A day without gates!

After a month of battling gates it was liberating to say the least to jump in the car on Saturday night after my session and drive west. I realised perhaps a little late that the drive that was gonna take me to the river called Ara might be a little long after two sessions on the water – four hours winding up and down over spectacular mountain passes and valleys. But one thing is for sure: This part of Spain is magic.

The Ara is a gem of a river that flows from the heart of the Pyrenees with 3000 mts peaks dominating the view. The river is born high up at the Ara glaciar and flows about 79 kilometers before it joins with the  rio Cinca. The water of the Ara flows crystal clear through the small town of Bruto – and I found the boys at a campground called Oto – which also happened to be our take-out the next day. This is where Edu bases out of as a guide for a great rafting company called UR Nomade -make sure to check them out if you are ever interested in a an amazing river experience on the Ara: www.urnomade.com

Ander, Edu, Mariann and Flo


Driving up the valley the next morning I could not keep my eyes from the surroundings – blue sky, towering walls, deep river canyons and soon – plenty of whitewater. The Bujaruelo is a tributary to the Ara, and is a well known run in the area. Starting at the refugio of Bujaruelo, we floated under an amazing roman bridge, and I knew that we were in for good times. More than 15 kms of whitewater ahead, blue bird, lush valley and good friends – what else can be asked for?

Mariann being stoked even before the paddle!


As we were getting into the goods I very quickly named this run the Hobbit run – because it was as taken straight out of Tolkien´s fantasy. Green, lush canyon walls, thousands of class four rapids, a couple of portages and endless boofs and smiles. Waterfalls were cascading in over the dark canyon walls, and more than once I felt extreme happiness of being able to be right then and there.

Spanish paddler Edu Sola was the token guide, and I followed his clean lines and spot-on boofs down the river. With only twenty years under his belt he has already knocked off plenty of first-descents and paddles lines that many paddlers walk away from – I am not sure what it is with the spaniards but they seem to breed a fine line of kayakistas in the Pirineos..

Edu Sola is ripping in this Waka Tutea


I paddled with Edu in Chile this year, and also with Flo (Duval) who had made the trip over the mountains from his home town in France. It was incredibly nice to spend some time with these guys, and to see their area. I am not gonna lie – I was quite surprised of the quality of the whitewater, the scenery, well.. everything. I was also excited to try the Tutea from Waka kayaks – it is perfect for this kind of river running. It boofs over anything and since it is a bit shorter than I am used to, I also found it extremely easy to turn. I do think that the Tuna is my choice of boat for Norway though – I like the extra volume and length to get me through the holes and stay on top of the water more. In addition to paddling the Waka Kayaks I am also gonna cruise around in a Lettman Granate L this summer – and rock my Jackson playboat…. I am keen on testing as many boats as possible to find my favorites. Ok, ok, back to the Pyrinees…


After watching Edu style the biggest slide on the river which was juicy with a high flow, we cruised down some Disneyland slides straight into the lunch eddy. After a little feast we paddled into the Ara, cruising down from Puente los Navarros to and through the rafting section. In the Navarros section there were some sweet rapids. I am not too used to the tight gorges with a lot of rocks/siphons/trees, so for me it was a real treat to get more water under my kayak in this section. One of the more fun rapids is called the Pasarela due to the remnants of an old bridge, and another one is called the Chicane, which fittingly enough, is a move in slalom! The Pasarela went smooth, but the Chicane was my favorite.  It is an amazing s-bend consisting of two curlers, without gates, even if Flo spotted an upstream in a real odd eddy in the middle of the rapid. 😉


Upon reaching take-out I was so happy for my day off from the slalom gates. It was very tempting to just stay there and enjoy the river life – but in the end I was a good girl, packed the car and headed back to La Seu to do two more days of training. In fact, the next morning I had the best training session so far in one month – obviously mixing it up is a good thing!


Thank you, boys, it was a real pleasure!




The first competition for 2015 is over – and I just booked tickets for more. The ICF World Ranking race in La Seu this past weekend was a great experience, and I am stoked to have met some more nice paddlers along with the now so familiar kayaking faces of the Segre Olympic park.

First of all – I always loved this place. The snowy Cadí mountains are always within view and the country side is tranquil and harmonic. I run and bike almost everyday along the river, and the temperatures are pleasant and the people smiling. The old city of La Seu is full of atmosphere with a lively market on tuesday and saturday, a cathedral from 1100 and small cafés where I sip café con leche and sneakily eat my chocolate croissant. Paradise.

Beautiful country side
Mmmm.. feeling hungry these days!


Team Norway pretty stoked to ride conveyor belts back up to the top of the course…


The past four weeks have been fantastic – and I feel very fortunate to be able to walk down the slalom road at the moment. Yes, I love creeking, and I love freestyle, and of course those two have endless challenges in them as well. After all, they kept me well entertained for 15 years! But there is something about the easily measured failure/success in slalom that attracts me. In creeking you can have a lot of bad lines in class four and usually get away with it – in slalom you chose the wrong line in a class three and it is very obvious that you did wrong because you smash some gates. Or your timing is off, or you are a bit late: smashing gates.

I am in my fourth week of hard training, and it is a bitter-sweet mix of frustration and small victories won. At least now my coach, Perí, does not shake his head EVERY time I do an upstream – and I have even learned some fancy techniques that I do not try in competition probably for many more years – but they are still fun. At the moment what I struggle with the most is the transmission between core-muscles, legs and kayak – some muscle activation that all slalom paddlers just seem to have and which enables them to control the boat incredibly well and to whip it in and out of gates… Not having this controll naturally makes me slow in the hard staggers (downstream gates that are off-set) and slow out of the upstream gates. But. I am a lot better than I was four weeks ago…


My goal for the competitions (there were two separate ones) the past weekend was quite simple: To do at least one good run that I could be happy with. Out of three runs I got my one good one so I call that goal accomplished! For my friday run most things went bad – I was not focused, I was hesitant, my rythm was off and I struggled down the whole course. What I changed overnight was simply my mind game: I have to be all in to do my best, to be 150 % in the moment. No, it is not easy to change the mind set overnight, but it is possible.

I told myself to focus on the good parts of my run that day, even if those were the easiest gates on the course. I did not beat myself up over the fact they were so easy that anybody can do them super fast, I merely told myself I did well in those gates. I also told myself that since I have run class five for more than a decade, a class three slalom course is really not that hard – I should at least be able to do a clean run. Everytime I got some bad thoughts sneaking in, trying to tell me that I am really bad at slalom or that I am going to fail I simply pushed them away by telling myself ” I can, I will and shall” do my best. Saturday morning I woke up feeling confident and ready to enjoy the day.

Saturday´s qualification run was a good run for me – and one that put me in 11th place in a pretty stacked field. There were an Olympic bronze medalist in the lead, and I had an Olympic finalist right behind me on the list. But most importantly I was stoked to have made my first good run in a harder competition – I had reached my goal for now. Of course I have a lot to work on – my technique is still light years away from proper slalom paddling, after all I have not put in nearly enough hours to expect anything else. But. I will take my small victory nevertheless.

The next day we had the semis – and I wondered if I could repeat. I think that was already where it went wrong – I did not entirely allow myself to believe that I hadn´t just been lucky the day before. However, I paddled fairly well, nailing the harder moves I had been worried about down the course. As I pulled out of gate 14 and toward the trickiest move on the course, a downstream placed in a pretty tough eddy, I realised I was quite tired. And I think that was why I screwed up in the end. A small thought that slipped into my head as I was really needing to focus on the gate ahead – and woops, there I was frantically scrambling to make it through cleanly. Ten seconds later, I was out -and also far down on the ranking.

After all I ended up 21st – a bit bummed I couldn´t repeat a faster run, but at the same time happy I had reached my goal set for the competition. This is something I am learning as I am getting older – to allow myself to feel accomplished now and then, and not always shake off the accomplishments as if they are the most natural things in the world. I work hard, it pays off – it is ok to tell myself that I did well, and allow myself to bask in the feeling. For a little bit. As it is Monday came fast enough and we are back into another 20 hrs week of training.. phew!

Thank you to all the lovely people I have met down here – both the locals and the foreigners – it is amazing to be welcomed back into the scene with open minds and smiles.



Flat mate Ivan (Team Portugal) is napping between sessions..


Dag in the biggest drop on the course… I swear it is bigger than it looks!



Sometimes I sneak off for some paragliding in Organya…



Halfway and still pulling!

It has been 3 weeks since I flew into Barcelona with my slalom kayak. Dag Sandvik (NOR) and myself stay with team Portugal in a nice appartment, and share training sessions with them. It is great for us to have good examples on the course – so I guess they are getting the worse end of this deal!

The course in La Seu d´Urgell is cool – I really like it because of its fast water and tricky eddies. Now, there is also a flatwater course and a natural course in the nearby town of Arfa that I spend half the sessions on. Obviously my primary goal is to improve my technique, and to eventually get faster also in competitions.

We average 22 hours of training pr. week, and the first two weeks I was struggling. Constantly sore, without energy and feeling very tired. This week is better though, and I can feel that I can pull more on my paddle. My up-streams are in general better as well, but I am still not paddling properly down the course – too much to think about still. Gates, angles, speed, anticipation, trajectory etc etc…

This weekend we have two races here in La Seu and my goal is simply to try and stay clean. We will see. After that I still have 1.5 weeks of training left before I head back to Norway and plan the rest of the season. I will also do a World Cup ranking race in Ivrea, and one in Merano (Italy), and hopefully I get to race the Worlds in London in September. We will see.

Now, if you are a whitewater kayaker like me, wanting to get into slalom for the fun of it, here are five things to think about right away:


1. Anticipation is key. Always, always turn your boat before the gate, and turn it according to the following gate. To be late for the next gate in slalom paddling is like missing the last eddy when creeking. (minus the consequences except from a bruised ego)

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Setting the angle for gate nr two before the gate right in front


2. Forget about the fancy pivot turns through the upstream gates. Only the good ones do that, and believe me, it will take a while to get good. Instead you better focus on keeping the boat flat and smooth through the upstream gate.

3. Slowly into the gate, fast out of the gate. This is the drill my coach is trying to hammer into my head. Slow down to get the timing and strokes right, give yourself enough space in the gate to be able to paddle out of it close to the exit pole, and with enough room to pull proper strokes.


To begin with keep the boat flat through the gate – wait with trying pivot turns.


4.  Avoid back strokes!  I am still at the point where I need to sometimes pull a brake stroke to correct the angle of my kayak – which again usually comes from being a bit behind through or before the gate. BUT – try do drive the kayak forwards, always forwards.

5. Do not give up! Switching from the freedom of the river to a course full of gates that require precision and drive is not easy. Even when you think you will never stop hitting those gates, remember that it is all for fun and personal gain. Take a break – re-assess your errors and challenges on the slalom course, then keep on trying. Even if you do not notice it yourself – you are getting better. Promise.


And most importantly: Have fun!


Have fun!



Why slalom?

”So, why do you do slalom?”

The question has arrived in many forms over the past years. Some ask because they are curious, some ask because they think it is a bit silly that I keep doing it without going for it 100 %, some are fascinated that it is possible to do the cross over, and some just think I am naive since I keep trying without much hope of making it anywhere large in the competitive world of slalom.

Skjermbilde 2013-10-08 kl. 22.05.48
Enjoying the slalom gates in Voss, Norway


Well, there are three main reasons. The first and the most important one is that I think it is a lot of FUN. The second reason is because I believe in bettering myself throughout my life. The third reason is that I truly believe in transferability between disciplines.

In my opininon it is very healthy once in a while to get immersed into something which one is not that good at. It serves as a reality check and a reminder of humbleness. I find it amazing to be able to run the same slalom courses as the best in the world, and I try hard to reach toward the fluidity and grace I see in slalom.


Dag Sandvik finding his inner beast through a flatwater gate…


It is also a mental challenge because I can easily feel like the worst kayaker in the world while being on the course, and it is hard when the coach picks on my errors during every session. But it is up to me to stay positive and to realise that I am benefitting in every way by being coached. The trick is to remember that I do not need to compare myself to the others on the course. I simply need to better myself, not to be better than anybody else. That is a very liberating realisation for somebody as naturally competitive as myself.


Staying positive


Slalom is by far my weakest discipline in the sport of kayaking, and oddly enough it is also where I get the most personal gain at the moment. That is why I am spending five weeks here in La Seu d´Urgell, Spain, to see where that takes me. At the moment the good days are fewer than the less good days, but nevertheless there are always glimpses of improvement even in tough sessions. These glimpses serve to remind me that I am on the right track.


Enjoying Gladiator, White Water Grand Prix 2014


To become better in one discipline actually means getting better in the other two. A good forward stroke is essential also in creeking and freestyle, to be able to surf a wave or a hole is needed in slalom and creeking, and the mental focus of running class five certainly helps in slalom and freestyle competitions. I have always tried to do it all, and not just in kayaking. Over the years I have learned that this might not be too easy in real life, but when it comes to kayaking I still mainly see the benefits from this approach.

Yes, when you change in between creeking, freestyle and slalom it is harder to become good fast, simply because it takes a longer time. But that was never my main objective – to become World Champion on a given day.

My objective has always been to become my very best – and for me that means combining it all to become a complete paddler. And person.


First descent of the double drop “Big Girl” in Eidsåa – Norway


So here I am, spending my days in La Seu d´Urgell, Spain, searching for fluidity, grace and a few good up-streams… Then we will see where this adventure takes me.


See you downstream!