What a packed weekend
With everything from Boater X races and King of the Wave to freestyle competitions  and cartwheel challenges, the British and Club Championships is always an awesome event. This year was no exception and with some great prizes to be won, clubs from across the country were out in force. This was also the first year that paddlers could use different boats for different events over the weekend, an opportunity which (thanks to Aaron and Squarerock) I made the most of!

Little Boat
Since getting my Jackson Kayak Rockstar XS earlier this Summer, I have almost solely paddled it at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre, so to say I was excited to take it up to Nottingham (and specifically into the inlet gate, the top learning spot for hole-moves) would be an understatement. I’d already seen significant improvements in my freestyle paddling over the last few months as a result of this perfectly, me-sized boat and was therefore really looking forward to seeing what I could now do in the features at HPP.

The difference was immediately noticeable; big, clean air-loops, space Godzillas, felixes, cartwheels and much more convincing trials at mcnasties and phonics’ were suddenly finding their way into my rides. Equally, when it came to getting out at the end, while still taking longer than judges and scribes may have liked, it was certainly easier than before!
And these improvements were reflected in the results. My score for the jam-style heats was high enough to put me through to the final of my first senior ladies competition, in which I then placed fourth with my highest ever score! If this is what can be  achieved with this boat after just a few months, I can’t wait to see what  moves will be possible in the very near future.

Yet the fun in the little boat didn’t end there. Saturday night saw the slightly crazy/brave/’novices-persuaded-by-other-club-paddlers-that-it-would-be-fine’ assemble for a King of the Wave like no other. Instead of a wave, the feature selected was the closed stopper of the inlet gate, making the perfect recipe for big take-outs (see 2.26 of video) and general beatings. Considering my inability to exit from the inlet gate even when I want to, I was quietly confident. That was, at least, until the appearance of guys in creekboats, elbow pads and helmets with face guards, after which I just felt underprepared!

However at the end of the ensuing three minutes of carnage I was one of the last two survivors, and being the final remaining lady meant I won the category and left with a bottle of Scrumpy.

Sinky Boat
Onto the second boat of the weekend- squirt boating for the British Championships.
While my flatwater routines are constantly becoming more technical and consistent, the mystery move is still quite elusive. Having practiced in the looping pool before the Championships, I knew that if everything came together (position, edge, rotation, eddy-line surge) during my rides, I’d be going very deep very quickly. Unfortunately it was not to be, but luckily my score from my flatwater moves was still enough to win the British Championships!
It was brilliant to see so many squirtboaters getting on/ under the water for this event and is hopefully sign of things to come on the UK squirt boat scene.

Big Boat
Sunday was big boat day. The last competition of the weekend was the BoaterX; not a competition I’d ever enjoyed much before due to having to race in a playboat. But thanks to Aaron and a demo small 2015 Jackson Kayak Zen from Squarerock, this was not to be the case this time around…

I hopped on for the heats and promptly descended the course faster than I’ve possibly ever travelled in a kayak in my life. The larger volume compared to the 2013 Jackson Kayak Zen 55 I have previously paddled, greater bow rocker and improved hull design, aided by the fact that there was very little boat in contact with the water (with me being around 50lbs lighter than the optimum weight) made blasting down the course feel relatively effortless. I won my heat, whizzed back to the top for semifinals, came second in semifinals, returned to the top again and placed second in the senior ladies final! As someone who rarely paddles anything with a large enough volume to justify a bung, let alone do any racing, this was a huge surprise!

After all the races I hung onto the Jackson Kayak Zen for a play down the course and found it to still be as manoeuvrable, responsive and fun on waves and holes as the 2013 Jackson Kayak Zen. I certainly won’t be leaving it until this time again next year to give BoaterX another go!

Thanks to the organisers, judges and helpers for a great event, Aaron Dempsey and Squarerock for the support and demo boats, Jamie Austen for the squirtboating tips and Dan McGaley for putting together the King of the Wave footage and all the photos. Also thanks to Will for pulling us back into inlet gate during training despite nearly breaking himself in the process!

By Jen McGaley