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I’d heard various stories about the WWSR course floating around the club, ranging from “you’ll love it, it’s loads of fun” (Sarah F), to “she looked like she was drowning” (about Sarah F!), and “It’s the best fun you can have with your clothes on!” (Simon Spencer); so it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I set off to Wales on a Fri­day afternoon, accompanied by Dig. Sharing our luxury bunk barn (no sarcasm intended – it was quite lovely) were Renos and Ian, with Jess opting for the family campervan and Rob’s cooking (which actually smelled quite nice).

 

Saturday dawned in typically Welsh fashion (i.e. raining) but at least it was warm, especially with teddy bear suits and drysuits on. Steve (our instructor) started us off gently, with cups of tea and a bit of theory. But it was not to last. Dressed in all our gear, we followed Steve to a weir, which he informed us we were about to swim in. I couldn’t see my own face, but I know it had a look of terror and disbelief upon it, similar to that on Renos’s face! In jumped Steve and let himself be taken effort­lessly across the weir and washed out the other side. After watching Jess and Dig bravely follow Steve like lemmings and survive, I pulled myself together and leapt in…it was brilliant! In fact, the hardest part was trying to swim into an eddy with about 10 tons of clothing on. The rest of the morning was spent practising safe swim­ming techniques upstream of the “Chipper” before adjourning, exhaust­ed, for a well-earned lunch.

 

Saturday afternoon was focussed on using throwlines to rescue swim­mers. Dig and Jess volunteered to be first swimmers (there’s a theme developing here!) and Steve was to demonstrate throwing the line to Jess. However, as Jess swam elegantly past on her way to be “chipped”, the rope got stuck in the bag. Amidst much laughter was a lesson learned – always pack your own throwline. Meanwhile, no sign of Dig – we assumed he’d gone to visit a tree and were therefore completely unprepared as he also came floating (a little less elegantly) past. Seems he’d decided to hike further up the river for a longer swim! Eventually we did manage to practice some rescues successfully before the next level – live bait! I will never forget the slightly manic look on Ian’s face as he launched himself from a rock to “save” me.

 

Suitably adrenalin-filled and with smiles on our faces, we headed for the nearest pub to refuel for the next day…

 

It seems I’ve rambled a bit, so I’ve got to summarise Sunday. Hmm, what to say…Ian, Jess and Dig braved the “Graveyard”, with Dig show­ing off his excellent support strokes and using up at least four of his nine kayaking lives. Renos and I provided bank support as every muscle in my body was aching (and I’m a chicken) and Renos’s words were “why would anyone want to paddle that?” Later on, Renos showed his rock-finding skills during a swim, sitting quite contentedly in the middle of the river whilst we admired his talent.

The weekend was finished off with a zipwire across the river – great fun, should be a new sport – and a final swim from the weir to the “chipper”. It’s a testament to Steve that we were all cheerily throwing ourselves down the river without fear by the end of the course, confi­dent in our abilities to swim out of trouble.

It goes without saying that we all had an excellent time and came away with lots of useful knowledge (as well as a long shopping list). I‘d highly recommend this course to anyone who paddles.

 

Special thanks go to Cliff for organising the course, Steve (our excellent instructor), Rob for resisting the paddling temptation and looking after a poorly Molly, Christine for providing spag bol ingredients, Ian for cooking the spag bol and sorting out the bunk barn, Renos for snacks and wine and Dig for chatting up the older cyclist ladies in the barn next door (and introducing Renos to them as a stripper!?!)

 

Lois Young