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I don’t know what comes to mind when you think of kayaking: maybe it’s danger or excitement; maybe it reminds you of holidays with friends and family; maybe it reminds you of fishing or being at the coast; or maybe you just think, “I’d like to try that”.
When I think of kayaking, I initially think of the rivers and the excitement of paddling in white water with friends; whilst pushing myself above what I think I can do. I also think about something I love and improving my ability, making me love it more as I develop. But if I think more deeply, I think of the way it has shaped my time at university so far.
Joining Lancaster University Canoe Club (LUCC) has made my time at university much better than I could have imagined. I thought that coming to a university with so many people meant I’d feel lost, or simply feel like another one of the many faces you see, but don’t know, on the ‘Spine’. Having regular commitments to something meant I started to find my place and feel more connected to the university lifestyle. Maybe it was having more friends outside my flatmates and course friends that had similar interests, or maybe knowing that if I wanted to, I could compete in Roses or BUCS under the Lancaster name.
Of course, it could just have been owning a ‘Sport Lancaster’ hoodie with the brand ‘Canoe’ on the back!
But, whatever the reason, I started to feel at home among my fellow paddlers; whether they were white-water adrenaline junkies, insane playboaters, completely new beginners, canoeists, slalom competitors, or just those wanting to improve. Over the months before lockdown, I paddled many rivers with the club and was given the option for many great trips: namely Tyne Tour, the National Student Rodeo and our annual Pres Trip to Wales. There’s also the option to paddle Scottish Water around Christmas and even take river paddling international with the Alps trip (this was sadly cancelled this year due to COVID-19).
But kayaking isn’t just about rivers. We have our own canoe polo teams (yes canoe polo – it’s water polo, but in boats – for those of you who don’t know!) and compete in the North West Division competitions with some of our paddlers – even reaching Team GB standards! Polo training takes place in the mornings in the sports centre swimming pool, coached by our polo captains, and we even have extra sessions on the canal. The club also hires external coaches for some of these sessions to make sure our training is up to date and the best that it can. Although polo isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, watching people in your club succeed is something to take pride in – especially if you make it onto one of our many teams!
LUCC may be a smaller society, but we get so many opportunities to get involved; be it through joining the exec, becoming a member of our polo teams, joining our safety team for river paddling, or competing in polo and slalom competitions and white-water racing. We have lots of kit that is free for our members to borrow. This means you can try your hand at playboating, thus attempting tricks, flips and spins similar to those you may see snowboarders, surfers and skaters trying out.
Like most sports societies and teams, we’re all about keeping active and keeping in touch. Even throughout lockdown, we had virtual challenges and socials which we all got involved in, and this will continue throughout the pandemic – or until meeting in large groups is safe!
But, following British canoeing guidelines, members have been meeting up to continue paddling together and pushing each other to improve, (distanced of course) and will continue (for as long as it is safe to do so!).
We’re a small society with a strong sense of community as no matter what we study or where we are from, we have one thing in common: the love of being on the water!