What’s it like to raft race in China? Serbia’s Nada Matic, of the International rafting Federation, offers a few pointers in her summary of China’s recent R-2 Championships, drawing teams from Serbia, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand and the USA…
“Going to China, for most of us, is an achievement in itself. To go and race rafts there is just a dream and we never expected it would happen to us.
Over the past few years I have heard stories about this competition, all of which were full of praise. To suddenly find myself participating in it was better than I could even imagine. That it worked so well owes itself to a small army of people, sponsors and support from the state, all whom deserve a great thank you.
The first day of training and the first downriver left us speechless. The little river was a reconstructed dam which controls the flow of the water on the track. Trails, rapids, bends and falls are artificially made, but it’s an excellent technical job. The water is shallow, safe, the rafts are unusually small, something weren’t used to. You sit facing each other in the raft, not on the raft, so that was the first ride for the inexperienced and the five teams had four swimmers. We must have looked funny to the tourists. While on the track it’s not really possible to control the boat because the track is designed for people to just sit in the raft and let the water carry them along. So opposing it is hard.
The next day was the race, with the best team being New Zealand, followed by the USA in second and Canada with a third, because someone swam. The Hungarians took fifth place while a broken paddle cost the Serbian team.
Tourist rafting is growing rapidly in China, and there are many of these small tracks throughout the country. Where we were, an important point of the “one river and two mountain” golden tourism route in Hubei, is 60 km from Yichang. Flowing through Sleeping Buddha Mountain, General Pilla, Chaotiangou, tt runs 6 km with a drop of 120 meters. It was declared the “most popular rafting area in Hubei Province” in 2008.
I also can’t say enough about everyone’s hospitality and kindness. I’d like to thank Na Na Liu – Vice Secretary General of the Chinese Extreme Sports Association; our guide, Ge Xiaochuan, who we pestered endlessly with questions; and our translators, without whose help we’d have had a lot more difficulty. And the biggest thanks goes to hosts Water Sports Administration Center of State General Administration of Sport; Hubei Provincial Sports Bureau, and the Chinese Extreme Sports Association.
If they call any of you next year for this contest – here are some tips:
1. Bring something to install hooks for feet to have gain stability. Bring anything: your belt, rope, straps, whatever. Just be sure it will be safe so your foot won’t get caught if you flip.
2. Take a short paddle. Your boat is small and not much above the water, making paddling with a standard paddle harder. You’ll also will end up scratching the carbon paddles, maybe even break a paddle, so bring a spare. I recommend ordinary plastic paddles.
3. Bring normal safety equipment. There’s isn’t as good as ours.
4. Adapt to the time difference. Try to do this as much as possible before you go, so you’re not doing it on the raft.
5. Spice is nice. The food is spicy and if you cannot get used to it you will have a big problem.