After a turbulent year, we suddenly find ourselves on the cusp of winter and the endless combinations of cold, wet and windy days presented by the good old British weather. As we say farewell to our shortie cags and board shorts until next year, let’s remember to pack the essential clothing and kit which can make a cold day on the water more comfortable and reduce the risk of hypothermia, cold-water shock, frozen fingers and hours shivering misery!
Great Falls has some of my earliest kayaking memories, but it had been WAY too long since I made it back. I decided to make the long rally up for the race, but also because levels were looking good and the joy kayaking was gonna be great. The levels worked out where I was able to get all the lines I hadn’t done in so many years, and then some more. It was actually an epic day, and I’m so stoked I made the rally.
I’ve paddled for many years, mostly on the river Tay where I honed my skills with help of some pretty handy people from Perth canoe club. With a solid base I gradually progressed to local Perthshire runs, opening my eyes to what was possible in a kayak. I now regularly enjoy pushing the grade of my paddling to class 4/5 and tend to get out twice a week to keep me sane. Paddling has brought me all over the world, from India to Iceland, and over time I have come to appreciate quality equipment.
Even though I’ve paddled for a long time, my slalom experience meant that semi dry cags and neoprene shorts were initially the norm. I only recently experienced the luxury of a dry suit when five years ago I bought my first dry suit with the prospect of a brief visit to Iceland that October. I pushed aside the slalomer’s stigma against dry suits and got a new Immersion Research Arch Rival front entry dry suit. My first dry suit was a revelation! It opened my kayaking up to harder grades on cold, mind numbing Scottish winter days (when the paddling here is at its best).
I swithered for while between a L and XL with my tall skinny stature. I found I would be too tall for the L yet too skinny for the XL. With help from the Immersion Research customer service team I decided on the XL size (although if you have more time and money to spare, you can get sleeve and leg lengths modified). I received the XL dry suit which I found to be a good fit apart from the seals. I told this to Immersion Research and they happily put smaller seals on it which made a huge difference. I very quickly put a hole in the knee after running and tripping on the bank during a spate of carnage on a tree infested, fence interspersed Scottish ditch. This was expertly fixed by Immersion research and remains one of the toughest parts of the suit.
Weather by rain or a scheduled release, the Cascades are worth getting a day on. A short and sweet roadside section with plenty of fun moves especially when the water gets higher. You can just continue lapping and lapping and each time you’ll find a new move. I was stoked to be around when there was a release, and managed to get a few laps with a bunch of the local paddlers. It was a dope afternoon!
Surviving your first Uni Club trip is all about preparation.
Firstly do you have the right kit and/or access to the right kit? If not get the very basics sorted. It’s going to be a miserable trip if you get really cold. Make sure you have a dry set of kit to get changed into at the end of the trip, something nice and warm is always a great idea and include a hat. A large beach towel is good bit of kit to get hold of. You’ll need to put this kit into something and also be able to carry your wet kit home with you. Ikea bags and plastic “bags for life” are superb for this job.
Although this buyers guide is directed at students in reality it will apply to anyone thinking about taking up the sport. Over the next few weeks many students will be starting Uni and will be looking at joining a club.
In most cases the Kayak/Canoe club in a university will be the best club to join. That can pretty much be guaranteed.