Another year of the Park Jam has come and gone, the kids I met for the first time have gotten older, taller and better at kayaking but best of all there are new faces popping up throughout the countries whitewater parks.
The first year’s tour was a bit of a rush to make it happen, nobody knew what to expect – especially me. It was received well and in the second year we ironed out some creases and the local kayakers knew what to expect. Now in its third year and with more help in planning and running the tour, I feel like it is growing into what we hoped it would be. A way to connect with the local kayaking community at each park and to inspire the next generation of mini senders.
Unfortunately, Nottingham’s stop was cancelled when heavy rain flooded the course but here are some of my takeaways from each of the stops on the tour:
Great vibe, atmosphere and crew of young kayakers, I especially enjoy the friendship between Kitt, Morgan and that crew. There is also a good mix of talented freestylers and aspiring river runners and the local shop Above and Below really gets behind the community here.
Every time I come here the kids I have met before improve so much and there are new kids all the time. Two junior girls Brogan and Sennah are turning into such amazing all-round kayakers, Ben Higson is on fire and the Croesy Kids are coming on in leaps and bounds. There was also a kid there this year called Jools who may be the most naturally talented freestyle kayaker I have ever seen. My favourite part of the day was watching Sennah try and front flip the Ripper.
Mile End Mill
My home stomping grounds, were I learned all of the early skills. It was never a very busy location for kids freestyling when I was growing up and I would often be surfing with people much older than myself or on my own. There is currently a really good crew of three or four young kayakers there and a kid named Ellis who I have high hopes for as he gets older. I really enjoy that there is a new kid, in a Pyranha kayak throwing down and progressing at the Mill and developing in a similar style to me on the water. Smooth but really powerful.
It seems like Teesside and the community that surrounds it rarely gets the attention that it deserves. If you venture over to this park you will find a brilliant set of rapids, an exceedingly friendly local crowd and some very talented youngsters. The short course at full flow also produces an astoundingly pushy and powerful rapid for a whitewater park and is really something special. I had an amazing time kayaking with the local community and especially enjoyed taking a kid called Jacob down the short course in a duo.
The smallest park by far but the one with the biggest stoke. I love the local community that Bruce Joliffe has been building here, a group of passionate kayakers that are unperturbed by cold weather and tricky surf features – they simply crack on and have fun. My highlight here was surfing the hole that the pumps make and encouraging everyone to give it a try. That thing is mean but there were a few game people that committed to going in and getting trashed.
To see the country’s whitewater parks surrounded by great communities of people and so many talented youngsters – the future of kayaking in the UK is very bright indeed. Big thanks to everyone that makes the Park Jam happen.
Catch you on the water next year! – Bren