Whitewater Michaelmas 2016

Receiving coaching from PyB's coaches (Photo credit: Plas-Y-Brenin)

Despite a distinct lack of rain during this term, its moving into winter, therefore it’s time for the club to smash some awesome whitewater. We have definitely done so this term.

We started off in mid-October with a small group travelling to the BCU Student Safety Seminar at Plas-Y-Brenin. This awesome event is put on by PyB and top coaches from across the country for basically no cost, to teach student leaders, coaches and committee members how to run a safe club and trips. It started out with a dry session covering the legal bits that we really should know. The afternoon was spent either on the lake (perfecting personal skills, or learning coaching skills), or the pool (learning how to teach rolling). After another dry session of trip planning in the evening there was a social evening and a presentation on one of the coaches recent kayaking expedition to Peru. We finally made it to some white water on Sunday, with some of us heading to Mile-End-Mill on the Dee to learn coaching white water skills, and the rest heading to Canolfan Tryweryn for white water safety and rescue practise. A really well run and useful weekend, and a massive thank you to Plas-Y-Brenin and the coaches for giving up their time to put it on.

After some top-quality practise on Cambridge’s biggest white water at the prep session in the intervening weekend, it was time to put these skills into action on the beginner’s trip. For the first time in a few years we headed to North Wales for this, and good thing since the complete lack of rain meant the Dee was the only thing in the country with water. We started off with a coaching session at Mile-End-Mill, to actually develop some skills (and get used to swimming…). In the afternoon we headed up to Horseshoe Falls to do a full run of the Dee, which despite a bit of faff, gave everyone an opportunity to put skills into practise on an actual trip. Sunday started again with another trip down the whole Dee, with the big deal for everyone being running Serpent’s Tail, a huge accomplishment for people on their first weekend ever of whitewater. We finally finished the weekend with a muck around session at Mile-End-Mill, where we had the Duo, playboats, surfing and swimming all happening (quite often at once) as an awesomely fun way to end the weekend. A smaller trip than the last few years, but less leaders and a more beginners made the whole weekend a bit more ‘interesting’ and all the better for it.

We then had a couple of weeks staying in Cambridge, but the white water action didn’t stop. We had film night, showing off the best, craziest, stupidest and just plain mental paddlers from around the world (and the club) – despite some mega carnage on show, don’t think we put anyone off, and it was good to see what can really be done. We then had a dry session practising ropework skills, with everything from basic throwlining skills, through mechanical advantage and finishing with a bit of steep ground work, to ensure we are ready for anything that harder trips in future could throw at us.

Finally we finished the term with a cold Teesdale trip – open to everyone from the beginners trip, but pushing a bit harder. Saturday started with some low levels on the Lower Tees, to warm up for the weekend, with some harder challenges at Abbey Rapids. The afternoon was spent on the Upper Tees with then the challenging Dog Leg rapid half way down providing some ‘entertainment’ with swims, rolls, and some very big ends all happening. The river was finished in the best way possible, with runs of Low Force, most peoples first actual waterfall, with some stunning boofs (Alex), some stunning lack of boof (Andy), a great unintentional hammer attempt (Kai) and just generally good, bad and crazy style. Saturday evening was Christmas evening, with music, jumpers, crackers and decorations, and such an abundance of dinner, that we didn’t actually make it onto the christmas puddings. In attempt to walk off the dinner, we went “just across the field” to have a look a low force in the dark, and actually went for a trek in the dark, with little lighting along a narrow riverbank…. Sunday morning was then Christmas morning, and a certain member of the group woke way too early, found levels had gone up, then lay in bed like an excited little kid, until they felt they could appropriately wake the group, at a still too early time! We started on the now much higher upper tees, with more carnage on Dog Leg (amazing down river freestyle from Tamsin), and some boof sort of needed at Low Force. Hlaf of us spent the afternoon running the Swale, where there are more waterfalls per km of river than anywhere else I know of in the country. Isobel gave us a heart stopping moment at the first drop, running it backwards, in the wrong place, and disappearing, before popping back up fine a second later. The video shows the drops better, but basically the biggest adrenalin rush any of us have had in a long time. Hector put in a stunning entry for swim of the year with his off line run.

A couple of club members have also managed impressive white water things away from us this term. Andy went to the SAS Hurley Classic, the UK’s largest Open freestyle competition, did pretty inpressively for his first time, and just generally showed how annoyingly good he has got in a short space of time. Shahid has been out in Chile for his year abroad, generally paddling around and having an awesome time on truly world class white water, and annoying the rest of us with tales of paddling in the sun – to see more of his adventures check out his blog - and is now spending a couple of months exclusively paddling and coaching.

Finally (if anyone has actually read this far) a massive thank you to everyone who has driven, led, coached, organised, cooked, helped and just been on and made such fun all the trips, socials and other things we have done this term – there is too many of you to name, but without all of you things wouldn’t happen, and wouldn’t have made this term as awesome as it has been. We’re already gearing up for whitewater next term, with trips and other things in the works, and most importantly the Apocalypse is coming at NSR for the first weekend of March (week 7) where we are going absolutely massive this year!