Rushing streams, whirling eddies and rocks protruding above the water’s surface. What sounds like a nightmare for most right-minded people is heaven for Paul “Ted” Fieldhouse. The kayak veteran is an old hand when it comes to whitewater and enjoys sharing his passion for paddling with beginners and experienced kayakers alike.
“For one part – it’s the challenge,” explains Paul, aka Ted, Fieldhouse when asked about the attraction of kayaking. “It’s the challenge of finding your way through a stretch of water that is swirling, churning and throwing up waves.” The man from England, who started kayaking during his time with the Boy Scouts, finds himself drawn back to this sport again and again. “It’s just a great feeling to be out there on the river, to experience nature at first hand and to feel the power of the water. It’s about being in the fresh air, feeling the water spray onto your skin, seeing the world rushing past, experiencing the camaraderie and having fun with everyone else alongside you – it’s an awesome experience.”
In Tirol there are countless streams which flow from the mountains into the valleys, where they join together to become rushing rivers that eventually empty into the region’s main watercourses such as the Drau, the Lech and the Inn. “The great thing about all the streams and rivers in Tirol,” says Paul Fieldhouse with a smile, “is that there is something for everyone. If you’re looking for action then you can head to the Ötztaler Ache – the most challenging whitewater anywhere in Europe – or to the Pitzbach, known to insiders as the Pitze.” Those who prefer to take things a little easier will find plenty of calmer water on the Inn, the Isel in East Tirol and the calmer sections of the rivers near Brandenberg and Kössen. With the water level changing between spring and autumn, the same stretches of water can in fact offer different challenges depending on the time of year.
Teamwork out on the river
Kayaking is by no means an individual sport. Group rafting adventures give people of the opportunity to try out this high-adrenaline activity in a team. Equipped with a life-jacket, helmet and wetsuit, participants are quite literally in the same boat as they take on stretches of wildwater under the watchful eye of an experienced guide. Teamwork is the name of the game here. “Out on the river you have to work together as a single unit. Getting everyone pulling in the same direction and listening to each other isn’t always easy,” comments Ted Fieldhouse. As a fully qualified rafting guide with more than 18 years of experience taking guests out onto the water, he certainly knows what he is talking about. “Without effective teamwork it’s almost impossible to raft together – and it’s definitely not as much fun.” That is why he and his fellow guides have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to get families, friends and groups of work colleagues all paddling in the same direction. Routes are chosen by the guides based on the experience and ability level of the rafters, meaning families with children raft on different stretches of water than experienced outdoor enthusiasts. The rafting areas stretch from the Ziller river in the east of Tirol via the famous Imster Schlucht gorge all the way to the Sanna river in the west.
Gorges and rock pools
“Water, water everywhere” is also the motto for those taking part in a canyoning adventure. Equipped with a helmet, rope and wetsuit, visitors are joined by a qualified guide as they slip and slide their way through some of Tirol’s most beautiful gorges and canyons. Depending on the group, canyoning can include anything from climbing over moss-covered rocks to jumping into rock pools. Some sections even lead along rockfaces next to thundering waterfalls.
Wave-riding with kayaks and surfboards
As well as the Zillertal Valley, Brandenberg, Kössen and East Tirol, the region between Silz, Landeck and the Ötztal Valley is known throughout Europe for its excellent rafting, kayaking and canyoning. Fully qualified introduce beginners to the fascinating world of whitewater and help experienced outdoor enthusiasts search out the best spots for aquatic adventures.
Paul Fieldhouse packed away his rafting boat a few years ago and today focuses in his paddle and surf shop white descents“ in Silz on the needs of kayak enthusiasts. He provides rental equipment, offers a shuttle service to entry and exit points on the river and gives tips to those in search of exciting kayak adventures.
Indeed, even surfers in Tirol will find plenty to keep them entertained. On the Inn river near Silz there is one of Austria’s largest river waves. Information about the current water level and whether or not the wave can be ridden can be found on the website of Area 47.