Photo Essay: Pushing High Water Limits in Norway

David Spiegel

Photos and words by David Spiegel

A bout of hot weather and rain brought scarily high flows to Norway. This would be cause for celebration in most whitewater destinations, but the gradient and difficulty of the rivers in Norway means that high water severely limits our options. Unless, of course, you’re a complete sicko.

When some friends from the U.S. and New Zealand came to visit me during this high water event, we decided check out the Tora River at record high flows.


Jordy Searle scouting the big lateral wave, which is at least 15 feet tall. Just a few yards below the slide, a nearly river-wide hole blocks most of the channel.

Norway Whitewater Jordy scouting the Tora Slide.

Jordy fired it up first with a relatively clean line after a long scout and preparing our safety positions. His rationale for going first? “I’m going to lose my nerve if I see anyone else getting beaten in this thing.”

Norway Whitewater 2 - Jordy paddling

Norway Whitewater 4 - Anton Paddling

Anton Immler also had a good line, rolling up with a smile at the bottom. You know it’s a big rapid when a “successful line” includes a mandatory clutch roll at the bottom.

3 - Anton paddling

Things started to get real when the rapid threw Sam Grafton into a barrel roll and ripped away his paddle. Fortunately he nailed an impressive hand roll and avoided the massive hole downstream from the slide. (SEE VIDEO OF GRAFTON’S HAND ROLL)

Norway Whitewater Norway Whitewater 5 - Grafton paddling

6- Norway Whitewater David Bain paddling

After consulting with Sam, David Bain decided to go next. By this point we had seen three lines work out okay, so we were starting to feel more comfortable with the rapid.

7 - Norway Whitewater David bain's knuckles

This time, however, the rapid really proved that it can serve up some carnage. David was violently tossed in the air and ended up swimming on the bottom of the river for a little while before reaching shore and coughing up some water.

Lower water on the Tora slide.
Lower water on the Tora slide.

After watching David’s violent beating and chasing the boat downstream for a few kilometers, Oscar and I were dissuaded from running the drop. I walked away with no regrets, knowing that I can always return and run it when flows are more appropriate for mere mortals.

Overall it was a great day of testing the limits of control on huge volume steep creeking in Norway. Flows have now returned to more reasonable levels and it’s time to search out some classic creeks.

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