EPIC is an often overused word, its value has diminished because everything, everywhere seems ‘Epic!’. However, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Boyum, NSP Surfboards’ Swedish ambassador knows the true meaning of the word as you are about to find out. With no further introduction from me here is Paddy’s latest adventure.
Patrick Paddy Boyum – Nordic River SUP Quest
Ever since I completed my last solo SUP adventure back in 2021 I have been planning on a new multi-day self-supported trip in the Scandinavian wilderness.
For my last big adventure, I paddled on a waterway, partly manmade, which connects the east coast with the west coast of Sweden, the M2G route. Now my plan was to take on the longest waterway in Scandinavia, Klarälven.
This river has its source up in the mountains in the middle of Sweden and becomes big and deep enough to paddle from the Norwegian mountain resort Trysil, the total length from Trysil to the ocean is roughly 650 km. I had one week to spare at the beginning of the Scandinavian summer and, on the Swedish Midsommarafton my adventure started when my son, Lucas drove me to the train station in Malmö.
NSP O2 FSL packed and adventure ready
NSP O2 FSL Race SUP
For this adventure I took my inflatable NSP O2 FSL Race board, hammock, sleeping bag, gas stove, food etc. Using public transport to get to the start and knowing that the river could be challenging I knew that an inflatable board would be best. Not only is the O2 FSL easy to travel with I knew it could handle all the portages ahead at power stations and that it could handle the knocks on a river.
If you go paddling with Patrick Boyum you might need some supplies!
Once in Oslo I had to change bus to a smaller and less comfortable bus that took me another two hours north to Elverum where I made a new change. The last bus was a slow-going countryside bus driven by a nice old lady. We chatted a bit on the way and at 10 pm she let me off at a bus stop close to a mountain lake 30 km north of Trysil.
I immediately started to unpack my gear and organise it. Food and cooking devices in one dry bag, and clothes and camping gear in another dry bag. I inflated the board and strapped the bags to the deck. Before taking off I bought eight D-rings and glued them to the race board to be able to strap the gear to the board. One D-ring after the other came loose from the board as I tightened the straps so I had no other solution but to sling the strap around the board, affecting the glide but holding my kit securely.
SUP at Midnight
Just before midnight I took off and started paddling south. The lake is 525 m above sea level and surrounded by mountains, framed on the western side of the lake by a steep wall that rises to nearly 1100 meters. It is beautiful!
Even in midsummer, the water was cold, not much more than 12 degrees Celsius and after a few hours of paddling I couldn’t feel my feet anymore.When I reached the beach I had spotted on google maps I got ashore and started to rig my night quarters. My cold feet kept me awake for a while and I was a little bit worried. When I woke up after just a few hours of sleep the sun was heating the gravel beach and I immediately felt much better.
I packed my camp and strapped the bags to the board and went off for the last few kilometres to the southernmost part of the lake. On my way up to Trysil I had a chat with some local guys who told me the river was a bit too shallow to paddle from the lake down to Trysil. My plan was to catch a bus to my actual starting point in the centre of Trysil. It was just a few minutes past eight and the bus wouldn’t pass until eleven so I thought it would be great to paddle a few kilometres on the shallow river to get to the bus stop rather than to hike along the small winding road.
This turned out to be a very bad decision.
The river flow increased, and I was having a great time navigating through rocks and boulders surfing down the stream. Then, I was in the water. I was knocked off the board as it hit an underwater rock. I got back up and surfed another few minutes when I came to think about my fin. What fin?
Well, the fin which was attached to the fin box which was just ripped from my board! I was devastated, was this the end of my adventure before it even started?
I found a place where I could crawl up the riverbank close to the road that followed the river. I deflated my board and started to pack it in the bag. The bus stop was a few kilometres away so I started walking with all the gear. The board in the bag on my back, the dry bags and paddle in my hands and a smaller backpack on my chest. As I walked along the road a plan for how to fix my ripped-out fin box started to form.
The same nice lady, who let me off the night before, was driving the bus back. She greeted me with a smile and asked how the paddling on the lake had been. I chose not to say anything about my problems and just told her about the nice experience I had.
NSP O2 FSL Fin Box
NSP are using a different fin box system than most other SUP brands. It is a loose box in two pieces which is inserted into the board when it is semi-inflated. This ensures a tight fit and a smooth bottom of the board. I came up with the idea to convert one of the spare fins to make it fit in the slot in the board.
I have been using the same Air7 finbox for several years in one of my iSUPS and cannot imagine how hard you must have hit that to break it!
Yeah, it was a bit of a surprise! But with no damage to the board, I knew if I could find something to hold a fin in place I could paddle on. I was lucky the local hardware store was open (everything shuts in Sweden on Midsummer!) even if it was Saturday. I bought some quick-curing epoxy and found a few pieces of wood in their dumpster. Together with half a roll of duct tape, I managed to get the fin to fit in the board and I was ready to go.
That’s a great SUP Hack, I’ll let you get back to your Epic SUP Adventure
Thanks, Chris. I met up with my good friend Hanna. Hanna and her man Johan are friends of mine from back home and but for many years they have lived in Trysil. She asked me if I brought a mosquito net. Which I hadn’t. When I tried to convince her and her friend that my mosquito repellant would be good enough they just laughed and wished me good luck. We said goodbye and I started my trip south towards the ocean with a few strong strokes.
An hour and a half later I saw a person standing on a floating bridge waving at me. It was Hanna who insisted I should take the mosquito net she had gone home to get. She was rather convincing so I grabbed the net and put in the bag with the camping gear. Just before I took off she said “… if you make it to Karlstad I will be impressed. It is a tough river.” She was right.
I paddled on for a good three hours till I reached a part of the river where there is a section with white water and rapids. Afraid of losing my repaired fin box I had to dismount from the board and walk on hip to chest high waters with boulders changing in size from a football to a minivan. It was exhausting and I felt a bit stressed to see how time flew by as I struggled to get the kilometres going.
I met a group of tourists with some guides who were rafting down the white water. I must say it looked like they enjoyed the white water more than I did. I walked in the water, swam with my board and carried my gear on land around the worst parts and after a few hours, I reached calmer water again.
I reached the first power plant of my journey just short after I passed the rapids. I easily got around that one and felt confident knowing I had at least nine more to pass on my way down to Vänern, one of the largest lakes in Europe. Once at the lake, I would have to paddle across it from north to south mostly following the western shoreline. This crossing would take at least two days if the weather was good.
I stopped just before the border and rigged my camp in the woods. I met a Dutch couple in a camper van who were out fishing. We had a chat and they wanted to hear all about my trip. As I went to bed in my hammock I could hear what sounded like millions of mosquitoes around me. Apparently, my mosquito repellant didn’t work at all. But the mosquito net did. Thanks Hanna!
The next morning I was eager to get going and cooked my morning food as I packed my gear. Once again I felt the rays from the sun in my face heating up my cold body after a night with single-digit degrees.
I quickly reached what looked like a delta just before Höljesjön and the landscape changed from dense woods to more open fields. Once on the lake I knew I had left Norway and was back in Sweden. I had a few waypoints along the lake to help me navigate. Just before I reached the southern end of the lake I passed by a man and a child in a canoe. We waved at each other and said hello. At the southern end of the lake a dam blocked my way. The water dropped eighty-eight meters and after the dam the riverbed as nearly dry. I later learned that the water is sent in underground tunnels thru a number of turbines.
I checked the map on my phone and realised it would be a long walk down to open water again. After hiking with my gear on a paved service road for about three kilometers I heard a car approaching from behind, it turned out it was the family I met on the lake earlier. They stopped and offered me to ride with my gear on their trailer down to the river another five kilometres further down the road. They let me off just by the church in Höljes where I could fill up with some fresh soda in the local general store.
Happy to be back on the river my strokes were strong and powerful. As I passed houses on the side of the river people got out of their chairs to greet me. I was offered beer, food and coffee at several points but kept paddling trying to keep up the phase. My goal was to reach Branäs and camp there for the night.
I had been on the river for about an hour when I heard the familiar noise of white water and rapids. And there it was, just around the next bend the calm, nice flowing river cruise turned into a rodeo ride. I stopped at a small sandy beach, not more than two square meters and put my sneakers on my feet. I didn’t dare to wade barefoot in the water as fishing is very popular along the river and the last thing I wished for was a fishing hook in my foot.
The white water seemed to go on forever and I was feeling low in both energy and motivation when my phone rang. It was my son Lucas who just got out of the water at the EUROTOUR event in Scharbeutz. He was there with his buddy Will Keetly from England and having the time of his life. I sat down at the river bank and had a long chat with him. His energy somehow transmitted over to me and suddenly I came up with the idea to turn the board around letting the top face down and the fin up in the air. I first sat down on the board but as the grip was pretty good I dared to stand up. Soon I found myself standing on the bottom of my upside-down turned board surfing the white water. The Run Keeper lady told me my average speed was well over ten kph. I was back in the game as I surfed over the wild river.
After two hours of pure river-rodeo-riding-fun, I reached Sysslebäck. The river got calmer again and I turned the board right again so I could paddle properly again and I reached Branäs half an hour later, rigging my night camp under one of the wind shelters there.
It was obvious that I had under-estimated the difficulties along the river and also the speed of the river. I have been paddling part of the river a few times before and the speed of the water has been significantly higher, I later heard from a Swiss couple on a wooden raft that the amount of water let thru the power plants had been limited due to the very dry spring and summer. This, of course, slowed the river down and reduced the water level, as my fin found out!
The next morning I took off with my goal set to do one hundred kilometres straight that day heading for Gunnerud. The part of the river from Branäs to Gunnerud doesn’t have any dams or power plants and Vildmark Värmland runs a business here sending people on rafts made of logs down the river. The rafts follow the stream and move slowly along the river. The average trip with nights on the river bank takes seven days.
As I paddled on I passed several canoes and rafts slowly cruising down the stream. I had my mind set on the hundred k ́s so I kept on pushing hard. My plan was to make a short stop at a camp spot halfway to fill up with water and have lunch. I reached a campsite just after noon and felt very confident. I let myself have a one-hour break before I took off again.
Hunting for clear water, Nordic SUP Adventurer Patrick Boyum
During the afternoon the wind picked up a bit. The breeze coming from the south followed the river and at every turn, it seemed to accelerate for a few hundred meters. This headwind slowed me down and my buddy, the Run Keeper lady kept telling me how slow I was. I reached Ekshärad late that night, at around nine pm and had to fill up with more mosquito repellant at the local grocery store. I had paddled nearly eighty-seven kilometres that day and felt pretty tired. My ego wanted to push on for another thirteen k ́s. But my back and body in general were done and once back at the river after shopping I had it call it a day.
Hammock view – NSP O2 FSL
I found a few trees where I could hang my hammock and made myself a delicious dinner of vacuum-packed Chicken Tikka Masala and water. Life at its very best. The landscape had changed and the river now cut through an open landscape with fields filled with horses, cattle, corn, rye and wheat.
I woke up as the sun raised over the horizon. The day would be filled with action. Action as in getting around a number of power plants. The first one I reached was just after Gunnerud. I tried to figure out how to get around the plant when I saw the mailman coming in his car. He looked at me with curious eyes as he passed me sitting in the grass just outside the high fence with barbed wire on top having my breakfast in the sun. He soon came back and stopped. We had a short chat and he gave me the direction to a nearby fishing spot where I could get down to the river again.
The open fields I passed last night were all gone and once again I was in the middle of the woods. I packed my gear and started to walk along the gravel road when I soon saw a few houses. It turned out to be an old farm with old machines, cars and trucks all over the place.
On the porch of the house, an old couple were having coffee. As I approached them they stood up and greeted me. I kindly asked if I might pass over their land to get to the river. The old man just smiled and said that there were a few nuts every year who try to paddle the river. He laughed a bit and then followed me down their private trail down to the river. Before I took off we shook hands and he wished me good luck with the rest of my trip.
I passed three more power plants that day. At the last one of the three, there was a small red cabin on the riverbank. A long set of stairs led from the house down to a small bridge on which I landed. A couple sat at the veranda having a coffee when I arrived. They immediately came down and offered to help me with my gear. It turned out they were from Belgium and had rented the house for a week. They offered me coffee and a piece of cake. As we sat down and had a talk about the trip I was on it started to rain. We sheltered in their kitchen and when the rain stopped the man told me he would like to give me a ride around the power plant. We loaded my gear in their Volkswagen Multivan and took off on the bumpy dirt road. After ten minutes we stopped at a house where I could access the river. A guy with long hair and a beard was sitting in a party tent playing guitar when I jumped out of the van. He looked surprised when he saw us. I walked up to him and asked if I might use their trail to get down to the water with my board and gear. He was happy to let me do it and called at his wife who came out from the house as he yelled. It turned out they both paddled a lot and had two inflatable boards laying in their garden. When I pulled out my board from Ivans’s van their jaws dropped. Never had they seen such a long and narrow board before. They were both amazed at how stiff and light it was. – It must be very fast, he said. We talked a bit then I carried my gear down to the water, once again strapped my bags to the board and took off.
I paddled on for another three hours and found myself a great camp spot not so far from a town called Munkfors. Just before I reached the spot I passed an elk drinking water from the river. As I sat in my hammock enjoying another chicken tikka masala with water I had two beavers swimming in the river just in front of me. I was really enjoying this trip. I looked at my board which was laying next to a boat on land but fairly close to the river. For some reason, I decided to go down and drag it further up on the river bank. The next morning the boat was floating in the water, pulling the line in which it was tied to a tree. Overnight the water level in the river had risen due to the rain earlier that day.
After a nutritious chicken tikka masala breakfast I strapped the gear to the board and continued my trip. Not far from my night camp, I passed a sign on a small island warning of an upcoming waterfall. Needless to say, my pulse increased as did my expectations. Would it be dangerous? Fun? Impossible?
I soon reached Munkfors and found a diversity of smaller dams and different structures sending the river in different directions. On the right side of the river, a large waterslide-looking structure was so inviting I couldn’t resist paddling into it. It dropped slightly down increasing the speed of the water. It felt like I was paddling in a huge waterpark. The waterslide bent around a corner and suddenly a large dam appeared. I managed to pull the ”emergency break” and stop the board by holding on to a small three hanging out from the side. I turned the board around using my hips and a bit of cross-stepping. I sat down on the board and let the paddle hammer like in a super sprint race. I barely managed to move upstream even if the board seemed to be planning over the surface. It took a while but I made it to sheltered waters and could allow myself to catch my breath for a bit before I found a spot on a tiny island where I could climb up the river bank to get around the power plant and the dams.
I had to cross a small wooden bridge from the island to land. A couple of kids and what looked like their granddad was walking towards me on the bridge. I asked the old man, whose name was Lars, for directions to the river on the other side of the plant. We started talking and he told me he did the same trip from Trysil to Karlstad back in the seventies using a kayak and sleeping in a tent. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a selfie with him, it would have been a pretty cool memory.
As I passed thru the small town of Munkfors I took the opportunity to fill up with energy and fresh drinks at the local grocery store. Most of the small villages I had passed on my way down the river were hard to reach from the river as the banks were muddy, slippery and steep. With just under 100 kilometres to go, I knew there was a chance this would be the last possibility to fill up my food stash.
My newly made friend and river veteran Lars told me there would be thirty kilometres without any trouble down to the ninth power plant in a small village named Deje. My plan was to hammer on down to that without a break once back on my board again. The part ”without any trouble” didn’t last long. Shortly after I departed from Munkfors my board started to swing, and turn by every paddle stroke I made. I quickly realised I had lost my fin. It would have been nearly impossible to finish the way down to Karlstad without a fin but l had one more spare fin in my bag.
My old beloved Danny Ching fin I used to have on my board when beach racing. I got up on a small grass-covered beach and flipped the board over. The wooden ”fin box” was still in the board, I had only lost the fin. I deflated the board, made a few adjustments to the fin box and with a knife I made two slots in the wood to make the small metal knob on the fin fit in the box.
With some duct tape and a piece of wire from a fence I found up in Norway I managed to secure the fin in the box, inflated the board and soon I was back on the water again. Five hours later I cruised into the small town. Houses were lying along the winding river and people were sitting at their porches probably sipping on a nice drink as I passed them. Some kids were playing in the water diving in from a three hanging over the water. Easy life! Without any struggle, I got around the second last power plant of the trip and as I continued my trip on the other side I heard seagulls for the first time in a week. This was a secure sign I was approaching Karlstad and Vänern.
Just after Deje there was a river junction and I had to keep right. Old remains from the times when timber was sent down the river to Karlstad were all over the place. Both in the water and on land. In one high mast-like structure an eagle had made a nest.
As I got closer the eagle took off and circled over me at a high level. I could hear baby eagles crying in the nest and I paddled on as fast as I could so as not to be in the area longer than needed. As the sun set behind the tree line I started to look for a nice place to camp at. Soon I found a fairly flat part with a bunch of threes. The grass was pretty high but I used my paddle to flatten it out and got myself a first-class view over the river as I sat down to cook my dinner. Watching beavers hunting in the river, bats flying just over the surface hunting mosquitos and sometimes deers or elks drinking water from the river as I rested for the night had become a daily amusement. At every stop I made on my journey I spotted marks from beavers, elks, deer and even otters in the soft mud. One time I believe I also saw footprints from a wolf. I enjoyed my night a bit more as this would be the last night camping at the river. Next day I would be paddling out on the lake and hopefully onwards south.
When I woke up the next morning I felt a change in the weather. A cold breeze was gliding over the surface of the river creating small ripples. The southwestern wind came straight from the direction I was going. The final twenty-two kilometres on the river would be hard. I ate as much as I could to pack myself with enough energy to be able to make the last section and reach the lake before 13:30. If I made this I would have conquered the river within five days.
With no time to waste I quickly packed up my gear and for one last time strapped my gear to the board. I knew there was another power plant further down in a town called Forshaga. But there was a canal as well leading around the plant. On the maps, it looked like it would be straightforward. Even when I checked on the internet it seemed like the canal was some kind of a tourist attraction. I reached Forshaga at nine o’clock in the morning and all the workers at a major construction site just sat down for breakfast as I passed them. They all greeted me and asked where I had started. They all were pretty impressed when I yelled Trysil as I paddled on.
I wasn’t able to find the entrance to the canal, somehow I couldn’t see it. Instead, I decided to climb up a pier made out of large rocks on the left side of the river just in front of the dam. It turned out to be one of the sides of the canal. When I saw the still water in the canal I couldn’t believe my eyes. This tourist attraction was filled with a diversity of trash and litter. Plastic garden chairs, plastic bags, and logs, all in a devastating mix and in the middle a dead pig was floating on its side. I quickly made the decision to stay out of the canal and hike along it on what was supposed to be a scenic route in the town of Forshaga. I later sent an email to the municipality but I haven’t got any reply from them.
It took me just over one hour to get back on the river and I now started to feel a bit of stress. I really wanted to reach the lake within five days. But with the headwind, I started to doubt my chances of making it. I filled up with energy and poured some extra sugar into my camelback to keep the energy level high as I continued down the river.
Just after noon, I reached the outskirts of Karlstad where I met a woman on a SUP. We had a short chat as we both paddled down the river. I excused myself and pushed on as hard and fast as I could. I was surely running out of time. Karlstad is one of the largest cities in Sweden and in the town centre, the river spreads up in different smaller canals, all leading to the lake but with different distances. I was aiming for the shortest route and had to stop a few times to check the map. At one map-check-stop a snake swam across the river just in front of me and I couldn’t resist the possibility of catching it on camera so I started to chase it, wasting precious time. I got it on camera and kept on towards the lake. Just before there should be a bridge which I had to pass under. Big signs were hanging down from the bridge declaring the passage was closed to traffic due to construction work. When I got closer I saw lines blocking the way but without time to go either back or around the bridge I squatted under the lines as I heard the guys working yelling at me. I kept paddling and didn’t look back. Just a few minutes later the river mouth opened up and the horizon was all water. I did it. With just a couple of minutes to spare, I completed the river run and was now officially on the lake.
White caps were flying over the surface and the trees were bending in the wind. The water in the lake was warmer than the river water and even though I just had paddled more than 350 kilometres I still had a craving for some decent bumps. I checked the map and found myself on the eastern side of the port of Karlstad. A small marshy peninsula had to be rounded to get into the city from the lake so I started to paddle upwind to get around the low grass-covered marsh. Halfway I found a small manmade passage which shortened the route a bit.
Just as I entered the passage I met two guys on sit-on-top kayaks. They looked more scared than they looked like enjoying the ride. On the other hand, I was stoked to surf some bumps. The inflatable board handled the waves incredibly well even with the bags strapped on top of it and my improvised fin. I could steer it with my feet as I surfed bump after bump all the way to the centre of the city.
Before entering the city I stopped at a small bridge in a park, got off and in the water to take a short swim and freshen up after 6 days of paddling. As I sat on a bench, sun drying, I checked my phone. A couple who are good friends of mine were staying overnight in Karlstad and wanted to meet up for dinner in the harbour later on. What a coincidence!
I went into the public harbour and parked next to an ice cream bar, ordering the largest one they had and a coffee. As I enjoyed my mega ice cream I checked the weather forecast for the upcoming days and it was quickly clear that I would run out of time. As a family father running my own business, I didn’t have the time to sit out the bad weather. The forecast predicted five days of rain and heavy winds from the southwest. It would have been dangerous to paddle out on the lake with a broken fin box, thirty-five kilos of gear on an inflatable race board in these conditions. At least I made it to the lake and with the words from Hanna in my head I still found myself pretty proud of my achievement.
I booked myself a room at the same hotel that my friends were staying at and the next morning I hitched a ride with them back home.
Paddy, that was a truly Epic journey and to complete it after the disaster on your first morning makes it all the more impressive. It is a testament to how useful iSUPs are and to how versatile an inflatable race SUP really is.
The O2 FSL board was super-impressive! Even after the accident at the start, it paddled really well, even upside down and with all my stuff strapped to it, I am really glad that I could make it work and got back on the water.
Are you planning on going back to finish the adventure?
I have crossed the lake once before, from east to west and I know how challenging the conditions are. The lake is still out there and I am pretty sure I will cross it from north to south and then continue my trip on Göta Älv all the way down to the ocean and Gothenburg.
But that will be a new adventure.
Thanks, Paddy! Already looking forward to hearing about your next NSP Adventures!
Patrick ‘Paddy’ Boyum is one of the leading SUP paddlers in Sweden and you can try to keep up with him and his busy SUP Life on his social media channels – Instagram and Facebook. You can keep up with all things NSP through their social media on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube and on the NSP website.
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