Lofer Rodeo 2018, Roaring and Rocking
The weekend of 14 to 16 September was a blinding success for the Whitewater Slaves of Lofer. 149 participants from twelve nations, watched as Daniel Klotzner, from Italy, successfully defended his title, and the best party of the season lit up at the Lofer Rodeo. Over 180 paddlers, stand-up paddlers and rafters joined together for the « Day of the Saalach river » to protest against the planned diversion dam in Unken.
Too few start numbers and not enough beer! Despite optimistic planning, the Whitewater Slaves, Lofer Rodeo, in Salzburger Saalachtal, on 14 and 15 September 2018, far exceeded all expectations. 149 participants from Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, and New Zealand registered for the boatercross on the Saalach. After the rain of the week before, the slalom course had a sweet, sporty water level with the sun coming, perfectly timed, from behind the clouds for the head to head finals. Ideal conditions for the numerous spectators of this exciting and quick race.
Daniel Klotzner defends his title
In the final of the K1 men defending champion Daniel Klotzner, from Italy, fought for the fastest line warring it out against the boats of his rivals. Nevertheless, the defending champion remained on line while both Gregor Becke (GER) and Michal Buchtec (CZE) failed and were pushed off line, missing a gate. The title fight was down to Klotzner against Andreas Bunner (AUT), with the Austrian strong into the final gate at the “Glaser corner”. A hard fought battle at the gate had Klotzner leaving in the lead showing Brunner how the game is played.
The K1 ladies race was won and lost at the gate in the Glaser corner. Susanna Halbach (AUT) was in the lead but was pushed off line and shut out by winner Pavlína Zasterova (CZE) and second place Lena Grüb (GER). Denise Rebenegger (AUT) finished fourth. Sabrina Barm (FRA) only just missed out in the first running of class C1 unisex at the Lofer Rodeo. After some initial troubles in the slalom-S, she battled in the Glaser corner and came out leading the final sprint. Pushed off line by the finishing waves, C1-veteran Martin Karabec CZE) was ready to capitalise on Barm’s mistake and passed her on the inside for the win. Third place went to Vilem Klepac (CZE) ahead of Bernhard Steidl (AUT).
Party until the bar falls down – and on!
Already in the 90s, the Lofer Rodeo was a legendary party for good times and exuberance. Twenty-five years later nothing has changed. The sun-downer clubbing on Friday lured racers and visitors to the illuminated Saalach river. The last paddlers were spotted on the water at 1:30. On Saturday night, the party bear was let loose on a party bursting at the seams. Shortly before midnight the bar was crushed under the weight of more than 40 dancing paddlers. Also, unfortunately, the beer dried up – contrary to expectations – far too early. Nevertheless, the party was celebrated until the early morning hours. The awards ceremony is one of the highlights at the Lofer Rodeo. After the prizes are awarded and given out to the champions, the tests of strength and wits are started. Reward: two brand new kayaks. Anna Sokolova left with the Exo Rexy in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Showdown. Jonas Wiser took home a Prijon Cocaine as the reward for the strongest arm in the merciless Maßkrug Hold On.
Together for free rivers
There was a serious side to the Lofer Rodeo this year as well. Currently, a run of the river power plant plan is threatening the lower Saalach river. This is a seven-kilometer scenic beginner section between Unken and Schneizelreuth. To help educate on the effects and conquences of dams and run of the river projects the documentary, Blue Heart, was added to the rodeo program. The film is about the destruction of Europe’s last wild rivers in the Balkans and was shown in an open-air cinema on the banks of the Saalach, friday evening. The Alpine Kayak Club, AKC, also helped with fundraising for the Free Rivers Fund. They ran the food cart, Nude Boys Pizza stand and sold the new AKC/Free River Fund T-shirts all in support of the Free Rivers Fund and the young grassroots initiative to save the Saalach river. The first print edition of T-shirts sold out with more will be available soon from AKC President Jobst Hahn.
Protest paddling on the day of the Saalach
An impressive show of support for free rivers was the river community trip on Sunday for the « Day of the Saalach river ». This is a grassroots community information event, “Water is Life – Save the Saalach” about the run of the river power plant planned in Unken. Over 180 paddlers, SUPers and rafters joined AKC president Jobst Hahn and bad-ass Judith Hackinger of the Whitewater Slaves to protest vociferously against the plans and show support for free rivers. We can only hope and continue to fight so that the Saalachtal continues to be preserved as a complete wild and free river for beginners and experts alike.
Boatercross K1 men
1. Daniel Klotzner (ITA)
2. Andreas Brunnen (AUT)
3. Gregor Becke (GER)
4. Michal Buchtec (CZE)
Boatercross K1 women
1. Pavlina Zasterova (CZE)
2. Lena Grüb (GER)
3. Susanna Halbach (AUT)
4. Denise Rebenegger (AUT)
Boatercross C1 unisex
1. Martin Karabec (CZE)
2. Sabrina Barm (FRA)
3. Vilem Klepac (CZE)
4. Bernhard Steidl (AUT)
Save the date: Lofer Rodeo 2019 – September 13 and 14 2019
Text: Tim Starr & Judith Hackinger