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Published on janvier 31st, 2019 | by Kayak Session

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Nile River Festival 2019 – Video, Report, Results

by Robbie Mingay

The Nile River Festival is Africa’s most impressive whitewater event and the 2019 version has just come to a close. 2019 marked a year of change for the NRF as this was the first festival post-Isimba Dam. New events included a raft competition (best flips, coolest lines, most epic carnage!), multiple freestyle kayaking events, and a mountain bike race. These new events joined old favourites like the Big Air Ramp and the Itanda Falls race. The new additions to the festival encouraged more people – not just kayakers – to participate and get involved. As a result, this year’s festival was one of the most well-attended in its history!

Day 1:
It all started on Thursday with the ‘’SuperHolympics’’ – a no-rules, just-for-fun, anything goes paddle at the local playspot SuperHole. Shenanigans was the name of the game! In the afternoon competitors accelerate down a 25-foot concrete kayak ramp to be launched in the air for the amusement of the hundreds of spectators. Judges, seated on a boat just out of the landing area, award points to the competitors who pull off the best tricks or entertain the crowd the most. This year’s winners? A flaming (literally!), four-person, cardboard firetruck! When the competition was over the party moved on to the Nile River Explorer’s bar, an establishment with a long, beer and sambuca soaked history of rowdy kayaking parties. Live music and a magnificent Ugandan sunset closed the day’s first smile-filled day.

Team Fire Fighters © Tommy Hatwell

Day 2:
Friday hosts three events. The rafting competition, and for Kayakers two different freestyle events. In teams of 6, rafters attempted to hit interesting lines, have the biggest flips, or do the silliest thing at each rapid. Along for the ride were video boaters who captured the awesomeness and created highlight reels for each team. Those highlight reels were later shown at the bar where the crowd decided the winners and are up on Kayak the Nile’s Facebook video page for everyone to watch now. For kayakers Friday was all about freestyle. This year’s festival took advantage of all the incredible features the Nile has to offer paddlers. “The new format of the event we called Freestyle Friday required competitors to show a versatility of skills on many different features. A lot of the competitors were even surprised by some of the features because they’d never been on them before! One of the great parts of this new format is that each competitor now has their own edit showcasing their tricks and the epic features still on the Nile. Uganda is still definitely one of the top destinations for playboaters,” says Bartosz Czauderna, co-organizer of NRF 2019. Competitors had one or two rides on various features – from small holes to big waves – which the group hit as they paddled down the river en-masse – collectively enjoying yet another beautiful day on one of the world’s most magical rivers. Midway through the day the Ugandan Freestyle Kayak Team selection competition was held at Itanda Hole. Thirty kayakers competed for the coveted spots on team Uganda (See you in Sort!). Friday night ended with a film night which included a documentary by the BBC featuring last years Nile River Festival as well another film by a local kayak club.

Rafters going ballistic ©Tommy Hatwell

Day 3
Saturday of the festival is for many the most impressive. The Hendri Coetzee Memorial Itanda Race is a head-to-head race down one of the Nile’s largest rapids – Itanda Falls. Held in honour of the late South African kayaker and expedition leader, Hendri Coetzee, the race is a serious commitment and not for the faint-of-heart. To hit their lines paddlers must weave their way through the massive rapid and dodge features with names like Pencil-Sharpener, the Ashtray, and the aptly named ‘Bad Place’. The race line on Itanda narrowly dodges the biggest features as competitors attempt to make use of the fastest currents but leaves little margin for error. As can be expected on a grade 5 race there were some swims but everyone paddled away safe and sound. NRF 2019 organizers would like to extend a massive thank you to Nalubale Rafting and Dr Sara Richardson who provided safety and emergency medical support for the race.

Kayak The Nile owner Sam ward going humangous as usual on Cuban during the Freestyle event ©Tommy Hatwell

To make the Itanda Race even more interesting the top five fastest times are invited for a second lap. On the second lap however, instead of a timed lap, they are encouraged to impress the crowd. It’s during this second lap that it becomes evident just how skilled many of these paddlers actually are. Cartwheels and loops down the entry ramp, kickflips off the Ashtray, airscrews on the Cuban, entry kickflips into the pencil sharpener, no paddle surfing of the Bad Place – it’s a phenomenal display of skill. This year in honour of the late Amina Nakiirya – a beloved member of the Nile kayaking community and member of the Uganda Freestyle Kayak Team – a new event was added to the Itanda day; a freestyle competition on the massive Cuban wave. A few brave paddlers hiked back to the top of Itanda and awaited their turn on the rowdy wave. In the end the best ride went to long time Uganda resident and Kayak the Nile owner, Sam Ward, but local paddlers South and Musa Mutamba also had impressive rides with some big tricks.


Saturday night of NRF, hosts the biggest party of the festival. Over 500 people came out to the town of Bujagali and danced the night away to celebrate another epic festival. Rounding out the night were Beer Olympics and Jello Wrestling – an NRF classic!The Nile River Festival is at it’s heart an epic kayaking competition, and 2019 was no different, but it is much more about the river lifestyle, and bringing a community together to celebrate the Nile River and everything that is wonderful about it!

Bartosz Czauderna and Dan Griffin in the head to head Itanda race ©Alex NealDay 4

Sunday is for rest – unless you were taking part in the mountain bike race put on by local NGO BikeVentures. Racers pedalled there way down dusty roads and windy single-track all along the Nile’s banks. The race ended at the Nile River Explorers campsite in Bujagali just in time for festival prize giving. Later, when all the prizes had been awarded and the adrenaline of the festival had subsided organizers, competitors and spectators alike shared hugs and handshakes to celebrate another successful NRF. See you in 2020!

Nile River Festival 2019 organizers would like to thank all the competitors, spectators, and volunteers who made this festival such a success. They would also like to thank the festival sponsors Nile Breweries, Jackson Kayak, Brussels Airlines, Dewerstone, and Palm Equipment as well as the primary media partner Kayak Session.

Results Nile River Festival 2019
Men’s Overall:
1) Sam Ward 2) Bartosz Czauderna 3) David Moore
Women’s Overall:
1) Emily Ward 2) Amina Tayona 3) Laura Bierer
Itanda Falls Race:
Tied 1st) David Moore and Sam Ward 3) Musa Mutamba
Amina Nakiirya Cuban Freestyle:
1) Sam Ward 2) South 3) Musa Mutamba
Freestyle Friday K1 Womens:
1) Emily Ward 2) Amina Tayona 3) Laura Bierer
Freestyle Friday K1 Men’s:
1) Bartosz Czauderna 2) Sam Ward 3) Coby Ludick
Uganda Freestyle Championship Men’s:
1) Sadat Kawawa 2) David Moore 3) Musa Mutamba
Uganda Freestyle Championship Women’s:
1) Amina Tayona
Ugandan Youngster Category:
1) Owen NRE 2) Isma Fiso 3) Bony Isiko
Itanda Hole Freestyle Men’s:
1) Bartosz Czauderna 2) Sam Ward 3) Dan Griffin
Itanda Hole Freestyle Women’s:
1) Emily Ward 2) Amina Tayona 3) Laura Bierer

Sadat Kawawa on Real Deal wave ©EMILY WARD

©Tommy Hatwell

 

©Tommy Hatwell

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