Slalom Inspires – Wales 2019

Slalom inspires, at the end of April, was one of the best experiences of my canoeing life. Despite taking place in Wales, at the midst of Storm Hannah and her 50 mph winds, it was still a fun experience. On the first morning, the first thing we did was a team building exercise, where we got into our groups, and had to run around the Graveyard course, finding hidden flags using a map, trying to figure out a secret word. Due to the high rain fall, the damn wasn’t able to be opened to fill the white water course, in case the river flooded. So instead, for our first water session, we went to Bala Lake, which was very choppy and exciting in the wind. If we had tried to paddle out into the lake, we would have been blown to the other end in a second, so we played it safe and paddled in a sheltered corner, just up the road. In our groups, we warmed up (it was extremely cold!) and practised the basic strokes which would make our paddling technique better. Even in my role as a coach, I still learned lots, as we were all helping each other improve. At the end of our session, we jumped off the water, ready to get back to the first workshop of the weekend. 

Back at the workshop, Jenna Downing (in line skating world champion) was giving a talk about a different sport, roller skating. Surprisingly there were many similarities between the two. She talked about how when she first started, she was told she couldn’t skate because she was a girl. But she didn’t give up. She now has her own skate brand, and does workshops all over the country, and it really inspired us to get back on the water and show everyone what we were capable of! 

Our second session was on Bala Mill, which was a nice level, due to all the flood water. It was great seeing all girls of different ages having fun on the water with their coaches. Lizzie Neave and Kimberly Woods were just two of the high profile names there! It was great being able to paddle on some different water, and watch everyone’s confidence improve in just a short space of time. 

Afterwards, a work shop took place about sports nutrition and it really helped to understand what we were eating, and how we could improve our diets to help our racing ability. The information pack was a great help, so we could take it home and try the recipes for ourselves.

That evening, we all went out for a meal in Bala town centre, and it was a nice opportunity to get to know everyone. Not only was it an inspiring weekend, but also a chance to make new friends.

The weather was still trying to make it miserable for us all on Saturday night, but by Sunday morning it was clear, with no rain! We all needed an early start to drive to the new location for the day, at Plas y Brenin, which was about 40 minutesaway. When we arrived, we were given a short talk on the days events, which included climbing, and paddle boarding on the lake. The first water session was amazing! The lake, within Snowdonia National park, was stunning, surrounded by mountains, covered in snow at the top. It just goes to show how cold it was! Everyone was put in pairs for the open boat paddling, and a course was set on the small waves below the lake. Every run was timed, and it was a fun competition. After a lot of screaming and laughing, we walked up the lake, to jump onto some paddle boards, and some people tried to do headstands on them! 

As the first session drew to a close, we all got changed and waited, ready for our next workshop which was about body image, before finishing with climbing in the afternoon. 

Slalom Inspires really did inspire us to persevere and be the best we can be. Even the volunteers went home with a smile on their faces and we are all looking forward to the next event in Nottingham!

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Words – Izzy Mockett

Images – Kim Jones