King of Asia Race, Russia, Chuya river.
It was very interesting experience to be back in place which i used to call “my home”. I haven’t visit Altay for 3 years, and didn’t paddle this Rivers for 4 years. But time from 2004-2007, my first four summers in kayak i spend here, paddling every day and sleep under open sky every night, and every autumn it was painful to leave. My life changed a lot since this time in all directions: my mind, my friends, my location (which is in constant change), my kayaking, my dreams and i think i even look different now. It was a bit of surprise, what things here stayed the same, and local paddlers live same lifestyle as 4-5 year ago.
However there is one noticeable improvement – amount of kayakers paddling here went from 5-6 to 30-40! This competition organised for the second time and looks like it growing big! Kayak culture rooted here and region drown more and more attention for the paddlers from western lands. As soon as i realise i’ll be visiting my parents around this time i decide to come and support my old friends effort by participating in Race.
We arrived on Friday – first day of competition. 12 hours drive for here is no big deal, and we took boats and climbed up to put in for Chinese Race. It was a mass start with over 20 people. I paddled careful as i didn’t remember the lines perfectly and missed one night sleep on a way here. Surprisingly run went smooth and i got 11 from 22 people, leaving all other 5 girls far behind.
Evening i spend so good, what next day i felt a bit uncoordinated on a water. First part went good, but i last rapid , i guess i suddenly missed freestyle, so my unconscious desires led me to the hole, and then to another one. Safety guys enjoyed my beating and laughed hard. I lost quit a bit of time, but paddled hard on last km. My time was 6 min 3 sec and i finished 3d, missing first place by 15 sec and second by 0.5 sec! I hoped it will be final next day, but girls decide to cancel it, because some of them was too scared. This rapids a pretty powerful, so i was impressed to see 6 ladies racing!
Mans final was on most difficult part of the gorge, best 10 all successfully made it to the bottom. First place was not a surprise – Egor Voskoboynikov (winner of all Russian races) after big party and late night sleep won again. Vasiliy Porsev – main organiser of everything to do with Altay kayaking – got in to a hole, so finished only 3rd.
All competition going on in deep gorge, its not what great for spectators, but very intense for competitors, even there are safety after every rapid you still feel lost and alone. I was taking picture in canyon, so got to run last bit one more time. Paddle down without racing was great and i got clean lines, regained confidence shaken yesterday.
Awards ceremony was straight after. Prizes was pretty good, that is one bit i especially like about Russian competitions. I very hope plans about damming this river will not work out and next year and many years after kayakers will paddle and helicopters will fly high filming our finals of King of Asia race..
I love this Rivers and beauty of nature here, i feel safe and at home. Connection to this land is unbreakable like with mother. Even you not live together anymore and visit rarely u promise to come back. I will definitely come back here and introduce it to my new friends. I am proud to be from those lands.