River Dart – 3* White Water Assessment

Day 1: The Upper Lower Lower Lower Dart

After enjoying a luxurious night in our excellent accommodation we headed off bright and early to the get-in. Five of us were doing our 3* white water assessment under the guidance of our lord and master, Simon. Jen and Liam ran the river with our group too. The first valuable lesson we learnt from Simon was to ensure you’ve brought all your paddling kit including shoes and first aid kit with you.

Launching onto the river, we got back into the zone with our ferry gliding and breaking in and out, then it was off downstream. A few rapids dotted along the river kept the trip interesting and gave us plenty of time to amaze Simon with our spectacular range of paddling skills. Deeper flat water sections allowed us to demonstrate bracing stokes, rolling and various rescue techniques. Perhaps the most notable example of our prowess was our throwline practice session… We all managed without fail to get the line hooked over the same overhanging tree! Video exists of Matt’s classic attempt to rescue me, a video I hope under the Freedom of Information Act will at some point be made public. We all learnt from our mistake though and are now highly professional rope manipulators. All five of us 3* wannabes were suffering brain freeze as we reached the get-out point, Eskimo rescues, paddle- presentation rescues and deep water-rescues in very, very cold water had got the better of us.

To finish off a good day’s paddling we went to the local pub for our evening meal, it was a huge place, with hardly anyone there apart from us and an enraged chef who was apparently in a berserker rage because he actually had to cook for us. We survived his wrath though and ate and drank the night away until 9pm when exhaustion took hold. The night wasn’t over though and the excitement of Simon having to change a flat tyre in the rain with a range of broken tools and people singing happy birthday in the kitchen under our delux suite as we tried to sleep livened up the evening.

Day 2 – The Dart Loop

I’ve wanted to run this stretch of water since I started paddling. It was the first place I ever saw people kayaking on white water, so it was awesome to actually paddle The Loop myself. Water levels were a bit lower then we’d have liked but it was still a really good day. We had beautiful sunshine, the scenery was amazing and the river was surprisingly not too crowded. Working our way down over the Washing Machine, past Lovers Leap, down Triple Falls and into Spin Dryer we carried on demonstrating our exemplary paddling skills, alternating leadership duties to give us all a chance to shine.

Ben dazzled us with his tail squirts, Pete generously gave us the chance on two occasions to practice our rescue skills, Matt did a bizarre yet stylish hand roll and choose lines that helped us pick out where all the rocks were and in front of a confused audience, Helen spent a while rubbing herself against submerged boulders with a look of intense pleasure on her face as we had a second and much more impressive throwline session.

The highlight of my day was a ridiculous seal launch down the side of the valley at high speed that ended with a spine crushing flat landing in the river. Manning up we moved on and continued downstream where we got lots of opportunities to practice splats, boofs, wave surfing, scouting, paddling with our eyes closed and the all important ferry gliding, breaking in and breaking out.

The Loop was great fun, lots of nice rapids, a few good drops, lots of waves and lots of laughter. Hopefully we’ll make a return trip soon.

A big thank you to all my fellow paddlers for putting up with me and to Jen and Simon for organising the trip. I also want to apologise to everyone I’ve let down by no longer having colour coordinated paddle kit, I’m so, so sorry!

- Joe

Photos by Jen.