Slippery when wet... trying out Olympic sports in Lea Valley

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The gang while still smiling on dry land
At various points in my life, I have lived near large bodies of water. Growing up, the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario were places to windsurf, jet ski, and go for a swim.  I have been scuba diving off of on Cape Cod. One summer, I lived on the Alaskan Coast where we went kayaking and had many camp fires.  The first 3 years in London, my flat overlooked the Thames. Water naturally calms me and I am drawn to it.  I was thrilled when SpoGo invited me and several other female fitness bloggers to try kayaking and white water rafting at the Lea Valley White Water Centre (and Olympic Venue).

It was a bit chilly that morning so I brought many layers. The train ride was about 20 minutes from Liverpool Street Station and then a 15-20 walk to the venue. I ended up following several groups of lads as this activity seems to be very popular for stag do's. The park is huge and the building still shiny and new.  We received a briefing on what we were doing for the day and the started suiting up.  If you bring a bunch of girls, remember to set aside plenty of time to change. Most of us had a hard time wriggling our way into the wet suits as they aren't something you wear every day, we also had to remove all jewelry (for safety & not to lose anything) or be subjected to duct tape.  Free lockers are provided to leave your things but remember to bring your own towel.
Tess, Jen, and Sophia

Me post flip. There should be a video out there
 of this too. Where I scream 'potato'
We started off with kayaking in a shallower end of the pond. Some of our group were seemingly fearless and/ experienced. Some of the group were not very confident swimmers.  We each were assigned a blue or yellow helmet based on which of these two groups we fell into. It helped the instructor keep an eye on us. The lesson had a few lessons on basic paddling and turning. We also played some games to help us practice what we had learned. It was a lot of fun because we were quite a competitive group!  The wind made it a bit harder as we kept getting blown back into one end of the pond.  At least we were all warm in our wet suits.

Before we got out of the kayaks for a quick cup of coffee, our instructor offered us a chance to flip out of our kayaks under water. Four of us (myself, Fit Bits, Eclectic Cake, and Lucy On The Lookout) all took him up on it and knowingly volunteered to plunge into the pond. It was very cold but when in Rome, you might as well get the full experience.

One quick comfort break (if 15 min to get into and out of a wet wet suit is quick) and then we moved onto the white water rafting. Our instructor was Slovakian and works at the watersports centre 8 months out of the year. He said England has one of the longer rafting seasons.  We had a lot of tuition on land about out how to sit properly, how to hold the paddle, and what to do if someone falls out of the boat.  The wind and damp garments made the land session seem to take forever. We then got into the water to practice rowing as a team.  It was tough to get synchronized as we were different heights and strengths.
Just to look cool buy doing a 'bell' before
landing in the water

We had one last test to pass before heading on the rafting course. We all had to jump into the end of the course (rapids still present) and then swim to the side and climb out.  Yes it looked scary, but we each had a life preserver on and there were lots of people around with ropes to save us if we were swept away.
I should point out that at each of these steps you can decide if your comfort level has been exceeded you can go back to dry land.  I decided I was all in (as long as I could decide where I sat in the raft).  Those who were ready to try out the (OLYMPIC) rafting course climbed back in the boat and we paddled up to the conveyor belt for our first run.

photo courtesy of SpoGo
With each run, we paddled more and more.  Our guide also ‘dunked’ us more and more by having us ‘surf’ the rapids (which means you sit there and are continuously doused with water).  After each run, there was again an opportunity to head back to land.  We were excellent paddlers and didn't flip our boat or lose any passengers.  (I must thank Tess from Fit Bits for saving me from falling out. Thanks Tess!)  It was a great challenge with lots of laughter outside most of our comfort zones.  

Few things I learned:
1.  I miss the water.  I have always felt comfortable and need to make an effort to get back to water sports somehow.  Or find another flat that overlooks the Thames.
2.  I can push myself to do more that I think (but need a bit of an audience/competition).
3.  Even though there are many fitness bloggers out there, we are all in search of something different from physical activity.
4.  There is always a chance of rain in England.

Victory! photo courtesy of SpoGo
If you feel inspired to get out on the water, it is Go Canoeing week through 1 June.  May is also National Watersports Month.  Finally, check out SpoGo for fitness and sport opportunities in your community.  They also have challenge boards (can you beat my 5 minute+ wall sit?) and review different sports on their blog.

Big thanks to SpoGo for inviting me along this this fun (and wet) day.  It was fantastic to connect with other sporty ladies and try something new. I am going to try and get some friends to go back this summer for another lesson.

1 comment:

  1. Great to read your blog and glad you enjoyed the day. We loved meeting you all and it was awesome that you really got stuck in, flipped the kayak and stuck with the rafting right through to the end. You're still champ of the Wall Squat Challenge :) Hopefully see you soon but we'll keep up with all you're doing on here till then!


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