Article by Ben Higson
I have been asked countless times questions like how did you start kayaking? How long have you been kayaking? what is your favourite boat? Well let me answer them.
I first went in a boat when I was just 9 months old. My mum was a Welsh Team slalom paddler and her and her friend took me down the Wye in an open canoe. I had a few more goes at different events, but properly went in on my own when I was 4.
I went to Llandysul river festival when I was 5 and did my first slalom. This was a great way for me to start. The Div 4 race was on the river that year, and it was quite high water, so my mum paddled along side of me.
The following year we also went to France with Llandysul Paddlers so I went down my first big white water on an inflatable holding on to my mum’s shoulders.
I also did the 2 day trip on the Ardeche (part in a kayak and part in a canoe) and spent my first night in a hammock. The following year I paddled in the Alps.
When I was only 8 years old I discovered a playboat. It involved doing cool tricks which in my eyes was one million times more fun that going through poles. On another summer trip to France, I was helped to surf my first wave. At the 2013 CIWW paddle fest I tried out a Jackson Shooting Star I remember trying to get it on its ends which didn’t turn out well if I was honest. From that point onwards the only thing I wanted for my birthday was a Jackson Shooting Star in either blue or yellow.
My mum made a deal with me where when I could roll she would get me one. It was almost my birthday and I was almost getting my roll. My mum dragged me to a cold winter series slalom at Shepperton weir with some training then a friendly competition. At prize giving they brought out a yellow shooting star and a birthday cake! That night I remember sleeping in it as well as watching star wars in it and practising my hip flick on the living room floor. A couple of days later on my 9th birthday was the weekly pool session. On my first try I rolled which led me straight to the conclusion that the Shooting Star is the best boat ever. Even today I still agree with. That year I started competing in Freestyle and 11 months later was surfing Hurley as part of SAS Hurley where I got to meet so many of my “heroes”. Nick Troutman came up to me on the water and encouraged me during my Jam session.
I have a lot of memories in my 10 years of kayaking but there are some I just won’t forget; my first time cap sizing outside was at Ogmore doing slalom training. I don’t have much to say about it ,but I just remembered that. I remember my first time at Holme Pierrepoint (HPP) when Claire O’Hara took me down the course for the first time.
I remember my first ever McNasty which I can’t deny, I was watching back the footage for the next month.
Last year I was really luck to do an expedition down the River Magpie in Canada. I was the only British person and didn’t know anyone before I went and came away with some true friends. We flew in by helicopter to do the descent. It was challenging, tiring, I had more bites that I ever want to experience again, but I learn so much about teamwork, about myself, expedition skills and I will always remember it as one of the most unique experiences of my life. Afterwards I paddled with a couple of my new friends on the Ottawa.
Last Easter I went on an exchange to Spain, followed by a training camp with Salt Kayak club (and learnt some Catalan). Last Summer I competed at the ICF World Freestyle Championships in Spain and was part of a 3 week Summer camp with burners where I paddled in HPP, Germany, Austria, France and Spain.