Paddling were Jenny Gage, Matt Soley, Graham Thomas, Adam Hall, Paul Craven, Clive Pearson, Nick Davies and Fitz. Report from Jenny Gage.
Opportunities like today are almost too good to be true; I set off for my first paddle of the year with 5 coaches and 2 paddlers who are as good as. Given that I joined the club in July I knew my luck was in and felt I was in a very privileged position.
My confidence held out even when 4 of these very competent people got lost on the way to the river!?
With a slightly delayed start and over 8 miles of river to get down there wasn’t going to be much time to sit around. Adam Hall provided an excellent briefing before we set off and paired me up with Graham Thomas for the day.
The river was flowing at a reasonable pace but not as fast as the club trip in October. It didn’t take long before we were upon our first drop of the day, a small drop but a tricky run in and I didn’t fancy going down the tricky shoot that the ‘big boys’ were tackling. But as always safety and comfort zones are very much considered and I was safely directed down an easier section of the drop; and I still got cheers of congratulations when I made it safely over.
The second drop had the added challenge of a reasonable amount of tow back to get through. Not too much to fear if I remembered the principle of paddling hard as soon as I hit the water on the other side, fortunately 7 people hollering paddle helps you remember.
Shortly after this Adam and Graham introduced the game of follow my leader to me. This was a fabulous way of getting me confident at travelling sideways and moving the direction of the kayak without me really thinking or panicking about the fact I wasn’t going straight. This plus a few tips about where to put my back end when paddling backwards and I was confidently avoiding hazards and feeling much more in control.
Then the dreaded horse shoe falls approached, memories of the last trip to were unnerving me; 2 club members had been pulled back into the tow back here, capsizing and it took over an hour to rescue their boats that had got pinned against the rock. Needless to say on that day the rest of us walked round. I was given the option of walking again but with so many people qualified to rescue me there was no better opportunity to tackle this demon. Fortunately my buoyancy aid hid the fact my heart was practically beating out of my chest. I put all of Graham and Adams coaching into practice and set off, knowing I had to find my line and paddle hard to get over the edge and paddle out before I got caught. With Clive directing me from over the edge I went for it, adrenaline pumping all the way. I was delighted when I made it safely out and into the eddy, again with cheers from my team of experts.
It was all a bit too good to be true so far and I had begun to relax, apparently a bit too much! As I approached a bit of a tricky eddy I saw Graham wobble in front of me as he hit a rock, unfortunately I continued my game of follow the leader only I didn’t manage to stay upright and my own wobble promptly turned into a swim. Of course I was rescued with no problems, clear directions to swim to the side, grab my paddle if I could and my boat was caught before I could think. A quick empty of water and I was back in and being encouraged again, under a watchful eye until my confidence returned.
Wave trains followed shortly after to keep me on my toes and give me another little adrenalin buzz and the n the Aberbran bridge wave, which looks far worse if you get out and look at it from the bridge; fortunately we didn’t and I smashed through it without any trouble. Sightings of buzzards and a rainbow completed our day and the horrendous rain and wind held off.
All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better day, even with the swim, which allowed me to test the dry suit; after 3 months of wearing it, it was about time. And I can now declare this years swim chart officially open!
Thanks to everyone for today, you all provided some great tips and encouragement. Specially thanks to Graham who provided me with excellent coaching all day, improving my skills and confidence and making it a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Web: Thanks to Jenny for the report and the sweet potato and white chocolate cake for us all to share at the end.