50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 41

scared - we thought we were bullet proof! It was down the middle every rapid!” Richie Finlay replies: “Robbie says he can’t remember being scared. Me, I’ve never been so scared in my life. In my early days of paddling Umko Doug Tatham and I approached Whirlpool in our Sabre K1’s. He went first and .... disappeared. Holy shit! I thought Wrong line! I tried to steer away from the wall. I disappeared too. It was so fast you just didn’t have time to react. One second you were paddling furiously the next you were being tossed around like a rag doll. “Those few seconds were the most terrifying of my life. Being hurled along under the rock face, lungs bursting was not a pleasant experience. Thankfully both of us were spat out at the bottom but not before I lost my canoe, paddle, one shoe and sock, juice bottle and my nerve. My helmet had a rather large crack right through the plastic. Could have been my head! Recovering my canoe a few hundred meters downstream, I had lost my seat (pin sheared clean off), all my buoyancy and my paddle was broken in half. I still finished though. I miss the sheer adrenalin rush of all those awesome rapids on the most feared river of all.” accommodation. “All Andre needed to do was to get there and see if he could remember the river after twenty years of absence. My father Mike Hawarden who was now listening in, had a major attack of FOMO and signed himself up as our second, even though he would have to fly out from New Zealand for the occasion! “If there is one thing I learned during the race, it’s that true old river dogs A novice gets shepherded At a Hawarden family reunion Hugh Hawarden got chatting to Dusi and Umko legend Andre about paddling. A self-confessed fish and chips paddler, Hugh was keenly interested to hear Andre’s war stories about the sharp end of races with Pope and Co. back in the day. In amongst the telling of these tales and the appreciative audience he held in thrall, Andre “must have gotten carried away and was foolish enough to say to me, “We should do a race together sometime”. “Sign here,” said Hugh, and they agreed to paddle an Umko together. “It’s tough as a fish and chips paddler to break into the Umko. There Some regarded even a t-shirt as too much... This vest went for a big swim that day: “I actually ran out of air” said Paul Despite Mason and Stewart’s sensible example in 1972, for many it was still T-shirt and tousled hair for years afterwards. are a limited number of generous souls willing to drive novices down the river” says Hugh, who enthusiastically promised to supply the boat and 41 don’t need to remember the river. They can read it afresh. Like returning to an old favourite novel, it all comes flooding back, so to speak. We’d approach a rapid, Andre would slow his paddling, crane his neck a bit to decide his line, and down we’d go. “The first day from Josephine’s was fantastic, starting gently to settle the UMKO 50 Years