Since I was a little kid, my step dad took me and my family on a holiday to Slovenia every summer. On these holidays, my passion for whitewater kayaking was born. Now, around 20 years later, I can still be found in a boat on a regular basis. And here’s the reason for why I moved to Augsburg last year: the Eiskanal. But what exactly is the Eiskanal? I’m often quite surprised when people living in Augsburg who don’t have a single clue of what this thing is.
So what is it?
Well, as you might have guessed by now, the Eiskanal is somehow related to whitewater sports. In fact, it’s an artificial whitewater river that was built for the Summer Olympics in 1972. Up until today, the Eiskanal is a very famous spot for kayakers coming from all parts of Germany and even for non-Germans. People use the water for canoe slalom, where you navigate your canoe through a course of hanging gates on river rapids really fast, but you can also just ignore the gates and try to master the rapids as expertly as possible, or you might even see stand-up paddlers (I guess you know what this is) trying to survive the rapids of the Eiskanal. And one more thing: the Eiskanal will even host the canoe slalom world championships in 2022.
Mastering the waves
In my case, I prefer being in a boat without manoeuvring it through the gates as you do it in canoe slalom. To be honest, these gates simply annoy me and I just try not to get hit by them. For me, the Eiskanal is simply a training course for being prepared to master the waves on natural rivers in countries such as Austria or Slovenia. The boats I use are made of plastic, in contrast to the slalom canoes, which consist of carbon. Being made of plastic instead of carbon obviously makes the boats considerably cheaper, and – highly important for the natural rivers – a lot more stable and resistant against getting punctured by rocks.
Being on natural rivers is not comparable at all to the artificial rivers, such as the Eiskanal. You have the breath-taking scenery around you, which makes this sport so outstanding. Also, you might feel like being on holiday, even when being on the river for only one day. So you can completely forget your worries from everyday life. Being surrounded by nature is also quite calming for the stress the sport often brings. Almost before every new rapid, you can get really nervous and have to discuss with your group how to best run the rapid so you won’t have to roll up again, or, in case that doesn’t work, even get out of the boat and swim. Seeing the beautiful nature around you at this moment can have such a positive effect and encourage you for paddling forward.
Promoting the Eiskanal
Highlighting the pro’s of natural rivers in contrast to the Eiskanal was definitely not meant to talk bad about the Eiskanal. Instead, kayaking on the Eiskanal is the best training and preparation for going on the natural whitewater rivers. You know that the rapids are always the same, you can practice on the same spot again and again, and nearly always, there is someone around who could help you in case of an emergency. If you struggle to get out of the water or to get your boat out again, there will be another person in the water who can help you, or if not, then there are always people by the water. One last note, if you don’t feel like trying to kayak now, then one first approach might be to just go to the Eiskanal and watch the others in their boats. The Eiskanal is surrounded by a nice terrace-like green field, which is used by people a lot, especially in summer, for just relaxing in the sun, having a picnic, or taking a break from a bike ride. And why not just let your eyes wander towards the kayakers mastering the waves on the Eiskanal?
author: Lena Pickert