What is “The Babylon Tour”?

The mission is simple – to rally the global riverboarding community, and others, behind an ambitious adventure of epic proportion – to criss-cross the North American continent, meet up with other riverboarders and whitewater enthusiasts, run as many of the local rivers as possible, and take steps to further unite and strengthen the global riverboarding community while aggressively promoting the sport of Riverboarding.

This is the ‘Babylon Tour’, and it starts March 1st, 2016.

Riverboarding (or Hydrospeed) is a whitewater sport that has stayed largely under the radar everywhere in the world – other than France – to where its origins can be traced and where it is already part of the river culture with a developed community that holds events and competitions frequently. In all other places where riverboarding can be found, it has been confined to a few spread-out groups or individuals and a handful of commercial operators that offer tourist trips down more manageable, lower-risk rivers – as a tourist activity that gives the unexperienced adventurer a chance to feel the power of nature in a relatively safe environment.

I have been riverboarding for some years now in places like Southern Chile, Kenya, Uganda, Guatemala, Peru and Israel, and after being present at the 2nd-ever Riverboarding World Championships in Guatemala in October of 2015, I noticed the birth of a global community of like-minded individuals from all different countries and backgrounds coming together to celebrate their love of whitewater and their passion for the sport.

I understood that the sport itself is experiencing a burst of innovation and that those involved are using their creativity and knowledge to try and improve the sport and themselves as athletes in any way that they can. The most noticeable advancements have been in board designs and gear, but also in the development of personal styles, preferences and focus. Some dedicate themselves to speed and competition, others to running new rivers never before run on a board, others still focus on freestyle surfing on standing river-waves, and some concentrate on hucking large waterfalls.

Seeing this kind of diversity in a sport in its infancy was inspiring to me, and made me begin to want to contribute in any way that I can to the development of the sport that I love so much and to which I have dedicated the last few years of my life. Riverboarding and whitewater has changed the way I live in and relate to the world around me… it has filled me with a passion for life and has gone a long way to help heal wounds and scars that otherwise would probablyhave left me emotionally crippled.  The desire to help the expansion and strengthening of a global riverboarding community so that this sport can grow and become popular – securing a place among other extreme whitewater sports like kayaking and rafting – started to grow within me and, almost intuitively, to become my mission.

It became clear to me that outside of France, the greatest concentration of riverboarders can be found on the North American continent, and that the outdoor sports culture which exists in the United States and Canada, as well as the natural resources available, makes this part of the world the most fitting place for this sport to grow efficiently.

This is how the idea for the “Babylon Tour” was born.

I have always wanted to experience the rivers of North America first hand, but due to cost, lack of contacts and personal circumstances, I had been avoiding the 1st-World and sticking to places that were easier to exist in (if you are comfortable with a simple lifestyle)… the problem was that my passion for the sport had very little meaning in those places. So I set my sights on Babylon and decided that I was going to travel the length and width of the continent – hitting as much whitewater as I could along the way – and I was going to do it by utilizing the spirit of community which I saw so clearly during the World Championships.

In a matter of just a couple of months, and with the help of sponsors like the ‘World Riverboarding Association’ and ‘Face-Level Industries’, I came up with an ambitious plan and began putting the pieces together. Using the contacts I made during my few years on the river, as well as those made during the Championships in Guatemala and other whitewater enthusiasts which I contacted through social media, I began to put together a list of willing individuals – getting their contact info, placing them on a travel map, and creating a route which will take me North-to-South and West-to-East across the North American continent (see video above for details of the intended route).

Due to the immense expanse of territory, it became obvious pretty fast that this was going to be a very long trip that will require a lot of logistic preparation and coordination. Thankfully, the response was very positive almost from the get-go and in a very short time people from all around the continent have come out and offered to open up their homes, their address and contact books, and even their wallets to try and help make this project a reality.

I publicly asked for help, and that is what I have been getting. People who can have offered to host me and take me onto their local rivers, others have shared information and introduced me to the people they consider to be the most relevant to the tour, and other still have generously donated whatever they were able in order to help fund this adventure and support the sport.

As I write this I am only days before the beginning of the tour, and the list of well-wishers, sponsors, donors and hosts is growing by the day. Exposure of the tour is consistently growing on social media and is expected to continue as I begin to publish the progress made on sites and platforms like Facebook & YouTube. I have been given this platform on FaceLevel Industries to be able to post blogs and updates as I begin my travels and more and more people are beginning to take interest. This fact alone fills me with hope for the future of the sport as I come to realize that people are genuinely intrigued by the development of an extreme whitewater sport that most have never heard of – and that is exactly the objective – to expose, develop, and create discussion around this growing trend that has been slowly gaining and developing its own unique personality on rivers across the globe.

This is a great chance for everyone to get involved – and doing so, to be part of history in the making. Riverboarding is a sport of passion, and few other sports manage to really immerse the participants, quite literally chest-deep, inside one of the most awesome and powerful forces of nature. To “become part of a flowing river” is a concept that only whitewater people can understand.

These are sports of passion – and passion is what we need – in life, in our hearts, on and off the river, and behind the missions and adventures that we choose to take on.

I invite you to share our passion. Follow the tour and the development of Riverboarding into the future, become part of the vision and part of the story.

Watch this spot!

Join us here at FaceLevel at www.facelevel.com/babylontour

“Like” and follow the tour on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/babylontourriverboardingnorthamerica or on my Instagram account under the username ‘african.river.rat’

Help raise funds to keep the tour going on www.indiegogo.com/projects/babylon-tour-riverboarding-north-america

… and if you’d like to, check out some of the stuff I have been up to on rivers over the past few years at www.vimeo.com/africanriverrat