This year we’ve really made an effort to include a number of “Summertime” Whitewater events. This was the latest in a string of such outings but was to be a mix of Whitewater on the Saturday and Kayak surfing on the Sunday.
On Friday night the first contingent set off en route to Bristol, where the journey was to broken up by an overnight stay. The plan was to get down in time for “A Cap invasion of the Bristol pub scene” but in the event we settled for a sociable en route drink in a Cotswold Pub, followed by more beers in our cosy Travelodge rooms.
Chris was acting as trip organizer and Mum for the weekend and had bought along a selection of flavoursome cheeses and crackers for us to nibble throughout the journey. Full marks for the very spicy Salami cheese, wow, did that have a kick to it. These were then washed down by copious cans of Stella.
Up bright and early on Saturday and off for the one hour drive to Cardiff’s relatively new International Whitewater Course. We stopped for the compulsory BIG BREAKFAST at the local Morrison’s and then on to meet the others.
Ivan and Mel had stopped overnight near to the course in real Welsh Wales and Rob Gilroy, Remi, Ben and Mark were driving down on the Saturday morning. Sadly, disaster hit Rob’s recently acquired Gilroymobile. Refueling close to Heathrow the gleaming new People mover was inadvertently fed Petrol rather than it’s preferred tipple of Diesel, thus ending that car load’s Kayaking ambitions and they limped back home some eight hours after setting off, a real shame and sympathies to all ! (Maybe you should have tried Stella instead ?).
The Cardiff course has been substantially improved since Rob and Mark's first visit a year ago.
When both of them had tried to head butt the underwater obstacles and enjoyed a resultant visit to meet the lovely Nurses of Cardiff General and be rewarded with a brace of stitches each. What met them this time was a challenging, relatively shallow but fast flowing course.
Over the day the level of flow was changed at roughly hourly intervals, ranging from 4 cumecs up to 10 cumecs. It was amazing to see how quickly they could drain the course, move the obstacles around, and within ten minutes or so re-open with completely changed features.
Our brave Whitewater paddlers were Ivan, Gary, Chris, Ed, Keith and Tom.
Chris gave it her best shot and did a good first run, but after swimming on her second descent decided to chill and watch the others.
Ivan spent most of the day on the course with a very determined and serious looking face captured by Mel’s ever handy camera. He was dogged by a rather lengthy Jackson Duo which seemed to enjoy completely blocking the complete width of the River whilst playing in the stopper. On the first encounter Ivan just managed to sneak past one end but on the next encounter that clearly wasn’t an option, quick decision, collide with it, crash over the top or go underneath.
Ivan took the underwater approach, he capsized, went over the drop and then under the Duo, rolling up on the other side and avoiding their thrashing paddles. Very impressive Ivan, particularly as that stopper was so very shallow.
Keith and Tom were excellent, putting in some really good paddling in a range of different boats, both showing just how much their whitewater paddling has improved, thanks to the encouragement given to them by CAP.
It was good to see Gary in action, really enjoying himself for his own benefit as opposed to looking after others. He’d borrowed Darren’s minute little playboat and repeatedly demonstrated just how precise and technical his Kayaking ability is.
He seemed to enjoy pulling endless cartwheels and blunts etc in the various vicious stoppers that most others just seemed happy to be able to shoot through.
The FEST was due to continue on till 10pm, with four Bands playing and novelty races, but we all decided that following a quick look around the various trade stalls, and collecting lots of helmet stickers that we’d hit the road at about 4.30pm heading for the fabulous Gower Peninsula.
The sun had shone on and off all day but as we headed West along the M4 so the heavens absolutely opened. Torrential rain and very poor visibility did not bode well for our overnight camping plans.
Chris was in poor humour, as driving Mike’s passion wagon for the first time, she was not amused to find that the automatic car did not actually posses a gearstick, but her mood was no where near as foul as that of the weather.
Lo and behold, as we pulled into the Bank Farm campsite at Port Enyion, the rains stopped and the cloud lifted, enabling us to remain dry whilst pitching all our tents.
That evening we paid a repeat visit to The Smugglers Haunt, a lovely bistro-pub type restaurant serving tasty high quality food and copious amounts of alcohol. A really merry evening was had by all, following which we staggered the two miles back to the campsite, getting somewhat rained upon in the process.
All then crammed into Tom’s tent, for a final late night chat and nightcap, whilst Mike snored away in his sleeping bag.
Sunday morning and a leisurely start. Really nice as we sat there in our cliff top campsite overlooking the whole of the beautiful bay below. Chris woke us with mugs of steaming hot tea and then cooked us a tasty hot breakfast, superb.
On then to one of the best surfing beaches on the peninsula, Llangennith, much favoured by the surfing fraternity.
Ivan, Chris, Keith and Tom went out and had a good time on the endless rolling surf waves, performing some brilliant surfing maneuvers in the process. Gary once again enjoyed himself flying Chris’ kite, showing just how it should be done.
Eventually the long drive home and an early crash into bed for all, exhausted but exhilarated. A BIG thank you to Chris for agreeing to co-ordinate this weekend, a superb trip very well organized indeed.
Finally, this was probably Tom’s last paddling trip with us, for a while, prior to moving up to Loughborough University to study Mechanical Engineering. We wish you well Tom, work hard and play even harder, as CAP have trained you !! Looking forward to seeing you out on some raging waters with us sometime during the Winter.