I may spend much of my time in sea boats these days, but I do enjoy my white water kayaking. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, I was a frequent visitor to the wonderful paddling environment of the Dauphiné region of the French Alps, for work and play.
It’s a fantastic white water playground, with a huge range of friendly rivers of different characters and a Mediterranean ambience. In 2009 I returned to the area with two mates, Chris Wright and John Jackson. Between us we had about 30 weeks guiding experience in the area – and on this occasion it was a rare chance to paddle together on our own terms.
On our arrival in early June, we discovered that the rapidly warming temperatures had begun to release the snow pack of the Ecrins mountains, creating high water levels on the rivers of the region. From a central base in Vallouise, we set out to explore the conditions and chanced across a dream paddling week – cloudless sunshine days and high water levels that just allowed us to tackle all the classics of the Durance Basin and beyond. Fantastic!
Sea kayakers interested in developing rough water skills could do far worse than to spend some time white water kayaking – it’s an excellent way to gain a range of boat handling skills, mental strategies and reactions that transfer very well to the sea environment. The French Alps are the place to go – warm days, reliable water and inspiring mountain scenery. Did I mention the red wine and local cuisine?