Symonds Yat is a rapid that is held with great affection by many kayakers. Set on the River Wye in Monmouthshire it is a stunning location. The rapids themselves are very straightforward and ideal for teaching beginners on. However by adding a few slalom gates all of a sudden you have a complicated rapid to negotiate!
For a good many years there has been no slalom on the Symonds Yat rapids. Years ago the Gloucester Canoe Club used to run it, but after an ownership issue with the rapids the slalom stopped, never to be seen again. Until now.
Keen to find a fairly local venue to practice slalom, as well as draw a few more people into the sport, Cheltenham Canoe Club under the guidance of Dave Potts and John MacLeod have now re-introduced slalom sessions to Symonds Yat with the intention of starting up some club competitions there as well.
I have been attending the sessions when I can in my rather leaky slalom kayak and have been enjoying them immensely. Not only have the courses been extremely challenging, but I am learning a lot about edging, stroke timing, and trim thanks to the extremely sensitive nature of a carbon slalom boat.
Turnout has been very good, especially from the Cheltenham guys, so it would be great to see more people from other clubs come along too (Wyedean I’m looking at you!)
Regardless, personally I have been getting a lot out of these sessions. Some of the gate setups have really been forcing me to think about how to negotiate them. It isn’t just about how to negotiate each individual gate. You also need to be thinking about how you can get through a gate in such a way that you are set up nicely to approach the following one, both in angle, momentum, and the use of the water. Want to get better at negotiating boulder gardens and positioning yourself on rapids in a safe environment you can get to on a regular basis? Slalom is the way to do it. Oh, and it’s fun!
I am gradually getting used to my slalom kayak. Recently it has let me know that my posture isn’t quite right as I am tending to slump back again despite having worked on keeping a slightly forward upright posture for quite a while now to get out of that habit!