Rheinfall – first woman to paddle Europe´s biggest waterfall

What do you do when the levels are low all over Europe, the van is scheduled to arrive back home in Norway in the end of June, and you really need some distraction from studying? Well, there is one waterfall that always has water, and that is the famous Rheinfall in Northern Switzerland. At normal flows, it is actually Europe´s biggest waterfall.. and never before run by a female.

I had been studying for my exams and cruised to Plattling to surf before the upcoming Worlds in June. I had done weekendtrips to the fabled land of Ticino, only to find repeating low waterlevels and I had scraped down the creeks in Corsica. I had even trained slalom on the Vorderrhein in Switzerland.  But. There is something about getting restless. I had stood on the shore and watched Ron Fischer (SUI) paddle this amazing drop at night, and while scouting it I had right away liked the middle line. Since the first view of the waterfall, the line had been on my mind. It is more “norwegian” than most things in Switzerland. Complicated in a simple way. Big, but clean.

We returned some weekends later with Stefan Schlumpf, an amazing photographer that has worked a lot with Ron. Now he decided he wanted to get a shot of us as we dropped into the impressive middle line.

The entry is fairly blind, but easy when you are in the right spot. Flying over the lead-in drop, a clean 3 meter, I knew I was in the sweet spot.  I stroked to the main drop, and as I got a clear view of the curler, I hesitated for a second, surprised by the size of it after all. One of those that just looks smaller from shore…  then I dissappeared in a white, fluffy cloud of water. Fully submurged I felt how I travelled upwards, which was really bizzare since I knew I was simultainously dropping gradient.. then the curler picked me up and threw me like the little piece of flesh and plastic I was. Getting my shit together I plugged the bottom hole and came out entirely silent. Normally I would be hollering after a sweet drop like that, but now I was simply mesmerized by the power of water I had dropped into.

We paddled quickly away, seeing that the Rheinfall is still illegal to run, and I wasn´t particularly keen on getting swiss police on my neck waving the fine in my face. As it turned out, we only surprised a few tourists on the viewing platform, but got our big volume fix for a little while. With a bit more than 200 cumes flowing over it the Rheinfall was low for this time of the year, but just high enough to make a bored student happy.