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Galway Fest - Balto having a Blast

So after travelling down to spectate for Galway Fest in 2019 we instantly knew we had to take part in 2020.

We waited excitedly, watching the Galway fest Facebook page waiting for news on tickets. Primed for the countdown waiting for the ticket release we bagged 2 tickets for Chris & Brianna after telling our club members on our private page (Shhhh). We were delighted so many of you wanted to join us.

We were so glad that we got in fast as within 7 hours the Galway fest team updated that tickets had sold out in record time and we knew then that the weekend was going to be inspiring , fun and in a whole EPIC....the first weekend in March couldn't arrive quick enough.

So it was finally time and we woke bright and early Friday to travel to Tuam. We had visited the feature before and had a chance to try it out so it wasn't new to us. Cody & William were taking part in the freestyle event . Both Juniors at 13 years 364 days and 17 years old. They both did an awesome job representing the club and scored great marks for their first ever freestyle event.

However I think they also gained inspiration and tips from watching and being around other amazing freestylers. We stood on the bank for hours in awe of the amazing athetes and taking in the atmosphere as well as admiring all of the shiny custom carbon boats.

Inspired with the freestyle we travelled to Spiddal and rested our heads for the night we were buzzing to get going on the time trials on Saturday. Release of the dam form lake Boluisce....Now this was totally new to most the club with only a few having experienced this run before.

First up were the Expert men. Chris then Ian to run the mighty Boluisce at high release levels.

Both done amazing and got great times. The old dog was only 5 seconds behind the young pup. Both came off totally buzzing and keen to offer advise to our group of intermediate men who were up next . David Rothwell , David Curran & Dixie piled into the mini bus that did the short shuttle to the starting point at the camping grouds with the advice ringing in their ears . We all waited patiently on the bridge at the end of the run to cheer them on.

Thats when we realised that Galway Fest wasn't just about the paddling its about the friendships, the banter, the families, clubs, old friends, new friends "oh I know you from social media updates" its great to finally meet you handshakes. We experienced it at the likes of the Liffey descent and Paddlefest but it really hit home this weekend that the kayaking community are like a huge club ....and we have the privilege to be members.

So after proudly watching all the guys complete their runs we turned our attentions to our Juniors. Unfortunately William had to go home so we had only Cody and Brianna representing us. This is something we are hoping to change next year but Ill touch on that later.

Now mother nature decided to throw the paddlers and the spectators the wild card by uping the wind , dropping tempertures and throwing in some rain and hail. I wont was cold and wet. Very wet.

But we waited while Cody now 14 years exactly and Brianna 17 went up to the start.

Cody managed to get a trial run in with Ian who had taken him under the wing. This is something I love about the club - how everyone encourages and helps each other. Codys trial was first and he did incredibly well to come in at a respectful 11th out of all the junior boys with an amazing time.

So then it was the girls turn. Now this was hard because over the past 12 months or more I have grown to know the paddlers and families of Briannas "competitors". There is amazing bond that only got better between all juniors male & female as the weekend progressed and I in turn have gained a few people who I could hopefully refer as "friends" through my daughters paddling so I cheered them on. Yes I wanted my daughter to do well but these kids are off their screens, outdoors, exploring their talents and I am a firm believer regardless of the sport that should be a celebration in its own right. It truly was a joy to watch.

So back to the girls and they all did amazingly well and we couldn't call the results. Live results came in and we thought Brianna had came 2nd ...we were delighted for her and she was so happy. Her confidence was boosted but later that evening after drying out from a big wave that decided to soak me through , after trying so hard to stay as dry as possible we got a text to check the results and were so happy for Brianna in that she had in fact secured first place in her time trials .

So off she went with her dad Chris to the after party ...where she prompty dumped him at the door to mingle with her friends :-) ....don't worry our adults kept dad company and mammy had warm Pjs, a bottle of wine and treats, silly movies and games with the younger 2 ....who I have to say were amazingly patient all weekend while we supported the club members but also met old / new friends in the form of other paddlers younger siblings who I am sure we be watching at the same event in years to come.

So onto day 3 - Galway city centre. Boater X - All from day 2 bar Dixie who had an injury and had to get home early were taking part.

Now as a mum I looked at the stretch of river and heard what they had to do and needed a glass from the bottle I had the night before. The river was up - the water was high, My baby (and the hubby ) were going on that. As a club we scouted the river, others offered advice. Again a testimony on the kayaking fraternity....your never alone . Even in competition.

Chris was first up and with the rush of the water it was a challneg to hit the line required at the marker. Thewaves after the bridge where taller than he was sitting in the boat. He didn't give in and wasn't going to let the flow win but he admits it was hard work especially battling others for a position and slipping up a place at the marker.

So the turn of the guys ...the younger men seemed to love this. All managed to have a great run. Which cheered a certain David up :D

Unfortunately our Juniors found it tough going both getting pushed under the bridge before completing the course. Brianna getting distracted by a capsize meant she was pushed too much to the flow of the river before she managed to get across and Cody getting pinned against the bridge wall after being pushed into a bad line ....but thats ok. We will learn from this and we take from this and we move on !

Its great that the younger ones realise that you never own the river ...and even the best can have a challenging paddling day. We were so proud they gave it a go and thats what matters .

So then after watching all the boater X we went to the prize giving .

Now I was tired - burnt the candle both ends and horse from shouting but really enjoyed the stories from the guest speaker whose name has gone from me but will come to me later....I am going to make a cardboard canoe and sell it for a pint of bitter !

Prize giving was amazing - WOW the sponsors treat the paddlers well. Well done Galway fest and I'd love to list your sponsors but I am afraid I would miss one.

Brianna was delighted with her little haul of a palm PFD , surf ears and a real funky hat by Dewerstone. We were very proud to watch her go get them!

So a final note ...we now know what Galway Fest is all about and kinda kicking ourselves ...why didnt we do it sooner. Chris and I chatted all the way home and just know we will have more club members ready to experience this next year - so hoping we can bring more of you along for the ride on 2021 .

We will be waiting patiently for ticket release again but watch out everyone as we intend to encourage even a bigger turn out from Balto KC !!!


for an amazing weekend !

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