So Friday afternoon came and it was time for my latest adventure to Scotland. I met up with Phil at Newcastle and we then piled into the back of Francis’ van along with Lee and Rory. This was the weekend of the Morriston river race and it would prove to be a good one!
Having never even seen the Morriston before apart from in some dubious looking wet west videos I was slightly unsure as to what to expect. Was this going to be some big scary river ready to dish out punishments to anyone who wasn’t ready or were we all in for an easy ride. As it turns out it was a great river for this race although unknown to me as we sat in the back of the van discussing various lines and tactics this river was also ready to hand out some punishments only 2 days from now.
I woke up Saturday morning after a very cold sleep, I didn’t realise it could get so cold in May! This was Scotland though I guess and in true fashion the sky was cloudy, the ground was damp and the rivers were empty. This left us with a few unexciting options but in the end I found myself sat in my kayak at the top of the end of the world rapid on the Leven. At these low levels it was more of a butlins water park than a gnarly grade 5 but the sun had come out and we were keen to do some boating so we scraped onwards and in the end it turned out to be an enjoyable paddle.
Looking up at the end of the world
Sunday was soon upon us and the nerves as well as the excitement were starting to build. The first glimpse of the Morriston I got was from a quick look from the bank as I walked up to the dam with my boat.
It was roughly 9:30 am and I had an hour to get in enough practice to put me in good stead for the race. The big question of the day though was which would be the faster line on the top drop.
The lead in to the top drop
There was the left which involved powering onto a rock slab and boofing off the edge, The middle which would generally mean plugging and going deep. The other option would be the right hand line which meant paddling hard right and timing a stroke in order to fire off the fall and away down the river without getting held up in the eddy.
I stood next to the top drop for a little while watching as other competitors attempted the drop in various different ways. The Left line often meant being pushed into the wall at the side. The middle was proving successful in some cases and I saw the right line work well about once.
The top drop
I took two practice runs in the end possibly paddling a bit harder than I should have but 11:00am arrived quickly and the race started.
Each competitor was to get two runs down. These times would be combined and the top 20 fastest paddlers would then go onto the final where they would each get one run and the fastest kayaker would win.
My first run started well with a fast seal launch from the side. The top drop was quickly upon me and I drove hard left. Not hard enough as it turned out as I dropped straight down the middle. I rolled up fearing the worst as cold water rushed over my legs. I glanced down seeing that my deck had come off at the side. No way was I stopping to empty my boat so I flicked the deck back on and charged off down the rest of the course. Despite the water in my boat the rest of my run went well and I placed 21st. I was stoked with this as I hadn’t even considered placing that high up! It was even better for Phil, Lee, Francis, Rory and Sandra as they all placed top 20 straight away with Rory even getting the second fastest 1st run!
Phil nearing the finish
Excited that I could make the final I paddled even harder on my second run. This time I almost nailed the left hand line, getting up onto the rock slab and keeping my head dry. I got pushed against the wall at the bottom but overall I felt like this was my best run so far. Everyone else seemed to step their game up too and so feeling quite excited we all gathered at the results board where we waited to see who would make the final.
My second run going well
The results board was brought back out with the names of the top 20 paddlers on it. I’d done it! My name was up there along with the rest of the guys and Sandra. Part of me was super excited for this while the other part of me was exhausted from my previous paddling, however I grabbed my boat and made my way to the top ready for what would be an eventful final run….
I was 5th in line to do my run; I was feeling pretty nervous as the pressure was now on. How fast could I go, I’d need to push myself and paddle even harder. The countdown seemed to take forever.
The whistle blew and I got off to an alright but not brilliant start. The top drop came and I took a roll at the bottom. I felt frustrated but decided to power down over the flat section to try and gain a few precious seconds. The last section of river was approaching. It was at this point that things really started to go downhill.
It started as I realised I was too far right above the pour over drop, I then proceeded to miss my boof completely. This meant I was now somehow facing towards the drop frantically paddling backwards. All in vain as it turns out because shortly I was stuck upsidedown in the drop. I’m not sure how long I was there but I soon ran out of air and failing to get my head above the water. Determined not to swim but still upside down I tried getting my paddles deep. It felt promising and I rolled up but only to find myself being pulled back into the hole and flipped again. I really did have no air left now and there was only one thing for it…..I swam.
I eventually got all my kit back and was alright although slightly apprehensive about the swim punishment Jason had in mind for me.
My boat after it had been fished out
Everyone else had done much better though. There were some very fast looking runs from everyone and with lots of good paddlers it was impossible to say who would come out on top. We’d just have to wait until 9:00pm when the results would be announced.
In the end 1st place went to Pete Scutt, Second to Matty Nicholas and 3rd to Ed Smith who all pulled some ridiculously fast times out the bag.
There were some great results for the rest of us too with Rory getting 6th, Sandra at 8th closely followed by Phil in 9th, Francis got 11th, Lee with 17th and myself at 20th.
The prize giving finished and the drinking started; it was an eventful night to say the least.
We finished the trip off the next day with a session at the Falls Of Lora and in keeping with many other Scotland trips the rain started just as we left…..
Falls of Lora
All in all it was a really good event and I cant wait for next years now! Check out the results here: