We began our trip at the slalom course at Argentiere-la-Bessee. As I looked at the water for the first time, I realized that it was a far cry from paddling on a man-made course: it was much more beautiful, but it also contained many more hazards than I am used to seeing, including real rocks!
After a quick warm-up to get used to the fast-moving flow, we spent the afternoon paddling along a stretch of river Durance, known as the Sunshine Run, arriving at another slalom course at Saint Clement in the late afternoon. Along the way I learnt how to approach the bends at the widest point to get the best view of what was coming round the corner. I also learnt to turn my boat away from the edges of the river where trees had fallen to avoid the risk of getting caught in them.
Every once in a while we would hit a wave train – big bouncy sections of water which were exhilarating to paddle through, and I could start to appreciate the thrill that comes with white water kayaking. The lesson in pointing away from hazards really came into play when we reached a section of the river where the water was travelling underneath rock face to our right. The current was strong, so we paddled hard to head away from them, avoiding being pulled under the rock face. My Adrenalin was running high as I paddled against the current, and I kept telling myself “look where you want to go”, a mantra which has been drummed into me over the course of the past 6 months, but which I still often forget at key moments.
I felt jubilant as I came off the water – I had capsized once but managed to roll myself back up, and I was beginning to think that white water paddling on real rivers was much easier than I had anticipated. Little did I know what was coming up on day two!
Watch the video clip below to see highlights of day 1: