Hondarribia HONDARRIBIA: “Thanks to a trip to Uganda, I started to enjoy kayaking in a different way”

Until mid-September, he’ll be on Hondarribia Beach offering guided tours and kayak rentals. / Florent Porto

It offers routes along the coast that depart from Hondarribia Beach, as well as rapids along the Bidasoa River

After more than a decade devoted to competition, first in the whitewater specialty and then in freestyle swimming, a trip to Uganda changed the way Aitor Gikotxia understood rowing. For this reason, in 2019 he left his position as coach at a National Modernization Center in Lyon, to return to his homeland and open Kayak Basque Country, an active tourism company based in Hondarribia that offers guided routes along our coast and along the Bidasoa River. .

– What happened in Uganda?

– It was a trip that changed my philosophy on sports. Until then, I associated enjoying athletic success with, if there was no success, I wouldn’t enjoy it. But Uganda gave me the opportunity to enjoy the river in a different way, without pressing for results and no matter how you paddled, learning about another culture.

What are the consequences of this mental change at the athletic level?

– The following year I left slalom and focused on the business career I was studying. At the same time, I got involved in freestyle swimming a little and the truth is that it went very well for me, I participated in the world championships in 2011 and was third and in 2012 in Europe second in one area and third in another.

safe environment

“Jezkebel is a natural barrier that stops the waves, which is why we can make roads almost every day.”

– Meanwhile, are you still traveling?

-yes. I was in Ecuador, where I jumped for the first time fifteen metres; In Argentina, where we traveled 600 kilometers across different rivers; In Chile, where I made the largest jump, 26 meters, and in Greenland.

– What is the most wonderful?

-green land. The intention was to go down to three rivers that seemed possible under a monstrous savage. We start with the easiest area. We had to travel 11 hours by boat to reach the end of the fjord. We were quite far from civilization, the nearest town was 150 km away as the crow flew. To start the descent of the river we had to walk 55 kilometers for seven days and 45 kilos on our back, because we had everything, including the canoe. And so we came to an ice field and began to descend into a river 30 or 40 meters wide, which had vertical walls of ice about 50 meters long on both sides. A block of ice the size of a bus fell 20 meters from a friend. Then we spent about seven days down that river.

– All those trips inspired you to start a Basque Country kayak, right?

-This is it. Thanks to the excursions, I knew different ways to approach kayak tourism. For example, in Patagonia they made routes through icebergs and in Greenland they were more exploratory routes. I took this philosophy and wanted to apply it here, because I also saw that in the Euskadi area there are very few places that offer guided tours.

sustainable and healthy

“This is an ultra-sustainable means of transportation through which hard-to-reach areas can be reached.”

-You are from San Sebastian, why did you choose Hondarribia to open the company?

-Because from the security point of view it is the best place in all Euskadi area next to Ordebay. Jaizkibel is a natural barrier that stops the waves, and allows us to do activities to Amwitz even when there are waves. There is also the bay and, if not, the Hendaia region, so activities can be carried out practically every day, and you never have to put it on hold.

– Now in the summer you have a base in Hondarribia Beach, what do you offer there?

– In addition to kayak rental, we have different routes. The simplest, and one for all audiences, is what we call “kayak and snorkel”. It takes two hours and we go from the beach to Amwitz Island. We tend a little bit to see the back of Jaizkibel, which is very cool, then in Amuitz we do a dive. For the more experienced, there is another exit with roving kayaks that go to Gemelas de Hendaia and to Loia Beach in the back. There we find some brutal geological formations and since it is an area known only to the locals, there are always very few people. The third route is Artzu or Molino cove, in Jaizkibel, and this year we’re starting to offer a full day trip from Pasaia to Hondarribi, about 20 kilometers away. Finally, we organize sunrise and sunset tours from Amuitz, every Saturday and also on other days if there is a request.

– Another activity inside the Kayak Basque Show is the Bidasoa River rapids.

Yes, it is the most popular. We started in Indarlazza and ended in Bhubia, and along the way we stopped at the slopes of San Miguel and also at a great jump off a boulder. It is very interesting, whether for families with young children, young people or adults.

Are there comments or opinions from customers who take the frequent routes?

A lot of people usually hallucinate about Jezebel landscapes that have nothing to do with what you see from Earth. And that’s what I want to convey to people, that kayaking is a sustainable and ecological mode of transportation, because you don’t bother anyone, it allows you to get to hard-to-reach areas in a very healthy way.

How can flights be booked?

– All information is on www.kayakbasquecountry.com and reservations can be made at 679600839.

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