Thursday, February 22, 2007

The new playground

Sorry, I let my blogging slide a bit lately: to busy with work and the "Commissie Zeekajakvaren". So the report of the DWD try-out is delayed a bit. This report refers to Sunday, 18. February. The Sony Digicam is still in repair. The action pictures are taken at the opening Weekend of DWD in October.

The new Dutch Water Dreams (DWD) white water course in Zoetermeer offers a unique training facility for the kayak-scene. It’s no longer needed to travel to the Alpes, Norway or even further to find some challenging white water. Top sporters have already found the way to Zoetermeer: The whitewater course is NOC*NSF accredited as a top location and is therefore eminently suitable for competitive events and training at the highest possible level. The Nederlandse Kano Bond (NKB) has selected DWD as its national training centre for the kayak slalom team. Furthermore, DWD has signed contracts with a number of international sports associations and Olympic Teams who will use the white water course in the run up to Beijing 2008 and even London 2012.
The NKB and DWD however do intend to open this facility also for the more “recreational” white water kayaker. The problem hereby is that the DWD-course isn’t designed as a recreational, but as a Olympic competition course: it’s serious stuff! According to the first athletes that trained in Zoetermeer it’s one of the toughest tracks in the world.

This is the background of the try-out the NKB organises in cooperation with DWD. In three Sunday-morning-sessions 10 white water coaches are going to prepare a group of 35 “normal” white water kayakers for the DWD-course. It’s an experiment for the participants, the coaches and the organisations. The entry level for the participants is “advanced WW-III paddler”. The participants learn how to deal with a course like this, the coaches learn how to deal with a group like this and with the futures of the course, for the organisations it’s about responsibilities and to discover the potentials of white water kayaking in a the “low countries” …

When I received an invitation to take part in this try-out, I subscribed immediately. I won’t let a chance like this pass on by!

So there I was, a lonely seakayaker in the middle of a group of white water cracks, in the entry hall of DWD on Sunday-morning. Nice guys and girls talking tough stories about kayaking in wild rivers I only heard of… After the briefing (where we were told how tough the course is, but no problem: “as long as you got pressure on paddle, you are in control”, btw: who rolls in WW-4?, don’t mind when you wash out your kayak, just let yourself float down the course….) I took care to be part of one of the “beginner”-groups. We started hopping in and out the eddies in the end-basin of the course. While our group was doing exercises, the first experienced kayakers came down the course: some with and some without kayak (first comes a paddle, then the kayak, followed by the paddler – funny looks). Seeing even the cracks swim didn’t contribute to my confidence though. I can’t deny I was a bit nervous as I sat in the kayak at the elevator for my first descent of the course… Wow, what a force!
Trainer Luc said some encouraging words and gave the sign for the start. A few strokes and I was in the middle of the world of the stoppers, rollers, eddies. Not a second to waste your time, in this course every key passage is directly followed by another one. No time for recuperation, it’s bracing, paddling, bracing. “keep pressure on your blade” was the only thing on my mind. One big roller-coaster-ride: what a fun! In the middle of the passage called “the pin-ball machine” I braced where there was nothing to brace. Capsizing, rolling and the ride went on... What a giant adrenaline rush! Like a little boy I rushed to the escalator for the next ride. Just discovered a new playground!

It was a new sensation. It gave a lot of pleasure. Still have to learn a lot: this time the water was playing with me, next time I want to play with the water! The first session gave a lot of confidence, rolling skills proved to be bombproof in WW-IV. Lessons learned:
1. don’t be intimidated by the power of the water;
2. keep pressure on the paddle;
3. and always keep in action!
Looking forward for the next lessons!

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