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パックラフト・アディクト | #27 Packrafting Meet-up Europe 2019

2019.09.25
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Packrafting Meet-up Europe 2019

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The idea behind
Whereas packrafting is an outdoor pursuit that is steadily growing in its popularity also in Europe, up until recently there were not a lot of meet-ups where packrafters from different countries could meet, share their experiences and talk about their passions.

There were some smaller, local events in Belgium, the UK, Italy and Finland, but they mostly attracted local packrafters.


 
The Swedish packrafting Meet-up came closest to being a bigger international even, however, it was still mostly attended by packrafters from Northern Europe.

The first truly European Packrafting Meet-up took place here, in Slovenia, in May 2018.
It was a brain-child of Max, a Frenchman who at the time lived in this country, and Seon, an Australian, who had recently moved with his family to Austria.

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The two of them envisioned an event that would draw attention of its participants to whitewater safety and technique training as well as important issues related to river conservation.

Though run for the first time, it was a big success, which is why it was decided to make it an annual event at this location.


 
A unique location
There are several reasons why the Soca River (pronounced as ‘so-cha’) makes such a good place for this event.

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On the one hand, the Soca River with its tributary, the Koritnica, is a very famous and popular white-water river in Europe.

Besides its stunningly beautiful and clear emerald waters, it offers a great combination of paddling sections at different levels, suitable for a variety of paddlers.

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There are some easy sections of Class I and II for beginners, as well as some more challenging Class III sections for more advanced. There are also a couple of Class IV places that should not be taken lightly.

And all this is just in a very short distance from each other, making it a great river to practice paddling techniques.

On the other hand, the Slovenia in general and the Soca River Valley in particular are located on the southern slopes of the Alps, close to the ‘heart’ of Europe.


 
Bovec, the town closest to the location of the event, is just a short drive from Italy or Austria.

For international travellers, there are several airports that they can choose from.

They can either fly to Ljubljana in Slovenia (as we did this year), to Venice or Trieste in Italy or to Vienna or Graz in Austria.

In most cases, you would need to rent a car to get to Bovec, but there are also some public transportation options. In addition, some people also managed to arrange a lift from those, who were travelling to the meet-up as well.

Participants
In comparison to last year, there were significantly more people who attended the Meet-up. Besides the 60 plus people who were present at the opening (not all of whom were packrafters – some of them were their family members), more people arrived in the next few days.


 
However, the cold and rainy weather seemed to have scared some away as there were even more people who had registered and for the event but never showed up.

Looking at the countries of origin, similar to last year, most of the attendees came from Germany and Austria.

However, this year there were also participants from the UK, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Spain, Poland, France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and even one person from Slovenia.
(Seon called her ‘our trophy Slovenian’ as she was the only one representing the host country.)

However, the furthers distance was travelled by couple from Australia – Mark and Jen Oats. Both of them being very experienced packrafters, they took some time off work to spend several months travelling and packrafting in Europe and the European Meet-up became their first stop.

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Mark was also one of the people, who volunteered to give workshops on paddling technics.

Besides regular participants, there were representatives of packraft producers, who brought their packrafts, which could be borrowed by people for testing.

Thus, Alpacka Rafts were represented by Seon, whose company – Packraft Europe, is their official distributor in Central Europe.

Sven from Anfibio Packrafting Store with his team represented their line of packrafts, while Mark, who is a distributor of Kokopelli in Germany, was supposed to represent them.

Unfortunately, due to delays at the customs, he was not able to showcase the rafts themselves.

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In addition to that, one of the people who registered for the even but did not show up was the general director of TimeTrial, a Russian company producing packrafts (among other things). It was rather a pity because it would have been interesting to see some new players on the market as well.

Programme
Following the idea behind last year’s event, the organizers of the 2nd European Meet-up tried to create space for people to enjoy paddling and share their experiences, while drawing their attention to the necessity of acquiring proper safety and paddling skills.

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That is why, several people offered workshops in which participants could train self-rescue skills, whitewater swimming, throw bagging, whitewater-specific first aid training as well as eddy runs and technical paddling.

Besides Mark and Jen, who ended up organizing several workshops each day, Annika from Packraft Touren spent a lot of time with various groups, practicing technical runs at the upper section of the Soca.

Sebastian from Land Water Adventures organized a workshop on packrafting expedition/bad weather packing, which I have heard was very interesting.


 
As there were often several different workshops running at the same time, you really needed to make a choice of what you wanted to do, which, believe me, was not easy as all options sounded interesting. At the same time, besides workshops, people could also run different sections of the river, which suited their experience level, in small groups. Which was fun as well.

Each evening, after the dinner, a social programme would start.

The first day, we had two presentations. Gabriel from Outventurous shared his experiences from Greenland, while I talked about the Grand Canyon Packrafting Trip.

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The second evening, Tobias from Living Rivers Foundation presented a series of short films and film previews that drew attention to the importance of river conservation.

The last night, we had a presentation from and watched a film by Rok, one of founders of Balkan River Defence, a group of people (many of whom are paddlers) that tries to protect Europe’s last free flowing rivers that are threatened by dams.

Currently, there are almost 2,900 such dams that are supposed to be constructed in the Balkans, which is referred to by some as the Blue Heart of Europe.

All the money that was raised through the registration fees and donations (and that was over 2,000 Euro this year) went to these two NGOs, which was also in line with the idea behind the meet-up.

Conclusion
Three days after we stood in a circle at the opening of the Meet-up, we were in a hurry to pack our things up.

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It was around 3 degrees and it was raining hard. According to some weather forecast, there was even a chance of snow later that day, which meant that we could get stuck in the mountains.

And we did not want this to happen as we needed to fly back home the next day.

We were not the only ones leaving.

The tent field that was full of tents and campers the day before looked rather empty. Most of the people had packed and left already.

A few remaining ones were huddling together in a group tent.

We say our goodbyes and leave for the sea some 60 kilometres further south.

These were a few busy days. Often cold and raining, they were filled with interesting experiences and possibilities to learn new skills.

It was also nice to meet old friends and make new ones. We hope that next year, when we come again, the weather is better.


 
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Konstantin Gridnevskiy

Konstantin Gridnevskiy

1978年ロシア生まれ。ここ17年間はオランダにある応用科学の大学の国際旅行マネジメント課にて、アウトドア、リーダーシップ、冒険について教えている。言語、観光、サービスマネジメントの学位を持っていて、研究は、アウトドアでの動作に電子機器がどう影響するか。5年前からパックラフティングをはじめ、それ以来、世界中で川旅を楽しんでいる。これまで旅した国は、ベルギー、ボスニア、クロアチア、イギリス、フィンランド、フランス、ドイツ、日本、モンテネグロ、ノルウェー、ポーランド、カタール、ロシア、スコットランド、スロバキア、スロベニア、スウェーデン、オランダ。その他のアクティビティは、キャンプ、ハイキング、スノーシュー、サイクリングなど。

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