Sussex Canoe Surf A Wave - Matthew Watson

The final trip of the University of Sussex Canoe Club (USCC) took place on the river Barle in Somerset on the 25th to the 27th November. This is despite a very dry autumn which caused low water levels.
After five hours travelling from campus in a minibus, three cars and a trailer, 28 members finally arrived at a bunk house in Dulverton.

They were soon joined by a large group of University of Sussex alumni who fancied a weekend away with their old club, boosting the group from a large twenty-eight to an even larger thirty-seven.
The Saturday began in earnest with a cooked breakfast and a quick trip to the river. For many people this was their first experience of paddling a river, for others a welcome opportunity to hone their white water kayaking skills, including the challenge of leading groups down rivers. Tristan Macfarlane a third year student, commented, “I found the low water levels made the first day of paddling technically difficult but fun and it was challenging to try to find our own lines down the river.”

Away from kayaking, the group enjoyed the benefits of staying in a large and hospitable bunkhouse, run by the local catholic parish and used by many other British Universities.  On the Saturday evening, when members of the club were not inspecting their bruises, the club ventured into the local town and enjoyed the local hospitality.

On the Sunday, the club embarked further down the river. Due to the wind and rain the night before, the river was faster and the features were on a larger scale than the day before. This presented a particular challenge to the novice members of the group, but enabled everyone to improve on existing skills and to learn new ones.  This was a good opportunity to kayak in ‘play-holes’, which are typically stationary areas under features where water flows back on itself creating a retentive feature for the play-boating members of the club to surf and play kayaking tricks on.

The largest feature was a series of weirs called the ‘fish steps’ which most of the canoe club attempted. Katie Hedgecock, a first year Psychology student, on both of her attempts tried, but failed to kayak down it which entertained many of the spectators.
After the kayaking, all the members enjoyed a Sunday lunch before travelling back to Sussex. Over the next term, the Sussex canoe club are planning to kayak on the rivers Teifl, Dart and Wye. If any students are interested in kayaking with the club they can find more details at

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