National Student Rodeo 2016

Jen winning the women's expert category!

Mention the National Student Rodeo to any paddler who has experienced one and you will quickly get an idea of what a crazy event it is. The combination of kayaking, a white-water course, hundreds of students, two nights of partying and a new theme (this year’s being ‘Christmas’) seems to be unbeatable in making for an awesome weekend. This year saw four of us from Cambridge University Canoe Club head up to Nottingham; Andy and Judith to join the safety team and Anthony and I to compete. After we had pitched the tent, stuck, rescued, re-stuck and re-rescued the car from the already-muddy field and the safety crew had returned from their briefing, we went out to meet up with the other paddlers hailing from all across the UK. From Aberdeen to Falmouth, teams consisting of up to 40 paddlers had travelled to compete for their respective universities. The Friday night party organised by Extreme Events over in the marquee certainly didn’t disappoint and the last song came all too quickly. It was time to grab some sleep in preparation for Saturday’s early start. The first event for me and Anthony on Saturday was the extreme slalom which called for a mix of new- and old-school moves in inlet gate and twin waves. We managed a selection of loops and pop-outs between us, resulting in me qualifying for expert ladies and Anthony for intermediate men. The rest of the morning was spent watching the safety team dancing/live baiting/ generally loving all of the carnage!

Next up were the duo races. Having never paddled the duo together before, let alone on white-water, our main aim was simply to make it to the finish line… preferably upright, although the pair ahead of us proved this wasn’t essential. Despite our lack of duo boofing skills (and therefore me being plunged deep into the foam pile of every hole) the charge down the course in the big mass of purple plastic was great fun and we finished third in our heat.

The freestyle heats in the afternoon again involved all manner of moves with some particularly spectacular duo and old-school rides in looping pool. The results were soon released and Anthony and I had both made it to finals! With there still being no sign of the forecasted snow, everyone headed back to the campsite before the meal and Christmas-themed party. This was just as great as the previous night with the added bonus of baubles, tinsel, snowmen and many a Santa Claus! Sunday was just awesome. There was music, dancing (featuring some great YMCAing from Judith and Andy with the safety crews), Rodeo rabbit wipe-outs, snow and a series of brilliant finals! Anthony put in a great performance in his final while simultaneously surviving the constant king-of-the-wave carnage. While I initially pulled some of the usual freestyle tricks in the ladies final, it wasn’t long before paddles were being launched mid-move which led to me winning the expert ladies!

Overall it was a brilliant weekend, easily exceeding any expectation I had had regarding the level of craziness (at how many other events can you look up from surfing a hole to the sight of a full nativity scene dancing down the bank…in March?). It is definitely not one to miss for next year- a bigger Cambridge team would be great to see! Thanks to all of the event organisers, sponsors, the safety teams for relentlessly throwing themselves in the river all weekend (and managing to enjoy it), Andy for driving and Anthony for captaining the CUCC team. Can’t wait for next year!

Jen Also thank you to P.Y Photographic, Tom Clare Photography and Zachary Owen Photography for use of their photos.

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