Trip Report: Lyon Playboating Development Week

Last week we held our third Lyon playboating course, this year using an additional slalom course with even more features to practice on. One of our students, Chris Hull, wrote this report from his experience of the week.

After weeks of trying in vein to evolve a set of gills and failing to do so, it was time to hop on a plane to France for a week’s playboating with FlowFree. As soon as we made camp at Sault Brenaz slalom course, we got on the water to show Lowri how much work she had to do! Luckily Rhod and I were at the same sort of level: able to surf and sometimes spin. We found a little wave and started to learn to flat spin better. Then moved on to a bigger wave to start on carves. After a couple of days on this course we were feeling good about everything. Most of all, my roll was working 100%!

Rhod carving
Rhod beginning to learn to blunt

By Monday, we had to move campsite as this course was closing due to dam work upstream. On the way to the new course, Saint Pierre de Boeuf, we stopped at Hawaii-sur-Rhone. I was amazed at the scale of the thing!! It was on 900 cumecs on that day, the right hand channel was flushing so we ran it far left. It was even bigger when you’re on the top just about to fly down it!! We broke out to look at the left hand channel: a smaller green wave with eddy service, but still massive compared to anything in the UK. Rhod and Lowri tried to surf it but couldn’t get far enough right to stay on. I was too scared and in awe of the size to even try to get on, but after some goading from Rhod I went for it! I got about 2 seconds of surfing… it was amazing! So I went around again, this time I got munched by the hole just behind the wave and ended up swimming… all on the gopro :(. It was a fairly long swim, but the water was warm and it’s flat for miles downstream so nothing to worry about. Plus Lowri came and saved me!

We moved on to the next slalom course, which was nowhere near as deep as the first course but had a lovely surf wave to practice carves, blunts and more importantly body positioning. There was a bigger wave/ hole (liked to change when you where in it) to hone the skills and get prepared for the speed on Hawaii-sur-Rhone. There were also a couple of holes to practice on and this is where my second and last swim happened, after achieving one of my goals for the week – rolling back up in the hole and carrying on playing. I went back in for a second go but I didn’t roll up as quick as I needed to and smacked my head, on the rock shelf that made the wave behind it. More battle scars for my new helmet.

Rhod nailing his blunts
Rhod getting to grips with his blunting

Surfing top wave
Surfing on the top wave at St Pierre de Boeuf

Lowri showing off
Lowri playing in one of the holes

The following day, we checked the levels at Hawaii-sur-Rhone and they looked good so off we went. Lowri led us down to show where the right place to drop into it was. A quick game of rock-paper-scissors and I was in my boat ferrygliding across the top of this monster, taking big breaths praying for a easy ride. As I dropped in to it I had enough time to say “Holy **** this is a long way down” before hitting the pile and having about a 10 second surf. It was a lot more friendly than I thought it was going to be. Rhod then dropped in to it and the wave looked like it worked him hard, but he held on for a long ride and even got a half spin. The next run though I nail it… Front surf down the pile into the trough. I look to the bank and could see the wave crashing above me. Lowri said my face was a picture. It was the best ride of my life up to that point and all caught on film 🙂

Dropping in
Dropping in, thinking “Holy ****!”

Looking across
Looking across at Rhod filming me. Wow this is incredible!

Big smiles after an amazing surf.
Big smiles after an amazing surf.

Rhod missed the next two goes, so it was back to me. Now what I’m about to say is true, the other two will back (key word there) me up. As I dropped in to the wave and hit the pile my backband popped. “Crap! Just lean forward, Chris, just lean forward!” I kept saying to myself. How am I going to do this without swimming?! I rise up on the pile and get thrown into a backsurf back down the wave. It started to feel like a great run and I started to enjoy it as much as you can with an integral part of you boat not done up. I got the boat into a sidesurf then went for a big sweep stroke get myself into a frontsurf again, and to the edge of the wave which flushed me off. The drama was not over: I still had the wide whirlpool, boil-ridden eddylines to deal with! I fight my way through them and got to the beach. It was by far the best run I ever had. After lunch the level went up and the wave become flushy to catch. I didn’t mind, I’d had the ride of my life and my adrenaline was pumping!

Proof of the backsurf!

Lowri air blunting
Lowri shows us some air

The triumphant pair!
The triumphant wave riders

For rest of the week we looked at improving carves and perfecting our newly learnt blunts and Rhod was on a mission to learn to flatwater loop. My confidence had rocketed this week and I’ve had the biggest smiles I’ve ever had on my face! I can’t thank Lowri from FlowFree enough for the incredible week I’ve had. Now off on the second leg of my trip… to the Alps.

All smiles

To see more photos from our week in Lyon, check out