We are in the midst of Australia's worst draught in 100 years where fires are burning all around us, and yet the water just keeps on flowing...
round and round it goes, this environmental anomaly. For a penal colony that is supposedly ten years behind the times of the 'Western world',
Australia is certainly doing a brilliant job of using today's science to threaten the validity of dear old Mother Nature. I'd be pretty pissed
if I were her, but personally it's hard to complain about a place that has created one of the best whitewater training facilities in the world.
"Do we end up where we started?" Not so long ago, this had to be one of the most noted lines to go down in the book of A Rafter's Dumbest Questions,
right up there with "Is that Dam man-made?" Correct me if I'm wrong, but geography has never been an optional course in any educational curriculum
that I know of, so surely the public majority learned at some point that rivers flow downstream. Now in most cases you CAN laugh in their faces until
they realize what they have just asked, but at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium we are witness to a river that defies gravity, where you DO end up where
This concrete playground was built in 1998-1999 for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The course ranges from 14-30 meters wide and runs in a circle that
extends 320 meters with a 5.5-meter drop. It takes approximately 4 minutes to cruise from the top to the bottom. Upon arrival at the bottom pool
there is a conveyor belt to take you back to the top of the course so that you can go around in circles as much as you'd like without every having
to get out of your boat. It costs $25 to paddle for the day, but there are weekly ($85) and monthly ($275) rates which make it more worthwhile.
The course will teach you how to catch eddies and to roll as fast as Speedy Gonzales can run, but more importantly for those beginners, if you swim,
your worst-case scenario is that you end up at the bottom pool. There, you simply collect your gear and hop back onto the conveyor belt with perhaps
only a scrape or two, and of course a bruised ego.
"The pillars and toblerones are interchangeable so that
you can experiment with the course to make new features."
Sharing, sharing, sharing. This is a challenging quality we must practice in life, and one that is most important in the world of whitewater.
You know when you are driving in your car and it's important that you always give the Mac Truck right of way no matter what, because, well, it's
a Mac Truck? The same theory applies here, only instead of cars and trucks its kayaks and rafts. Pumping the water from the lake costs money
so the water here only runs when raft trips are scheduled. Fair enough, but it's not uncommon to have only a couple of seconds on a feature
before seeing the yellow rubber a foot from your face. By the way, the water runs from only one hour to all day, depending on how many people
have booked for trips. High season is from December to March, but water flow is still random.
On a different note, the great thing about this course is that it's set up like LEGO. The pillars and toblerones are interchangeable so that
you can experiment with the course to make new features. You're not actually allowed to change the course on your own, but people have been
known to sneak in at night and test their theories. At the moment there are four great play spots: Main Wave - a super fast, deep hole;
Jacz - a small, wide, touchy feely hole; and The Deep Fryer - a fast wave.
As the site for the 2004 Pre-World Championships and 2005 World Championships, 'official' experiments have recently begun to make a World
Class feature. The water here always runs on five pumps, with one on reserve, so for the first time a World's site will have guaranteed
water levels that won't get washed out by flood. This is a huge leap from past inconsistencies and therefore unhappy competitors. All
in all it's a great spectato-friendly venue, one that may set a precedent for future event sites and put freestyle within the ranks of
other urban sports complexes.
By the way, its located in Pernrith, a quite pleasant town. An average size town, it has all the necessities including a nice plaza
equipped with a movie theatre, and not to worry, the High Bar and Daily Planet are two clubs which will satisfy all dance cravings.
You can rent an unfurnished house for roughly $200-$250/week that will house 4-6 people. There are also a few furnished apartments
for $300-$400/wk. Aside from that, all the raft guides and paddlers you will meet at the course are incredibly friendly and generous.
Everyone here likes to have a good time where the nights are full of potluck dinners and evening get togethers, but most importantly,
your one pre-requisite is to bring along a good sense of humor. That way, you can appreciate the Aussie sarcasm without being offended!
So if you like great weather, abusive sarcasm, and consistent water, bring your white hide to Australia for a sunburn and a great time!