Where does it go with the European Scene?

Well, has it ever been a scene? Most of the people mentioned never met, let alone paddled together. To say the truth, they hardly interact. The scene updates are a display of individuals. It is a virtual community hold together by platforms, at its best. But even those are not very active. How come? In an initial post about one year ago we questioned "Packrafting - a European scene?". Has there been any change since? Sure, there is more people packrafting ever. We hope partly by showing examples of trips and what is possible in general.

But still, there is no real community. Why is that?

One reason is language. For a linguistically divers place like Europe, communication in English always is like talking in front of a curtain. You are never sure what is getting through. Somehow it feels unreal.

That is why Silvio just recently announced a new Packrafting Forum in German language, still a potentially large community put Germany together with Austria and parts of Switzerland and Denmark. Yet, there have been complains about spitting up the EU Scene, well, what to split up see above. And besides, such addition (not separation!) can enhance a scene. There is sure a lot of folks who are put off by plain English for good and only consider to participate in there native language respectively feel comfortable in. Silvio will have an official announcement coming soon, in German of course.

Another reason for less group bonding is that packrafters are no "boaters", they are hiker, paddler, climber, biker, skier and all together. Packrafting is mulitsport, la combinaison total. The boat is simply means for travel, not a worship. This shall not be overcome.

The main reason however is lack of local activity. It makes no sense to talk, if you don't share the experience together. So I 'd go even further than Silvio. Have your own local (sub)forum, FB group, mailing list or what ever. Invite kayaker, rafter and canoeists, hikers and friends, and go out.

Picture taken in Prague thanks to my local buddies!
I have very good experience with my local paddling forums for example. It is very regional (eastern Saxony, Dresden at its core), very small (maybe 10-20 active members, about 40-60 readers), yet it is very functional. You organize trips, share information (current water levels!), make insider jokes. If you are not part of it, this is a boring place to click.
I can imagine the same in Southern Finland, Austria, Munich and southern Germany or central Scotland. At least it seems to form some active subgroups already.

It is a natural process of larger groups to split up. But no worries, we will try to hold Europe together nevertheless. Isn't that what politics battle on a larger scale? ;) As such we continue to display some individuals:

The embedded video by Gerhard from Austria shows his Packrafting classic, the Karwendel round in Austria. I can't imagine a better illustration for a version of "Alpine ski touring in summer":

Chris has been very active this summer in Scotland. It is hard to choose single reports from him. I am better off to reference his whole blog. You will find first attempts (and reflections) on bikerafting as well as boating in very strong wind. All things around his favorite place of Suilvan mountain.

David continues to apply the idea of bigger trips (Coast to Coast this time) at his door step (Taynuilt to Spey Bay) and complements it by a comprehensive report.

Joni is a likewise weekend warrior from Finland, getting wet does not put him off.

Louis-Philippe shares a funny trailer of his Poland Trek, the journey from (Tatra) Summit to (the Baltic) Sea.

Xavier returned from Norway, but felt like home there.

Don went to Sweden's Sarek like Joery two years ago ( he has a fresh report nevertheless) 

Jaakko seems to like the new packrafting toys.

Steve and Katrijn are back and forth within their gap year. They just finished 4 months northern Scandinavia, off they are to the Himalaya. Glad it was time to sum rainy days

They make good playpens and bathtubs ;)
Finally, I like to share the lovely picture story from Alexandra. Who said packraft's aren't fun on bigger streams? They went from the Czech border to Hamburg ob the river Elbe. This is over 600km flat water, hiking the big bends. I only had hope, they would have stopped at my doorstep ;) 

Talking about diversification of the group above, is specialization also the way for the product itself? 

12 Kommentare:

  1. Great summary Sven. Thoughtful as always. I hope it becomes a regularly updated feature.

    Why no community? I think maybe you’re expecting too much too early. It’s only been a couple of years in Europe, although you’d think participants in a new niche activity would bond quickly across the web. It doesn’t look like it. That could be a good thing - they’d rather do it than discuss it, because for a paddle sport, it’s actually a very simple activity that doesn’t require training or tricky techniques as with hardshells.

    I’d agree that packrafting seems to attract more leg-based outdoor adventurers than paddlers - and they are often solitary anyway. As you also say, the boat is just a useful tool - and so it should be. ‘It’s not about the boat’ [gear] - I’m sure they say that on the Alpacka website somewhere.

    I’m not sure language is the problem - but then of course I speak English. I think it’s just that people are slow to recognise the potential of these comparatively expensive boats, or are happy with what they do. As you know, I’ve only succeeded in tempting mates to come with in cheap slackrafts, which quite rightly they end up detesting while seeing the potential of my expensive Alpacka but not quite making the commitment. Not finding someone to join me on my adventures reminds me of MTBs or Sahara motorbiking in the early 80s. It didn’t stop me then, though it did limit what I was able to take on. I’m sure I miss out, but I’m not so into community or clubs anyway - I just do what I like doing ;-)

    How many active packrafters are there in the UK - a dozen? Here I feel paddling is rather snobby and conservative: a big recreational SoT scene (uncool, so undiscussed) - then WW ‘hair-boating’ or hardcore sea kayaking – both exhilarating and technical pursuits which attract more web chat. Our medieval river access laws and general congestion (no wild rivers) has made things this way. IMO actual pack rafting (hiking + paddling) is best suited to some mountain, dense jungle or most easily ‘Nordic’ environments like Scotland; Scandinavia; Alaska. Elsewhere (inland) the glide of a kayak or payload of a canoe is more satisfying.

    I don’t do FB but have pretty much given up on the Alpacka forum: the lack of proactive moderation (one guy mentioned this and got slapped down, iirc) but also as you say, few actual conversations.

    Thanks for putting it all together - perfect vid from Gerhard G in Au and great to hear about what others are doing even if we never meet.


    1. Thanks for the comprehensive comment! Good insight on the UK site. I was not about to talk up a 'problem', just to correct the possible impression of a core scene of by this reviews. I am along with you, a lot rather do than discuss :) One day we might meet that way ;) Thanks again for your participation!

  2. Hi Sven I posted this rant on Silvio's FB thread but it probably more properly responds to your European scene round up. Packrafting is international and local, I can get on a plane tomorrow and paddle pretty much anywhere in Europe, that’s what’s so great about packrafts and I want to know what’s happening on the mainland. The dot org forum is too big and intimidating but maybe a European forum would be the way to go ( sponsored by you Sven? ). The European scene will I suspect develop exponentially once it reaches a certain tipping point helped by a forum based crowd source.
    This is a club of unclubables; bikepackers, backpackers, ski tourers and people who are humble enough to paddle what looks to outsiders like a kiddies toy. I am also a unicyclist, another bunch of unclubables, but unicycling has exploded through forums (fora?) online sharing of skills, tricks and experiments ( crowd accelerated innovation see Chris Anderson’s Ted talk http://www.ted.com/talks/chris_anderson_how_web_video_powers_global_innovation.html ). It may seem that there is not much of a conversation going on but maybe that’s because of facebook’s limitations, (I don’t play the facebook game and it excludes others who don’t play it at all, eg Chris from apaddleinmypack blog). A forum would be a resource where videos, stories, travels could be shared and built on, dreams explored and imaginations expanded. A (moderated?) forum would build the crowd, shine the light and build the desire, not small groups of like minded people but large groups of wildly different people, because packrafts are not specialized, they are a wonderful general tool as Sheri suggests. Forums allow people to lurk and learn. Language isn’t really a barrier, translations will reveal the gist of most major European languages and photos/videos make language barriers mostly irrelevant, that’s why I think a good new waterproof expedition camera is so badly needed with good sound (Mikkel’s wonderful videos like http://vimeo.com/31643326 or the Lost alaskan coast video http://vimeo.com/25943565 that don’t rely on Gopro’s adrenaline aesthetic ).
    I didn’t mean to make any political connections with my original criticism of Silvio’s German language forum but Europe is being torn apart by currency wars, asset stripped and pillaged because it was becoming dangerously successful and threatened the (petro) dollar empire (over simplistic, I know), maybe we should be sticking together and taking packrafting to the next level. The forum could also help keep Sven’s business alive and prosper in what could become even harder times. Rant over ... I did of course forget about packrafting.com/forum but I mostly associate that with porn spam.

    1. I am here as an individual, but I can ask Schellin & Kreinacker GbR, resp. Packrafting Store ;)

      Actually I eschew more the moderation, which I timewise can't nor want handle. A forum should be truely independent. I 'd rather participate as the said individual. The blog is involvement enough for us currently.

      For so few people, a FB Groupe has the advantage of more regular viewers (who are here anyway, so keeps it going), but sure restricts the public as you said, which is a shame.

      Generally, I am with you to keep the European (packrafting) idea alive! Language is an issue, as a non-native I am allow to say ;) It is a likewise exclusion for many, but can be compensated by proactive moderation. That is maybe why the later forum you mentioned failed.

      We can ask Silvo to have a subforum in English (and French?) at his place or built a likewise one. Domain, space and sofware are not a big deal, if that is the harm, give me a shout. Would moderation be someting for you Adrian?

  3. Hi all!

    I think we just need to be patient. It takes time to build a strong community. Additionnally -and as you suggested-, lots of us are coming from different backgrounds: hikers, bikers, skiers... Some of us are pretty new to paddle sports and I guess we need to feel confident with our own capabilities first. It is some sort of "leap of faith" to decide to join a packraft event when you are new to the sport. "Will I be a bother to others?", "Am I skilled/strong enough?", "Will I even enjoy it myself?"... many questions that first need to be answered by practice. And sometimes, testing yourself is best done on your own, without pressure from one another.
    But I believe/hope that there will be more gatherings in the near future.
    Reading this blog and Facebook, I recall that there was a few successful gatherings of "strangers", wasn't there? (at least, that is one example: http://www.valppaus.com/2012/07/16-lakes-in-nuuksio.html) :) Sven, Mark, if interested, we could be working on a post about packraft gatherings which would strictly involve meetings of "strangers" who met through platforms such as packrafting.de/packrafting.org/facebook... That could be interesting maybe?

    Anyway... I am also posting here because I have a proposal for a packraft trip on the first weekend of November :). (we are already two!). So far, it is going to be from the 1st to the 4th but I am flexible. Location: East of France/North West of Switzerland/South West of Germany... I have plenty of ideas, but here again, we're flexible. We will post something on Facebook and the Europe forum with more details. But I just wanted to give a heads up!

    1. Thanks for joining in Xavier. An EU Packraft gathering is somewhat in the air, that would for sure stir a community! I am currently off for new family, especially in November, so wont be able to join. Also, preparing for next season keeps us very busy till end of the year. But for spring maybe, depending on the region even earlier (higher water level), good testimonial if that gets organized ;) Can you keep track of that via Post, Forum, FB? Maybe have some suggestions for places and style ready to vote. Your contribution is very welcome here.

  4. Sven:

    I think your packrafting course in Markkleeberg was a great start. It helped me to really enjoy packrafting the Tasnuna and Nizina River in Alaska. I would love to see the development of a German or European community making it easier to find buddies for weekend trips etc.


  5. A thoughtful post, Sven. I don't think "scenes" can be made (in a sense a forcing something to happen) they emerge and that process takes time. And I can see it taking time especially in this case: at the moment very few people from vastly differing backgrounds and main interests etc. (I guess very few of us have the packrafting as a central intrest, it's just a tool.)

    But a scene and community can emerge and we can help it. Local/national level might be a good way to start but at some point I'd see the need for a Europian packrafting forum or other media to share information. I'm not in Facebook so I don't see it as a good way. Blogs are personal so not very good to builda community (but great for inspiring and sharing information!). So in my opinion a forum is the way to go. But maybe it's still too early for a Europian forum?

    But to offer something at national level:
    - NOW! Waterlevel is super-high at the moment in Southern Finland. I've been earlier to Pernoonkosket near Kotka (about a one hour drive from Helsinki, Lahti, Lappeenranta, etc.): nice place to play in class 1-2 white water. What about a day trip to Pernoonkosket during the October? Anyone interested? There is also a possibility to combine that with a trip along the Kymijoki river... I'd recommend drysuit or wetsuit (latter available for 40 euros from Motonetti!).
    - Later... For 2013 I mgiht be interested to organize something bigger and maybe put up a national level weekend meeting or similar?

  6. Thanks to Silvio, there is now a European Section in the above mentioned Forum for posts in English. The European Scene is welcome to move in. More categories and languages might follow.

  7. Well, we tried to get the Finnish scene a bit mroe organized and went for a trip to Kymijoki. The third packraft(er) was unavailable so there is one airmatress instead. ;) Photos here: http://korpijaakko.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Kymijoki-lokakuu-2012/

    1. Hey, this looks like a play spot! Good spirit with the lilo ;) At one point I like to see a Finish territory report, would not even mind in Suomi, just to see a best selection for regional packrafting trips :)

    2. It's a pretty popular playing and training spot for kayakers though we only saw few. And they had quite a serious "kayaker attitude" as Roman Dial puts it...

      I'd like to see that post too! :D The information is pretty scattered and not packrafting has yet been done in Finland. But it's a worthy idea to put it all together with addition of some speculative trip ideas.