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2017 has personally been one of my best years yet. I have progressed in freestyle and white water kayaking a huge amount. The year started off for me in Wadi Adventure in Dubai. Great to have warm water in the winter. While I was there I progressed in my paddling a huge amount, my confidence and skill improved as Denis Newton helped me out as he was there to. I also joined Dirt Bag Paddlers when I was out there.

When I got back to the UK it was very cold, but I still paddled. In February I did a local river called the Tawe for the first time. It is now my favorite river for whitewater paddling, it is full of fun slides and at the end is a 8-10 ft drop which brought me into loving river running. I paddled this river with my best friend Owen Maddox which was a bonus. Just after the get in for the Tawe is just little waves but after about 10 minutes, you come up to the first slide from then on is just loads of fun. After a while of paddling you then get to the drop. That is why the Tawe is my favorite river for river running.

In April I did a freestyle training course with Dennis Newton for a week. In that week my Kayaking progressed a lot. I started the week off being able to just loop and I was scared of the inlet gate (freestyle hole at HPP), at the end of the first day I loved inlet gate and always tried to stay in it. By the end of the day I also improved my loop and space godzilla. On the second day I started to get my cartwheels down. On the third day Dennis convinced me to have a go at Mcnastys, I practiced them lots on the 4th day and was able to land my first one on the last day (5th day).

In May I made it onto the Jackson Little Shredder Team. This was a big achievement for me that I had always dreamed of growing up. In July I made it onto the Palm Team, this was another great achievement I am very pleased about, both of these things led me onto to explore more and meet a lot more people.

In June I went to HPP in Nottingham for a Younguns Freestyle Competition, while I was up there I got to paddle with Clair O’Hara and Ottie Robson-Shaw, we all went in the inlet gate (freestyle feature at HPP) together and managed to pull off a synchronized loop which was pretty cool. Took a few goes for us all to be lined up at the same time. It was the weekend of the “paddle in the park” so lots of paddlers and people trying kayaking for the first time. I found out I still fit in a Jackson Fun1 so I took that down the course for a blast.

Summer holidays and I was off to France with Llandysul Paddlers visiting both the Alps and an artificial course near Lyon. A record number of 100 people on the trip this year, with a coach and minibuses with trailers. There is always plenty going on and people to paddle with.

Autumn was more freestyle competitions and I was scoring the moves I had learnt in April. Looking forward to making these more consistently and learning some new tricks. I have also got some exciting plans for 2018.

– Ben Higson