Another year spent ringing in the New Year in county Kerry, and further confirmation that it must be one of the greatest places to be for a paddler at that time of year. Almost every university kayaking club in Ireland makes the journey south to Ireland's Kingdom for a week of paddling and shenanigans. These University boaters are joined by a host of other paddlers from around Ireland to create a festival atmosphere. For those in the UK, think of a week long NSR but with creek boating and nice accommodation. UK Resident boaters James Smith, Dan Rea-Dickens and Louise Fingleton decided to see what the hype was all about this year and needless to say they were not disappointed.
Kerry and Cork has the highest mountains in Ireland so the area naturally produces some of the best creeking Ireland has to offer. Tough rivers like the Flesk and Gaddagh keep the advanced boaters happy but there are many easier rivers for any level of paddler to enjoy. If we get a completely dry week which has not happened for a number of years, Kerry hosts some of the best surf beaches in Ireland.
A couple hundred boaters congregate on a small town by the name of Glenbeigh and rent houses here, the reason for this is that it is within walking distance of the legendary Ross Inn pub. A premises with seemingly bottomless leniency to the antics of whitewater paddlers. The nightly walks there with everybody in high spirits seem like a pilgrimage to a sacred place. You really just have to experience it for yourself.
This year it was decided by myself and the rest of the Irish Whitewater Race League organizers that we would incorporate the Colm Johnson Memorial Flesk Extreme Race into the Kerry New Years Festival. This is the hardest and most exclusive race in the League. We spent days checking and rechecking forecasts hoping that we would be able to run the event. The rain absolutely pounded down the night before flooding the whole region and a nice large gathering was found at the put in of the river in the morning. The problem was now was that the river had rocketed too high to safely run the full race. We instead ran a shorter version on a very fun section at the start. Here are the results: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aioo4O15kdw3dExtZExkejJEcDdIRW9nbWpWa0F6Smc&usp=sharing#gid=0 Needless to say, after the race concluded we had a awesome run down the full river at a big and bouncy level! Special mention to 16 year old Robert Kierans who ran it for the first time and styled everything!
Besides the river Flesk there are many other classic rivers in the region to get done and we were fortunate to paddle with the Kerry river Guru that is David Glasswell. Here is a photo taken by Dan Rea-Dickens of the main falls of the Owengar River. Since returning to my hometown of Galway I was also recently able to check out a freestyle feature on our home run the Boluisce River. It has not been working very frequently in past years but we were shocked by how good of a feature it actually is! The focus lately has been predominantly on freestyle as Irish Team Trials are scheduled to take place in the next 10 days, some great athletes will be there this year and it should be a great competition.
Well that's all for now, thanks to Palm as always for keeping me warm and comfortable in the cold waters. Andrew : )