I’d been hyping it up at my university canoe club for months. Our team of two from last year had increased to 8 (plus two on safety team). The costumes had been constructed. The tent had been packed. It was time for NSR!

Too much or too little water seems to be a common theme for our paddling trips this year and the run up to the National Student Rodeo, held at Nottingham Whitewater Course, was no different. In the week before there had been so much rain that the course was mostly closed and the situation hadn’t improved by the weekend, forcing the organisers to rapidly re-plan the event for the flatwater. Many were sceptical of an NSR without whitewater: Would the competition still work? Would there still be carnage? Would the safety team still provide as much entertainment as they did actual rescues? The answer to all of the above was certainly ‘YES’!

As a consequence of the rain, the campsite was muddy even before students from universities across the country descended en masse. Tents were pitched, cars became stuck, some were rescued, others were abandoned, but eventually everyone made it over to the big tent for the first party of the weekend- a great night as always.

In any other boat, the lack of whitewater would probably have been an issue for me, as performing moves in a boat which is too large becomes exceedingly difficult on the flat. Not the case with the Jackson Kayak Rockstar XS! Armed with the perfect kayak and a flatwater freestyle background thanks to Sudbury and Cambridge University Canoe Clubs, I couldn’t wait to get on the water! Saturday morning was the ‘X-streme slalom’ event in which everyone who was vaguely functioning before midday did a circuit on the lake, performing a different move or challenge at each judge-point along the way. I cartwheeled and looped my way around before returning to the beginning to cheer on the rest of CUCC. Next were the duo heats where my duo-partner Anthony and I charged along to make the finals, despite fully mounting another duo en route. Our other duo entry made up of Andy and Helen also had an eventful race, possibly with some swims, but both emerged from it smiling. More heats of ‘last-paddler-paddling’ and flatwater freestyle followed and saw most of CUCC qualify for finals in their respective categories, including myself and Isobel in expert ladies!

The main event of Saturday however was the fancy dress party for which we were well prepared. Working with the theme of ‘The Apocalypse’, a full fleet of cockroach costumes had been constructed, complete with extra legs and antennae! We joined a selection of dinosaurs, nuclear missiles, Vikings (?) and many more creative clubs for another brilliant night.

Sunday was a day of old-school and finals. Andy was unquestionably the most old-school of all the old-schoolers with luminous pink and yellow kit and some spectacular old-school moves which saw him win second place (only beaten by a sneaky whitewater racer who avoided all the carnage…). I was again so thankful for my tiny boat and training on the mighty flatness of the Cam which meant I looped, cartwheeled, split-wheeled and trickywoo-ed my way to retain the NSR title!

Overall it was another fantastic NSR, particularly for CUCC who had a constant presence of competitors and supporters on and off the water, a huge contrast from just two paddlers last year! Thanks to River Legacy for the event organisation, Tom Clare and P.Y. Photographic for the photos, Anthony for being CUCC team captain and to all the sponsors of the event. As always, a huge thank you to Squarerock for all the support and brilliant kit and to fellow team member Mike Shaw for all his flatwater expertise!

By Jen McGaley