Leighton Paddlers make a splash in Norwich

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At the Norwich Hasler on the 19th May - a canoe racing event for clubs across eastern England - the Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club team competed against the best the region has to offer.

The waves gently lapped against the side of my boat, causing it to rock in the clear waters of Norwich’s River Yare. Waiting for the start is the most anxious part of a race: flat water kayaks are like bicycles - forward motion brings stability. A fellow paddler lifted our spirits: “the quicker we can get this race done, the sooner we can get back and have a nice cup of tea”.

I recently started the sport as a way to improve fitness post-lockdown - so am in the lowest ability-grouped ‘division’. Paddling is a lot of fun, easy to get started but difficult to master; time to test recent training in the real world.

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“Ready-go!” The starter’s rapid command took me by surprise. I dug my paddle in, and smashed through the water. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my fellow division racers do the same. It took a while for the chaos and noise of the start to settle down, but I soon found my rhythm, along with the surprise of being in joint-first!

Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club U-14s leading their raceLeighton Buzzard Canoe Club U-14s leading their race
Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club U-14s leading their race

Confidence buoyed, I kept the pace up for the first kilometre of open river. By this point, I could see my companion inching ahead, gliding like a maglev train, whilst I huffed and puffed like Stephenson’s rocket. She was about a third of my age and half my weight, and it felt a little unfair as she opened up a gap between us.

I barrelled on to the turning point of the race, annoyed to lose second place along the way. A beautiful day just begged to be stopped and enjoyed, but I was in tunnel vision mode. As we reached the final corner, my hopes of regaining second had faded, but suddenly I had to react to a new threat. I could hear another paddler close behind me…I could not let this slip! Drawing on last reserves of strength, and responding to the crowd: “she’s behind you”, I lurched over the line. Phew!

Overall, mine was one of several medals won by Leighton Buzzard on the day, with a strong showing in the U-14 category, including a clean-sweep of the ‘A’ class race. Well done to all those who took part.

Interested in joining a friendly and fun club? We run ‘Come and Try’ and training courses throughout summer from ages 9 and up - please email [email protected] or see lbcc.org.uk for details.