Despite the typical Welsh rain, when I arrived, there was already lots of paddlers and rafts on the water.
When the course finally opened to GB Freestyle & Welsh Open paddlers, it became chaos. In a way it was a good chaos as the eddies were full with freestyle paddlers and everyone was trying new moves, and getting used to the course. However, there was also the frequent creek boat dodging and raft avoiding – both which can be quite surprising to see out the corner of your eye when they are aiming full throttle for you. (Thankfully though, most were successfully dodged!) Just to add to the chaos, was also CIWW’s notorious swirly eddies, where it is impossible to sit still, and even harder to not crash into anyone. I wouldn’t say the practise session was the most relaxing one ever, but I did get used to it and soon began to quieten down as the rafts, slalom paddlers and recreational boaters finished their sessions.
By 4pm it was time to start the event, and with a quick briefing and organisation, the first heats were soon starting. Time keeping has never been too strict at Freestyle events, and this was certainly the case on the day as we were soon almost an hour behind schedule. But we started pulling it back on time as the event went on.
It was awesome to see so many ‘novice’ boaters, and everyone trying new moves.
Soon, it was my turn (admittedly, over half a hour later than intended). As I got on the water, I quickly realised that the cake I’d eaten not so long ago was a bad decision as I could feel it sitting heavy. However, it was already late and there was considerably less people there than in the day. I rushed onto the water, and then straight down the course, with hardly a time to stop and think.
Next thing I knew, I was watching Nicky and Lowri take their turns – and then it was my go.
Despite having paddled fairly well earlier, my rides were not that great. Struggling to get Spaces and having difficulty on linking the cartwheels without flushing, on my second ride, I thought “why not?!” and just went for a McNasty. I’m still not sure if it scored, but it felt pretty close if it didn’t. This boosted my confidence for my third ride, but it now felt quite late and I was tired after a long day, and my last ride was no better than the first.
However, I did finish 3rd overall and it is still my first season as a Senior. Although I didn’t paddle my greatest in general, I did learn lots about how to manage the day when competitions are later than usual. And I also got to see Alex and Zak (who I have helped with some informal coaching) make their freestyle début!
Bring on the Welsh Open 2017!
(Photos by Dee Paterson and Isabel Cuesta)