Words and photos by Seth Warren
Day 3 of the Nile River Festival went HUGE. It was a slow morning after a big night in camp. It rained nearly 3 inches Saturday night, which created a massive mud pit in the middle of the party. Mud dancing and wrestling lasted throughout the night!
The hang-over cure was a 15 kilometer mass-start race from Itanda to Nile Special Sunday morning. Local paddler Jackson 1 (that is his real name; he has two brothers named Jackson 2 and Jackson 3) got the beatdown of the weekend in the Bad Place at the bottom of Itanda, starting the day off with a big swim!
The race was run in groups of two for safety, and the winners were the local team of Hassan and Mussa, followed by the Euros Sam Ward and Julian Stocker.
When the last racers reached Nile Special, the competition went straight into the Nile big air freestyle competition. The river was rising rapidly from the previous day’s rain, but was still too low for Nile Special, so the freestyle comp started at the Club Wave just below the marquee wave. The finalist were the international paddlers Sam and Julian, and hometown boaters Latif, Yusef, David and Chagga. But the hero of the morning was Makirya Amina, a 19-year-old woman who learned to roll only a year ago. She put on an amazing show with the Ugandan fans going wild. The boys were melting.
In the afternoon, the river was high enough for the comp to move to the proper wave upstream, Nile Special. In the end, the big air podium was: First, Chagga, who lives in a hut next to the wave; Second, Julian Stocker of Norway, and; Third, Sam Ward of Wales.
The big money—2,000 American dollars—went to overall winner Sam Ward. Julian Stocker of Norway won a Pyrannah kayak of choice for second place, and local paddler David Moor, winner of the Itanda Falls Race on Saturday, took third overall and a Fluid kayak. Tons of schwag and awards were distributed to the competitors, and then everyone rallied to the Hairy Lemon where the celebration continued.