Tuesday 15thJanuary. A club pool session has just finished, pints are in hand and inevitably the conversation turns to the upcoming Summer Tour. Where to this year? France? Austria? Norway? Then Andrew, in his final year and last long summer of freedom, mentions the magic word. Expedition? A murmur goes around the table. Some dismiss it as too much effort, others don’t have the funds, but a few keen eyes light up. “Where to?” are the first words out of their mouths. With experienced paddlers about to graduate and new blood just entered the club, an expedition is the perfect opportunity to pass on skills and attempt new destinations. Imperial College Canoe Club has a long history of kayaking expeditions, but the graduates who undertook them have long since moved on. Time to renew the tradition.
A few more pints later we had a team and a destination. The team: Two fourth year students, Andrew and Tom, who have been with the club for four years; two first year students, Ben and Cameron, who are competent paddlers but with little international experience; and one graduate, Mo, thrown in for good measure. Our Destination: The Republic of Georgia. Due to various commitments we are limited to September, where Georgia is one of the few countries with good water levels. Moreover, Georgia is a lesser known kayaking destination- up and coming but with very little information on the rivers there. We plan to spend the whole of September exploring and documenting these rivers.
After some research, we found some river notes from 2007 written by Steffen Schuelein, who scouted the country for the Georgian Tourism Board. However, most of the descriptions are from scouting the rivers at the roadside. More recently, there have been a few blog posts from people who have ventured out to Georgia, but we were unable to find much detail other than the names of rivers they had paddled. Our big break came when we contacted a Russian provider who runs trips in Georgia. They were able to point us in the direction of their rough notes, which had suggested ingress and egress points as well as rough difficulty indicators. We were also relieved to learn that they run trips in September which reassures us that there will be sufficient water.
We have a team. We have a destination. We have our aim: Explore the White Water Georgia has to offer, document it and make those notes available to the wider paddling community to open up Georgia as a White Water Kayaking destination.
Team Role: Expedition Leader
Education: 4th year Computing, Imperial College London
I first started kayaking at age 16 on flat water, progressing to Whitewater when I joined Imperial. Since then I have been on 24 weekends away with Imperial College Canoe Club to Wales, Lake District and Devon. During my first year with the club I attend their Easter tour to the Massif Centrale in central France and their summer tour to Slovenia, Austria and Switzerland. I have since paddled the French alps with them in 2017, Scotland over the Easter 2018 break, and returned to Austria and Switzerland in the summer of 2018. I also paddled in Corsica over the Easter of 2018 and Uganda in May 2018 before the White Nile was dammed.
Team Role: River Leader
Education: BSc Mathematics, Imperial College London 2016
I joined ICCC in my first year at Imperial after having kayaked since I was 9. In my positions as Bosun and President I organized trips around the UK and to France, Slovenia, Austria and Switzerland. Additionally, I have kayaked in Germany, Italy, Norway and Kyrgyzstan.I have been leading others on a variety of rivers for close to 10 years.
Team Role: Safety
Education: 4th year Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London
I have over 10 years of kayaking experience, with over 8 on whitewater of varying difficulty. When I was 16 years old, I completed my BCU level 1 coaching qualification and taught kayaking part time at my local canoe club. Alongside my work coaching I have undertaken courses in first aid and have achieved my gold medallion for life saving.
Team Role: Media
Education: 1st year Aeronautical Engineering, Imperial College London
I started kayaking when I was 13 on flat water at first and then on rivers across Yorkshire. I completed a flat-water safety and rescue course and assisted the coaches at my local canoe club. When I was 17, I started to paddle harder white water in Wales and at Holme Pierrepoint in Nottingham. Since joining Imperial in 2018 I have been on multiple weekend trips to Wales, Devon and the Lake District, as well as attending pool sessions most Tuesday evenings.
Team Role: Treasurer
Education: 1st year Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London
I have been kayaking over nearly 10 years now, in various styles and locations.
In 2015 I organised and completed a 4-day kayaking expedition along the length of the Great Glen in Scotland.
I have paddled rivers in Wales, England and Scotland, and spent summer of 2018 teaching kayaking to children in New York, USA. There, I also experienced some river paddling in the Adirondack Mountains. As a sport, I am committed to representing it, and to contributing in whatever way I can to progress made in new locations. In 2016 I took part in a 3-week expedition run by the British Exploring Society to the Ladakh region of the Himalayas in northern India, and have the American Red Cross certificate in Lifeguarding, which includes first aid and CPR.
The team have a blog which can be found here – https://kayakgeorgia.home.blog/