I had quite a brilliant year in 2015 despite dragging myself through the final stages of third year at University, it was a year of new things and new adventures.
I first jumped onto a bouldering wall in January 2015, and haven’t looked back since! I worked in a German Summer Camp, I graduated, I escaped to the Welsh Coast and hiked 10 miles along the coast with wild horses and private beaches, but my real highlight was far less flashy or unique than any of these.
My highlight of 2015 was actually very simple. Every year, for the past three years Liverpool University Canoe Club has run a girls weekend trip around February. This year, it was my turn in a sense to step up to the plate and lead a group. It was North Wales in February, so naturally it was cold, wet and windy. But (pun intended) this did not dampen our spirits.
We decided to do the Dee from Horseshoe Falls to just above Llangollen on the Saturday, and I got to spend the entire day with my two best friends as my seconds, leading a group of less experienced kayakers down one of our favourite rivers. We absolutely smashed it, and despite the inevitable swims, we were prepared organised and efficient at rescues. I was unashamedly brimming with pride at the amount of #girlpower going around that day. After the groups became separated and all the freshers had got out at JJ’s (a site just above Llangollen bridge) it was left to just myself and Maeve to run Town Falls on our own. We had taken the decision to do it on our own even though we had never run it without safety or support before – but we felt strong and confident (quite a novel experience!) and despite the misgivings of a friend who was actually too nervous to do it without such support, we left the eddy and made our way down the fairly simple lead-in.
We were smiley and jittery – I felt a certain degree of pressure as I was a group leader and a little more experienced so was leading us down. But we were loving it! Sometimes the thrill of being alone and without help is enough for me to up my game and I know Maeve felt the same way. Even typing this I can feel my pulse racing and I have the biggest grin on my face. After going down the diagonal weir and tucking in close to the scrubby bit of tree/grass, we made it down unscathed and on cloud 9. As we passed under the arches I looked back and Maeve had a smile as wide as my own (and was thankfully upright too) and we whooped and cheered and high-fived as we came under the bridge.
It doesn’t sound much, and to many boaters it really isn’t. But to us, it was everything. We made a decision to run something, just us, no one saying ‘You can do that’ or ‘I’ll follow you down don’t worry’. It was us going for it and believing that we could smash it. We floated on down to the get-out and like excited kids, we were jittery with the excitement of having run our first grade 4 (ish) alone.
2015 was the year I truly realised I had to face up to and make decisions for myself. It is often so easy to let yourself be guided by others and to become reliant on them in whatever you’re doing. Especially when you are so used to deferring to those who have been there since you first hopped in a boat. 2015 LUCC Girls Trip was memorable for many reasons (high top vans and small lanes do not go well…oh look, my headtorch is dying…I don’t think we can eat this much cheesey pasta). But my highlight of 2015 and actually my kayaking highlight of the last few years, was that small drop under the bridge on a river we all know and love. If you can, make just one decision like that for yourself every time you go on a river. If you feel you can do it, let yourself have that confidence, you’re allowed to do that you know!
Here’s to the next year of firsts, fun and freakin smashing kayaking and climbing!
New Year’s Resolution: Lose weight. Do ten pullups. I’m thinking one will inevitably aid the other right?