Monday, 10 June 2013

White Water Kayaking

When I still lived in West Wales I was very active in outdoorsy pursuits, and among these much-loved hobbies was kayaking. In the sea, in rivers, going from A to B or just surfing and trying to play boat - all of it was enjoyable for me!

Since going to Uni in 2002 I have rarely been out kayaking. I don't have the kit and I don't know other kayakers now, which all makes getting out on the water pretty difficult... However, finding a good course to go on at a much reduced last-minute price answers that problem very nicely!

Plas-y-Brenin, in North Wales' Snowdonia, offer last-minute empty spots on their courses at a bit of a discount - a wonderful fact I discovered while idly surfing the web, along with the discovery that a white water kayaking course that weekend (meaning, I would leave the following day!) had such a discounted place available!! 

Snowdonia really is beautiful, and the idea of getting out and refreshing my white water skills while meeting like-minded people seemed a fantastic idea. I was still a bit nervous however, as it had been so long since I last paddled, but a quick phone call to the centre allayed my fears as they explained the level this course was pitched at. 

The next day I loaded up the car a headed up to North Wales. I had a good drive up, and was quite excited when I arrived at Plas-y-Brenin. I had only ever driven past the place before, but checking in I discovered that the people were as friendly and welcoming as you would expect outdoorsy sorts to be, and the place itself was really excellent. Nice clean rooms with great showers, and a lovely bar where you could order some pretty good, hearty food on your first night - the food for the following days was included in the booking price, along with the accommodation.

The first morning of the course, after a good safety and orientation brief, we met our instructor Karl and the rest of the group. Our group was really great - there was a young trainee teacher and her dad, plus another girl who was a newly qualified anaesthetist, as well as being a highly accomplished orienteerer and caver. Everyone had a great sense of humour, and we had a great time together.
We had glorious weather, which meant some of the river levels were a little low; but we did get to paddle in spectacular sunshine - and it wasn't too cold if you got dunked :)

I was the most experienced paddler of the group, but I was also the longest away from paddling, so it was a real boost to find I could still paddle well, and still roll when I needed to! This had the added bonus of meaning the instructor allowed me to do a few bumpier sections that the others couldn't - this wasn't being unkind in any way, it would have been too risky to allow people with uncertain support strokes and no roll to do sections where you could easily capsize into white water.

At the end of the final day, I was allowed to have a play in a stopper. I didn't have particularly great skills, but getting stuck in there felt exhilarating - only two days previously I had been nervously asking whether I would be suitable for this course, and there I was with the power of the river all around me, making my kayak dance a little in the surging water, and then finally rolling upright again when I could no longer hold my own against nature and ended up floating away upside-down :)

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