Getting to grade 3 is a noble pursuit, and there are not many sections of whitewater that can beat the Sjoa Playrun in Heidal, Norway.
Whether the Sjoa River is at 25m3 or 100m3 (you can find the flow of all whitewater sections on the “RiverApp”) the lines are pretty much the same, only the features are bigger or smaller. The Sjoa Playrun is an incredibly safe section of whitewater compared to most other rivers. This is because there are very few places you can get stuck on, washed under or dangerous holes to be stuck in. It is for this reason that it is a very popular rafting section with 1000s of happy tourist rafting down this beautiful and fun section every year! Of course the Sjoa Playrun is much more fun in a kayak, though, but kayaking requires some level training so that you can navigate the rapids and roll back up if you tip upside down – it is totally worth the effort though!
Just be aware that when the Sjoa River is in flood even the Sjoa Playrun can become very dangerous for inexperienced kayakers and I would say it becomes a grade 4 instead of a grade 3 just because if you do swim, water will be moving fast, it will be very powerful and you can get sucked down by the river features, plus it could be difficult to get to the side. We always recommend paddling with others, taking safety training seriously and always paddle rivers that match your skill level.
Here is a short video of me paddling the Sjoa Playrun section at low flow (about 25m3) with voice-over. Excuse my mumbly New Zealand accent!
Quick run down of main rapids
First rapid – Golf Stream
Golf stream is your first rapid after putting in at Harlaug Bru. To avoid the large hole on river left make sure to stay in the middle of this rapid. Keep your boat straight, paddle hard, boof if necessary and roll up if you tip over. There is nothing downstream for a few 100m so you have lots of time to enact a rescue or roll up! At the top of the rapid the water does push left, so you will need to angle your boat back right if you want to make the middle line.
Second rapid – Hay Stacks
Stay in the middle of the river for this one if you want to avoid the big features. The river does head left before this rapid so make sure to head left with the flow and then stay in the middle. At the top of this rapid there are some ledge holes on river right so you can decide whether you want to go through them or stick right and then head left afterwards.
Third rapid – Chocolate Canyon
Stay middle through first part and when you get to the big rock in the middle head to the left. Then it is just middle line all the way through – enjoy this spectacular gorge!
Fourth rapid – Devils Elbow
The river will make a big turn to the right a few 100m after chocolate canyon, you can’t miss it. Here you want to start on the left and head right as the river turns. By doing this you will miss all the big features. There is a hole at the end that can get quite big at high flows.
Fifth rapid – China Hole
There are rapids in between devils elbow and China hole but they are insignificant and can easily be scouted from your kayak. China hole comes after you pass under the only bridge you will pass under throughout the entire section. The line down China hole is centre left, so not in the middle of the river and not hard left – centre left! There is a big hole (AKA Chine hole) in the middle and small yet sticky and powerful hole on the hard left. Don’t worry the line is wide in between and you will have time to see and adjust your course as you near the rapid – slow is fast.
Sixth rapid – the new man-made ledge holes
So this road is quite new and is man-made. It comes straight after China hole or at least 200m afterwards. Just head hard left to avoid the 3 ledge holes and then keep heading left to take out at the soccer field by Sjoa Rafting.
“Catch you on the water!”
Cool guys, hope you got value from our video and description. At Mad Goats we teach Introkurs Elv and Grunnkurs Elv and we run guided tours in Heidal on the Otta River, Lågen River and of course the Sjoa River. Visit us at Mad Goats Sjoa, where we have a hot tub, sauna, camping and most of all good vibes and top-quality kayaking instruction! We also recommend taking your Rescue 3 training with Rescue 3 Norway if you plan to become a whitewater kayaker, even if you only plan to paddle on grade 2.