Competing in their third world rafting championships, the Chilean National Rafting Team ‘Team Cascada’ is excited to be in Rotorua. This unusual team, which consist of 7 cousins and brothers, are carrying forward a long rafting tradition as part of the Astorga clan. This is a family of well known outdoor adventurers who live together on a large ‘fundo’ (ranch) and operate an eco-adventure tourist center on the banks of the Maipo River in the central Andes Mountains.
Benjamin Astorga Leiva, Pedro Astorga Leiva, Pangal Andrade Astorga, Lorenzo Andrade Astorga, Simon Yerovi Astorga, Tomas Gonzalez Astorga, and Huamani Orrego Astorga are coached by their uncle Joe Willie Jones who is an IRF BOD member and co-head of the Sport and Competition Committee. Joe Willie has been paddling canoes, kayaks and rafts since 1972, competing in marathon and downriver canoe races in the late 70’s and competed for the United States during the first Project Raft competitions beginning in 1989. Joe´s race experience is rounded out by having worked around the world as one of the first raft guides on many of the world’s classic class 5 rivers, and has been lucky enough to have a long list of first descents to his credit.
From the beginning, this Chilean team has proven itself to be a strong contender, winning a silver medal in the Sprint during their first WRC in Bosnia and a gold medal in the H2H and 5th overall in Costa Rica during the 2011 WRC. The team has lost its former captain Nicolas Yerovi Astorga (another cousin) who is currently expecting the birth of his daughter, but Lorenzo has stepped into his position and the team expects to be as strong as ever.
All of the team spends as much time in kayaks as in rafts, especially enjoying the steep creeks found in Chile, and brothers Lorenzo and Pangal have excelled in local competitive kayak racing. When not on the river, Pangal and Pedro have discovered that their physical abilities developed while paddling are also useful in other venues. Both have participated in ‘reality’ television productions in Chile that are centered on adventure or endurance athletics. Winning these events easily, both have been propelled into national celebrity status. Pangal has even recently been hired as host of an ongoing adventure series that takes the viewer into the remote regions of Patagonia and the Amazon rain forest. The other team members are also heavily involved in work that involves the outdoors; holding various university degrees in eco-tourism management and environmental studies. The team also spends considerable time on river protection issues, especially working hard to try and stop a hydroelectric project that is threating their home river, the Rio Maipo, and a mega hydroelectric project that is threating some of the most pristine whitewater rivers in southern Patagonia.
Team Cascada feels fortunate to have the advantage of growing up in a paddling clan, and to have an excellent training river located literally outside of their front door. Unfortunately, while commercial rafting is very popular in Chile, competitive rafting is still virtually unknown; which means that opportunities to race other teams is almost non-existent. Chile is world famous for its whitewater, yet government funding for rafting sports doesn’t exist. This means that a considerable amount of the team’s time is spent working to get sponsorships and earning funds to attend WRC or Pan American events.Team Cascada hopes to change this by continuing to be a strong competitor which will bring more attention to the sport in Chile.
The team would like to thank their primary sponsors, the Cascada de las Animas Eco-Tourism Center for helping to make their participation in the 2013 WRC possible.