There is one thing that I believe all paddlers have in common and that is the sense of community. I have not met more welcoming bunch anywhere.

When joining any paddling group, I have always been amazed by the knowledge sharing, the shared faff, all the help with boat carrying, rescuing people when they swim. And so, it comes the time in ones paddling progression when you want to do more for the group, you want to be a safe and contributing member of the paddling group and the best way to learn those skills is White Water Safety and Rescue course.

So, a group from Tower of Hamlet canoe club has signed up to the WWSR course in Wales and invited members of Regents club to join them. Again, welcoming and sharing!

So me and Emma joined 4 members of the THCC and off we went to Wales. We stayed at a lovely Airbnb in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sheep. A fire was lit, some wine drunk, and some new friends made.

On Saturday morning we met our couch Fraser Marr at a nearby coffee shop, where we went over all the theory before deciding to paddle one of the gems of North Wales, the elusive Conwy River (often too low to paddle, we got lucky and caught it as it was going down). The river did not disappoint, it is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve paddled in UK and it also offered some real opportunities for rescues and decision making. Do we paddle a rapid that has a tree stuck in it? …. The answer was no

Do we get a person to swim across a river to their boat or we get a bot to them? … Well now we get to the most important lesson of the weekend. It DEPENDS. 

On Sunday, in contrast to Saturday’s river journey, we spent most of the day either in the Dee, or on the side of it, practicing different rescues. Hand of God rescues came first above Horseshoe Weir, safe management of a group as we moved down chain bridge rapid towards Serpents Tail, and every method of fishing a swimmer out of the water you can imagine in the rapid itself. This involved a lot of jumping into the water at Serpents Tail rapid and scrambling out over the rocks in the eddy’s below. Learning how to swim safely was as important here as learning how to rescue said swimmer – we definitely tested our drysuits thoroughly!

I really like lists so here is a list of things I took away from that weekend: 

  1. People, please put airbags in your kayaks. It is a pain to rescue a boat full of water. 
  2. Physics is a skill to be used in kayaking, and not just associated with The Big Bang Theory
  3. Rescuing an unconscious paddler is easier that it looks, but I hope I never have to do it
  4. Jumping into rapids is fun, but hopefully won’t be needed often
  5. Using common sense in safety and rescue is super important. And getting that just means paddling more. So yay to paddling more
  6. Get the right kit! BAs with quick release straps are vital
  7. River knifes are very handy, primarily for making lunch
  8. Check yourself, your friends and your gear before going out 
  9. Chocolate is an important snack 
  10. Kayakers are amazing people

Emma has also made a video to captures the weekend away. Please have a look