This month saw another hugely successful Canoefest organised by the Open Canoe Association over the late spring bank holiday weekend. This annual event brings together around 200 canoeists from across the UK (and a few from further afield) and is a great opportunity to expand any open boater’s experience, knowledge and understanding of this branch of the sport.
Canoefest 2019 was held at Glyndyfrdwy on the banks of the River Dee (Afon Dyfrdwy) above Llangollen and apart from anything else was blessed with some good weather. Attendees were able to choose from a range of workshops and trips delivered by some of the top names in open canoeing which is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of the event. And for anyone who still thinks canoeing is all about wide brimmed hats and beards, think again! There were plenty of both in evidence but the programme included OC1 and OC2 white water workshops on the Tryweryn slalom course where hard hats were definitely the order of the day and Canadian freestyle sessions where the focus was on moving with grace and elegance on the water as well as more ‘traditional’ canoe sailing, poling and paddling skills.
Being a three-day event there’s plenty of scope for an evening programme and I particularly enjoyed a presentation given by Nick Dennis of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association on the development of Swift canoes – a Canadian brand of boats in a market were most so-called ‘canadian’ canoes are actually from the USA. And of course, socialising, networking and visiting the trade stands are all an equally important part of the event.
The highlight of the weekend for me however was the chance to lead a group paddling on the Dee through Trevor rocks and under Telford’s magnificent Pontcysyllte aqueduct on one day and then – and a new experience for me – another group on the canal paddling over the aqueduct on the next. Taking nervous paddlers on to their first white water experiences in a canoe and seeing them grow in confidence through the day is always a thrill and it proved equally so taking some who claimed not to be so good with heights on a journey across the Dee valley with only a low steel parapet separating the canal from the river over 100 feet below. It was, quite literally, for me a new high in paddlesport!