Interview – Aniol and Gerd Serrasolses on the First Edition of SBP Program
The Serrasolses brothers recently launched their own teaching development program aimed at kids with talent and motivation but little means to paddle, called the SBP program. The initiative was born out of their desire to give back through an educational program that supports the sustainable development of the international whitewater community. We caught up with Gerd and Aniol right after the first edition that took place on the Rio Futaleufu in Patagonia (Chile).
There are several renowned kayak schools but not many concerned with those who have great talent but little resources to paddle. What’s the drive behind creating a social project and how do you relate to the communities you benefit?
Aniol: We feel really identified with these kids because we share a similar story: a humble background and a huge drive to go kayaking. It was so significant to give them a chance! They really valued the opportunity and took advantage of every minute in the water. They have potential to become great whitewater kayakers and river keepers.
Tell us a bit more about the program you designed for the first SBP class. These kids grew up watching your kayaking videos and most probably never imagined sharing runs in their local rivers with two world champions.
Gerd: The program started on the Espolon River where we had the perfect scenario to practice basic whitewater techniques right next to town. We then did double kayaks and rafting on the Bridge-to-Bridge section so the kids could get a first taste on the Futaleufu River before paddling the Macal section on their own. We also had river conservation hydrology talks and practiced a bunch of swimming and rope rescue. The last two days were held during the Futa XL were they participated in Sprint, Downriver, Slalom and Boater X races. The main goal of the program was to teach them how much fun and life changing kayaking can be and the importance of maintaining free flowing rivers.
The FUTA XL river festival must have been a unique opportunity for the kids to put into practice what they learned during the program… How did it work out for the SBP crew?
Aniol: Everyone was happy to be part of the event and we had a bunch of kids taking medals back home. Shout out to Ali, Ayelen, Francis, Thomas and David for their awesome performance! I was personally fired up to share some podiums with my brother and proud of him for taking the overall win of the competition. It was a great closure for the course and we can’t be more stoked with results!
What the best piece of advice you could share with kayak enthusiasts?
Gerd: Enjoy kayaking, all of it. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget why do we kayak: we kayak because its fun, because it fulfills us and makes us happy, we need kayaking to live a full life. This is what we have to remember on a bad day after messing up a rapid, when competitions don’t go well, when it’s low and cold outside… Our goal is to kayak until we are old and the best way to do so is to enjoy every aspect of kayaking day after day.
The first edition of the program has definitely created a lasting impression in the kids. Would you agree this experience has equally impacted your career as professional athletes?
Aniol: Completely! We are the ones who learned the most from this experience. As we progress in the sport we realize it’s no longer about running waterfalls or winning competitions. SBP has shown us the importance of leaving a legacy. Kayaking has given us everything in life and we feel its time to give back.
Gerd: We were shocked and extremely happy at the same time to see how strong the kids bonded; always motivating and helping each other out, they truly worked as a team. The family spirit you could breath during the SB program week was so energizing! The relationships created will last forever; it was a life-changing experience for all of us.
Nonprofits have to overcome great challenges including fundraising. How can the global white water community support SBP?
Gerd: SBP is possible thanks to the generous and committed support of both companies and individuals who are passionate about kayaking and river conservation. Besides donations we currently have t-shirts and stickers on sale that help cover the program costs. We are beyond thankful with all the sponsors who made the first edition of the SB Program a reality. Thank you Immersion Research, Watershed, Futaleufu City Council, Futa River Keeper, Futa XL River Festival, Futaleufluye School, Wayqui Clothing, Chin Photography, Ruta 7, and all our friends & family. Our most sincere appreciations for making this week one to remember!
Where is the Serrasolses Brothers Program heading next?
Aniol: We have a very exciting tour ahead of us. After a successful first edition we are surprised by the amount of river communities inviting us to run the program in amazing locations such as India, Colombia and Costa Rica. SBP is a collaborative project that is growing in a very organic way. We are stoked to help were most needed and therefore open to new proposals.
Gerd and Aniol Serrasolses need little introduction. Born and raised in Bescanó, a little town on the north east of Catalunya, they got into kayaking pretty much by chance and from then on started their life journey searching for the gnarliest whitewater on the planet. During their professional career the Serrasolses brothers have paddled more than 300 rivers, established over 20 first descents, successfully accomplished many expeditions and both are proclaimed World Champions.