Spring is back and girls are back on the water! A group of us headed over to the artificial river at Tournon St Martin (France) for the 2013 3-day, all-girl Freestyle camp.

See the video:   https://vimeo.com/63953596

A gathering of 23 ultra-keen gals, aged from 12 years old to 49 years young, bridging, all levels, all horizons.

At  8pm on Friday, the first ones drifted into the converted riverside mill on the Creuse, two freestylers from Pau in the South of France, followed by 5 members of the Voray club. At 9pm, May (13yrs) and her mum took their place around the table,  having set off  from Brittany in the snow. Much later in the evening, paddlers from clubs at Saint Sauraint, Bezon and Paris swelled the group, weary from their week and a five-hour drive.

Saturday morning after breakfast : first stop Wonderland Shop to for a freestyle kayak fitting session. Accessorizing our freestyle kayaks  with  helmets, freestyle paddles, balaclavas (yep, it was cold!), nose clips, we were all equipped from head to toe. Cheers, Jay ! So, the paddling can begin.  We all slip onto the river, some for the first time in such small boats. Bravo to Lucie from a Paris club (FPK) ; for her, it’s the first time in a freestyle boat and the first time in white water.

The gaggle of 23 paddlers is let loose onto the artificial river, and miracle, nobody gets to swim !

After an hour of boating, we all go for it. Some are in the wave with guidance from Marlène, others work on their roll under Jay’s expert eye.

On the first afternoon, the participants are divided into two new groups.

At the end of the day, first impressions :

“That wave is hot!”

“That wave is cold!”

“That wave is awesome”

“Got awful wet!”

And in the evening, we watched the video of our achievements ! Position in the wave, side surf, edging,  cartwheel, loop, Space Godzilla  -  all the moves or attempts are observed and analyzed by Jerome. The review leaves the girls totally psyched-up for the next day’s sessions “tomorrow I’m gonna rip it up in that wave” . Next day however, our luck is down ;  the river has swelled and drowned out our wave. No problem, we move up to another feature at the beginning of the white water course. New sensations for some of the girls and a chance to improve their 360 spin for some, while others work on their blunt.

Wave review :

“That wave is the business”

“what a wave”

“doing hole moves in a wave is quite a challenge”

“that wave is like going the wrong way down a fast-moving conveyor belt”

“we’re all washed out !”

Jay’s good-night joke “ tomorrow, wake up and work out”.

But, it’s no joke, what he has in mind is a frisky morning run.

At 8.30, the young’uns are ready (and the mums) but we’re missing five thirty-somethings…….. where are they ? Marlène goes up to the bedrooms and shakes them out of their beds. OK, so we just put the clocks forward an hour …. GET UP ! “I forgot my trainers” my pajamas don’t match my trainers”. Too bad, we’re off for a jog around the French countryside.

The third and final day starts off   …. neither in a hole nor in a wave …….. but with a match of kayak polo, while Jay and Marlene make changes to the shape of the bed of the artificial river.

The sluice gate is opened and – miracle !  a beautiful hole forms. The girls are giving their best for this final day ; some surf the wave at the top of the course, others rinse their sinuses with roll practice in calm or fast water.

Review on these three crazy freestyle days :

-        After their first few strokes, girls who had never been inI a freestyle boat run the white water course smoothly, ferryboat the froth and roll.

-        The youngest ones, 12 and 13 years old, roll and surf the froth.

-        The more experienced, from 14 years old to thirty-somethings, manage a neat 360, cartwheels, and some even a loop.

I had never  been on a camp with such a wide ‘variety’ of paddlers : the girls came from many kayaking backgrounds (freestyle, slalom, sea kayaking, play boating) levels were very different and the ages spanned generations.

In and out of the water, we enjoyed each other’s company and helped out. The more advanced young’uns advised ‘mums’ in the fast water. When one girl swam, four paddled to help.

It was this diversity that made the camp so special : discussions were rich and emotions intense. I’m thrilled with the results and I’m definitely up for organizing the next camp; 2014, here we come !




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