“Noetztal” – by Bren Orton

When Bren asked if we wanted to support his latest film, we didn’t have to think twice. He’s been living in Innsbruck for a couple of years and has grown really fond of the Ötztaler Ache by now. In this blog post he describes how witnessing the changes imposed on the river by the big flood in the end of August, that led to the cancellation of the OETZ TROPHY were for him as a kayaker. He fights the opinion that the Ötztaler Ache is ruined and says that on the contrary, she’s very much alive and well!

About his reasons that led to this movie he writes:

We have some good rivers in the UK, in fact, we have some really good rivers in the UK… but it has to rain, a lot, for them to come in. The periods in between rain when the rivers ran dry used to drive me crazy as a frothing, kayaking-obsessed child. To learn that there were places in the world that had consistent water levels sparked my imagination and eventually the frothing, kayak-obsessed adult found himself in Oetztal.

It blew me away, you could set your watch by the rise in the water levels in the summer months. A few hours after the heat of the day had hit the glacier at the top of the valley, the melt water would reach the river and bring it to life. Everyday, there was consistent kayaking and not just consistent kayaking, but incredible, beautiful, powerful, dynamic kayaking.

In over 60kms of the Oetz river you have every grade of kayaking. It is mostly made up of continuous powerful boulder gardens and the occasional set of clean defined moves as found on the Wellebrucke. It is arguably one of the best places in the world to become better at kayaking. I have personally seen a huge progression in my kayaking since moving to Innsbruck and living just round the corner from Oetztal. I have spent countless hours on these rapids, learning how they work and how to work with them. It feels strange to say that for a while the most consistent thing in my life was the Oetz river. No matter what happened in the year at some point I would be back in the valley, hitting the lines I love and having an amazing time life styling with my friends. 

That was until a hundred year flood stuck the valley and changed the rapids forever. It was honestly an exciting time to be around. The rain that hit was intense, access to Oetztal was impossible as the river had swept part of the road away and the story of what was happening in the valley was unfolding via my friends and raft guides that live there. Every single picture message on whatsapp caused great debate amongst my house mates as to what rocks had moved and how the rapids where changing. Ultimately, there was only one way to know, to wait until the river levels had receded, the road had been fixed and to see for ourselves.

The Wellerbrücke is the lowest class 5 section in the valley and the one we came to first. It had changed completely. Every single move was different, though it was still undoubtedly a challenging class 4/5 rapid that was calling my name. I put down the first full laps of the OETZ TROPHY race course and could happily report back that it was still a sick rapid. It was too high to drop into the Wellebrucke above the race course. 

Myself and Adrian drove up to our favourite section of river the Middle Oetz with our fingers crossed and our breath held, hoping that the floods hadn’t ruined it. It took us a while to work our way down it on our first lap and there were definitely some rocks in random places but what we found was that it was actually better than it was before the floods. Cleaner, with more defined moves and deeper channels.

I was happy to report back from that initial day that the river was alive and well after the floods. Sadly people didn’t want to listen and the consensus from people that hadn’t even bothered to kayak on the river was that it was ruined and wasn’t worth kayaking on anymore. 

 That honestly lit a fire inside of me and over ten days myself and several friends set out to rediscover and document the new rapids and, ultimately, prove everyone wrong.

I always prefer to let my kayaking and videos do the talking and the outcome is the mini movie “Noetztal”.

With thanks to all my friends for the good times kayaking and filming the new rapids, Olaf Obsommer, Pistyl Productions and Simon Kupbrain for the additional footage..

This video was supported by Source2Sea, thanks for the fuel money to go to the next river team!

See you on the water,
Bren Orton

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