This is a self preservation society!

The self preservation aspect of paddling is dealing with your brains decision to throw yourself down whichever river happens to be in condition and agreed upon.

This particular day, day two of our Italy trip we find ourselves on the road heading up the valley alongside the Mastallone, a river a few of us had done before, we knew what to expect, but, we had thrown in a twist, in the shape of Landwasser waterfall. A 7m fall upstream of the usual put in.

We had studied the online videos and boy had we talked the talk before hand, yea, I fancy Landwasser said the whatsapp messages.

When the day comes, the bravado of sitting on the sofa at home typing into mobiles translates to near silence in the van on the way up. The guides know what to expect, they’ve been there before. We do not!

Dave Young

I’m staring out of the windscreen, lost in thought, when I see roadworks ahead, the road’s blocked. A mixture of feelings, bugger, we’re not gona be able to get up the valley! Brilliant, that’s just the excuse I need not to run it.

The council workers are netting the mountainside to catch things that need catching, rocks for example, they’re drilling rock, driving in steel stakes attaching wiring and netting, the road is closed and cannot be opened until lunchtime at the earliest. The mood in the van is a bit dark, when, stone me, Davide has blagged it, we can continue the drive up the valley, I don’t know how that makes me feel, I had better get my bag of excuses ready. I later learn I am not alone in having such feelings.

Vehicles park, engines stop, this it’d be it then. Time to walk the walk. The fall is roadside and can be inspected either looking down into a mini gorge or staring upstream from a bridge just down from the drop.

I can’t express the chaos of thoughts and feelings at times like this. Rivers are graded in difficulty but this is simply a yes or no, in the head and is the individual’s own argument, conflict, decision making, do it, don’t, do I? Can I? What are the consequences? What are the moves to make? Where do I need to be on the lip of the fall? Where’s my last stroke? What am I doing with my body position. All of this and more, not necessarily in any particular order or calculated way goes through the brain cell, until, decision made, lets get into character, time to put some kit on. A few weeks later I ask others for their thoughts that morning so some of their input appears below

Brian knows it’s almost pointless watching Davide, he’s smooth and makes anything and everything looks straight forward.

This is how good we think we will look, reality is different.

Once changed we lower boats and get to inspect from river level. As drops go, its pretty straight forward, pretty much flat to flat, there’s a small drop just above with a stopper that at today’s ideal level for us, shouldn’t pose any issues, but it could, just push you from where you want to be. As Mark later states “don’t f**k up the entry”

Mark’s self confessed moment of serenity, falling with style as he puts it.

There’s some discussion of whether we have the right boats for the occasion, as in I occasionally fall off waterfalls like this in a play boat while throwing a wave wheel, thankfully no one had a playboat and no one threw any ends, at any point, at least not that I saw! We cheat the river in big boats.

After Davide shows us the way, Andy follows. GiGi has thrown my peli case, at my request I must add, to the pool below, Davide retrieves it and puts it on the bank for me. I get the signal, check my deck and nose clip and break into the flow, spotting my mid river marker, negotiate the initial drop, my boat is on line for where I want to be, a gentle steadying stroke and I’m over the lip, tucking up with my blades alongside me.

I find myself upside down, no real surprise, pretty much expected that, I punch my blades up, expecting to feel air on my hands as they break the surface of the water, but all I feel is water, I go for the roll, that aint happening, I try again, nope, something is amiss. I know from inspecting the fall there’s no drama, I’m not stuck anywhere, so why can’t I roll. The process slows, taking my right hand off the blades I reach down to where my deck should be, ah, that’s my deck imploded then, from the force of the impact at the bottom. In twenty years of boating this is a first, I grab my blades again, set up and roll, I catch the surface this time which offers some support and I my body breaks clear the hand of Davide pulls me over the last bit needed, I’ve not swum tho, so I’m claiming the drop, I paddle an unstable water filled Zet to a pebble bank mid river and empty it before taking some pictures. I later realise the strap across my deck is in a tight position having last been used on a smaller cockpit topo, that’s contributed to the implode I reckon.

While this is goin on Sam is above, confessing afterwards, to controlling his nerves, checking his hair and making sure his good side is facing the camera.

Brian, “Sitting in an eddy wondering if its me or Mark going, I see Mark go, and feel relieved, Mark disappears at the lip, my turn, hope I don’t hurt myself, break out slowly, time speeds up into a blur, I’m in the bottom pool, I want to do it again, in fact sitting here in the UK I sooo want to do it again”

Seb stylin it
GiGi, class act