When you hear of the largest universities kayaking event in the world you think of the National Student Rodeo in the UK. When you hear of the best kayaking student orientated event in the world you should be thinking of the Irish Kayaking Intervarsities. Now I'm not saying NSR isn't brilliant, because it is. I have fond memories from there of grown men in fish nets, people dressed as seagulls staying in character by 'kaw-ing' for two days straight and ten metre long funnels. The Irish University Kayaking Varsities is something more though ...
The Irish University Kayaking Varsities have taken place since the 70s. This year it was hosted by the Galway University Kayak Club, and the format was five events (whitewater, polo, freestyle, long distance and boater X) spread out of three days with two wild parties in between. The competitiveness shown by each university developed fierce comradery accompanied by huge banners and manic chanting. However the togetherness and fun collectively had by the seventeen-odd universities was something special. The five disciplines are hugely inclusive to all people who love paddlesports, originating from a whitewater and freestyle background I got to hang out and laugh with people from marathon, sprint and even polo (they're OK I guess). The colleges brought huge amounts of students, I believe Cork University brought over fifty people and every single person got the opportunity to compete in the long distance event.
The competitiveness of the varsities is only eclipsed by the competitiveness towards the 'Banter League' a proud tradition where colleges strive to complete as many wacky and weird challenges as they can in order to win the coveted crates of Dutch Gold. Upwards of fifty challenges range from fun little treasure hunts to legally questionable acts of nudity. I bore the brunt of the challenges on the Banter League due to my treacherous switch between the two most prestigious clubs in the competition. Galway got revenge in the form of head sized fruit (check the photo) being launched at me from all directions during the freestyle competition. It'll go down as one of my scariest experiences in a kayak ever.
The real winner in all this is the sport of kayaking. One experience of a Varsities weekend can keep people involved in their college club and give them an amazing pastime which will stick with them for a lifetime. The Varsities is not about winning or losing its about showing everything good about the sport and the people in it. All I can say is well done to the host college Galway this year and best of luck to Castlebar who are hosting next year. My University of Limerick have won the event a number of years in a row now and I am sure every other college is already looking forward to another epic weekend in a years time and the chance to beat Limerick.
You heard it here first: Irish Kayaking Intervarsities – best university kayaking event in the world. (GalwayFest sponsored by Palm and Dagger is next up this weekend, see you there!)
Photo by Oisin McHugh – check him out on Facebook he can take a good photo