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Winter White Water Weekend

Towards the end of the year, around November or December time, the club organises its annual white water training and development weekend. We hire a bunk house in an area known for its white water potential, usually either Dartmoor or the Brecon Beacons, and open up bookings to members who wish to develop their white water skills.

With this in mind, the attendees are usually divided into groups depending on ability; the beginners’ group aims to take paddlers who are relatively new to white water, and give them the experience of more demanding rivers. This is an ideal progression for members who joined the club during the summer training program and have spent some time learning the basics of ferrying, eddying in and out of a flow and how to paddle in moving water. The white water weekend is the ideal follow on to the annual Biblins weekend in the preceding summer as it takes the skills learnt on Symonds Yat and builds upon them over more varied conditions. Beginners usually spend their weekend honing their skills on a grade 2 river such as the Lower Dart, the Usk above Brecon or something of a similar nature. A river which offers enough excitement, while being known to the coaches and therefore safe for this level of ability.

Other paddlers with more experience will attend the weekend looking to tame bigger waters, around Grade 2-3. With the Usk from Llangynidr to Talybont and the Dart Loop being popular attractions. These rivers offer more challenge to the paddler still developing their white water skills.

While kayaks are popular, the white water weekend is well attended by paddlers in all types of craft, and an open canoe group is a permanent fixture of the club white water weekends.

In recent years, the development of a strong core of white water paddlers, in different disciplines, has enabled the club to run groups for OC1 and C1 paddlers, as well as trips for paddlers wishing to move beyond Grade 3. With rivers such as the Tawe and Upper Dart being attempted more regularly.

In terms of formal qualifications, every year the club invites qualified coaches to the club white water weekend in order to deliver formal White Water Award training in either canoe, kayak or OC1. This means that a single white water weekend, could have as many as 5 groups on the water, all working at different levels, and in different craft.

In the evenings we reconvene at the bunk house for our group meals, afterwards there is socialising and often entertainment in the form of a quiz or games. Particular attention is paid to the ‘swim count’ board, which lists the amount of times a paddler parts company with their boat throughout the weekend. In this way the club celebrates the efforts of those who learn from their mistakes. (Especially the OC1 paddlers who have had to negotiate capsizing while getting in to their boats down to counting as ‘half a swim’ – if only to give everyone else a fighting chance!)

Ad-hoc club weekends further afield aimed at more experienced paddlers

For the more experienced white water paddlers, recent years have offered separate trips farther afield for paddlers to practice their skills. These weekends are not designated training weekends, they are aimed at taking people further in their white water journey.

In 2019, the club organised – after a hiatus of several years – an August weekend away camping beside the river Tryweryn in North Wales. The Tryweryn is an ideal location for a summer white water trip as it is a dammed, release-fed river, opening most weekends to paddlers keen to try their skills on either the grade 4 ‘upper’ section above the campsite, or the grade 2-3 ‘lower section’ which leads down to Bala. In 2019, the club trip ‘warmed up’ with a run down the Lower, before moving onto several laps of the Upper, which is managed by the Welsh National White Water Centre, who provide shuttles, a café, and the switch for the water! A great weekend was enjoyed by all, whether in canoe, kayak, C1 or OC1.

In March 2020 (shortly before the world ended), the club organised a trip to the Lake District, again booking a bunkhouse ideally situated to strike out towards wherever the water was flowing. The Saturday was spent running the Lune, followed by the Leven, while the Sunday was spent tackling the Greta into Keswick, followed by a short stretch of the Grade 4 river Kent south of Kendal, again a variety of disciplines were represented including kayaks, OC1 canoes and even a C1.