Name: Ben Hawthorne
About me: Been paddling for a while now, maybe 24 years?? Christ I’m old!!! I have however been fortunate to take my passion all over the world and paddle in a whole lot of places including New Zealand, Nepal, Chile and Canada. For the last 2 summers and next I have been running the Sjoa Kayak Camp in Norway along with my beautiful wife and the Gene 17 boys. I’m lucky enough to be supported by Colorado Kayak Supply in the US, super cool guys, check em out.
Location: Currently, Chamonix for the winter. Stoked.
Boat: ZET Raptor. Now when these came out I thought they looked a bit industrial, rough around the edges and wasn’t that keen. Then I ended up paddling one for a bit, and after a couple of runs was completely converted. It does everything a creek boat should do. Fast (for a creek boat), boofs and rolls easy, light, comfortable and most importantly, bomb proof. I do think its not really a great beginners boat, it definitely needs to be driven around the river and will kick your arse pretty fast if youre not a pro-active paddler but I love it. It really suits my paddling style. I’m pretty excited to see the new boat they’ve got lined up, details boys details!!! Also a Bliss-stick Smoothy for my play boat, like a project in my size, love it.
Lid: Sweet dude! What does mine say? Sweet! Ive been using a strutter for everything that is more than a couple of inches deep for years now. I love it, just comfortable, light, fits me really nicely, keeps the rain, snow and sun out of my eyes and most importantly it looks cool! I do have a wanderer for the scary stuff as well tho.
PFD: Astral Greenjacket. Great design, love it. Mine has 5 solid seasons on it now and theres barely a stitch out of place, tough as hell. The foam is starting to get a little bit sun $#%^##ed now so I think a little more floatation will be in order soon but great BA. Still, I wish HF still made the serpent, damn that was a good BA.
Deck: IR Royale. Great deck, love the rubber rand and stretchy kevlar. I found mine was leaking round the stitching between the kevlar outer and the main deck but a judicious application of black witch sorted that out, now, super dry!
Boots: They all die in around 6 months eh. Water is really bad for shoes. I currently have both 5.10 water tennies AND a pair of Astral Rasslers (long story). The Astrals are my favourite tho, light, grippy as hell, super quick drying and a nice simple design. The cordura is tough as *$%^$ and I think theyre bomber even if I do seem to be the only person who hasnt had them fall apart in the first 5 minutes.
Blades: Lettmann Ergo Pro 197cm, 55′ feather. Actually found these by the river 2 years back. Awesome blades, so much power! It’s like planting rocks with every stroke. The mutts nuts for creeking, river running etc. They suck at playboating tho, so I’ve got an old set of AT2’s for that.
Thermal: IR Union suit. The best in the business? Maybe. It is awesome tho, even if it makes me smell like a bear. An very old, unwashed bear.
Dry gear: Kokatat, Kokatat, Kokatat. I know its expensive in the UK, but I’m lucky enough to have a hook up in the US so I get it cheap and it is the tits. Gore-tex just cant be beat. I have the Meridian dry suit for the cold days and its amazing. Like I could paddle class 5 all day with my clothes underneath and go straight to the pub after. The Rogue dry top kicks ass to, simply the best cag ive ever had. Because being warm and dry is pretty sweet right?
Up next: Well, were going to be here in Cham for the winter so skiing it is then. Super excited as I’ve taken the last 2 winters to go boating which is not bad like but I’ve missed the snow. Hopefully we’ll be heading to Corsica in the spring tho so long as they have snow and then its back up to Sjoa Kayak Camp for another summer of amazing Norveg! Love it and I’d love to share it with you guys, please come and visit! There are currently some behind the scenes developments going on at Sjoa which hopefully will see some improved facilities in place for next year (more stoves, more sinks etc) and we will be looking to make our dorms available to groups with possible perks for staying indoors to, watch this space. Whatever happens tho, we still have the mighty Sjoa and all the other great rivers of Norway to offer as well as a river side sauna. So yea, come see us!!!