Over the weekend the Paddle Dogs Australia crew were down at the Penrith Whitewater stadium for a Wildwater camp that was kindly organised by Australian Canoeing.
We were stoked to have paddlers turn come from different parts of the country such as Lismore, Canberra, Bendigo and even Perth! It was fantastic to see paddlers that we knew previous from either coaching or racing, as well as seeing some new faces that were keen to try it out.
The challenge we faced was trying to get people down the course in Wildwater kayaks. It’s a pushy course that can boss you around a bit so you need some experience and need to know how to muscle it if it takes a hold of you.
We started on the Saturday morning by getting anyone who wasn’t too confident to first go down in a creek boat. This is a good starting point for people to get the feel of the water and to look around and gauge the lines.
Throughout the weekend we also conducted a flat water technique session that included a time trial. We did this session to get a more consistent gauge of how people are paddling in their boat without the influence of moving water. If people are paddling well during these time trails and their times are good, but they are no where near this on the Wildwater, this is a sign that they have don't have the strength or experience to manoeuvre through the rapids.
At the end of day one, Rob conducted a presentation to talk through the theory side of things and the various challenges that paddlers may experience along the way, and offered ways that people may seek to over come this.
By the Sunday morning we had the guys stepping out of the creek boats and doing some solid laps in their wildwater race boats. We included a couple of time trials on the whitewater to go with the flat from the day before so we can collate the data and give everyone some feedback about what they can work on.
We are really happy with the feedback from both paddlers and parents from the weekend, including this overview of the weekend from Victorian paddler, Immy Douglas:
"I had never paddled on a man-made course like Penrith, so it was a new experience for me. We all started off in creek boats which enabled us to get a feel for the course and pick out our lines. Then we jumped into our fiberglass wildwater kayaks to test our skills. The water was very fast with minimal room for error which, making it difficult to get a perfect line through the rapids. However, after a chat with some of the more experienced paddlers and a walk through of the course with Rob I was able to gain a better understanding of the lines which needed to be taken to get down the course efficiently. A few more successful runs Sunday morning further boosted my confidence and I was able to put down a run I was happy with for the time trial. Overall it was an enjoyable weekend where I learnt many new skills and gained confidence on the bigger rapids. Thank-you to Paddle Dogs Australia and Australian Canoeing for putting together an awesome camp!"
And our paddler from Western Australia, Demi O'brien, gave us an overview of how the weekend went for her and how she overcame her challeneger:
"My first run in a DR on the course was less than successful. It wasn’t because I fell out or I
wasn’t ready for the water but because I had stressed myself out to the point where I was stuck in an eddy half way down the course shaking. I couldn’t figure out exactly what scared me so much since it definitely wasn’t the water itself. After a good talk with our coaches, I got myself back on the water in a creek boat to end the session on a good note. The next day I tried again and the same thing happened. I was stuck in the same eddy and I didn’t want to move an inch. Coach Alex came over, gave me a pep talk and helped me get into the flow to head down the rest of the course. I did the lines for the last few rapids perfectly and I finished the run with the biggest smile on my face. Despite my struggle to initially get down the course I am so happy I did and I am so glad I got the opportunity to paddle Penrith. I feel that I have improved so much and hopefully we will have more opportunities like this in the future"
Overall we were really happy with everyone’s efforts in stepping up to this challenging course. A big thanks goes to Australian canoeing for investing into the sport and giving us this opportunity which has been a great training opportunity for us in the lead up to the world championship and cup events in Europe. We strongly believe this weekend is the start of great things to come for the sport in Australia, with the backing of Australian Canoeing. A personal thank you to the girls from Australian Canoeing, Mary and Courtney who made sure the weekend ran smoothly, and ensured we were well fed and fueled. Thanks to our co-founder Courtney for nailing some awesome pictures of everyone and to Tyler Gare for working his movie-making-magic on the Saturday!