Inside the Machu Picchu Kayak Fest : Winners Rountable Interview
Right after the awards ceremony, we caught up with kayakers Alonso Campana (AKA Rambito) from Peru, Aran Balaguero (Catalunya) and Aleix Salvat (Catalunya) who respectively took the win in the professional Downriver, Boater Cross and Slalom races of the Machu Picchu Kayak Fest.
Congrats on the Downriver win Alonso! Paddling a 6-kilometer stretch of big and continuous class V rapids seems to be a setting that works well for you. How were the river conditions and the kayakers’ level?
Alonso Campana: This year we had ideal water levels. The pro racecourse is a non-stop section with multiple line possibilities that makes it challenging to have the fastest run. As for the previous years’ edition, we had competitors of good level.
The Machu Picchu Kayak festival is one of the few events that promote Peru as a kayaking destination and highlights the importance of river conservation. As a local kayaker, how do you feel the festival impacts your whitewater community?
Alonso Campana: Peru is one of the best places to paddle in the world. You can find whitewater sections for all kayaking levels; do short laps or multiday expeditions as well as first descents. I think the festival does a great job supporting the development of the sport helping maintain rivers flowing freely and motivating the future generation of kayakers.
Welcome back to competitions Aran! Last time you raced was 2 years ago and you were standing on the European Freestyle Championship podium. How does it feel to reappear with these results?
Aran Balaguero: Thank you, I’m really stoked to take the win in Boater Cross and place 2nd in Slalom racing against kayakers that I look up to. It’s challenging for most of us to compete while struggling to find support but these results are a real motivation to keep charging and doing what I love!
You are only 19 years old and you beat out some strong competition at the Machu Picchu Kayak Fest. What’s next for a young gun like you in the sport?
Aran Balaguero: Kayaking as much as possible! I still have a couple of weeks left to paddle in Peru and will then head to Mexico with good friends from Catalunya. Competition wise I’m encouraged to train harder and try racing the Sickline race at some point!
Any supporters you would like to thank?
Aran Balaguero: At the moment I’m actually looking for sponsors (laughs). I would like to thank to Rambito for hosting us in his home country, Kayak Sort School for all the years together in the river and the Machu Picchu Kayak Fest crew for putting up such a great event together.
Cheers on making it to all podiums Aleix! The Slalom course was particularly hard in this year’s edition of the festival and you were the only kayaker accomplishing both runs clean. You started your paddling career with Slalom ; how has it impacted your kayaking do you think?
Aleix Salvat: Thanks; it was a very technical but fun race! I’ve been practicing slalom since I was 6 years old and it was what i started racing. Now I’m more focused in travelling and discovering new rivers but I still dedicate time to train in slalom since it’s the discipline that improves the most my kayaking skills.
It’s your third time paddling in Peru. What makes you come back and which is your favorite section of Peruvian whitewater?
Aleix Salvat: I really like kayaking in Peru because you really spend most of the time in the river doing multi day and first descent expeditions. Chilca is my favorite section for brief laps of class IV/V white water over 2,800 CFS (80M3/s), perfect to get in shape. The Abismo section of the Apurimac River is my preferred multiday expedition with beautiful landscapes and good rapids.
Thanks and congrats guys! see you all next year!