After the raging success of the Palm team tour of the UK last winter, the team travelled out to Galway Fest to join the Irish for some craic on and off the water. Here’s a rundown of what we got up to.

Day one

Friday was action-packed full of events with downriver freestyle in the morning. This replaced the usual Tuam hole freestyle event due to low water levels which meant that loops were replaced with macho moves and some out-of-boat experiences to please the crowd. We’re looking at you Dan Rea-Dickins. I managed to come away with third place and David McClure took the win in the expert men’s class.

Straight after the freestyle saw another new event for Galway Fest – the Palm Big Balls race. We put together ‘Team Plam’ which included myself, Sam Clegg, Jonah, Heath and Kalob. The goal was simple, get your ball from the top of the river to the bottom and into the goal. Unfortunately, we became easy targets for some sabotage from the other teams and our ball never quite made it into the goal, despite our best efforts.

Jonah Morgan for Team Palm – photo Jack Ledwith

Another new event topped off Friday’s events – the Double Drop freestyle expression session. This was arguably the most eagerly anticipated event of the weekend. The aim of the game was simple; to be the most creative from start to finish. You can throw anything you like in any kayak of your choice. There were creek boats, half slices, playboats, you name it throwing all sorts of shapes down the two consecutive weir drops. However, the Nova seemed to be the weapon of choice if you’re looking for ultimate fun and creativity. We had a Palm team sweep with David and I winning our classes and Sam Clegg coming in hot in third in the Rewind.

Ben Higson with some Double Drop style – photo Jonah Morgan

Day two

Sadly, there wasn’t dam release for the Boulisce downriver race so this got replaced with a time trial down the Corrib river. I found the medium Dagger Rewind and VE Flyte combination fast enough to take third place before running back up to the top to go again in the team race. We took advantage of Andy Kettlewell aka Chips’ slalom background to draft him for lots of the way down but yet again we seemed an easy target at the bottom where about fifty paddlers who had raced before us popped our decks and threw us into the water before the finish line. It was all smiles … eventually.

Cheesy Chips post team race – photo Jack Ledwith

Day three

The final day of Galway Fest is always a slower start to allow for those who won the party the night before to prepare for another action-packed day of kayaking (and more partying). Sunday started off with a mass start and finished with a boater-X. We only had one podium in the boater-X being Lucien who placed second. Some of our team paddlers *cough David cough* would like to claim sabotage but it may just be a case of that classic Irish luck. 

Getting ahead in the heats – photo Jack Ledwith

Final results

After a long weekend of raving … I mean racing! It was time to find out the final results. Did Lucien and I do enough to hold onto our crowns from last year? Lucien did just that and I came second to the wonderful Aoife Hanrahan who paddled outstandingly all weekend.

I’d like to finish this Galway Fest roundup with a huge thank you to Barry, Aoife and the many volunteers who put in countless hours to make this event happen. It’s by far one of the most fun, inclusive, all-round events in the world and I’d highly recommend it to anyone that hasn’t gone before. Also, a shoutout to Palm for being one of the headline sponsors; donating huge amounts of kit and VE paddles to the winners of mainly the junior and intermediate classes to give them a kickstart on their way to becoming experts. It’s yet another reason why I love being a part of these brands.

Overall winners – photo Jack Ledwith