Spanish kayaker Aniol Serrasolses wasn’t going to let the limitations imposed during 2020 prevent him from taking kayaking to the next level.
He and a crew took off to Chile and set up the ultimate natural obstacle course featuring a 25km descent down a snowy volcano and sailing through dense forest before landing the world’s first double kickflip in a kayak over a waterfall, and finally setting down on a glassy lake. At speed of over 100kms.
“I’ve always wanted to kayak down the snow and unite the four elements of earth, air, water and fire,” says Serrasolses. “Taking advantage of the great winter that Chile experienced in 2020, and the difficulties to travel due to the situation we live in, I decided that this was the year to develop the project.”
“It was a really good winter snow-wise, so it felt like time to do something local,” he continues. “We did two days of filming, we had a good segment snow-wise, but it didn’t feel good enough. So, I thought we should link this up with the river through the forest and make it a whole descent through local rivers.”
In September, at the beginning of the Chilean spring, Serrasolses and his team set off for Chile’s Araucanía region. At that time of year, the rivers are starting to flow well and the Villarrica volcano is still covered in winter snow. It was the perfect time to realise his dream.
The part on the snow was kind of the hardest part as a kayak is not really made for the snow, so you ride it like a sled
The route started at the summit of the volcano, went through the forest near the slopes of the Palguín river, over the Tomatita waterfall on the Captrén river and culminated in the Villarrica Lake – connecting water, land, wind and fire in a single journey. “These are the elements where I feel most alive. I’ve always felt comfortable connecting mountains, forests and rivers. I can’t imagine a life away from them,” says Serrasolses.
The ambitious project didn’t go hitch-free, though – the high speed the kayak reached when gliding over the snow caused a spectacular crash. “The part on the snow was kind of the hardest part as a kayak is not really made for the snow, so you ride it like a sled. You go really fast but you’re kind of out of control. On one of those descents I lost control before reaching a section with ice blocks. I hit one of those blocks at about 80kph and it sent me flying more than 10 metres. I tried to control it in the air, but in the end, I ended up falling on totally hard snow.”
“That crash is next level as the snow was pretty hard. Definitely, that one hurt. My idea was to go around those pieces of ice and avoid them. Before doing that move, my kayak started spinning out of control. So, I went straight onto the ice and it sent me into the air.”
As if high speed and unusual kayaking terrain weren’t enough, when he reached the waterfall, Serrasolses scored a manoeuvre never seen before on a kayak: the first double kickflip. “The trick is to do two full rotations in the air. It’s been tried for many years surfing waves in the river or the sea, without success,” says Serrasolses. “This time I managed it on the first attempt and I couldn’t be happier. The next one will clearly have to be the triple, won’t it?”
“This whole concept was to take kayaking out of its element, rather than always down rapids and waterfalls,” he explains. “That double kickflip is a double rotation and it’s been attempted many times before, but no one has ever succeeded. This time it just went really good. I got two rotations on my first try but it took a lot of commitment to do it off that height. If you don’t land correctly, the impact on your back is hard… Actually it’s hard even if you land it correctly!”
So is he planning to go even bigger on his next project? Perhaps not: “Over the last few years my focus has been a lot on the progression of the sport – the hardest waterfalls, the biggest water rivers, the highest waters. As I’m getting older, I want to do more creative stuff and more shooting and projects to put kayaking in really cool locations, where it hasn’t been seen as much.”