Wednesday, 20 April 2016

93. Canoe Slalom

Event: Canoe Slalom Women's K1
Date: 2nd November 2014 + 16th April 2016
Location: Lee Valley White Water  
Cost: £50 each
Rules:  In heats each competitor has two runs of the slalom course. The fifteen athletes with the best time qualify for the semi-finals, where they get one run of the course each, with the best ten progressing to the final. The course is a timed-run down a white water course with natural hazards and eddies and between 18 - 25 gates. Red gates must be tackled upstream, green gates downstream. Touching a gate adds two seconds time penalty to the run, and missing a gate completely is a 50 second penalty.

The Event:

Olympic Gold Medal, London 2012: Emilie Fer, France.

Sarah: Over the course of the Challenge we've been lucky enough to work with some amazing clubs and have received the help of some really dedicated, kind individuals who have helped us achieve what, at times, has felt like the impossible. We try to arrange as much as possible ourselves, but for the trickier events we do rely on people being kind enough to help us out. You may notice that there is a small gap of 17 months between the two parts to this event; officially making Canoe Slalom our longest event to complete! We first visited Lee Valley White Water Centre back in November 2014 where we were given the chance to try our hand at the slalom course; the boats are really zippy, and controlling the turns and completing the course was lots of fun. But we wanted more! We wanted to experience the white water for ourselves, which it turns out is incredibly hard to arrange. The club said they would help us out, but unfortunately months and months passed with numerous unreplied emails and no progress, which was all a bit frustrating. We finally accepted defeat, and booked ourselves on to a pretty expensive 'Hotdog' session as a way to get on the white water. I would say it was worth the wait, but in fact it was horrible! We were on the Legacy loop and spent more time in the water than out. The boats were incredibly hard to control, and unfortunately we weren't given much guidance on how to correct the boat when it turned to the side (which resulted in an instant dunking). Falling in to the white water is as scary as it looks; you get pulled around and just have to go with it and rely on the buoyancy aid, but there were repeatedly moments of panic when I went in. I'd definitely had enough halfway through the lesson, and was glad when we made our way back to calmer waters. I'm definitely glad to have this out the way, and look forward to never doing it again!   
Ellie: As Sarah says our Canoe Slalom event is in two parts. Our non-white water experience was in sharp contrast to our white water 'hotdog' day. I felt it was hard enough to control the slalom canoes around the legacy course without the hindrance of turbulent conditions - the boats respond to the lightest of touch and even sitting at an angle will send you in a different direction to the one you think you are heading in. Navigating through the hanging gates needs a lot of mental agility as well as physical as you need to think ahead to meet gates at good angles to take you though to the next.

Our time on the white water was through Lee Valley's experience days and people actually do this for fun. Don't get me wrong - I was fascinated by power I could harness during the rare times we were afloat and working with Sarah is always enjoyable but staying in the boat was very hard. Once I'd realised that we wouldn't be able to control ourselves for long I also felt enormous responsibility for the safety of myself and everyone else too... Falling out of a boat in white water is terrifying. I don't think I could explain well enough but I'm still dreaming about it 5 days later. Despite the safety tests and briefing we were given I wasn't able to recall anything when I was being dashed around and submerged for, what felt like, minutes and that caused me so much panic. With 15 minutes of our session left and a particularly fearsome dunking fresh in the memory I was happy to call it an event well and truly ticked off and to never, ever do anything like it again. Good luck to you if you choose to do this with your leisure time!

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