Lee Valley: dream day for a whitewater kayaker

About two weeks ago I received a surprise email. Matt Chadder, one of the organisers of the Youth Freestyle Series, was offering a day not to be missed. As part of the press day to launch the opening to the public of the Olympic Whitewater Stadium he had received an invite to run a one off special YFS competition for an invitation-only group of youngsters who regularly compete in the existing series.

The rider was “as Chairman of BCU Freestyle it may be a good idea for you to be there”. Well, it did not take more than a few moments to fire back a message and, being self-employed, a day of unemployment beckoned!

As a whitewater boater I have often paddled a new river or feature but this was a new experience. To the best of my knwledge no-one had paddled it. There were no reviews, no friends to consult and no guide on the UKRGB forum. My son, Alan, and another coach, Tom, shared the drive so there was much excited speculation on the drive round the M25 to Lee Valley. It did not disappoint and neither did the weather. The set-up centres around an impressive building, housing all the usual facilities, but the bit we went for was the artificial course. Both of them!

We were confined to the “Legacy loop” (which has the potential to offer a near-equivalent to Holme Pierpont) for the day as the Olympic course was being used by rafters and slalomists. The Legacy Loop was plenty for our needs. In its current set up it contains around four reasonable drops creatink2g usable features and we ran training for the 30 under-18s followed by a competition.

Our day was rounded off with an absolute treat – half an hour for all the kayaking helpers on the Olympic course. It is truly awesome – 5.5m drop overall and a massive volume of water pumped to the top. It was on a par with some of the hairier sections I’ve done in the French Alps but in a playboat rather than a decent sized creekboat, so just a little bit testing. It all seems pretty safe though, as one would expect, but running it for the first time with no inspection was a huge thrill. The drops are closely spaced so any slight error and you are off down the next one without time to think or plan a line. I paddled back into all bar one without any problems and even the many secondary waves are well worth playing on.

We left with memories of a wonderful day, absolutely whacked.

There are no long trudges from the bottom back to the top; just glide onto the rubber conveyor belt and you are carried serenely up to the pump pool for another ride down the super clean filtered and chlorinated water.

Tim Ward

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