White Water in the desert?…
Dubai has a reputation for going one better than anywhere else, aiming to build the biggest, most impressive attractions in the world. Iboutdoor takes a look at what this means for all the white water paddlers out there…
Our story begins in Dubai, back in the spring of 2011. Fresh out of university, I was working in the United Arab Emirates as my first oversees contract in the outdoor industry. It gave me the opportunity to get out trekking, climbing and sea kayaking, but 3 months in the desert is a long time for a white water addict. In my free time I would sit glued to the kayaking forums, keeping up to date with the paddling scene back in the UK. Then came big news: there were plans being made for an artificial white water centre in Al Ain, on the border with Oman. Yes!
I scoured the internet looking for information, but found very little. As it happened, “Wadi Adventure” opened in 2012, when I was back on British soil. With no less than 3 white water courses, an artificial surf wave and a high ropes course, it looked set to be a major tourist attraction. 2 years passed. Contracts in Ireland, Finland, Iceland… and finally a job back in the Middle East, based in Muscat, Oman. This time, I would not miss out!
On arrival at the centre I paid my 200 AED fee (£32) and made my way out in to the park. The first thing that struck me was how impressive the artificial surf wave was. I was expecting to find an indoor FlowRider type surf wave, but instead found a large wave pool that created large, clean waves. The regulars were being put through their paces, carving slick looking top and bottom turns on the wave face. Very cool!
Heading over to the white water park, there were slalom paddlers as far as the eye could see. It turns out that there was a training camp on, with paddlers from all over Europe descending upon the centre to train during the winter months.
I was greeted by the staff working at the centre, a team of all Nepali raft guides and safety kayakers. I found them to be very friendly, helpful and professional, as I’ve come to expect from Nepalese guides. I had my own personal kit with me, but for those without, it was possible to borrow all the essential items, as well as a boat from the centre. The equipment is adequate, but was, however, showing signs of heavy use. The guides had obviously done their best to repair the boats in the rental fleet, but due to the shallow nature of the course, they had taken a hammering over the past few years. It was possible to rent Pyranha Inazones, TG masters and my old favourite, the Molan playboat.
The slalom teams had booked out the hardest course, the “black run,” so I warmed up on the two easier courses, which were roughly class 1/2 and class 2 respectively. A series of drops and eddies created many features ideal for the beginner and intermediate kayaker to train on, with plenty of surfing opportunities. Like many artificial rivers, the course was fairly shallow in places, so playboaters should pick their features carefully when thinking of initiating freestyle moves.
On to the main event, the black run! My GoPro video should hopefully describe the course better than I ever could:
One thing I will say though, is that the black run is roughly class 3/4 and continuous at the grade. I found the river to be far more like a natural river than most artificial courses, which tend to be pool-drop in nature. There are many eddies and those that paddle comfortably at the grade should have no trouble catching them. The eddies aren’t as big as you will find on some courses though, so chaseboating can be a pain, but luckily everything collects in a large flat pool at the bottom. There are several good play holes to throw ends in, but this is definitely a course for plastic boats and you won’t be able to plug too deep when looping.
Dotted around the course were a number of “river guards” with throw bags ready to fish out any rafting clients lucky enough to have the full experience… They stayed on duty between sessions, keeping an eye on the kayakers, which I thought was a nice touch.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Wadi Adventure and would become a regular, were it not for my imminent return to the UK and on to pastures new. The centre is geared up for both expert kayakers, looking to hone their skills, as well as beginner kayakers wanting to get on to the water for the first time. Whilst there I saw a number of training sessions being taught on the flat and progressing on to the moving water, with all the clients looking like they were having a great time!
Its easily the best white water course that I have paddled so far and it made a nice change to be paddling in 25 degree heat! If you’re heading to Dubai, definitely check it out: