AN ALPINE ADVENTURE

Matt Kelly writes:

At 9am, after driving along a spectacular mountain road with the rising sun, our mighty Laguna pulled majestically into the Vallouise campsite, nestled in the French Alps where the Gyr and the Onde coalesce into the Gyronde – because the French are creative like that.

Eighteen hours of driving, ferrying and snacking (along with the occasional unplanned excursion due to sub-optimal navigation) had landed our group of four in a well-known paddling hotspot around the Durance drainage. Better still, eight of Southampton Uni Canoe Club’s alumni and friends were there to meet us in the morning sunshine for breakfast, before planning out the first day’s paddling.

A gentle warmup on the Gyronde gave the three Alpine first-timers a flavour of what was to come. The slalom course was quickly followed up with a blast down the Onde, taking just fifteen minutes, with no trouble – things were starting well.

Our first evening, like those after it, found us taking in the stars and numerous stubby beers. Twelve hours in, I was already loving it – great food, spectacular continuous III-IV rapids, fine company and breathtaking scenery.

In the days that followed, our tour took in the Durance Gorge, the Middle Clarée, several runs of the Lower Guisanne, the Lower Guil, the Gyr, and countless runs of the Onde (well, when the get-off is pretty much in your campsite, you would too!). Rivers generally passed without incident, though the author took a couple of rolls on sections a little shallower than is ideal… See the video above for headcam evidence, along with a sphincter-loosening capsize on the incredible Gyr!

France was serving us well; our French car, however, was not. Eight days after our arrival, half way to the Ubaye, disaster struck:

A French mechanic echoed the diagnosis of our friend George: “Turbo… kaput.”

All was not lost. Though the last of our holiday companions were departing as our car gave up the ghost, we met four top guys who adopted their fellow British paddlers, taking us to some get-ons over our last couple of days in their van. Their kindness was repaid, as we spent a day and a half dislodging a pinned boat of theirs from the Gyr – long live the paddling community!

Sadly, our time was drawing to a close. To cut a long story short, our journey home took 36 hours, involving a taxi driver who firmly believed he was at leastas good as Colin McRae, an absolutely gutless Vauxhall Astra (though we at least convinced the hire company not to give us a Twingo) a second taxi driver who smelled awful and rudely got a flat tyre a mile away from the ferry port, a walk, a ferry ride, a couple of hours at Dover whilst they found a replacement for our hire car (which had been given away) and a weary arrival in Southampton, were John and I didn’t have any keys to any house anywhere in Southampton.

As for the car, boats and paddling gear…? We’ll let you know when they make it back to the UK.

A refresh and a blast from the past

If you’ve stumbled onto the site in its current state, you might not recognise it. It’s a new home for SUCC that I’ve build over the last 4 days – and filled with old SUCC stuff by Mr Sylvester.

Some features might be a bit iffy, and there’s no videos – but that’s to come! Any feedback is welcome, in the comments or to my email (which you should all have).

SUCC Win ‘Spirit of PGL’ at NSR 2011

Southampton takes home NSR’s Spirit of PGL Award

In a phenomenal weekend for Southampton University Canoe Club, the university’s 45 paddlers have impressed judges, organisers and other competitors so much they took home the National Student Rodeo’s “Spirit of PGL” award, securing a year’s sponsorship from PGL and Pyranha Kayaks.

PGL, who play an immense part in making the event happen each year, award the highly coveted prize to the university showing the best attitude, team spirit and enthusiasm for the event, which are the fundamentals of their business.

“It’s about making sure everyone around you has a great time, as well as just your own team.”

The world’s biggest kayak freestyle competition was the largest ever, at over 800 strong. SUCC brought an alternative take on the event’s “beach theme”: Instead of hula skirts and board shorts, we declared “Southampton Does D-Day”, sporting camo gear, aviator glasses and a huge number of toy guns. The distinctively dressed team, however, didn’t particularly make war on their rival Universities; they made them cups of tea, even offering round the occasional bacon sandwich, and made an impressive effort to socialise with other Universities in the competition.

The club’s generosity, the team spirit displayed in their en-masse dancing, the fearsome charging of the dance floor and wholehearted support of their team mates throughout the competition impressed everyone at the rodeo. Camo-Clad SUCC members tirelessly cheered on their friends (even at 8am) and spent hours helping boats and people out of the water from other Universities as well as their own. The NSR radio team were even heard to say:

“It’s gone a bit quiet – where’s Southampton gone?”

Southampton’s sponsorship will mean 6 brand new boats for the club this year, which they can buy at a discounted rate at the end of the year, as well as great deals on all the top-end manufacturer’s products. The University also picked up the “carnage” award for the best attitude to people capsizing and swimming in the cold waters of the Trent, earning them free Whitewater Safety and Rescue training for six people from Tom Parker Coaching.

Massive thanks for Leeds University Canoe Club, River Legacy and all other sponsors who made this fantastic event possible.

Pictures to follow soon.

Kayak or tank?

Southampton Uni Hit Scotland

Winning ‘The Spirit of PGL’ award at this year’s National Student Rodeo we bagged ourselves a year’s sponsorship with Pyranha and six shiny new boats! So whilst the boats make their way to us, here’s a splash of what we’ve been getting up to with a bit of classic Scotland:

After having a pretty scrapey season up to date, the words ‘SEVERE WEATHER WARNING’ were met with beaming smiles in the SUCC bunkhouse, as the club prepared for their week around Fort William. New members and older veterans of the club alike made the long drive north, and were rewarded from day one with fantastic levels on the Orchy. The water kept coming throughout the week, providing a healthy 6 pipe Upper Spean run to keep grins growing.

Of course water everywhere means two things for a university canoe club: first class boating and even better carnage. Some nailed lines, others failed lines. Most hucked up whilst the remainder mucked it up. But of course that’s all part of the fun of club boating and there were smiles all round for a great week that had an awesome vibe!

SUCC LOVE,

Southampton University Canoe Club

George Holmyard tackling Pattack falls Scotland 2011

Pyranha kayaks dominating the Road ahead

Pichee and the Molan taking the plunge

Valentines Dart [Pandora’s Box] 2011

Pandora’s Box: Facial Jargon

Many faces are often witnessed in this club, some good, some bad… and most ugly.

Exhibit A:Pandora’s Box

This wet slot has claimed many faces, but as you will see, none as colourful as the next few images.

Exhibit B: Looking cool

Matt Kelly

As much as it pains me to admit, this is a cool face. Determined, yet a deep understanding of the complicated mechanisms of life, perhaps gained from experiences in a remote country in a past existence… Or it’s just Matt “what a t**t” Kelly feeling good for getting a great line.

Exhibit C: Fear

George Holmyard

For some strange reason a recurring theme of fear has been witnessed on this feature, maybe people their faces a little too much?

Exhibit D: Distain

Will Swallow

The sort of distain that says “I cocked that up and I’m not happy about it”…”not one bit”.

Exhibit E: Fear?

Dave Goffe

Another Example of fear, yet this fear is a little odd looking.

Exhibit F: F***

Dan Crowley

This time, Distain turns into F***, “F***, I really cocked this up and I’m now heading to Pinsville…Sideways”.

Exhibit G: One Last Ugly breath

Chris Stevens

The High brace fails, what do you do?! Breathe deep my friend, breathe deep and fast.

Exhibit H: Ahhhh

George Godfrey

Looking at it will not make it go away!

Exhibit I: The Stiff Upper Lip

Andrew Sylvester

Remaining ever composed, Sylvester you maintain unparalleled river etiquette.

Exhibit J: Literal Relief

Huw Edwards

Huw feeling several pounds lighter here.