Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Peak UK kit and speed skins

I have just been lucky enough to recieve a brand new set of custom designed kit from Peak UK.

Peak UK have just launched there 2011 Speed Skin 2 range and have logo'd some kit up specially for me. This funky new kit is super lightweight, comfy and looks great.

Thanks to Pete and the team at Peak UK for keeping me dry and looking smart out on the water.

British Championships Series 2011

This year the 2011 British Championships are being held as a 6 part series with the winner not only taking home the title but also a coveted place on the 2012 GB Team.

Pringle going big to secure his place on the 2012 GB team

We are already 4 / 6th of the way through the 2011 series with the Nottingham British Championships and Club Championships event having just taken place this weekend at the National water sports centre in Nottingham. Here is a quick summary of the series so far...

Event 1 : Nene, England

Way back in May the first event took part at the Nene white water course in Northampton, a great little venue suited to beginner and intermediate white water paddlers . The locals put on a good event and there were lots of people competing in the novice event. The main event took place in the pour over feature in pool A, a tricky feisty feature unlike anywhere else it tested paddlers ability to adapt technical skills and provided an entertaining day.

Sam Anderson flys into the lead with some massive moves on this very technical feature


1st place Mens: Sam Anderson Ladies: Claire O’Hara Junior Mens: Quim Fontane Mase (Spain), James Benns (UK) Junior Ladies: Nuria Fontane Mase (Spain) Gabby Bates (UK) C1: Paul King OC1: Paul King Novice: Ciaran Miller

Event 2 : Treweryn, Wales

I missed this event as it clashed with my World Championships training. From what I here it was a great day in the Treweryn valley with the main event taking place in the top hole. I even heard a rumour that the sun came out.

Matt Rodgers in action


1st place Mens: Sam Anderson Ladies: Lowri Davies Junior Mens: James Benns Junior Ladies: Rachel Bovill C1: Paul King OC1: Paul King

Event 3 : Cardiff, Wales

Next up it was the event at the new Cardiff International White Water Course. This was my first visit to the course and my first time on a conveyor belt system. The course is a lovely intermediate white water course on the outskirts of Cardiff set at a really friendly and welcoming centre. It was a night competition held under floodlights (in the pouring rain) that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who attended.

Brandon Mc's the comp

Freestyle training in the main hole at Cardiff

David works on getting maximum points during the comp

Conveyor belts the ultimate shuttle


1st place Mens: Sam Anderson Ladies: Claire O’Hara Junior Mens: Matt Rodgers Junior Ladies: Rachel Bovill C1: Mark Coleman (IRL) Paul King OC1: Paul King Novice: Elliot Goddard Flatwater: David Wild

Event 4 : Nottingham, England

This weekend saw the series return to the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham. This was a whole weekend of freestyle with over 75 youngsters turning up to compete int he youth freestyle series final on the Saturday and over 80 paddlers competing in the British Championships series and Club Championships event on Sunday. Freestyle legend and 4 times World Champion Eric ‘EJ’ Jackson was over in the UK and came to help out coaching the youngsters and support the event. His first time at the National Water Sports Centre since 1995. Also on hand to provide support and coaching all weekend were the UK’d two current World Champions Claire O’Hara and James ‘Pringle’ Bebbington, Squirt Boating Silver Medalist Jamie Austin and Freestyle Bronze medallists Bren Orton and Gabby Bates so it was a freestyle star studded weekend.

Jake racks up the ends in the cartwheel comp

EJ shows us all how it is done

Claire O flying high with a nice space godzilla

EJ celebrates with Sudbury CC the winning club


Elite - 1st place Mens: James ‘Pringle’ Bebbington Ladies: Claire O’Hara Junior Mens: James Benns Junior Ladies: Kim Aldred C1: Adam Ramadan

Open - Junior Women: Jen McGaley Junior Men: Ben Coulton

Novice - 1st place Mens: Daniel McGaley Junior Women: Alana Pain Junior Men: Jake Norman

Club Championships Winner: Sudbury Canoe Club

Youth Freestyle Series Results can be found online at

Coming soon...

It has already been quite an exciting series so far and is set to continue with the final two series events and the official 2012 GB Team Selection event taking place over the next few months.

8th October 2011 GB Team Selections: National Water Sports Centre Nottingham

15th October 2011 British Championship Series Event 5 : The Sluice Dublin, Ireland

19th & 20th October 2011 British Championships Series Event 6 : Hurley Weir, London

More information about these events can be found at

The Ottawa River, Canada – A playboating paradise

If you are a playboater and have never been to the Ottawa river in Canada you are missing out on one of the best natural play parks in the World. It is as if someone said ‘lets design a section of whitewater that is perfect for freestyle and bulit it!

Claire O, Kiwi Courtney and Emily J paddling into the top of McCoys

On the Ottawa there are two main freestyle sections McCoys rapid and the Lorne. Separated by a very short car journey or a 10 minute flat water paddle these sections awesome for paddlers of all abilities.

McCoys is a great rapid at the start of the main channel that contains two awesome waves – ‘corner wave’ and ‘Babyface’, two meaty beatdown rather than playboated holes ‘Phils’ and ‘Satlers’ and the best squirt boat mystery venue in Canada and possibly the World ‘ Smoothie’.

The Lorne is the 2nd section and the most popular and contains the ‘Garborator’ wave and ‘push button’ at low water, Waikiki at medium water and Buseater at high water!

Then there is the rest of the river which also has a variety of waves, holes and river play and river running on it.

North West Club Gathering, the Ottawahis is a very popular kayaking destination

One of the greatest things about this river is that most of its best features have perfect eddy access and nice long flat (ish) run outs behind them. Making them brilliant for paddlers of all levels of ability and great from training on. You can go full out during your rides safe in the knowledge that there is nothing that will beat you laying behind.

Add to this beautiful wilderness country, gorgous blue skies and sunshine and you have the Ottawa river a playboating paradise a freestylers dream.

Wilderness: a snake chilling on a rock in the middle of the river next to Babyface wave

This year I was very lucky to have the opportunity to go out to Canada for a few weeks training at the end of the summer. I travelled out with Islay Crosbie and we had an amazing trip.

Claire O and Islay travel in style with their new shuttle vehicle, an amoured Tank!

Surfing everyday we, the hole boaters from the UK, had the chance to work on developing our wave surfing skills. We joined the Jackson clan, the Keeners, the local kayakers and raft guides and several other Brits from back home on the water each day and had an amazing time.

The atmosphere out on the Ottawa is amazing everyone chats and smiles in the eddy and supports one another on and off the water.

Clay loving the sunshine and perfect levels on Garb

Claire O and Clay drop in to surf Garb in the Dynamic Duo

Stephen coaching the Keeners

During the trip I really had chance to test my wave boating skills. I find it funny being out wave surfing because I have done so little of it (relatively to hole paddling ) I always feel out of my confort zone and unfamiliar with even the most basic concepts. Luckily Den (sweet water coaching) had loaded me up with a training plan before I left the UK so I had an idea of what to start working on and how to structure my training.

I shouldn’t have worried though as help was on hand out there. It was inspirational being able to watch and train with some of the Worlds best waves boaters learning from their years of experience on the waves.

Claire O working out how to wave boat on Garb

Claire O going big backwards (photo by Jen)

Carbon + waves = fun (photo by Jen)

I have known for years that freestyle wave moves have been my weakness but this trip has helped spur the belief that thay are not unachievable I just need to focus some training and practise and they will become possible.

Islay absolutely flew during the trip and it was inspiring to watch a variety of female paddlers ripping it up and paddling so well.

Islay student rodeo training with the Shudder Rudder

Islay big clean back blunt

Islay big air blunt

Whilst we were there we took part in the Canadian Cup competition and really had chance to see the wave specialist at work. Emilt, Nick, Dane and Courtney took the top spots with some very impressive and stylish runs. But it was Stephen , Clay, Brandon, Islay and Emily Wall who stood out for me during the day throwing some massive moves and consistently good rides during the comp.

Canadian Cup Event on Garb

Claire O surfing

Emily Jackson huge air back pan am

Brandon showing off his wave skills

Clay flys with a massive back blunt

Stephen throws some holes moves into the mix

Stephen setting up for a huge helix

Here is a great little video put together by SB productions from the event

Canadian cup 2011 from SB Productions on Vimeo.

During the trip we also had chance to go to Montreal and surf big joe on the Lachine. Situated in the middle of the Lachine rapid on the massive Montreal river the wave is unbelievable. A big smooth wave, that provides hours of fun and the ultimate freestyle kayak workout.

Claire and Wyllie preparing to take on Big Joe

Stephen showing us how it should be done with 50+ clean air blunts on Pyramid

Claire O drops into the bowl of Big Joe

A super sweet green grind on pyramid

If you are a playboater or a squirt boater and want to go on holiday to a brilliant playboating destination go to the Ottawa.

Ok so I almost forgot to mention ’Smoothie’

At the very top of McCoys rapid there is a spot known to most as ‘the big river left eddy above Satlers’. But to those who know the complex art of squirt boating they know that this eddy is not just an eddy but is one of the best mystery venues in the World.

This super smooth eddyline has the perfect convergence that creates a downwards force of flow that provides some of the best ‘downtime’ in the world. Each July it plays host to the ‘Jimi Cup’ competition but despite its quality and the fact that it runs at all levels, for most of the year it is empty as the number of squirt boaters on the Ottawa and visiting the Ottawa are still very low.

Luckily I was staying with Stephen and Clay two of the main squirt boaters on the river and had plenty of opportunity to go and check it out.

Stephen set about showing me how it was done hitting consistent 25 second + rides. Up until this trip my longest rides were 15 seconds before I would panic and come rushing up for air. With a bit of guidance and coaching from Stephen I was soon hitting regular 16 second rides, which although only 1 second longer on this spot where you have to initially work quite hard to get the boat to go down needed much better technique and breathing preparation than I had ever done before, and then eventually I got my first 21 second ride.

video coming soon

Just to make sure I remained focused and determined to come back and go for longer rides Clay then dropped nad hit several 20+ rides and Stephen put down a massive 33 second ride!!! Followed by a huge flying fish (an exit air screw over a foot clear of the water in a squirt boat). Why is it that just when I think I am finally catching up with the lads they always up the game :o)

Ottawa 2012

My plan for 2012 is to spend a lot of time out on the Ottawa squirt boating and freestyle kayaking and I am hoping to run a number of trips and clinics out there. If you are interested in finding out more about where and when I will be out there and the courses I will be running please email me at

Massive thanks to; Stephen Wright for making this trip possible, for putting up with our British Invasion and for making it an awesome trip, Clay and Tara, Courtney, Max, Kristine, EJ, KC, Dane, Emily, Nick, Wyllie, Pete, Anna, Toni, Toni, Steph and Matthew for making it such a fun trip.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lee Valley

Blue water, blue skies, warm weather and great white water in London ??? Yes it is true!

I have just had the pleasure of paddling on the new Olympic white water course at the Lee Valley in London. I had heard great things about the new course... fast, power full, challenging, fun ... and was super excited to try it and see if it was as good as it had been made out. My verdict after 1 day paddling there is yes! The new course is brilliant.

World Champion Kayakers James 'Pringle' Bebbington and Claire O'Hara visit the new Olympic Whitewater course in London

The Lea Valley venue has been built to provide quality white water experiences for paddlers and rafters of all ages, ability levels and experiences. The new site has everything from lovely flat water lakes to intermediate white water and world class white water courses. Situated on the outskirts of London the course has been really well designed to give it a friendly and rural feel.

There are two white water courses at the site; the legacy course a grade 2 intermediate white water course and the Olympic course a grade 3+/4 fast, steep and powerful white water course, each designed with a conveyor belt to take you back up to the top after each run. The water is chlorinated as it as an in dependant water supply that is re circulated through the course making the water a crystal blue colour and the whole course seem almost surreal like it is a theme park ride venue rather than the typical white water training venues we are used too.

Young Kate testing out the legacy course

When people told me that the new Olympic course was a challenging, super fast and super steep course I didn’t really believe them as it is a man made pumped course but there were so true!

The designers have done a great job in creating a venue that provides a lot of technical and challenging features suitable for all different types of paddle sport in a really short space.

I was lucky to be there to support the youth freestyle series and got to see alot of young paddlers really exploring, enjoying and testing the two new courses.

Check out this great video from the day filmed and edited by James 'Pringle' Bebbington and Bren Orton

The legacy course is already great for freestyle with 3 nice play boating features, 1 super friendly beginners spot at the bottom of the course and 2 more technically challenging holes which will test the more experienced freestylers skills.

The Olympics course is currently set up for slalom as the Olympics are not far away but even so already has some very good features with a sweet hole under the bridge at the top of the course and a fantastic wave just below the big drop. As a course that has not specifically been set up for freestyle it is good but what is super exciting is its potential. There is enough power and energy in the course to make something really good (after the Olympics) for freestyle and I look forward to training on it again and hopefully competing there too soon.

Thank you to Matt Chadder and the team at Lee Valley for inviting me down and to the Youth Freestyle kids for making it such a fun day.

French Alp Trips Summer 2011

I have just spent two weeks paddling and coaching white water kayaking and canoeing in the French Alps. Working with Kelvin Horner and accompanied by Kevin Beattie we ran a Beginners Alps Trip and then an Intermediate Alps trip to paddlers from across the UK based out of L’Argentiere.

Claire and Tom chatting boofs and flares in the sun

This was my first trip without a play boat for many years and it was great to be back onto the rivers and enjoying journeying down these fantastic alpine runs. The weather was great and the scenery and rivers were unreal. France is an amazing place to go paddle and explore and is a great place to develop your white water skills. It is one of those rare places that has something for everyone whatever your craft, style, ability or skill.

Claire and Coach Kev enjoying a morning run on the Gyr

Bob dropping into the waterfall run on the Fornel

Congratulations to everyone who joined us thanks for giving your all and putting 100% into every day. It was great to see you all progress and develop through the weeks and it was a pleasure to paddle with you all.

Kelvin enjoying a well earned break above Chateau Q gorge

I look forward to running more trips next summer. If you would like to find out more about our Alpine trips please contact me on

What a way to spend a day... Peak UK Summer Sausage Sizzle!

So its been less than a week since I won the World Championships and I am already back into competing in the UK. Good news is this one is just for fun. It is the annual Peak UK Summer Sausage sizzle event at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham. This summer time event is all about having as much fun out on the water as possible and celebrating the sport of freestyle kayaking. With points and prizes awarded for everything from fancy dress to variety bonuses for different types of kayak!!! As well as the usual scores for tricks it was a great way to celebrate returning from the Worlds. All the fun on the water was followed by Trev’s Sausage Sizzle on the BBQ and Bev’s fun and games at the Peak Shop to make it an all round fun filled day.

Fun is the main aim of the day

Joe Bradley dusts of the cobwebs and goes big

Setting up for a big loop on the Inlet gate

Finishing of a great day with a BBQ and sausage sizzle at the Peak Shop

Thanks to Pete and the team at Peak UK for putting together all the activities I am already looking forward to another fun event next year.

All photos by Pete Astles Peak UK