Sunday, 1 June 2014

First course of the summer

On a not so warm Monday morning in Jerisjarvi quite a few kilometers inside the Arctic Circle. Harriniva Hotels & Safaris hosted the first ever International rafting federation guide training program on Finnish water. Hariniva were the very first rafting company established in Finland so it became fitting that they hosted the course. 

8 enthusiastic potential  guides from all corners of Finland attended the course. Finland has a popular raft racing culture but the commercial guiding scene is still developing. Monday kicked off with the normal introductions and registration. Once changed we spent a while shaping and discussing safety talks, then we took to the chilly waters of lake Jeris to practice some flat water paddling skills and commands.We were paddling on a 100 m stretch of ice free lake as the lake was still 90% frozen. After lunch we had a dry land throw bag introduction session followed by some practice throws on the water. We rounded the day off with swimmer rescues & flip drills. Harriniva had kindly given us the use of there water side sauna to use so that we could warm up after our swimming and flip drills. The perfect place to review the days activities .

 Outi dialing in on her dry land throw bag skills. We also spent some time looking at the various re throwing techniques with the new TRU technique becoming a firm favorite.

 Ari with a text book throw.

 Flatwater flip drills.

 Day 2 started with a small ropework test from the previous nights homework. I also had the opportunity to learn the Finnish names for some of the knots. This became a 2 way learning session which was great. After a hydrology session we took to the water. Our course dates had been planned perfectly as the Muonio river had reach peak springtime flows of around 1000 cumecs. The Muonio river forms the most peaceful boarder in the world between Sweden & Finland. The Muonio river is also Europe's longest free flowing river & an excellent fishing river. 

 The commercial section of river that we were using was an excellent run for our guides. 6km of big volume bouncy class 2-3 rapids. We honed our basic skills on some of the more easier sections of the river before laying siege to the mighty Saarikoski rapid. The locals have a healthy respect for this rapid a huge river wide wave train. The guardian wave was around the 3- 4 meter height with a nice tasty flushy hole behind it.We cautiously ran a few chicken shoots and spent time discussing our lines and back up plans should it turn out in a flip. I wanted the team to be absolutely relaxed and happy swimming in big water before we tackled Saarikoski so we moved downstream to practice our swimming skills. Saarikoski mainline would have to wait until day 3.  

 Me leading the way on a practice swim. The weather was improving to around 20c with amazing sunshine.

 Day 3 started with the excitement of tackling the Saarikoski main line. The team had scouted the rapid on numerous occasions and were primed and ready to. Having the opportunity to sit back and watch the team make their own decisions and come up with a safety plan was very rewarding to watch. Big smiles and cheers we had when we successfully ran Saarikoski. Throughout day 3 we managed another 6 clean lines.

 Day 4 was dedicated to whitewater rescue skills. The morning session we practiced our dry land wrap drills and learned some basic mechanical advantage systems. After lunch we moved onto a small tributary of the Muonio river. The tributary flowed straight through the center of the Muonio town so the local public had an afternoons entertainment on their doorstep. We practiced 2&4 point raft tethers along with live bait rescues along with shallow water crossings . We finished the day off  with setting up a tensioned diagonal. During the evening we also had the chance to follow and observe a full commercial trip. I ended up guiding one raft. Little known to me my raft was full of celebrities including Ms Finland 2013, a very close line was had in the Saarikoski rapid for the benefit of the tv cameras.  

Day 5 Was a chance to tidy up some loose ends and give the group the chance to practice anything they had not gotten to grips with. For some reason they all wanted to run a flip scenario in a big rapid. Saarikoski was chosen and executed in a swift manner.Our final afternoon consisted of admin followed by a well earned BBQ and a few beers. So many thanks to Harriniva and most of all Bjorn, Henri, Hessu, Outi, Marko, Ari, Jere, Joonas, Kalle for a highly enjoyable week. 


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