Rafting and Kayak: 2014 FutaFest plans underway

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Hoards of whitewater fanatics and hundreds of spectators from more than a dozen countries will converge on the Futaleufú River in Chile for a three day competitive paddling festival this February.

By Juniper Rose
FutaFest, the biggest whitewater festival in Chile, has been gaining attention in the global whitewater community since it kicked off in 2009. As the sixth annual event approaches (Feb. 20 - 22) a new Class V kayaking competition and the festival’s increasing appeal is expected to spawn the biggest FutaFest yet.
FutaFest combines whitewater competitions, a local trade show and whitewater workshops and festivities while also bringing together activists who are striving to raise awareness for the environmental issues facing the Futaleufú River, said FutaFest director Mitch Sasser.
The festival doesn’t only draw in world-class kayakers from around the globe, it also gives local kayakers a chance to compete on their home rivers.
Lorenzo Andrade Astorga, 26 and among the first second-generation Chilean kayakers, was the first Chilean to win the kayaking race at FutaFest.
Astorga grew up on the Maipo River, his father and uncles were kayakers, and his family owns a rafting company. “I still remember when I went to the first FutaFest,” said Astorga, who has competed at each festival. “It was amazing, so many good kayakers, the river was so huge.”

At the time Astorga was young and inexperienced in kayaking and did not do well in his first race.  “But when the race finished and I saw the winners I told myself that I was going to be the first Chilean to win that race,” he said. “Four or five years later I did.”
While the Futaleufú River is described by Astorga as everything a kayaker could want — the perfect combination of hard and safe — he added that the FutaFest is set apart from other river festivals because it has many disciplines and is made for the local people as well as kayakers.
He will race in the FutaFest again this year. “The feeling I have when I [kayak] on the Futa is as if I am riding a quiet beast that I don’t want to wake up,” Astorga said. “The connection you get with this river is indescribable.”
FutaFest is funded through a variety of competitive regional project grants, but the event would not be possible without involvement from the community, Sasser said. Local and regional governments as well as firefighters, area hospitals, local municipality, police and Futaleufú river guides who are trained in whitewater rescue techniques have all come together to support the event.
The community’s involvement with FutaFest is mutually beneficial. The festival needs the help of the community, and the event brings additional tourists and boosts Futaleufú’s economy.
“That is one of the main goals here," said Sasser. "Aside from showcasing the amazing whitewater and these incredible athletes here on the Futaleufú — its about giving an extra opportunity to local businesses to expand as they can hang on to the edges of an event like FutaFest and promote their services independently, knowing that the population of Futaleufú is going to grow considerably during those three days." 

FutaFest 2014 Schedule
Feb. 20-23, 2014. Pre-registration beginning Jan. 5, 2014, for river competitions via website/email required and must be checked off by safety committee to participate. 
Feb. 20
Futaleufú River - Competition
Kayak Boatercross - Timed event (Qualifying round for the Class V race)
Head-to-Head Sprint Raft Race - Process of single elimination. 
Feb. 21 
In the town of Futaleufú - All-day outdoor trade show - Showcasing local service providers, organic cuisine, artisan goods, homemade baked goods and other hand-crafted items, live music and more.
Futaleufú River - Competition - Down river race - Bridge to bridge - kayaking and rafting - intermediate to advanced paddlers only. Second tier qualifying race for the AWP Whitewater World Series 2014.

Feb. 22
In the town of Futaleufú - Outdoor trade show continues all day
Espolon River - Open Rafting competition - Espolon River Class II whitewater, timed sprint, for citizen participants, ages 5 and up. No experience necessary.  
Futaleufú River - Class V kayaking competition - Qualified kayakers only. Specific location not yet determined.
In the town of Futaleufú - Final award ceremony and Grand Free Flowing Rivers Celebration. 

More information coming soon at www.futafest.com
Photo: Jimmy Langman/Patagon Journal

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