As always, the beginning of March marked one of the highlights of the student paddling year, with the now legendary National Student Rodeo once again arriving in town. Held every year at Nottingham's whitewater course, the NSR offers the chance for paddlers of all abilities to compete, paddle and party, for prizes, for honour, but most of all, for fun. Since its early years as a relatively small freestyle kayaking competition, the event has grown and now has more of a festival feel about it, with the kayaking now accompanied by music, commentary, games, coaching, and other activities taking place throughout the weekend. Each year university canoe clubs try their best to out do each other both on and off the water, and a mention must go to Birmingham Uni this year, who all dressed as clowns for the whole weekend, as well as bringing a homemade circus tent, custom decorated kayaks, and even a candy floss machine!
The biggest crowd pleaser events are probably the Old Skool and Topo duo events, notorious for carnage, but always spectacular. The Old Skool catergory featured a selection of kayaks from history (none below 3.5m in length), with neon kit galore, and was once again dominated (3rd time now?) by Dave Burne, whose combinations of pop outs and paddle twirls had the crowd going wild.
One of my personal highlights is always the women's novice final event, in which points are awarded primarily for crowd pleasing and originality. This year saw circus tricks, wipeouts galore, and a cheeky cider based bribe thrown to the judges mid ride.
Palm Equipment proudly support the safety team with the provision of throwbags, who once again did sterling work pulling countless paddlers and items of gear out of the course, allowing the event to run smoothly and safely for all.
At the end of the event each year, the grand prize of a custom made Dagger Kayak is awarded to the University who earn the most points overall. Below you'll see the full line up of custom NSR Kayaks, from 2009 to the present day. Which is your favourite? Congratulations to Nottingham Uni this year, who took home the victory and the boat, a spectacular spotty clown flavoured creation.
A huge thanks to all at Leeds Uni who put in so much work to this event every year, and to every student who came along and got involved with our excellent sport! To find out more about the event, and for a full results list visit www.nationalstudentrodeo.org.uk.