Dartmoor local Sam Waites joined us on our This is Creeking week in the Western highlands. Here’s what he thought of his experience with New Wave.
I’ve just returned from a fantastic week on the New Wave Coaching ‘This is Creeking’ Course with New Wave Kayaking. Not only has this course given me an insight in to Steep Creeking, it’s given me an insatiable appetite for Scottish white water kayaking in general!
So what made this week so special for me?
I had paddled throughout both North and South Wales, and was a Dartmoor local frequently kayaking the classic runs of the Dart and Erme during the winter months. I booked this course with New Wave Kayaking to suit my aspirations of widening my paddling experience and to give me a taster of paddling in a steeper environment. After plenty of indecisiveness (a common trait within paddlers for sure), multiple email discussions with Ross, holiday negotiations with both work and partner I took the plunge and booked on. I’m so glad that I did!
So what factors which combined together made it so special? Well firstly I’ve got to give it up to Ross, I’ve met many top paddling coaches but have yet to find someone as amicable and gregarious as Ross. He demonstrated excellent soft skills throughout demonstrating the subtle art of creating a supportive atmosphere on and off the river, combined with first class cutting edge coaching that developed my technical understanding of kayaking on a steeper environment.
We certainly pushed the grades throughout the week, and as a Southerner would possibly class some of the rapids as ‘Soft touch 5’ despite this I felt safe with Ross throughout as he expertly guided our group. His knowledge of Scottish Classics such as the Etive and Orchy was superb, but combined with his encyclopaedic-like knowledge of very special tributaries, such as the Allt a’ Chaorainn, meant this was the ideal introduction to Scottish boating. Throughout the week I always felt we were on the most suitable river with the current levels, and for me this was the advantage of going with New Wave over going with a bunch of mates; there was no faff time consulting guidebooks, getting lost with outdated OS maps or scraping down a river with low flows and more time spent boating!
Speaking of paddling with mates – I personally like my paddling banter served with a thick slice of humour and Ross certainly didn’t disappoint with his Leicester wit as sharp as his waterfall running skills! I must mention Ross’ coaching style. Coaching tips were given succinctly and to the point, with no end of constant encouragement, even if you swam a drop Ross could still find praise for something! I found Ross to be highly supportive, which is so crucial in a sport in which mental state of mind is critical for success. I’ve always been nervous about running big drops particularly when the view to bottom isn’t always clear. I know I don’t sound like the ideal candidate for a steep creeking course! Despite this, through gentle encouragement Ross had me not only running but actually enjoying slides and drops which I would have previously portaged. Unfortunately I didn’t quite have the bottle for the 18 foot Right Angle Falls on the Etive but hey you’ve got to have a highlight for next year to look forward to!
What else worked for me? Well simply the scenery and the rivers were stunning! The week really was a visual treat from paddling the quintessential Middle Etive with snow capped mountains all around to a gorge in the Glen Coe which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a National Geographic cover to a big volume Middle Orchy which awoke you both visually and physically!
Our accommodation and food for the week was perfectly suited for our needs. The comfortable cottage near to Fort William is within striking distance of all the main runs, and the hot tub with a great view of Ben Nevis meant post paddling beers tasted all the sweeter. The food was hearty and plentiful – I can’t remember the last paddling holiday where I took home a recipe to try at home, my Butterbean and Chorizo gratin is not a patch on Ross’s but I will keep trying! Ross is equally at home on the chopping board as he is loading a boof and throughout the week we were stocked up with homemade cakes and scones to devour after getting in off the water Is there no end to Ross’ talents? He is also highly skilled with a camera – and I’ve got a plentiful supply of Facebook profile pictures to keep me going for a while! Every evening after dinner we had an opportunity to review our day’s performance on video – this helped to consolidate the key learning points of the day and wet our appetite for improving on the following day. It’s difficult to summarise in words how all of these key factors which when combined created a truly special experience on Scotland’s beautiful rivers. I may see you on the next creeking course with New Wave!