Sometimes planning is key. Sometimes you just get very lucky. Sometimes you plan to spend 2 weeks family holiday paddling at Plattling with just your mum and dad for company but instead you get to spend everyday on the Isar river being coached by 8 times world champion, Claire O’Hara and GB Freestyle Performance Director and Head Coach, Dennis Newton of Sweetwater Coaching.

Plattling is the venue for this years European Championship and a favourite with freestylers from around the world. Clean water, decent feature and Bavarian culture take some beating so it wasn’t a surprise when we arrived after an 9 hour dash from the Hook of Holland to meet paddlers from Finland, Holland, Germany, Spain and Slovakia plus Brits all training hard for the upcoming competition together with a few local body boarders and surfers.

The Plattling feature is a man made river wide hole but with areas of wave depending on the water level which varies quite considerably from day to day and even hour to hour changing the nature of the feature quite noticeably and making training on the feature especially important. Occasionally the river drops so low that the rocks and concrete forming the feature are visible just below the surface and the anxiety levels amongst the paddlers with carbon boats becomes equally apparent. Luckily I was paddling my plastic 2016 Jackson Kayak Rockstar which seems pretty immune to rocks and so I was happy looping even in the very lowest levels without fear of carbon repairs although my paddles took a beating now and then.

The river Isar at this point has travelled around 180 miles from the Tyrol via Austria and Munich and is about to flow into the Danube 3 miles away. Over 2 weeks on the water the only flotsam encountered was a single fishing float. I wish the Trent and the Thames where as clean. The water temperature varies considerably throughout the year. Last summer the water was warm enough for short sleeves or 0.5mm neoprene rash vests but in March I was glad to have my Sandiline Drysuit for cloudy and cold days and Sandiline Cagdec for sunny days as the water is still pretty cold in April.

last summer I found the Plattling feature tricky but very enjoyable . Since the summer though I have had training at Nottingham HPP in the inlet gate with Dennis Newton as part of his Athlete Development Program and later his Athlete Support Program and GB Freestyle training and selections. The inlet gate is surprisingly similar to Plattling in some ways and so moves and skills developed by Den at HPP such as space Godzilla’s and McNastys convert well at Plattling but the speed and flow of the water is different and needs some adjustment and acclimatisation but I am happy with progress made and cannot wait for the European Championships later in 2016. In the meantime I have a short video of some training and some trains and a brief star guest appearance in the feature much to my surprise at the time!