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Returning to Australia after my NZ adventure I was fuelled by an excitement to get back out and paddle on the Penrith white water course.

Having been spoilt by the friendliness, quality, quietness and ease of the Hawea waves it was a good challenge to be back training on this tricky little hole. Phoenix’s were much easier here, as were tricky wu’s. But a lot of the other moves were a lot more challenging. Even the simple stuff like cartwheels and loops.


Penrith is an interesting place for freestyle. On the course there is one main hole for freestyle and a few other waves and holes that are ok. The main freestyle hole is narrow, shallow, fast and flushy which makes it a testing place to train. If you throw the move in the right place and in the right way it goes massive and feels amazing. But, throw it wrong and you get power flipped, hit the floor or get flushed. Its a funny little spot.


Added to this are the challenges of the venue. The hole is half way down the course, directly above a sticky little pour over that is the main play spot for rafts on the run. Because this is a man made pumped course the only time we can access the river to train for freestyle is when the rafts are on. So for ½ – ¾ of each and every session theres rafts surfing the hole creating a man made inflatable under cut only a matter of meters behind the main play spot. They also hold white water safety rescue training on the course during these recreational paddling session and we would regularly turn up to find ropes down across the river and in the hole and pour over and firemen and other emergency personal swimming down the course. Plus, in Australia they have a very well implemented ‘upstream rule’. In theory this is great as it means that at all times the paddler or boat upstream has right of way and it keeps the river traffic flowing. However in practise, especially at a freestyle venue, it is hard to maintain as it means that at any stage even if you are part way through a move or run you have to give way to boats from above. We would regularly find an array of different types of boats and river craft flying down the course towards us not wanting to stop.


This challenge of looking upstream (all the time) whilst paddling a fast, tricky, shallow and flushy feature. In which, if you flush, you need to hit your first roll without delay and then paddle hard to avoid the inflatable undercut or ropes in the pour over below you. Makes training here interesting to say the least.


The locals have it dialled in and show that the feature can and does work. Throwing every possible hole tricky. But its not easy and each move really has to be earnt and takes a long time to learn. I trained with and learnt a lot from Jez, Rich and the Aussie team as well as Anna Orvolva from Russia, Dave and Beans from the USA and Nouria Neuman from France. I also had the chance to paddle, sometimes in the hole and pour over, with over 100+ slalom paddlers from all across the World (who were here to compete in the forthcoming Junior and U23 World Championships), several hundred rafting clients and numerous white water rescue training personal. I vividly remember one young rafting client yelling ‘Are you ok!’ at the top of her voice as I landed a loop just before surfing out of the way of her oncoming raft. She didn’t realise the loop was on purpose and the look of shock on her face, having just had a rafters eye view of it all, was brilliant.


Over the course of my final 3 weeks I paddled a lot which was great and combined with 5-6 sessions a week of what was now ‘extremely’ high level and intense fitness training with Abel and the team at 6degreesfit. I was really beginning to feel ready for the season ahead.