Talk report – Simon Tapley

Photos: Alistair Marshall. See more photos at Fatcatproductions, and this blog.

Really enjoyed Si Tapley’s talk, great to see what amazing kinds of whitewater there are in Greenland, and to hear about his trip.

Simon was really down-to-earth about the problems they encountered, and gave us a feeling for what its like to be so isolated from everywhere.

Greenland seems to be  a country that challenges even the best-prepared-plans – Si and Ali’s schedule, carefully measured with Google earth, set an itinerary of some 20 or so rivers, with hiking and sea kayaking to get between them – there is only one real road in Greenland, and it isn’t handily along the side of a river. In fact, that, and any civilisation, is about 200 miles from where they were paddling.


The steep terrain actually meant that they simply could not hike as far each day as they had planned, and they had to scramble every section double as it was just impossible to carry the boats loaded the way they had practiced, given the extreme landscape.


They were surprised that locals seemed not at all interested in what they were doing, in terms of exploration of their country. But folk were kind to them and friendly. And one thing which really saved the day for them was not actually having to sea kayak more than a day – it would have been a hard slog in their creek boats – friendly fishermen, seal hunters and survey boats gave them lifts along the coast, Greenland communities being so connected to the sea.

boy with kayak

It was interesting hearing about things that shaped their trip – eventually setting off with only two of them made them have to plan carefully and added a dimension to their decisions about what to do. Despite warnings from others about the dangers of being only 2 small kayakers in a large landscape, they had faith in their own skills and abilities to make their own choices. Their decisions meant they were able to paddle a great deal of super, (and new), white water, incident free.

whitewater slide and scenery

Some of the closest calls were from the environment – seeing them interview one another after a huge storm swept their tent and all their dry belongings into the fjord gave some idea of the miserable conditions that Greenland can throw at humans. As well as the elements, the insects also seemed to have it in for them – what do they eat when there are no kayakers?
To me, the most amazing footage was of gusting wind blowing a waterfall back up the mountain, so that none of the water was falling into the riverbed – see 3:05 on this Youtube video:

All in all a super evening. It was inspiring to see someone who had the drive and ability  to get out there on basically their student loan and determination, and tick off first descents in a remote location.

If anyone would like to watch the DVD I have a copy – as well as the Greenland stuff, it actually has a whole bunch of other stuff from all over the world –  or you can get one for yourself from

It is most excellent.

Big, big thanks to everyone for coming along and especially for making Simon feel so welcome, cheers everyone.

Really looking forward to the next talk too – another student-white-water-type (you probably paddled against her at BUSA). Lowri Davies, currently at Aberystwyth uni, is a well-known top freestyler. In this talk she will be telling us about expedition white water paddling in the far corners of Russia.


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