“You’re ready for level 3 assessment” he says. “It will be a breeze” he says.
No sane person would get up this early on a Sunday morning to be at Clashganny, Kilkenny at 9:00am for a 9:30 start. It was a choice between a warm bed and a cold river and I chose cold river. Next time, choose the bed.
In the previous weeks Chris did help us perfect our meagre L3 skills but like all test you are never convinced you have done enough to go the distance but, you only live once so here goes nothing.
This early October Sunday, some rain was forecast but someone smiled down on us as the showers held off for the day, now if only we had a little global warming, yes that was cold making me shiver not fear. There, 6 level 3 hopefuls, waiting at the Barrows edge for our chance to impress and make Chris proud. We were joined by Mark our assessor, his sidekick, Reuben
, to log some L3 instructor assessment hours and Chris. Jees! He must be a sucker for punishment, following along to see how good, or bad we are.
After some quick introductions it was time. With a band of hungry scouts emerging from their tents on one side of us ready to burn breakfast and groups of trainee kayakers on the other side, our assessment began. Mark began by putting us at our ease, no pressure but just to enjoy ourselves. After all it was only our lives depended on our competence.
First test on the water was the first weir. Orders were to get down without instruction. So, with one member assessing the route to take, we all then followed suit, exited the flow stage left and regrouped for our next instruction. Make our way to weir two and descend. Now this we didn’t excel. We could have done this better, but it was what it was and now it was time to show off out ferry gliding expertise. We all covered ourselves well enough and nobody drowned which helps. Apparently?
Next, it was on to the dreaded level 5 rapids, though today they were more like a bad trickle from a faulty tap. Levels were low, and the rocks were waiting for us to rip our hulls open and take us to Davy Jones locker. No, not related, and I don’t have any pull with him. We were asked to go down the rapids in a predetermined order, make it to the big boulder on river right and hide behind it. Then over to river left, our out point, and some well needed refreshments on the river bank. Now we only had to do that three more times in three different ways, Follow the leader, Leapfrog and some other way that I can’t remember (Well I hit my head on the riverbed later and that’s my excuse).
Well, we made those rapids our bitches and while there may have been room for improvement for our procedures we all made it safely down. If nothing else, it was the fun we all look forward to on these white water runs.
Thankfully it was towards the end of the session that our in-water skills were tested. The roll was to be checked in moving water just below the rapids. So not still water then. Think of your favourite expletive because that’s what was going through my mind. Rolling is not my strongest discipline and I had never succeeded in moving water before, in fact I had rarely succeeded rolling in cold water of any sort and if the truth be really known, what roll?
Name called, it was my turn to paddle into the flow, deep breath taken because you will get to do that in the real world and over I went. Dam! Too rushed and I only came up part way and back under I went. Headbanging the river bed my rescue buddy came up beside me and at least I passed the T rescue part of the test with flying colours. Ah well, the water wasn’t that cold but not sure my comrades felt the same. Chance number 2 arrived and I was a lot more relaxed about it. Over I went and nailed it.
Next up was the X rescue so paired off again, over we go and out of the kayak to be rescued by our partner who is going to expertly empty, right the kayak and help me back in but boy was the water deep, coming right up to my knees. Well I was crouched down for affect. I didn’t want Mark to think I was faking it by doing it in shallow water.
Suitably knackered it was time to head back along some calm water to dry land, but nooooo! There was one last skill to test. The hang n draw. Well, let’s just say there is something some of us can improve on and by some of us I mean all of us. No names but you/we know who you/we all are.
Back at the carpark, I’m not sure I had the energy to get out and I would have been happy to stay there but our final instruction was to be out, packed and dressed in fifteen minutes. Sounds like the army. Results in we all passed but were probably too tired to celebrate.
A big thanks to Mark for the assessment and not making it too much like the Leaving Cert. To Ruben, I will someday be able to scull like you but not today. To Chris, we made you proud, I hope? your first level 3 group victors in the Balto Kayak Club. And finally, to all my comrades in arms, no pressure but now it’s on to level 4.