Lee Valley Kayak Cross Junior, U23 and Senior Selection Races 31st March/1st April

A report on the 2 days of racing by shop race snake Callum Walling.

Sunday 31st March:

Consisted of a practice session in the morning where the ramp and gates were available to use, this was useful as it enabled me to get a feel of the format and style of the racing. As an unsupported (not being on a UK training squad) paddler, I have very little access to the kayak cross poles so learning the technique of negotiating the inflatable upstream poles is quite difficult, but being able to paddle the course and try some upstream poles out before the race began was very helpful. The upstream technique in the new discipline is as follows: you approach the pole almost parallel to it, sweep and force the tail of the boat down to then get your arm under the pole and swing round with the pole between your arm and body.

The race commenced in the early afternoon with a time trial to seed the paddlers for the head-to-head races later in the day. The course consisted of the initial start off the ramp, down the top straight into the roll zone. The boat had to be completely up-side down through the roll zone otherwise a fault was incurred which added a penalty to your score. The first upstream was immediately after the roll zone, followed by a downstream gate right before the footbridge. A staggered sequence of two downstream gates on the main wave section came next, followed by the second upstream on the back straight. The final sprint sent the paddlers straight down the next couple of sections and brought the course to a finish after the last big drop (Boom).

Monday 1st April:

The format for this day was the same as Sunday afternoon with a time trial followed by head-to-head races in the morning and the same in the afternoon. My first time trial was good and I finished 8th overall. This put me into a good position for the head-to-heads where I finished 2nd in the B Final. The afternoon finished off the two days racing and was the deciding race in which the GB Junior, U23 and Senior Kayak Cross teams were confirmed and will allow the paddlers to compete at top level races through the summer months.


I was paddling a Spade Kayaks Barracuda, with carbon outfitting from Gui Gui, and throughout the two days of racing I was very happy with the boat and even when I’d make a small error such as not having a great angle when launching off the ramp the generous nose rocker of the Barracuda ensured that I still managed to get just enough skip off of the water to maintain a decent position into the start of the course.

I can comfortably say that, in my opinion, the Barracuda ranks right up there with the other Kayak Cross boats I have tried so far. Where some of the other kayak Cross boats are designed as out and out race boats, the Barracuda is also designed to be manageable and controllable, which makes it a fun boat for paddling rivers too.

The paddle I was using was the Dollo Paddles Devil Creek which is a whitewater/kayak cross paddle. This was a recent purchase for me because the rules for kayak cross dictate you must have a paddle with blade edges that are 5mm thick, so my ordinary slalom paddle with its aluminium tips in the ends of each blade would not be legal.

As with the boat, I was super impressed with the paddle. It is light and has a good catch whilst being tough enough to withstand the aggressive paddling style and paddler-to-paddler action during the head-to-head racing. Being lightweight and strong the Devil Creek is not only a good paddle for Kayak Cross but also fantastic for using as a whitewater paddle.


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