We run Pool Sessions every week Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at 9:45-10:45pm in the UL Sport Arena 50m Pool for beginners , intermediate and advanced paddlers. Come along any night and learn something new be it learn to capsize, roll or even learn some tricks. It is a great learning environment in warmth of the pool. See you there !!
The trip started as it went on, nineteen paddlers, waking at a ridiculous hour all in the name of the glorious sport we call kayaking. With the vehicles packed and ready to go we left from UL with excitement and encouraged by members who had gone before that it’s some of the best paddling we’ll ever do. The trip to the fabled Jesse James Bunkhouse consisted of a lot of sleeping and wondering why Welsh has such a lack of vowels in the language.
Upon arriving we were left loose on the rooms to choose our beds for the week. It was a tough competition where friendships ran thin and the scars resulting from it can still be seen today. After a quick trip to the local paddle shop and an early night we were truly settled in to our new surroundings in rural Wales. The next few mornings the early risers of ULKC were most definitely rewarded by what they found at the river.
The question of why go to Wales in the middle of winter was without a doubt answered by the wonder that is the River Dee. A river that suits all levels of paddling. One of the best places to practice beginner skills and has the famous ‘Serpent’s Tail’ rapid for those who wanted to push their paddling to the next level. As the week went on there were repeat trips to the Dee along with trips to the Afon Llugwy and the mighty Tryweryn. Amidst all this kayaking we took a rest day under the surface of the earth to an underground trampoline cavern. A scene to make our own trampoline club jealous.
It’s safe to say after a week in Wales nineteen paddlers were truly introduced to a ULKC international trip. After the long journey home, the tired but enthusiastic group cleaned the boats and made their best attempt to merge back into normal society. For many it was their first international kayak club trip but I doubt it will be their last.
2016 has definitely gotten a pretty bad name for itself for a lot of reasons, to the point that I’ve seen books solely about why it’s the worst year ever. For those of us lucky enough to be involved in ULKC though, apart from a lack of rain I think there were a lot of good memories created this year, ones that have me excited for what 2017 has to offer. As we’re about to close the door on the past year I wanted to throw together this defense of 2016, a year in review through my eyes.
If I somehow wrote up all that ULKC’s members managed to do in the past year it would be far too long to read with trips all over Ireland, the Alps and people competing in Germany and Scotland so instead I’ve chosen five moments that have stood out to me. Five times that I was reminded of all we get out of this club. So, in no particular order, and without further adieu…
When UL won the kayaking intervarsity’s in 2010 I doubt anyone expected that trophy to be staying as long as it has. During my first year in the club I remember seeing how much it meant to both current and past members to win and although I didn’t fully appreciate the effort that had gone in it was clear that this was something to be respected.
Thanks to preparation and training, last February we saw the current club do those who came before them proud again in trying to continue the legacy. With all our work it’s still always a tight race though and the final awards ceremony can be an nerve-wracking experience. When the work paid off and the results were announced it was emotional for some, relieving for others and isn’t a moment those who competed with us will forget soon. For me it made me very proud to see our members commitment pay off and have them rewarded for it.
- Island Camping Trip
This one might just be the Scout in me talking but our now annual island camping trip has become a highlight for me. 25 of us left the technology aside, paddled out, cooked on an open fire, sang songs and slept under the stars. It’s always nice to introduce the less outdoorsy to this kind of trip and I love seeing how easily people bond while there. As long as we’re as blessed with the weather next year it’s not one to be missed.
- 40th Anniversary Weekend
So much to say here. Seeing 40 years worth of the clubs legacy makers return and meet old friends again. Watching over 100 people make their way down Castleconnell, some of whom hadn’t paddled in years. Getting to be a part of such a well planned ball that evening and speaking to the captains who led the club to where it is now and formally thank them all together. Everyone got something from the weekend with multiple people getting back into kayaking because of it and many meeting old friends again. For me though I would describe it as inspirational. Inspirational to see such a big event pulled off so professionally and inspirational to speak to the people who drove the club to being as renowned as it is. Personally awarding the mementos to the captains is a memory that will stick with me for some time.
- Alps – The Middle Guil
Running the Middle Guil was the highlight of the advanced runs in this year’s Alps trip for me. It was the run that brought together everything the group had been learning and provided a good test of peer paddling for everyone. In the group I saw people take on responsibility within the group, take everything slowly and safely as they were always taught to and saw safety setup and rescues dealt with exactly as you would hope for. It made the time working on those skills all worth it and hopefully means good things for the future having these people to pass it all on.
- Teaching, Teaching, Teaching
The fuel that keeps the club going. It’s a satisfying thing to teach someone a skill and have them pass it on to others right away, and in a sport like this where there’s always something to learn the more we’re teaching the bigger and better the heights the club can reach. Luckily this one’s not just boiling down to a single moment, instead it was seen on all the trips, and that’s something to be proud of the club for. It is the quick conversion of students to teachers that got us to where we are now and it’s what decides where your heading years down the line. The Castleconnell trip in the photo below had 25 people on it, all there to learn, be that learn to paddle or learn to teach and it’s trips like these that I love being a part of, where you can really see the difference you make as you teach.
So that’s it, sort of. Being captain of this club has given me the opportunity to be involved in everything and it gives me so many reasons to be proud. I haven’t even touched on this year’s huge river clean up, our fundraiser for Limerick Marine Search & Rescue with the help of Get West, the volunteering by our members at the Sean O’Sullivan Memorial Swim and Hell of the West triathlon, people placing in multiple competitions and races around Ireland and internationally, our first club Olympics, our pool parties and of course our internal awards where we named the most improved fresher’s and awarded those whose attitude has stood out to us.
There is constantly something to look forward to, and everywhere you look there is learning, teaching and the transferring of our growing passions for this sport. So to everyone who has been a part of this huge year, Thank You, none of this would be possible without you and it’s because of you that I’m so excited for 2017. If anyone’s looking for a last minute resolution; you will never regret giving back to the club, getting out there and being a part of these experiences as much as possible and adding to them in whatever way you can will give you a lot to be proud of and a lot to be happy about. Happy New Years everyone, get out there and make it a great one.
By Brian O’Mahony
It was that time of year again. The time of year for the kayak club to make its yearly pilgrimage to the seaside village of Lahinch, Co. Clare. Some say UL kayakers have been going to Lahinch since before kayaks began. Other more learned people say it’s closer to the last 30 years.
The weekend started at our own boathouse with a flurry of last minute packing of boats, wetsuits and enthusiastic but nervous new kayakers. With everyone piled onto three buses and what seemed like 100 head counts we were on our way west to Lahinch. The hour and half journey felt like so much less than that with songs being sung and stories being told for the entire journey. By the time the hostel was reached everyone was assured of exactly what the hole in the Rattlin bog contained.
A game of room roulette divided up the beds to ensure that everyone was making friends with someone new. The night continued with name games and after an exhausting night of getting names wrong everyone dropped away to bed with dreams of surfing some of the best waves in Ireland.
Saturday morning most of the kayaking contingent was woken by a Leitrim man with an eagerness to kayak beyond our understanding. Soon everyone was fed, geared up, and rearing to go. We got into our kayaks, and after a prolonged struggle to shimmy off the sand everyone was tackling or being tackled by the best waves Lahinch had to offer. A variety of skill was on display for the Lahinch locals but we didn’t mind one bit. Everyone managed to surf a wave by the end of the session and that gave all the instructors a warm fuzzy feeling walking back up the beach at the end of the day.
Saturday night was spent dressing up as every and any kind of criminal and heading to the local nightclub. We had some questionable costumes but ones that stood out for me were Donald Trump and Team Rocket from Pokémon.
Sunday morning, we tackled more Atlantic coast waves after a lovingly cooked breakfast. Everyone was determined to improve on the previous days surfing performance. It was a real pleasure to see so many beginner kayakers improve between the two days and get hooked on the sport of kayaking.
The journey home to limerick was a more relaxed affair with everyone being able to sit back and take in what a great experience the weekend had been. The trip was concluded with a mass clean-up of all the gear and everyone went home for a well-deserved, and probably long awaited, good night’s sleep!
It was an absolutely amazing weekend. I hope you all had as much fun as I had. I can’t wait to see everyone for our next trip.
By Tom O’Brien PRO
Our adventure begins in Dublin Airport at 5am, Guinness in one hand, Burger King bag in the other, giving Ireland the send-off it deserved. There we were, 20 or so overly-excited kayakers on a plane looking down over the expansive Alpine mountains that we soon hoped to conquer.
(Photo Courtesy of Jessie Langridge)
We arrived in Italy at around 10am and the vibes of the two weeks to come started to settle around us as we pulled out our bright blue wife-beaters and five ukuleles and lay ourselves in the sun. Eventually, the oh-so-familiar UL Wolves Sprinter and Minibus came rolling around the corner with kayaks in-tow and suddenly the butterflies set in and the adventure was all too real.
We set up camp in the tiny village of Kobarid in Slovenia and tried to mentally prepare ourselves for what was to be some of the most incredible, beautiful, exhausting yet hilarious few weeks of our lives.
(Photo Courtesy of Daragh Heffernan)
The first few days were spent along various sections of Slovenia’s 138km Soča river to give our advanced lads a chance to relax and us beginners a chance to settle into our new kayaking routine. We ran Prijon Factory and became quickly acquainted with Slovenia’s incredible crystal blue, yet freezing, water and breathtaking scenery. Next was Serp 1 and Serp 2 which boosted our confidence plenty and was a nice little step up. We ran a section of the Soča called Mini Gorge which ended up as my favourite day of paddling and honestly one of the most fun days of my whole life (it was really gorge-ous!!). Having a great day on the river leaves you with an amazing buzz and drive to live life as fully as possible.
(Photo Courtesy of Eoin Howard)
But with the good times come the bad, and as we traveled to spend our final week France we met a rocky start. The water was faster, pushier and definitely took some adjusting. In this week we were pushed to our limits, and I saw such improvements in all the paddlers who had come on the trip. Us girls stuck together for encouragement and motivation and by the time the Slalom Racecourse came around everyone was back in great form. Racing your friends down a quick, bouncy, 150m stretch of water is seriously fun. I ran that section of river at least six times and competed in every category I could (Duo champs, WOO!).
(Photo Courtesy of Luize Smith)
We also had a great final day following some of our own paddlers down a grade 4/5 level river hopping out of the Sprinter every five minutes to act as ULKC’s very own paparazzi and cheerleading squad. We were left very proud by what our own boys could do, and followed up their run of Middle Guil with a good aul girls’ day on Sunshine Run which was the perfect round off to an amazing trip (shoutout to Derv for being a class river leader!).
(Photo Courtesy of Aisling McCarthy)
On the way to catch our ferry home to Ireland, we even got some sightseeing done in Paris and Mont-Saint Michel in Normandy (trust me, you have never seen such a rough-looking, smelly bunch of people in such a pretty, picturesque setting). All in all, this kayaking trip brought me so much more confidence in my paddling skills and brought me even closer to the people I already considered my second family. It was organised incredibly well, there’s no better team for it. Can’t wait for next year, lads. ULKC for life!!
By Aisling McCarthy
The University of Limerick Kayak Club’s 40th Anniversary celebrations kicked off on the 9th of April with a trip down the Castleconnell section of the Shannon. The Castleconnell has been a training ground for the UL Kayak Club since its inception and in recent years has proven its worth by aiding ULKC to win their 7th consecutive Intervarsity title this year. Overall we had more than 100 people kayaking down the river on the day, the group I was placed in had 30 members both young and old. We paddled down the river and after some of the more challenging rapids you could see the smiles of older members as if they had experienced the thrill of white-water for the first time once again. I overheard one person say ‘I forgot how much I missed this!’ We paddled the river quite quickly and without incident. At the get-off there was soup and tea provided by the volunteers who made the trip a roaring success.
Later that evening celebrations took place in the form of a black tie ball in the SouthCourt Hotel. A prosecco reception welcomed both previous and present members, with some less than sober students hogging the photographer’s camera! The atmosphere was made all the more vibrant with older members meeting for the first time in years. Everyone settled in at their tables and tucked into a fantastic three course meal. After dinner there was an award ceremony where previous club captains were presented with medals of appreciation for the work they had done for the club. Seeing the drastic age difference between the previous captains was something I will never forget. Each one had put countless hours of work into organizing trips, training and the general progression of the club. After the speeches from Gavin Sheehan and other important actors in the club the real celebration started. Music was supplied by ULKC’s own band BanterStar Galactifunk.
On the Sunday morning weary heads arose to descend on the Curragower rapids located in the shadow of King Johns Castle. The rapids are present 2 hours before and after low tide, with the right water level they form a wave that is known to kayakers as ‘Gower’. Unfortunately the weather was quite poor with strong winds blowing down river making it extremely difficult for us to catch the wave and surf it. As the day progressed the weather improved and a large group of older members turned up. I decided to hop on the water with them just to make sure we didn’t have any surprises with them injuring themselves. While we were unloading our boats one of them spotted a Necky Orbit fish and his reaction was nothing less than that of a child at Christmas. They still knew the wave like it was the back of their hand and taught me a few tricks on how to ferry onto Gower.
A huge thanks to the organisation Committee of Gavin Sheehan, Caoimhe Farrell, Conor Lowe, Brian O’Mahony, Jack Phelan, Daragh Heffernan, Patricia Flynn, Orla Cullen and Stephen O’Dea for their months of work, without which the weekend would never have been the success it was.