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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Club Champs–Freestyle & Boatercross Training Weekend

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The weekend of March 15th and 16th saw the running of the Freestyle and Boatercross Training Weekend for the upcoming Club Championships event on April 12th and 13th.

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On Saturday 15th we had glorious sunshine and a great turnout for the freestyle training day.  Over 80 participants showed up to demo the I-CANOE freestyle boats and try freestyle kayaking for the first time.  Water levels were high, but perfect for learning everything from the basics to the more advanced moves.

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There were over 10 experienced freestyle paddlers to supervise the participants – some of whom had not only not ever paddled freestyle before, it was actually their first time ever in a kayak!

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In the afternoon we split everyone into their relevant clubs and ran off a practise competition.  Paddlers were scored on basic fun moves (waving at judges, blowing kisses and air-guitars) to proper freestyle moves (flat-spins, shuvits, enders, etc…).  It was a close competition with some aggressive paddling and in the end the top 3 freestyling clubs were: 3rd Lacken, 2nd Kilkenny and 1st Sligo.

On Sunday we ran the boatercross training day which mostly consisted of a number of practise runs followed by a practise competition.  The course consisted of 5 buoys laid out above, across and below the weir we had used the day before for the freestyle comp.

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Racing was tight and very enjoyable both for participants and spectators.  The course was technical enough to make it challenging for all competitors and ensured the most proficient, rather than the fastest paddler, had the greatest chance of winning.

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Racing was unpredictable (as it should be) with often the last person over the weir being the eventual winner in the end.  In most classes we ran preliminary heats, followed by semi-finals and then finals which meant by the end the eventual winners were very tired!

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The overall winning clubs of the weekend (combined freestyle and boatercross) were: 3rd Kilcullen, 2nd Rockhoppers, 1st Sligo.

Well done to all the participants and volunteer instructors on making it great weekend.

See you on Sunday April 13th for the main event!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Seannafarracháin


The Seannafarracháin is one of Ireland's best steep creeks if not the best. Located on the Galway Mayo border just east of Leenane and sitting next to the Srahnalong Valley it lies in an area with some of the best creaking in Ireland. Dropping an impressive two hundred meters in just 1.5 kilometers the Seannafarracháin is filled with endless slides and drops.

Like many of the rivers in the area levels rise and fall extremely fast , once the rain stops you can visibly see the level drop within minutes. The Seanafarracháin and other rivers in the area do not need particularly heavy rain to come up but merely consistent rain to give you enough time to finish the run. A southerly wind helps as it pushes the rain up the valley and coupled with consistent rain is a sure sign of a good day out here.

The video shows just over half the rapids on this incredibly run. This is one run that is worth the trip regardless where you are in the country.










One of the First rapids at the top of the valley
 The Seannafarracháin(left) & Srahnalong(right) valleys side by side
Bren Orton on another rapid towards the end of the river

Monday, March 10, 2014

Galway Fest

A week on since Galway Fest the waters of the Boluisce and Clare rivers have quietened once more after the massive influx of paddlers from Ireland , England , Italy & Spain. Water levels have been so good since the turn of the year and it was no different for Galway Fest 2014. Prime levels for racing on the Boluisce were met with perfect levels for going big in Tuam to set up the weekend for some tight competition. This year saw some international attendances with Bren Orton from England making his first trip to Ireland to take on Galway Fest.

Saturday morning saw a huge gathering of paddlers at the bottom of the Boluisce to kick off the third event in the Jackson Kayak Irish Whitewater Race League. After the race briefing the mass shuttle commenced to the caravan park and on to the bridge launch start. Over one hundred races took to the water again this year with the best water levels to date.

Early drama was had with Bren Orton completing the course without a paddle after an unfortunate incident with a tree just before the finish. Some tired hand rolls followed leading to the first swim of the day along with one of the fastest times!

As the day rolled on more and more fast times came in with Luca Dapra from Italy placing second in his first appearance at Galway Fest. I managed to put together the fastest run of the day in my Jackson Karma having clean lines through most of the course. The karma is proving to be the boat of choice for all round creaking & racing!

Saturday night followed a good days racing with what has become an event in itself. A quiet start in the Victoria Hotel finished with Galway Fest's own private bar in Karma. Saturday night at Galway Fest is one night on the kayaking calender not to be missed.


A slow start on Sunday morning brought everyone east of Galway city to the Clare river and Tuam hole. After some heavy rain early in the day the clouds cleared and the sun make an appearance for what was the perfect day at Tuam. All eyes were on Bren Orton for the freestyle having taking 8th place at the World Championships last year and he did not disappoint with some slick combo's and big air. Another Englishman in George Hayward Hill was no less impressive going huge on his mcnasty's and other tricks to take second place in the freestyle.
There was some great competition in the women's class with a welcomed surge in numbers for both freestyle and whitewater. Niamh Cleary took top honors on both days to secure the Galway Fest title once again. In the men's class things got very tight with a tie break coming into play for the overall winner. Bren and I tied on points after both event with the tiebreaker of fastest time in the whitewater coming into play to separate first and second giving me the win by the smallest of margins.

A big thank you to all our sponsors of Galway Fest for getting behind the event again this year. I-Canoe, Great Out Doors, Palm, Dagger, Wavesport, Adventure Technology & Kokatat provided some brilliant prizes for all involved. Hopefully we can bring back Galway Fest bigger and better then every next year!

Here are all the results for Galway Fest 2014 with the updated Jackson Kayak Irish Whitewater Race League Results here.















Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Devizes to Westminster 2014

First of all I think it would be polite of us to tell you a little about our dynamic duo. Tiarnán and myself (Alan) have been paddling together for quite a while, 12 years or so. We learnt the basics of kayaking at a young age from Malahide Sea Scouts, an organisation that’s close to both our hearts and one which, along Diabetes Ireland, is one of our chosen charities for this event, detail on our charities and how to donate can be found below. Over the years we completed kayak skills courses and instructor training together and were only pitted against one another when we each captained the kayak clubs of our respective universities (don’t mention inter-varsities 2013!).



                                             Photos provided by Conor Finegan 
An ‘Inspired’ Idea…
It was on a mild St. Patricks day last year when, after one too many Guinness, that we had the enlightened idea of attempting the Devises to Westminster, a legendary kayak race with a reputation for being the worlds toughest. We were inspired by two of our former leaders from Malahide Seas Scouts, Andy O’Connell and Paul Tyrrell who had completed the same race a decade previously. The advice we have received from these guys, as well as members of their support crews has been invaluable.
                                             Photos provided by Conor Finegan 
The Race
The race itself is 125 miles long and takes place on the canals west of Devises, in Wiltshire England and later along the River Thames, finishing at Westminster bridge in London. Teams of two paddle K2 (Tandem) kayaks non-stop for the duration of the race which usually takes between 20-26 hours to complete. It involves around 90,000 paddle strokes and also requires the crews to navigate (usually by walking around or ‘portaging’) 70 locks along the canal. Each team requires a support crew to provide them with food, drink and clean clothes as well as morale support throughout the race. The race takes place during the Easter bank holiday weekend and this year takes place on the 18th of April, exactly 59 days from the writing of this entry, Yikes!

                                             Photos provided by Conor Finegan 
The Charities
Malahide Sea Scouts (www.malahideseascouts.ie)
Both myself and Tíarnan have been members of this remarkable youth organisation since childhood. It was volunteer leaders of Malahide Sea Scouts who first introduced us to kayaking as well as the outdoors generally. Today we both volunteer as leaders ourselves, and the organisation has grown to provide unique experiences and lessons in life to over 600 youth members. We have chosen Malahide Sea Scouts specifically because our current den, which was completed in 1984 and despite served us very well for almost 30 years, is now badly in need of repair and renovation. It has no wheelchair access, poor infrastructure, a leaking roof and is an eyesore on the shore of Malahide Estuary. The funds raised here will go towards building an extension and making the necessary improvements.
  1. A much needed new roof.
  2. Environmentally sound building.
  3. A safer compliant building.
  4. Significantly more space for storage and meeting rooms.
  5. More rooms to run specific skills training.
  6. A child friendly and disability friendly proofed building with a lift.
  7. Appropriate facilities for all the volunteers that support and give their time to our Group.
  8. A youth room.
Diabetes Ireland (www.diabetes.ie)
Diabetes Ireland is another great charity we have chosen to support. We are racing as part of ‘Team Diabetes’ and the funds we raise for this charity will go towards to providing support, education and motivation to all people affected by diabetes, as well as toward funding research into a cure for diabetes. I (Alan) am a type 1 diabetic and anyone who knows me will be well aware that I operate at about 150% the activity level of the average Joe. Few people, therefore know more then myself about the importance of having the right information and support available to allow you to not only to survive and be healthy but to live life to the full and achieve your goals. This is the kind of practical support and advice Diabetes Ireland is providing on the ground for people with diabetes in Ireland.

If you feel you could help support us our online donation my charity page can be found at http://www.mycharity.ie/event_Donate1.php?donationTypeID=900101&userEventID=58385
The training program is going better than expected, sticking to our weekly plan of a four mile sprint, 16 mile intermediate session and finally a 20 mile + session has us in great shape. On Sunday the 16th of February we put on outside the village of Rhodes and paddled 32 miles in five and a half hours into Celbridge Paddlers club. As well as being a good training session we also learnt a lot on the paddle, our idea of distances between refueling turned out to be a little optimistic which lead to both of us going through our food and hitting the wall  before reaching the support crew. We have done a good bit of practice on portages but the stretch really showed us not all locks have easy exit points and some times it is easier scrambling up the bank.

On the bright side all of the gear provided by I-canoe has been ideal, we are wearing super light and non-restricting custom Peak UK  buoyancy aids with a Marsport drinking system clipped onto the front, under that we have breathable Extrasport Xtended Wear splash cag keeping us warm and toasty without soaking us in sweat. Along with the drinking system I-Canoe also sourced box pogies and zippy decks from Marsport, without these getting in and out of the boat on the 77 portages along our rout would take twice as long. One set of Kemocraft wing paddles were kindly donated to our cause and I-canoe were able to find a matching set and both are cutting through the water nicely. The last topic in our gear talk is the boat, We have done all our training up to now in a PMB rivercraft Zambezi K2 but this is more of a downriver racer with plenty of supporting struts so after 10 years since she last completed this epic race we have been given a 16 kg Van dusen racer, her time in the shed and one too many Liffey descents had her in bad shape but we have her repaired and polished to a shiny finish, her relaunch date is this Saturday 22nd of feb . 

Only a few more weeks left to prepare so time to really get the head down. If you want to sponsor us, once again our My Charity page can be found at the following link
 http://www.mycharity.ie/event_Donate1.php?donationTypeID=900101&userEventID=58385

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ennistymon Falls Race

Last weekend saw the second edition of the Jackson Kayak Irish Whitewater Race League take place on Ennistymon Falls in Co Clare. A short section right in the middle of town jam packed with drops slides and plenty of different lines makes it the perfect race venue. One again the rain obliged topping up the river level on Friday to give the perfect level come race day.  The first edition of the race saw a great turn out with paddlers from all over the country making the trip out west for a sunny day of racing.

The day started off with the time trial race with thirty paddlers going off at one minute intervals trying to find the fastest line through the falls and down the rapids. With a short course times were tight with only seconds separating most of the field. Colin Wong fresh from his second place finish in the Nile River Festival made a winning return taking first place by one second to Eoin Keyes in second place. Len Kelleher  had solid run to take third while I managed to take fourth spot just ahead of a tight pack of five paddlers tied for fifth place.


Susan Doyle took the win in the women's time trial  with Dervla McAuley a close second with the same result coming out of a closely fought boater x.


Next up was the Men's boater X with heats of six racing down the falls. Four heats sprinted down the falls with the top two from each heat going through to the grand final. Colin Wong , Eoin keyes , Dave Holden, David Horkin, Brian Cahill, Mark Scanlon, Sean Cahill and I made up the final and after a false start all raced to the lip of the falls.  I had a clean start and broke away in second behind David Horkin with Colin Wong close behind. David was to quick on the rest of the course so I had to settle for second place with Colin holding on to third.


The day was rounded off with mass paddle down falls making an awesome spectacle for the locals out for a walk. Hopefully this race will become an annual installment on the race calender as it was one of the best race days to date.



Up next is Galway Fest in two weeks time and all is still to play for with the top prize of a Jackson Karma for the top unsponsored paddler along with sick line entries for the top three places in the League. Its great to see new faces turning up at every event and hopefully we might see a few new races popping up to.

Here's some gopro footage of the boater x final and more photos from the race below.