was that it was closed hence this angle of attack.

- Packing boats at the ramp - Photo Josh Neilson

-Pushing off with the gorge in the background - Photo Ryan Mac

- Granite in our sights - Photo Ryan Mac
On the lake we were barely 30m in and we hear someone shouting from the boat dock. "Are you guys fix'n on running those rapids in there? Are you guys
 pro-fessionals? Are you sponsored? Because I know a guy who did it and all I know is if you don't have a Red Bull helmet and a helicopter you shouldn't be going there".  And so it began... we chuckled to each other as we thanked the kind man for his input and headed across the lake to the river.  The first part of the hike was easy but soon we were at Cleo's Bath and it was steep and up hill from here.

- Me and Nick stoked to have carry systems! - Photo Ryan Mac

- Roping boats up the steep section - Photo Ryan Mac
With a bit of rope work and some balancing acts we made it to the crest and chilled for a bit.  Now quite sore and tried we decided to leave our camp stuff and hike the empty boat to the put in.  As we made it up the river we found some sweet drops but it was stacked and moving fast.  About a mile up we decided to call it quits for the day and head back to camp. With a bit of rain on the horizon we decided to camp in a cave and avoid the elements.  Many theories were passed over the fire and soon we were all set on not hiking our boats any higher and enjoying the rapids we had from there out to fit with Mac's "Lifestyle" clause in the trip brief.

-Fire and food - Cave living - Photo Josh Neilson

-Stories round the fire better when in a cave! - Photo Josh Neilson
- Jamie Garrod on pride rock  - Photo Josh Neilson
The morning started with a quick fire to make oats and coffee and then we were off up the hill once again. With some quick scouting we could see the river had come up a bit but that was ideal.  Soon we were in our kayaks and with a quick warm up we were into it!

-Drop number 1 - Photo Josh Neilson

- Drop 1 - Photo Ryan Mac

-Jamie on a nice boof - Photo Josh Neilson
Feeling better now that we were kayaking and not walking we got through a few small drops before the crux.  Standing on the granite scouting in kayaking gear made the drops look a little nicer and I was fired up.  I really wanted to run the entry but was not to psyched about the ski jump in the middle before the off ramp.  In the end my mind was made up and I dropped in.  The entry drop was sweet and as I had expected I got slowed at the lip of the ski jump but made it through and out the bottom.
- Coming off the Ski Jump in the middle of the crux 3 - Photo Ryan Mac

- Bottom slide of the top 3 - Photo Ryan Mac

-Jamie on the slide - Photo Jamie Garrod

- Jamie Garrod coming down the slot - Photo Ryan Mac

- Nick Wimsett coming into the slot in his brand new Tuna - Photo Ryan Mac

- Me coming down out of the slot into the fast section - Photo Ryan Mac

-It just keeps going - Tea Cups - Photo Ryan Mac

- Chris coming into the double hot! - Photo Ryan Mac

- Another angle of double - Photo Ryan Mac

- Tight entry! - Photo Josh Neilson

- This is not photoshop - Jamie, Nick and I on Double all at once - Photo Ryan Mac

- Riley on the top drop - Photo Ryan Mac

-Jamie on Double Drop - Photo Ryan Mac

- Montage of me on Double Drop - Photo Ryan Mac
-Mac on the bottom drop - Photo Josh Neilson

It didn't stop there we had a tricky slot drop that everyone styled and then down through the tea cup section.  The best part was the double drop and a few of us ran laps on that part! From here we portaged round Cleo's Bath once again and paddled out to the lake.  Everyone was stoked and although the way in was not ideal we all loved the way out! We were hoping that our mate from the dock was there so we could let him know we made it out without with just your average helmet and no helicopter so he could rest easy. Stoked to be here in Cali running challenging whitewater again! 
Back at the car we checked out photos, had a few beers and then headed back to Coloma!  For another version of this river which shows the top part we didnt make it to you can check out Ben's Blog for the South Stan mission they did. 
Next mission is coming to Ill leave it at that! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wainui River

-Powerhouse Open Gates warm up

As I came home from the Tuakopai on Tuesday I figured with 2 weeks left in the country that I wouldn't be needing my elbow pads for any more kayaking trips this summer in NZ so packed them away and headed back out on the Kaituna! Thankfully the lake was still full and we got a couple of laps in at open gates which is always a fun time!

- Waterfall at Open Gates

The weekend was in full swing with a few drinks here and there and before I knew it I was waking up to the sound of the Neighbors running round our house talking of rain in the Kaimais again.  A few seconds later Tyler came busting into my room with a smile on his face and all he said was "CREEKING?".  While I am often able to use the excuse of work to pass on less exciting activities there was no place for excuses today.  It was a run I had always wanted to do but never been in the right place with the right flows.
~Cue inspirational dubstep soundtrack~
Everyone scattered and re grouped all piecing things together for the day ahead.  Out came the packed away elbow pads and once again we were in the car heading for the hills.
A little drive up the coast and we were there looking back down the valley to the sea and the thought crossed my mind that we had to paddle out to an estuary so all that gradient was going to be made up of  waterfalls!

-Hike in to Wainui through some wild country

At the end of the short hike in I pulled up and heard Jamie explaining the optimal flows we had ahead and downstream Lorenzo was playing his Quena (Flute).  A golden liquid flowed swiftly through the dense native forest setting the scene for the day ahead.  Although the big waterfall was hot on my mind all morning it was time to seriously focus as the rapids pretty much all drop 10 or more meters and they are unending.

-Jamie (aka Htzhamez) Entering B's Rapid

-Dropping into B's Rapid

-The exit to B's Rapid

- Making my way through 'Freight Train'

-Brad coming down 'Freight Train'

- Jamie and Tyler coming down 'Double Drop'

-Entering double drop next to the illegal water system

-Brad on the bottom half of double drop

-Tyler on the bottom of 'Double Drop'

- Sanga on 'Double'

The first scout was at B's rapid which is a nice entry, boof off a nose, land skip out, turn, head left then off another big slide in the middle.  All good lines and we were doing well.  After an uncountable amount of sweet drops we got to the next real crux called 'Little Brother'.  It is a tricky lead in followed by a 30foot drop that is shallow so you need to boof but stomp your bow down to avoid breaking your back. Again we set safety and made our way off the drop.  1,2,3,4,5,6 clean lines and big smiles at the bottom.

-Lorenzo navigating the entry to Little Brother
- Jamie on the lip of the 30

- Getting the stomp on

-Tyler getting his lean on

-Sanga on Little Brother

Now the mind has been on full focus for over an hour of solid class 5 and you are only thinking about the rapid you are running but the Big one is close and its trying to occupy your thoughts!!
Not a single bad line by anyone all day so far meant optimism was high and everyone quietly knew they were going to run the big one.  At the lip it all seemed pretty clear cut.  The idea here is to 1- not land flat and 2- not go over the handle bars.  The line is off the middle with as little speed as possible.  You sit facing upstream about 2m from the lip and as you float out the back of the eddy you pull yourself out into the flow, turning downstream.  You hold the stroke over the lip to stabilise your boat so it does not over rotate.  Once you have your angle set you spot the landing and your weight co

mes forward then you toss the paddle away and tuck forward some more.  Impact.

-Attempt 2 - Sanga
-Attempt 3 - Bradley Lauder
- Attempt 4 - Me
-Attempt 4 - Me again

-Tyler sticking the line clean

- Attempt 6 - Jamie Garrod

- Stoked to be at the bottom

So while this explanation is the ideal scenario there were some varying degrees of impact but all good.  Lorenzo went a little over the bars and was ejected but all good.  I took some skin off my nose from the elbow pad but had a soft landing.
From here we were all buzzing but it still doesn't end here.

- Big slide!!!

A few more big drops and slides and finally made it into the flat water.  A few days before we were talking about our best run ever and I think I would now have to say this one.  I could even be so bold as to say this was my best day kayaking I have ever had.  A quick pack up and we were on our way to Te Puke Mc Donald's for some much deserved burgers!
Cheers to Lorenzo, Sam, Jamie, Tyler and Brad for such a sweet day!
Next update will likely be from Cali! Looking forward to it!

For reference we had 6.5 on the Waipapa guage.