I don’t know what we did, but somehow the rain gods where on our side for this trip to the UK. Which is just as well as I was in charge of showing David Sodomka around. David is one of the most well travelled kayakers out there, with high expectations and a reputation for telling it how it is. There would be no convincing this man that a Tryweryn day is what we have driven over from Europe for. 

We spontaneously decided to leave one day after New Years. We rallied hard through the night to arrive in time for the first storm hitting Dartmoor and immediately put onto the Dart river at the highest I had ever seen it. This river is a rollercoaster at these flows, big wave trains rolling throughout the Dartmoor hills and occasionally through the Dartmoor forest. A high water Dart lap is a mixed bag of hitting big friendly rapids, running away from some big holes and occasionally darting in between trees but the bag is always full of stoke. 

People change through the years, and happily as a short haired Dan Rea-Dickins contemplated if he wanted to get on at high water David didn’t recognise him from their time in India a decade earlier with long hair. ‘God if I’d known Dan was thinking not to go, I would definitely not have gone’ – David, grinning and about to start the second lap. 

The East Lyn was every bit as good as I remembered it and we came out of river and into the ocean on the biggest day I have ever seen at Lynmouth. David not having spent much time in the ocean was a hundred kilo screaming ball of Czech excitement. We all got trashed by the big crashing waves but one friend who will remain nameless but whose name rhymes with ‘harris’ got more trashed than the rest of us. Actually hitting one of the huge wooden harbour poles, be careful out there team, apparently those things can come out of nowhere.

We rallied to South Wales – many people David talked to turned up their noses at South Wales and I’m not quite sure why. They must not like clean waterfalls. 

The rain gods stayed on our side and we had an amazing time blasting down the rivers and flying off the waterfalls. I tried a few tricks off most of them. On Lady Falls I was aware there could possibly be a tree in the base of the pool but thought to myself ‘what are the actual chances?’ Well, it turns out the odds are one in seven if you’re lapping it and landing tricks at weird angles. I got completely stuffed under the tree at the base of the waterfall. I stayed calm and with some awkward effort wiggled free, straining a back muscle in the process but otherwise completely fine – unpleasant but not that bad. Breath-hold training makes a huge difference in these situations – you can read my blog on breath-holding here.

Arriving in North Wales I was excited. South Wales has some big sets and the South West has lots of rapids but only North Wales and Scotland manage to combine the two. 

Dropping into the Glen is always a special experience for me. It’s such a great, challenging section and we would have lost it were it not for the hard work of Save Our Rivers. Every lap down this river feels like a treat, a reminder that we can all stand together and protect the places that are important to us. 

Blasting down the Aberglaslyn with Palm’s Joe Rea-Dickins was a treat as he knew exactly where to go. And the Afon Lledr proved once again my favourite way to start the day, for whatever reason I always find myself above that sick, long top rapid in the morning and feeling a little bit cold and sleepy. The Pont-y-Pant rapid soon wakes you up though!

Throughout our UK trip, I couldn’t help but fantasise about getting David on the Mawddach river. It needs a good chunk of rain to fall at the right place, but when it’s running it is such a beautiful time on the river. Lo and behold, on David’s last day in the UK we blasted down the Mawddach in the morning, big smiles, lots of sick lines and a beautiful ending to a short but brilliant first trip to the UK for David. He’s hooked now and wants to come back as soon as possible!

This trip was a reminder of just how good the UK can be when the getting’s good. Here’s a list of our eight-day trip to the UK, multiple laps where had on most of these sections: Dart, East Lyn,  Mellte, Nedd Fechan, Lady Falls, Conwy, Glaslyn, Lledr, Mawddach. Wishing everyone a sick winter and hoping the rain gods are on your side! – Bren