One of the world’s best white water kayakers hails from the somewhat unlikely setting of the sleepy suburbs of Leeds in Yorkshire. The 26 year-old two time Adidas Sickline winner is a master of using his local environment to train for the most hostile waters on earth. He took a break from packing for yet another adventure to sit down in his local and have a chat with us.
THE RED BULLETIN: Is Yorkshire not a pretty cold place to go kayaking?!
JOE MORLEY: The water in Yorkshire isn’t actually too cold. That makes it a great place to learn as it’s quite tepid, you’re never too scared to fall in or to try and surf the waves a bit and just muck about.
You turned your back on slalom racing to focus on chasing and racing on white water, why was that?
I got pretty tired of the circuit and the rigidity of it. It’s more of a stadium thing. You talk to the guys who are on a team now and they won’t have paddled a natural river for five or six years. It’s really artificial and not really what I’m into.
What’s been the longest trip you’ve done with your kayak?
We did a six day trip in New Zealand once! It definitely adds another element to it. On your local river if something breaks you can just jump out and go back to the car but on that kind of trip you can’t. A lot of the terrain was gorged in too so it’s over head height, you can’t get out so you just have to commit for really long sections at a time.
Which is better: paddling at home or abroad?
A good run down one of the Yorkshire rivers is so much more rewarding than say one in Austria because you know that that one will run for two or three days solid whereas at home good days are harder to come by. It’s access too, even in other parts of the UK, people can be really awkward about where you can paddle but in Yorkshire people are cool and seem to be really into it. Catching a Yorkshire river on a good day is pretty rare and so it’s a really special thing when you do.
How often do you go kayaking? Do you always ride rivers or do you try and mix things up?
If it rains then I’ll be out ideally every day. If there’s some surf coming in then we’ll probably go down to the coast and surf a bit in the boats. If the river is being reliable then I’ll try and get two paddles in a day.
You’ve been all over the world with kayaking. Where is your hands down favourite place to paddle?
Norway is probably the best place I’ve been for kayaking, definitely. When you’re there the days don’t really exist it’s just paddle-food-sleep, paddle-food-sleep and that’s it!
Riding white water is of course dangerous. Have you had any serious injuries from it?
I’ve fractured my spine and suffered two skull fractures, they’re my most serious injuries to date. Shoulders, backs and broken ankles are all pretty common though. As are broken noses and teeth from being submerged and hitting rocks.
Where are you going next?
I’m off to New Zealand for six months then after that I’ll hopefully pop to Hawaii to check out some surfing and then on to Portland for a race on the Hood river.