Thoughts of the M1

There’s always a feeling of dread as we’re planning and embarking on a kayaking weekend away. Luckily our chair and deep thinker Kate has some thoughts on how to make your journey a little less stressful and more relaxing. The key question is what do you think about when you’re chugging up long stretches of the M1 in a 50 zone, concentrating on the slow car in front of you and the heavy goods vehicle tailgating you from behind. The answer for most of us would be to contemplate what’s in our to-do list, or what rivers we might be able to run, or who we’d like to bunk with.

Apparently this is where we’re going wrong. It’s all about letting the mind drift, just a little, to achieve the right state of meditation. Instead of thinking about what’s been bothering you up to that point, stare out the window and fixate on something near you. That might be a goat in a field, which would draw you back to thoughts of all the wonderful goats you’ve encountered in your lifetime and get you reminiscing about those gorgeous goats the Guardian published a few years back. It might be about the many traffic cones your likely to pass on the miles of unmanned roadworks. You’ll think about how they’re all so similar and then you’ll remember you’ve seen a blue and yellow one before, and maybe a pink one. Why could this be? Perhaps they are owned by different municipal bodies? Perhaps they mean something??

Or you could contemplate how darn beautiful the bridges of the M1 are. Not all of them mind. But there are those on the section between junctions 9 and 16 which remain in tact from the early days of Britain’s motorway developments which represent an “understated but attractive” design. With circular columns, gently sloping feet and beveled edges you’ll see a plain and simple design but look closer and closer at each passing one and remark on how much detail there is to be seen. How pleasing is that ridging on the underside?

They are a very smart piece of design — understated but attractive, though they have the ability to look overly chunky in the wrong light. They must have looked stunning when the concrete was new and white.

To the rest of us we’ll be stuck in our heads introspecting our upcoming problems and just seeing concrete block after concrete block, but the detail is in the eye of the beholder. Dare to look deeper.

River leader assessment

For the first time in months we were heading to North Wales and it was raining. It was raining hard and there was more rain forecast.

Gemma and I were heading up the motorway. Off to Bala to meet up with Hannis and undertake our River Leader (formerly 4 Star) Assessment. We were excited by the idea of getting to paddle something other than the Dee or the Treweryn. Even though were were constrained to a grade 2/3 remit, paddling a new stretch of water is always exciting.

We met the rest of the group at the Rug Estate on a very wet Saturday morning. Three students, our assessor, Alex, who was also being assessed and Hannis. Here we checked water levels, found out our students previous paddling experience and came up with suitable river options. We decided to try the Conwy and if that wasn’t suitable it was a short drive to the Llugwy.

As we were driving to the Conwy the rain kept coming and coming. It was warm and wet, Ideal paddling weather! We arrived at the get-on and went to check the levels. As we looked over the bridge all we could see was a seething boiling brown mess tanking through the trees and round the corner at high speed. It looked fantastic! However, it was too far out of remit for the assessment to even be a consideration. So we got back into the cars and headed further west to Plas y Brenin and the lake which would serve as our get on for the Llugwy.

After getting changed in a very wet and windy lay-by and shuttling we headed down to the lake. Here we had to give a full briefing to the group. This includes kit check, safety brief, medical questions, signalling and answering any questions or concerns anyone in the group may have.

After getting in our boats and onto the water we had a warm up session on a small wave. Myself, Hannis, Gemma and Alex were broken into two groups of two. Two of us would take charge of the students while the other two hung back out of the way. It was here our assessor could observe how we dealt with leading a group down river.

It soon became apparent that we were dealing with pretty high conditions as the river was up in the trees and eddies were small, filled with tree branches and barbed wire fences! Along with the added pressure of being constantly assessed the game was on!

The river starts off easily enough. Meandering through tree lined banks and small relatively simple rapids. This gave us the chance to really watch how the students paddled and their ability to carry out certain crosses and eddy catching ability. However, after a couple of portages the gradient started to drop and the rapids became chunkier and faster in nature.

The river was also rising so we knew any swim would have to be dealt with fast and efficiently. Many of the eddies were quickly become too hard for the students to catch so we often had the whole group moving at once which added to the risk of multiple swims. Luckily this only happened on one occasion and was dealt with quickly.

One group member decided the river was too much for her at this point and opted to walk around the remaining rapids. I spoke to them after and they said it was the hardest stretch of water they had paddled to date. Quite an achievement for all of us I think!

We made it to the get off. The students were all beaming with smiles (even our walker) and had had a great day. We had also had lots of fun but I was also wondering if we had just led them down an out of remit stretch of water. If we had it could cause problems with our assessment.

Day two, and after meeting a different group of students and a new assessor we came up with another paddle plan. Today we would head to the wonderful Dee. Here we would lead the students down the upper section to Horseshoe falls and then they would leave us there. From there the plan was for myself, Gemma, Hannis and Alex to continue on down for the skills based part of the course.

The paddle down to Horseshoe falls was a world away from the first day. The water was still high but the river much wider and deeper. The raids were fun but forgiving and the eddies large enough for twenty people and not a submerged barbed wire fence in sight!

We breezed through this section, waved goodbye to the students and had a bite to eat. From here we were peer paddling. Getting on at Horseshoe we paddled down the route on the left hand side. It was at the bottom of this I unintentionally passed the rolling section of the course by relaxing a little too much in a boily eddy.

We eddy hopped, surfed and crossed our way down to Serpents Tail. It was much higher than usual and the water had covered much of the rocks which we usually use for inspection. However, some still remained and we got out for a quick look. Turns out rivers can change in nature pretty fast! The tail on the feature is now horrific (especially at those levels) – it had changed from a small sticky hole into a huge monster! Our assessor for the day has named it “The Coach Eater” as it has made a few pro coaches swim recently! Most of the group paddled the feature skirting around the hole to the left. I definitely advise this line.

A little bit more surfing and eddy hopping, some throw line practice and we were done!

Arriving back at Mile End Mill we got changed, packed our kit, stopped a Landrover rolling into the river and had a bit more food. We all passed the assessment with flying colours.

I can highly recommend the course for any budding river leaders. The skills and techniques learned are a vital part of safely taking people down a river.

James Mogie

See our links to course providers across Britain.

International Women’s Day 2016

A not so chilly Christmas Dart trip

Andrew and Alex share a couple of memories from this year’s Christmas Dart trip…


There’s a first time for everything and this time it was being led down the Dart Loop by an inanimate object (no not Krzysztof), albeit one with a great deal more charisma than most. Congratulations must go to our newest paddler and river leader, the inflatable punchbag minion with some silly name, who was given to Christine by Secret Santa and judged river worthy enough to handle whitewater on his first outing. Even though he didn’t take the perfect line and was really rather slow (everyone else was fully changed and waiting by the time we got off) he was was willing to join in all fun activities and surf some waves with a mesmeric spinning gyration.


Regents’ newest club member – Dave the minion

In other news, congratulations must also go to those others practicing their river leading skills for the first time. Water levels were good, first time I’ve paddled the Dart with a decent amount of water, and much fun was had. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking…


Craig & Adam C in a flurry of paddling glory



The Upper Dart is legendary, a thing of folklore, a notch that every aspiring Regent’s paddler needs to have on their belt alongside the Olympic course at Lee Valley and the Briancon Town Gorge.  Having secured the first two in 2015 it was time to hit the triple whammy for the season.  And who better to be next to me than my stellar teammate from the 2014 River Gyronde high-water swimming and hitchhiking championship –  Debs.


The start is innocuous. If you didn’t know what was ahead you’d consider it rather dull.  But one shouldn’t rest on one’s laurels as  they navigate downstream, because it doesn’t take long before you realise this isn’t the Loop any more.  Everything is rocky – boulder garden after boulder garden.  It would be foolish to try this river before feeling confident in your technique  – you’d spent the entire time hugging rocks (probably upside down) and that wouldn’t be fun.  The need for that technique becomes starkly apparent as you approach, and get stuck into, the Mad Mile.  You need to be limber, to have confidence, and to know how to turn….quickly. And to THINK! I swear my brain had more of a workout than my arms!


But I seemed to be getting it, and when I chose perhaps the very worst line on one rapid and flipped, my roll seemed to be working.  I even dropped the permanent grimace that I possess while paddling, as fear turned to sheer joy.  My fantastic Upper Dart chauffeur squad (Benjo, Christine, Mogey and Amy) had counselled me to look back as much as you look forward.  Why?  Because the rapids are so damn impressive to look at.  Of course you don’t appreciate that until you actually see them, but rapid after rapid along the way I couldn’t help but marvel what you’d just been through. Need I say it again, this really wasn’t the Loop anymore.


I’d already convinced myself that I’d portage the mega rapids at Euthanasia and Surprise Surprise, so when I did set eyes on them I was relieved that I wasn’t going to tackle them.  I can see myself taking on the former in the not-too-distant future.  The latter, no chance.  Christine’s perfect line through Surprise Surprise showed how it was meant to be done; Benjo’s sad outcome demonstrated just how risky an encounter it is.  Christine and Benjo headed off swiftly to get that man some medical attention, which left us with two boats. A sterling group of paddlers from Leicestershire ended up guiding those down the river – an amazing job.  It’s important that you keep your wits about you after the big rapid because there’s yet another surprise around the corner.  Blimey! That was almost the worst of the day.  And so on we went, but the fun had been lost when Benjo went down, and the rest of the route was about getting through it without a scrape.  That, of course, didn’t happen.  As with the Gyronde swim, a nasty rock came and bit me on the eye.  That took the final fun out of it. The last stretch – max Grade 3 – couldn’t go quickly enough.


But when the dust had settled, and the carnage that the afternoon had turned into had faded a little, I couldn’t help but think of the day with pride.  The Upper Dart is a real ‘step up’ river – sublimely beautiful, technically challenging, a thrill a minute – an outstanding experience.  2015’s progression had been sealed. The Loop, which we did on Sunday, will never be the same again.



Selina, Dave & Dave taking a moment to get to know each other

Images by Rachael & Carol

The never ending coaching ladder…

Sean shares his experiences from his recent Moderate Water Endorsement Assessment…

The journey so far

Moderate Water Endorsement is the next coaching qualification for White Water after becoming a UKCC British Canoeing Level 2 coach. Getting to the point of assessment was a long and bumpy journey not without its trials and tribulations but you can read other articles for those.

Dartmoor in the cold and wet

The assessment is for a maximum of two assessees at a time. I had no friends ready at this point and was determined to get my assessment done before my big birthday in December so I booked onto an assessment with Darren Joy of Fluid Skills. I’d heard about Darren but never paddled or been coached by him before. So off I headed on a dark and dismal Thursday afternoon for the drive down to Dartmoor. I had planned on boating the Loop on the Thursday just to get my bearings as it had been almost a year since I was last on the Loop – but that never happened. I got sidetracked talking to folks at Lee Valley and got some helpful handy hints for the assessment from Dan.

I checked into the hotel and had a terrible night’s sleep as I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that could go wrong on the assessment! Needless to say I woke somewhat shattered and not ready for the assessment. I then was a bit gobsmacked that even Ashburton gets morning rush hour traffic so my plan to check the levels before I met Darren at the Dart River Country Park wasn’t the wisest. Luckily I made it time and didn’t appear too flustered (I hope).

Having never met Darren before and my efforts in Face-stalking had failed – I didn’t really know who I was meeting. Luckily his van is branded!


The assessment

There wasn’t really any time to sit back and relax. The assessment started pretty much straight away with Darren reviewing all my pre-requisite credentials and giving me a very thorough grilling over my coaching logbook. There was a point during this that I thought I had already failed before we even got on the water!

I was then given two students: Sarah & Jordan. Both very nice people and got to chatting with them. Apparently I’m long winded and need to just get to the point! Oops! After a quick chat with the other assessee, we agreed to both take our groups on the Dart Loop a) because we couldn’t go to different rivers and be assessed and b) it was pretty damn convenient.

The start of my session on the Loop was awful. In hindsight I felt sorry for Jordan and Sarah. I was so worried about the assessment that I forgot to actually have fun – I was delivering textbook coaching techniques but with about as much enthusiasm as getting out of bed for work! Darren pulled me aside at one point and gave me a couple of review points. Being so hung up about the assessment, I thought he was telling me I’d failed. I think that was the best thing to have happened because I completely changed from that moment and decided to have fun and make the session as much about Sarah & Jordan as I could. During the debrief after the assessment, both Sarah & Jordan both commented that it was 100 times better as soon as I switched. God I hate assessments!!!

Sarah & Jordan were great guinea pigs for the day. Not a single swim between them so I had to have a “staged” rescue scenario for Darren to observe my rescue skills. Jordan stepped up to the plate and swam down Triple Steps for me to rescue him. I then had to demonstrate rolling for my self rescues – thankfully no mandatory self swim!

Shortly after this Darren paddled up to me and shook my hand and congratulated me on passing. Expletives almost fell out of my mouth at the sheer excitement! I was so happy and we hadn’t even finished the Loop yet. As we set off paddling downstream, Jordan then told me the whammy – he had actually just done his MWE training the previous week with Darren and was looking to see what the assessment was like. For his little fib, I pushed him over 🙂

The wrap up

We all met in a pub in Ashburton that I’d never been to before but will do again – though its name escapes me! It has a big fireplace! The debrief and signing of paperwork was perfect – relaxing and good fun. Got personalised feedback from the students and from Darren which was great. Darren’s parting words were to just get on and do my 5* assessment and then do my Advanced Water Endorsement training. Urgh! And just when I thought I’d done enough….. there are more steps to climb!

I wish I could say that’s where it ends – but that wouldn’t be doing British Canoeing justice. My certificate arrived in the post three weeks later along with a coaching logbook to become a 3* assessor…. MORE coaching, more logbook hours, more paperwork! It never ends *sigh*

Sean on a recent trip to Scotland

A chilly time to be jumping in midstream!

Rachael shares a couple of quick memories from the recent White Water Safety & Rescue training that a few of our members got involved in…

We work together as a group well

We picked the coldest weekend of the winter so far to head to Wales for a weekend of swimming down the rivers. We arrived in Llangollen to snow and a very chilly wind. Looking at the roaring Town Falls we realised we had some mental preparation to do. We spent the weekend with coaches Chris and Pete from Getafix, who were full of cheers and enough banter to keep us going. We spent the weekend on Bala Mill Falls and at Mill End Mill both running on medium/high.

Throughout the weekend the coaches were determined to remind us how our main aim is to prevent swimming. With adequate skills and good river reading we can try to reduce the amount of rescue we need to do. All I could hear was Sean in my head ‘you should be learning to stay upright on the water’. [Editor’s note: Rachael: this is why I like coaching you – you remember the important bits!! 🙂  ]

We were split into groups and asked to head down river, in Regents’ style we got straight on it with river signals, we went off eddy hopping our way down and signalling to each other on the way. I think Chris was very impressed with our ability to signal and it was very clear we all paddle together regularly. He did remind us how important it is to discuss signals before getting on the river, just in case someone in the group has a different interpretation of signals. An interesting thing I learnt here was thinking about eddies in front of you, making sure you have at least 2 eddies in line of site. One to aim for and a backup eddy, it was great to actually start thinking about reading the river myself instead of relying on someone to lead me down.

Steffi & Jan practising for their roles in the upcoming film: 50 Shades of Regents Paddling

Learning the acronyms

One of the many acronyms of the weekend is LAST. What we should all be thinking when we are leading down river:

Location – Where are you placed on the river, can we see what is ahead?
Access – What is your line down, have you got out and had a look?
Support – Is there support on the side to rescue should you need it?
Transport – What is your plan out if you are in trouble?

Pete spent the weekend telling examples of situations where recuse techniques have been needed (horror stories). I liked this approach it made me listen very carefully. First of all he went through equipment, the importance of understanding everything you are carrying or wearing. If you don’t understand what it does, don’t wear it. Some of the most basic equipment we went over was helmets, BA’s and shoes. All revolving around hazards and fitting.

He also talked us through where to keep equipment on person or in the boat. The sling brought up a discussion, where should this be kept? In the BA pocket vs up your cag / BA. A recent accident occurred due to a sling being carried up the cag; the person swam and got their sling tangled around their feet. The outcome was anything you carry on person should be inside the BA pocket and not a snag hazard.

There was also a discussion about BAs with a chest harness and how we should set up the quick release buckle:

  1. For general paddling and performing swimming rescues: thread the webbing through the plastic quick-release buckle only
  2. For bank-based rescues and belaying: thread the webbing through both the plastic buckle and metal back-bar to prevent the harness slipping under load
  3. Close the buckle firmly and store any excess webbing away. Check that the webbing is not twisted during threading

[Editor’s note: Further details on chest harnesses can be found on the individual producer’s websites e.g. the Palm equipment website here.]

We then got on to the swimming, something I am getting too familiar with. This is where the fun started and we all started to get a sore throat. Who knew you could ferry glide without a boat? Something I took a few swims and rock collisions to learn.

Christine & Andrew played tug of war with all the throw lines everyone left lying around

Get the swimmers attention; remember the swimmer may not initially hear your shouts so get their attention visually. Combine this with shouting their name before instructing them what to do. I am pretty certain Steffi had the best shout on the whole of the Tryweryn.

Do you have anything at hand that you can reach out to the swimmer with? A paddle, sling, boat etc. Sometime just making the swimmer look and swim towards you can be enough to get them out of danger.

We covered how to hold a throwline, where to aim and how to pull someone to safety without putting yourself in danger. I learnt the hard way to let go if you feel you may end up in the water too.

Live baiting, in some situations (should you have a chest harness on your BA) you may be attached to a throwline and sent in to get a person or equipment. This was an experience!

The Conga Line looked a little chilly so was lacking in uptake

My key learnings?

  • Equipment: What I should be buying and what is important when buying.
  • River reading and signals: How I should be thinking for myself and not relying on others. Starting to think about what is ahead and how we can work together to make it down safely.
  • Swimming: How I can think about getting myself to safety when swimming. Spot an eddy, roll over and swim like your life depends on it. Like a boat don’t stop until you are firmly in the eddy.
  • Throwlines / reach equipment: How to use equipment properly, how to hold, move along and move your catch into an eddy.
  • Keep Warm: Buy more thermals and invest in some very good socks. Cold feet are the worst.
  • Practice: I will be aiming to practice boat chasing / emptying and throwing straight as often as possible on the canal.

I definitely recommend this for people of my level, it was really good to start thinking about my own safety and learning how I can help myself and others get out of situations. Plus now I can help out on trips. I just have to buy a throwline….. Good job I know the benefits of different throwlines. Where is the nearest kayak shop?

Images by Rachael

Regents Canoe Club on Dart Loop October 2015

Kayaking the Dart Loop and River Barle

Dave Preece tackles two new rivers and Dulverton Jager Bombs

Having heard tales of a dry Scotland being recounted and the forecast rain never materialising, we set off on Friday evening more in hope than anticipation of paddling the River Barle and the River Exe in the beautiful surroundings of the Exmoor National Park. I arrived at the accommodation late (well after last orders) but found the traditional Regents Friday night social in full flow. A good few glasses of Merlot and some Babybel related shenanigans later it was time for bed.

Next morning we awoke to find that our prayers to the rain gods had not been answered and instead of the mighty Barle we were to take a short trip to paddle the Dart Loop. Following a trip to the Lower Tryweryn on the last Mile End Mill trip (10 T-rescues, no swims, 1 quiz question), it seemed like myself and Racheal finding ourselves on rivers harder than what we signed up for was fast becoming a tradition. Always good to push yourself I kept being reminded…

After the standard faffing including attaching some devil horns to my helmet for Halloween, we did some warm up ferry gliding it was time to set off. I really enjoyed the Dart Loop, with its good mix of features, wave trains and more mellow moments it was ideal for practicing the skills required for white water paddling. Helped by the expert leadership of Ian and Mel and possibly the low water levels, my paddling confidence increased and although nerves were aplenty this was the first time I was able to enjoy going down rapids at the time rather than after a few beers in the pub afterwards.

I was told that the river was at a good low level for beginners; however the flood debris high up on the banks served as a frequent reminder of the levels and power that this river is capable of. Aside from Racheal becoming a bit too closely acquainted with a fallen tree and a few minor swims, the river gods were feeling kind. After some food, drinks and a couple of stealth Jager Bombs the whole group agreed that we’d had a great time paddling such a beautiful and enjoyable river.

The following day after some well needed tea and toast we walked to the get on point of the River Barle, our adventure for the day. After the invention of a new word (Faffet, noun, someone who causes faff, a combination of faffer and muppet) we set off. The River Barle, I’m reliably told is a lovely paddle when there is some water. However the aforementioned lack of rain made it much more of a rocky affair. Undeterred we carried on with groups of paddlers frequently doing very good impressions of beached whales, desperately trying to dislodge themselves from rocks and find some water. There was however some entertaining weirs to run and a fun little play wave near the end which along with the beautiful surroundings and good company made the day worthwhile.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and I loved every minute. My thanks must go to Ian for efficiently organising the weekend and also to all the group leaders who were fantastic as always. Cheers to everyone for a great weekend and I’ll see you all on a river soon!

Image credit: Craig’s dodgy Go-Pro

There’s not a lot moderate about Moderate Water Endorsement training!

Sean shares his experiences from his recent Moderate Water Endorsement Training…

The background

Moderate Water Endorsement training is the second step after becoming a UKCC British Canoeing Level 2 coach. The first is British Canoeing Four Star Assessment in the chosen discipline. Getting to this point fells like a maze of bureaucracy and red tape but once you get here it all seems a little clearer and the hoops you’ve jumped through to get to this point all seem a little more aligned than they at first seemed.


More paperwork, planning and pleading

After the paperwork involved in getting through my Level 2 coaching qualification, I felt it was time to get on with some actual coaching. Yes, there is a lot more of actual coaching this time round but there’s still the inevitable paperwork and keeping my paddling log up to date. I registered with British Canoeing for my Moderate Water Endorsement (MWE) Training and was issued with another half a tree of guidance, assessment criteria and course materials. It’s a lot of reading and preparation.


I had originally planned to do my MWE with my friend Jess but unfortunately she moved on from this world and I had to take the next step on my own. I wish she could have done the training with me as it was such a fun weekend and having done our 4 Star Assessments together, I knew we would have had a blast together.

The weekend was originally meant to take place in Mid Wales but due to the lack of water, it was moved last minute to the Tryweryn in North Wales. A quick beg and plead to Clarissa and I managed to squeeze into the cottages she’d already hired in Llangollen for her peer paddle weekend.


The course itself

The weekend started with a briefing and talk about what to expect from the two days. Our first session was a peer paddle on the Upper Tryweryn (aka in Regents’ folklore as the “Upper Upper”) – we had to come up with very quick sessions demonstrating our coaching and observational skills. Surprisingly, we then ran the rest of the Upper down to Cafe Wave, each taking turns to run sessions on the way down – lots of fun but slightly weird turning a peer paddle into a coached session – it felt weird coaching fellow paddlers of similar paddling ability. It was also a little odd to be coaching in an over-remit environment – it kept us on our toes but was most definitely a valuable learning point. We then learnt some more on feedback and observational skills including use of video feedback. We finished the day with being handed out homework – I had not expected homework and was knackered already from eight hours of learning and paddling. We each had to write up a 30 minute lesson plan incorporating coaching skills, observational and feedback skills.

The Sunday started bright and early. First up was handing in our homework for review – thankfully I got positive feedback on the lesson plan. Next up – onto the river! We were going to run the Lower Tryweryn each incorporating some leading time and then “park and play” sessions as we went to deliver our prepared sessions. The day was long. We did some safety and rescue recap over lunch and each delivered our sessions with some great feedback from each other and from Matt, our head coach.

The end of the day came and I was prepared for a lengthy debrief and a hefty action plan. Maybe I shouldn’t be so tough on myself as my action plan was pretty much to just get on with the assessment. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome!

I learnt loads about how to apply the various coaching techniques on moving water and had a great time on the water at the same time. I’m looking forward to my assessment but not the paperwork pre-work that needs to be done first!


Some national and international customs on the way to North Wales

Rachael shares a couple of quick memories from this year’s first Mile End Mill trip…

The journey

My weekend started with a very amusing ride up to wales with Lydia, Adam, Sam and a spider. Where we bonded over the ‘silver duchess’, Canadian music and podcasts. We also received a guided tour of Birmingham from the ring road (thanks for those gems of knowledge Lydia) and had numerous jokes about passing Knockin.

Gathering for group chats above Horseshoe Falls

Having fun AND learning something new

The river Dee was a great way to progress further, incredible views and an awesome group. We had a day of reviewing our skills from the IWWK, practising the basics and learning new techniques. We had some fun with the bow rudder stroke. The afternoon eased off with many people surfing the wave at the bottom and seal launching off the rock. On day 2 Christine lead us down the river and through some great ‘wave trains’. Catching eddies and practising on the journey back to town we quickly came across Serpents Tail. After watching a few lines our group decided it was time to take the plunge. Christine can now boast her whole team got down without a swim, we later learnt some celebration techniques. Thanks Christine I hope these will come in very handy.

Celebrating the lead in to Serpent’s Tail

The highlights?

The karaoke bar, trying to booth with Jim & Wath…..not quite got that one yet and of course ‘catching’ the eddy on Serpents Tail! Bring on MEM 2.

Images by Rachael

The long and winding road to Level 2 coach

Sean shares the highs and lows on the journey to becoming a UKCC Level 2 coach…

The portfolio

At first glance, it seems quite straight forward – just complete a workbook and pull together a portfolio that includes a structured series of six progressive coached sessions. Simple. Not!

The workbook requires a lot of cross reading, reviewing and summarising. At times whilst completing it I felt like pulling out what little hair I have left on my head! It was however, beneficial in ensuring that I understand the differing styles of coaching and developmental needs of participants and students.

The six progressive coached sessions I thought would be pretty easy. I had arranged my students and surveyed them for what they wanted to work on. Dates lined up, session plans at the ready and my observer (Claire T) sorted. But things never go according to plan do they? My open boat session had to get moved as I had chosen the windiest and wettest day the canal had ever experienced and then two students had to drop out of the latter sessions (one because she had a little bump on the way). Anyway – it wasn’t over yet! More paperwork jumped out later to bite me!

I took the opportunity on the Alps trip last year to try out some different coaching techniques and tools. As a whole they were greatly received and I really enjoyed coaching boofing on Le Fournel with a group of people who were at first unsure then tried their hands at it and finally took on the big drop – a great day had by me and by the smiles on everyone else, I can only assume by them too.

Boofing the big drop on Le Fournel

Getting to grips with all the paperwork and add ons!

In October of 2014 I bumped into Rob who I did my L2 coach training with – he had spoken to Dan (Head Paddlesport Instructor at Lee Valley White Water Centre) and managed to wangle me a part time job! I wangled an extension to my L2 training validity and took on some great coaching opportunities and in addition had Dan mentor me on a lot of my portfolio and my actual coaching.

Dan convinced me not to wait for my L2 assessment before doing my 4 Star and 5 Star. So in December, I undertook my 4* training along with Steffi, Olga, Gemma, Clarissa & Ian. We had a blast – I somehow managed to get by with a cracked rib which I picked up two weeks earlier whilst paddling on the Olympic – even with a capsize that Ian came to give me a hand of god rescue and managed to push me back over cause I was actually rolling up at the time! All fun and games (and a little bit of pain). A brilliant couple of days on the Dart with some great friends and a few techniques I hadn’t practiced in ages.

Christmas came and went along with my fourth trip to Uganda. Lots more coaching and personal paddling. I then decided to actually go for my 4* assessment. I went with Jesse from work and it was brilliant working alongside her and being assessed together – we work really well together as a team and having Lowri & Chris Brain as our assessors meant it felt less like an assessment and more like paddling with friends. I did have one slight issue on the first day of the assessment with one of the students bringing a boat without a central pillar – I took the decision to say no to him paddling that boat on the assessment. It meant that I had to do my first day of assessment coaching from my playboat – which I’m used to but the award isn’t about freestyle! Anyway – managed to get my 4* with flying colours which was fantastic.

And on with the training – I went on my 5* training in Scotland in mid April of this year. We spent more time in the car than on rivers with two days paddling and about 18 hours of driving!

There were definitely moments of gritted teeth and slight panic. Leading a group of friends who I’ve worked with at Lee Valley but never been on a river with was a different experience. It challenged us all but it was absolutely great fun – I got to paddle the Coe Gorge a couple of times and the Middle Orchy on high! I can’t wait to run them again now!

Awesome time had by all – here’s Joey’s quick edit of the trip

The sucker punch

I thought breaking a rib when someone else paddles their boat into you at high speed was painful. It was nothing compared to failing my L2 assessment at the end of April. My feedback was that my coaching was fine but that I failed to tick a box on the safety brief. I was utterly gutted and contemplated giving up on the whole coaching path. Thankfully my coaching pals knocked some sense into me and convinced me not to give up because of one setback.

Since then, I was determined not to fail again and made sure I got as much coaching experience as possible in. I ran the first RCC Intro to White Water Kayaking course this year, I more than doubled my hours at Lee Valley and got the opportunity for two brilliant activities – I got to paddle with Olympic Gold medallist Etienne Stott in a hot dog for a charity event and was asked to test drive some action cameras (which will come out in an eight page magazine spread later this year).

Next steps

So with much trepidation, I undertook my UKCC Level 2 Coaching Assessment again and passed in both Kayak and Canoe. Admittedly with a fair few action points on my personal canoe skills – BUT…. I made it. The sense of relief didn’t hit me for a couple of days. Next steps are to take my Moderate Water Endorsement training, do the Advanced White Water Safety & Rescue training and complete the Five Star Assessment. Preferably all before the end of this year.

If you’ve been one of my students over the past few months – THANK YOU! If you’ve been a mentor or friend through it all – thank you and sorry – for being such a miserable git at times. It’s been a rollercoaster but there’s no way I’d want to change any of it.

Images by Sean & Matt D