I joined Regents Canoe Club over 15 years ago, not aware that such a club could even exist in the middle of a large city. Having taken a variety of mainly City and Guild courses in Islington over the years, RCC is the only one I have stuck with and that comes down to several compelling factors.

Firstly, the club cultivates a strong sense of community. The Introduction to White Water courses draws in a wide range of individuals from all walks of life to try something new. This is in addition to the New Member Evenings, in which individuals can get a taste for kayaking on one evening boating on the canal to see if they like it. As a teaching club, intermediate and advanced members are encouraged to give back in the form of coaching and volunteering, and as such the cycle continues. The nature of the sport also fosters trust among its members as on the river everyone needs to work as a team. For me this has been one of its most appealing aspects.

Secondly, the monthly trips organised by the club has enabled me to see so much more of the UK than I ever would have as an Islington resident. For many in London without cars, most of these places would have been out of reach, but the club trips have given me the opportunity to escape N1 briefly and explore as far afield as Scotland, Wales, Devon, France and Slovenia. I cannot tell you what a boon it has been to travel so much, particularly of the UK when most of these places would be too difficult or too expensive to reach.

Thirdly, the affordability of the club has been a blessing – particularly in difficult financial times. When the economic crisis hit, or when finances were tricky, the club was always somewhere I could go and paddle twice a week (plus pool sessions) without having to shell out. This enabled me to get out of the house when there were few other options to socialise and entertain myself. Having an affordable club in N1 has enabled many to enjoy Islington’s waterways, close to home, without unnecessary expenditure or long-distance travel. I can also add that the mental health benefits of having somewhere local to go cannot be underestimated. 

I would like to add that I would never have met my fiancé – nor several other amazing individuals – had not joined RCC. In the last 15 years I have crossed paths with the most extraordinarily generous and exceptional people, many of whom I would regard as friends for life. This has been one of the best things about Regents Canoe Club and the main reason I have supported the club for as long as I have.


When D day arrived and everyone disembarked  I wasn’t with you. I was reading a sonnet. I was on my way to a wedding.  When you were at Espace Eau Vie and Elise’s shoulder gave way, I was in the garden, red roses in bloom.  When you arrived and wound up the snaking hair pin bends unusually free from snow and ice I was in ancient Baths. When you were on the Sunshine Run I was afraid, driving on the wrong side of the road hurtling past the vineyards Reims and Beaune. 

You weren’t on the Claree. That was too low.  You weren’t on the Gironde either.   No death weir this year.  You weren’t on the Onde or the BTG. All far too low.  Not enough snow pack and a blazing Spring put pay to all that. 

It was my first morning in the Alps and I wore a shorty sleeved cag and elbow pads on the banks of the Guille.  I came face to face with a sheer cliff of our ambition. The towering walls of the Chateau Queryas Gorge, albeit not quite the thundering caldron of hell of yesteryear and not so much fear. 

The tension rose in me as I descended through the entry rapid. No warm up, but a wake up. Not exactly what I would say on line, but on an approximation to a line and into the first of the waves you can see from the rocks high above. Shoved by the water from one side of the flow to the other. Hitting the stone and loosening my grip on the paddle to push off with my palm. Passing the crux and waiting in the relative calm of an eddy formed on the river right able to catch my breath before the exit rapid and the boney lines that follow claiming another boat before a steep short hike out to the cemetery where I doubt I’ll be able to arrange to be buried.  I survived, I was animated and alive. 

The flow was so low that I was allowed to lead on that usually raging torrent which is the Ubaye Race Course. Able to eddy hop mostly gently down the river looking at the sky and the high thin bridge above. 

On the way to the Guisane I saw a figure in the sky falling, tumbling, plummeting, upside down.  I thought l, not for the first time, that I would see him die. When we arrived the river was not as fast as I had recalled.  But the rocks were higher in the water making it difficult to run in places, making a rapid in Gillberts hard to navigate and easy (as I was) to be pinned on.  

Some of you went to the next valley where a glacier was still melting and a dam was releasing. I followed up over the mountain pass there to where the sun danced, shined and gleamed on the blue white water running, racing, splashing down the steep sloping river bed towards a grade 4 rapid that looked deceptively inviting. But I was too hot and parched and unwilling to drink from the water rushing past and the rocks seemed quick, sharp and treacherous so I left a part of my heart on the Romanche. 

Then the Covid arrived carving a raveen  between us.  Split up.  Separated.  The Durance still held its water. The mellow waves forming trains down towards the wave were we played at a distance.   Spinning, flipping, rolling, surfing and finally swimming.  Together and apart. 

We bade our farewells to the lakes, the streams, the rocks, the rivers and the maintain for another year.  We were on our way home.  You speeding past when my journey stopped. I was on the side of the road.  Gear box failure.  Gillettes jaunes on. 

for the life changing event that was the R.C.C. trip to Mile End Mill

I don’t know how many readers of the Regent’s Blog are familiar with the idea of love languages? The idea that we all have preferred ways we express our devotion to those we love, and that we have preferred ways of receiving affection. 

For some people, it’s words of affirmation (“omg baby I love your new drysuit it looks soooo good on you”). For others, it’s acts of service (e.g. someone carrying your boat down to the river without being asked).

My best friend Toby’s love language is, what we call, “committing to the bit.”

(For those who don’t know, a ‘bit’ is an old, vaudevillian word for a joke/sketch/skit. Committing to it essentially means seeing a comical idea through to its full conclusion – whether it’s a stupid impression of your friend or a ludicrous and potentially dangerous plan.)

So this was why, after I’d been joking around about how much I loved kayaking, my friend Toby committed to the bit and signed me up to the Regent’s Intro to White Water course without my knowledge.

To clarify – I had been kayaking approximately four times and on lakes so smooth you’re more likely to capsize in the carpark. Sure, I had enjoyed it, but I’d had zero plans of actually pursuing it. However, with what I can only assume was little to no research and with a cheerful disregard for the meaning of the phrase “white water,” Toby went ahead and signed me up for the course as half birthday gift, half joke. And, knowing Toby’s passion for bit-commitment, I committed.

So this was how I found myself, on Friday 2nd September, loading up the car and setting off on the four hour drive to Llangollen.

The joke, however, was on me. Because, after two days on the River Dee in North Wales, I am now completely and humourlessly obsessed with the noble art of kayaking and humbled by the cruel and wondrous mistress that is white water.

DAY ONE – Feeling a [Mile End] Million Dollars

Having missed the trip away at the end of the course itself (owing to my chronic disorganisation), this was to be my first time ever on white water. 

I was super nervous. Partly about the whole slow-and-painful-death-by-drowning thing. But also about everything else: about not having the right shoes; about not knowing what or who an eddy was; about being so embarrassingly bad at paddling that no one would want to talk to me at the pub. 

And to be completely honest, on the first morning, it didn’t really click for me. 

Despite the incredibly patient and attentive coaching from the two lovely Bens and Christine (who I swear is like a centaur of the water – 50% human, 50% dolphin, 100% majestic), and despite all the reassurances from everyone as we breakfasted, divided up into our groups, and headed out for the day, I found myself tentative on the river.

“I was pretty sure I recognised it from the glint in the eye of everyone I’d met from the club so far. ‘Kayaking-mania,’ I call it.”

We were learning everything from the technical skills, to understanding the minutiae of the flow, to the more fundamental ethos of respect for the river – all within the sanctuary of waist-deep, super gentle water. Ben-squared and Christine made us feel so safe. They had the patience of three Mother Teresas (Mother Teresae?) as we wobbled along, practicing breaking in and out of the flow, ferry gliding, etc. etc. But it just wasn’t making intuitive sense in my body.

Looking back, this was absolutely the best and only way to learn. You can’t understand what the skills are for until you’re actually on moving water, but you obviously can’t get on moving water until you understand the skills. I guess the feeling was a bit like learning how to structure a sentence, or how to decline a verb, before trying to have a conversation with someone in a foreign language. That morning, I was talking at the water, in a totally different tongue.

(I mean, at this point I still thought that the eddy line was a metaphysical concept – the ideological divide between two flows – rather than a very real moving section of water that will knock you over. So maybe I was overthinking it.)

But that afternoon it clicked.

After lunch, we went upstream to a much faster section of water to practice ferry gliding. On the gentle water, if you weren’t at the perfect 11 o’clock angle, you could just kinda push through and mosey on your way. But here, if you were even slightly misaligned, it was goodbye and straight back down the river for you. 

After a couple of attempts at battling across, getting halfway, and then being dragged back to the beginning, I watched Hazar (wunderkind from my course who was in another group) glide so serenely across the choppy water. He wasn’t paddling hard at all, but was simply in sync with the flow. I thought: I am going to do that. 

And then everything clicked. It suddenly felt like having a conversation with the water. In that moment I realised white water kayaking was like everything I’d enjoyed about being on the water before – the harmoniousness, the synchronicity, the connectivity with the surroundings – but, like, jacked up on steroids and adrenaline.

That was it. The fire of fanaticism was lit. I was pretty sure I recognised it from the glint in the eye of everyone I’d met from the club so far. ‘Kayaking-mania,’ I call it.

Long story short, the rest of the afternoon was exhilarating and scary and ridiculously fun. We got back to dry land, I drank my bodyweight in pints, and went to bed.

DAY TWO – A Serpent’s Tale

By the morning, I was completely square-one nervous again. 

The day seemed to be building up to the ominously named ‘Serpent’s Tail’ – from what I could make out this was gonna be a big, scary rapid that would possibly be the end of my kayaking career and/or life. And on top of this, I had the building trepidation of not having capsized yet, so the question of when I would swim started looming larger and larger. 

Shedding the safety blanket of our trusted day-one group, we were in new groups and heading to a different location to embark on a journey down the Dee. It was cool to be amongst all the other groups – fledgling kayakers like myself and seasoned pro’s all travelling down the same section.

“…as I exit the kayak and break the surface of the water, I find I’m smiling like an absolute maniac. I immediately want to go again.”

Actually, that’s one of the things that most struck me about the trip. I probably should’ve guessed from the marvellous vibes amongst everyone I’d met so far, but I hadn’t realised how much of a team activity it would be.

As someone who hates to feel a single emotion, I was horrified to find myself genuinely moved by witnessing how held everyone was by each other. Like, the second someone is upside down, at least four people are straight over to them – to help them T-rescue, to get their stuff, to help them to the bank if they swim. And it was the same with the culture of sharing knowledge – everyone sharing with everyone, the more experienced people being super patient and generous, just because. Of course, I still felt like a total liability – like a useless baby elephant who couldn’t walk yet in a herd of… expert kayaking elephants. But nobody ever made us feel like that for a second. It was so nice.

Apologies for that lapse into sincerity. Won’t happen again. Back to the rapids. 

We arrived at Serpent’s Tail.

Video: Ziva runs Serpent’s Tail

We got out of the boats and went to suss out the vibe. Steffi, our group leader for the day, had some incredible advice. She said – look at it, then close your eyes and ask yourself whether or not you want to try it. Whatever answer comes to the surface, decide on that. And then that’s it. Decision made. Stop looking at it. Go and do it. 

I closed my eyes and imagined the drive home later, having not done it. I imagined explaining to my carpool mates/kayaking parents, Živa and Jan, that I had opted out. Fuck that, I thought. I’m doing it.

So there we are on the rocks, watching a few people go down. We watch as people end up too far to the right edge of the river. So Steffi and Jane say – aim for the left of the first V-shaped drop. That should keep you on the line you want for the rest of the rapid. Just aim for the left and keep paddling. 

To the extreme left of the first V, there’s what I can only describe as a total hellscape of rocks and sinister water. I ask the question, “what do you do if you go too far left?”. Jane says, reassuringly, “that’s very unlikely to happen”. In that moment, we knew we’d jinxed it. 

We get back in the boats. I’m following Jane. ‘Aim for the left and keep paddling.’ 

As I break in I realise that, up until this point, I was free to choose what happened next. But now there was quite literally no going back. One singular thought surfaced through the otherwise numb panic:

‘If this isn’t commitment to the bit, I do not know what is.’

What a stupid love language to have. Some people send cute texts. Shakespeare wrote sonnets. I am going to drown in North Wales. All for the bit. 

‘Aim for the left and keep paddling forwards’. 

And we’re off. Customarily, I’ve committed far too enthusiastically to Steffi’s advice. I’m meant to be aiming very slightly to the left, but I massively overshoot. Suddenly, I am in the aforementioned hellscape of water. I end up facing backwards, somehow managing to stay upright, but now fully reversing down Serpent’s Tail. This is fine. Maybe I’ll die. What do I do? 

Of course, I have stopped paddling/thinking. No thoughts, just vibes. Terrifying vibes.

I have zero clue how I’m not upside down yet. I know it’s inevitable at this point. So I breathe in, try to swivel around, and am swept straight under.

And weirdly, as I exit the kayak and break the surface of the water, I find I’m smiling like an absolute maniac. I immediately want to go again. (And, by sheer luck, I made it down the second time!)

I am possessed.

So, uM, ILE END it with this:

In conclusion, I am altered. I am no longer who I was.

I can’t stop watching kayaking videos. I can’t stop problem-solving at work via white water metaphors (astressfulsituationisliketheflow,soIjustneedmoreofametaphoricaledgehere,astrongerfigurativerighthandpaddletheretosmoothitout). I found myself crossing the road thinking about how I would shelter in the eddy in the middle of the dual carriageway.

When I start driving the wrong way down the street to break into the flow, I might have to admit that I have a problem. But until then, I cannot wait to get back on the water.

I am so grateful to Steffi for organising the trip, to all the coaches for being nothing short of brilliant (special shoutout to Ben who had to put up with me for both days) and for all the incredible people I met who made it so unforgettable.

And for anyone wondering, my new love language is receiving cool kayaking content on instagram.

Lucy Moss

Our south western correspondent Ruth recounts a rapturous river descent down the Dart.

Steph recounts her first experiences of the Tryweryn

Still fairly new to the game of white water kayaking, once I’d found out I was accepted on the Tryweryn trip I’d started asking around about the river. The reaction was always the same from my more experience kayaking buddies; a smile and a fond look of joy behind their eyes as if remembering a first love.

Everyone loves it!

My next reaction was to watch any videos I could find on YouTube. It looks amazing!

The river is in a beautiful part of North Wales and unlike many river trips I’ve been on, its dam release so isn’t dependent on rainfall. You just have to make sure the dam is releasing the day you want to paddle (posted here https://www.nationalwhitewatercentre.co.uk/water-information). Our weekend the dam was releasing on both Saturday and Sunday. Excellent! 2 days of guaranteed flow and fun paddling.

Day 1

Our plan was to paddle the Lower Tryweryn and then for those who still had energy to go on the Upper in the afternoon. We all pile out of the bunk house and head to the river, park up and pay our river fees (£10 for club members).

The Lower Tryweryn is a beautiful 4km stretch of grade II and III rapids finishing with a grade IV rapid, Bala Mill Falls a few 100m away from the get off, and has been described (several times repeatedly) as “the best river of its grade” by a member of our club, but everyone agreed with him! Including me now.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on this run! I learnt so so much, including that my roll worked in the flow… which is good to know… (same event helped me to learn how to spot “ninja rocks”, submerged rocks which are big enough to tip you over… best avoid following too close to other kayakers as by the time they spot it, it’s too late for you.)

Our leaders lead us down fantastically, challenging us to catch as many eddies as we could and even small ones I didn’t even know were eddies until I actually caught one (like I said, still fairly new to it). The rapids are all fairly nice, just have to spot those ninja rocks! Then you come to the crowning glory, Bala Mill Falls. We stop and get out to scout the line, watch a couple of people give it a go. At first look it looks daunting to freshmen like me, but I’m keen to give it a go. I’ve been told to punch through the “roosters’ tail” (whatever that is…) to the eddy at the top of the falls, break out strongly avoid the rock in the middle and paddle hard over to the end. We get back in the boats, the leaders go ahead and are going to meet me in the eddy. I’m bricking it but excited to try. I go. Here we go! I punch over the top of the rapid, (Oh that must be what a rooster tail is) and hit the eddy. The leader shows me the line again over the rapid, and then the other leader shows me how not to do it… he hits the rock… he’s ok, he has got a good roll. I break out hard and manage to get the perfect line! I’m elated and let out a woop. Then it’s all over… the car park was just around the bend. Well I suppose it’s good to end on a high (and a bag of chips from the chippy in Bala)!
We regroup back at the Upper and those who want to paddle that, I didn’t as I was feeling it. We packed a lot into the Lower that morning and I wanted to save myself for the next day when I was fresh. I did enjoy watching everyone go down though. There’s a path that follows the river so you can watch your friends or plan your lines for the next day. There were some really excellent paddlers to watch (some even from our club, tee hee!).

Day 2

Upper Tryweryn (then Lower again if you fancied it). 2km of grade III rapids (be careful if you do go over as some of it is pretty shallow and rocky). There are 7 main features to this section and all of them are fun and exercise different skills and getting the right line can be important! I enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude watching some people get it wrong the day before, but you can learn a lot from mistakes… and they don’t necessarily have to be yours! I’m not sure how much to say about the Upper other than it was serious fun and if you are a kayaker and haven’t been there yet, go! You are in for a treat!!
After lunch some of the group stayed on the Upper and some of us did the Lower again but at a faster pace than the day before. Enjoyed it, it was good… but this time I got stuck in the hole at the bottom of Bala Mill Falls. I did, however, learn how to surf, very quickly… before dropping my edge and having an invigorating swim! Oh well!

Day 3

River Dee, Mile End Mill. This is the river that RCC takes their freshers as a first real White-Water trip. I’d missed it after my intro course and was pretty excited to see what everyone was talking about. The river was lower than usual as it’s been dry, but at a good level to paddle. I’ve been told its fairly reliable all year, even summer. I was expecting some nice friendly features, and for the most part it is! I’d heard people talk about ‘Serpents’ tail’ but I was thinking if they take Newbies down it, it’s not going to be that big or hard. My leader for the day felt confident that we could all take it on without getting out for a scout. We all nod and say “can’t be harder than what we did yesterday, sure!”. He gives us the line “go right, avoid the rock in the middle, then go left”, sounds ok. He sets off, 1 behind him, another, then me. Go right. where’s the rock in the middle? Is that it? Ok… maybe, Woah that’s a lot of water. There’s a wall with a big point rock to the right… I try to go left… it’s too late… it’s too narrow to roll at the bottom of this feature but I try… my second swim of the weekend. I wasn’t the only one in my group to swim… We get out and this time inspect the feature and plan the line a little better. We all get it this time! It’s not too bad when you know how. If you are more advanced, there’s actually little eddies you can catch down Serpents Tail! Maybe next year!