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Monday, 12 May 2014

Facing fears at Lee Valley with spogo

"If you fall out of the boat and get dragged underneath, 
don't worry, 
you won't be under there for long"

White water rafting at Lee Valley

This was one of the many terrifying sentences to escape the instructor's lips as we listened intently to the white water rafting safety briefing at Lee Valley a couple of weeks ago. Other such sentences included

"If you fall out, whatever you do, keep your feet down stream, DO NOT try to stand up".

I'm not very good with listening to safety briefings normally, it's a bit like taking directions: eyes glaze over, head nods in all the right places, and my mind wanders until suddenly I've planned a week of dinners in my head while whoever I've asked for help thinks I'm listening to them.

This safety briefing was different though - gripping, even. Like something out of a horror film. Alright, maybe not quite that bad, but it was scary enough for someone who is terrified of deep water and whose best 'swim' is more a coughing, spluttering flap. They still made us jump in the fast flowing water and get washed down stream for the swim test though (which, miraculously, I actually managed to survive):

White water rafting at Lee Valley
Me and the others jumping in the deep end

Do something that scares you


But, it's good to do stuff that scares you, right? To try new sports and experiences. Our bodies are wonderful machines - why not see what they can do while we still can? (Even if it scares the shit out of us). Being inactive shortens the lifespan by 3-5 years. By 2020 the average Brit will be so sedentary that they will use only 25% more energy than if they spent the whole day sleeping. That's pretty scary too if I'm honest.

Lee Valley white water rafting

Get inspired


The reason we were at Lee Valley in the first place was down to spogo. This wasn't the first time I'd tried something new with them either - a few months ago they invited me to try rock climbing and bouldering which was also another EPIC day.

Born out of the legacy left behind by the London 2012 Olympics, spogo is a great new website and online tool to not only help you find local sports and fitness classes/clubs/activities in your local area, but also give you the confidence and skills to get started.



With over 121,000 sports venues, clubs, trainers, events and other activities across the country, as well as some great free exercise plans, challenges and even a buddy finder so you don't have to go it alone, if you're looking to get more active you need to bookmark this badboy.

Kayaking: making it fun 


Our day of kayaking and white water rafting at Lee Valley started well. (I was joined by Soph, Jen, Lucy, Mollie, Paula, Cathy and Sonia). I've done a bit of kayaking before, having joined a club in Brighton and completed a six week pool course during which I learned to eskimo roll, so was really excited about this part of the day. And I was also actually really excited about the white water rafting, until we were given the safety briefing, which turned me into a jittery mess as we stepped into the raft, but more on that later...


Kayaking at Lee Valley White Water Centre
I'm aware I look like a child. 

Once we were kitted up and shown the basics of how to use the paddles, we got in our kayaks and entered the (nice and flat) pool safely away from the Legacy white water loop. Then followed an hour of skills practice in the form of silly games (stuck in the mud), team races and water confidence exercises.

Kayaking at Lee Valley White Water Centre


Even though I've done kayaking before and know how to roll I'm still terrified every time the boat rocks or wobbles in a way that I don't mean it to. So the games and exercises where we had to stand in our boats and sing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes really helped to put me at ease and remind me just to enjoy having a play.

Kayaking at Lee Valley
Head, shoulders, knees and shit don't rock the boat!!

The instructor was great and made it really fun as well as cramming in as many core skills as possible in just an hour.

Going back for more


Then it was time for white water rafting and the safety briefing of doom. There I was having a nice little play in the kayak and then they have to go and get me all scared. On a serious note though, the briefing was actually very good and even though it scared some of us it equipped us with the basic knowledge to make sure we didn't fall out of the boat - and if we did, we'd know what to do. Doing it would be another matter, of course, but thankfully we didn't need to find out.

Unlike these guys (CAN YOU IMAGINE?!)

White water rafting at Lee Valley
Rather them than us!

We went round the course five times, with each time getting progressively more challenging. The instructor (who was great, by the way), taught us all the signals and moves in the flat before we got on the white water and told us exactly what to do throughout the loop. We surfed waves head on and side on (the latter of which was pretty terrifying at times as I thought I was gonna fall out!), and paddled and sat down into the boat when instructed. The sitting down into the boat part I was quite happy with, as you can imagine!

Despite the genuine fear of falling out and dying it was such an exhilarating experience and really was so much fun (in an Oh-my-God-I'm-scared kinda way). We alternated between cackles of laughter and repeated girly screams - apparently we were the loudest boat there!

White water rafting at Lee Valley


It's a great feeling when you're scared of something but then do it anyway, I recommend it to anyone. Life's too short to not try these things!

If you wanna have a go at kayaking or white water rafting check out the Lee Valley White Water Centre website, or if you're not nearby, visit the Go Canoeing website for events, clubs and trails in your local area. There's no better time than now to get into it, it's Go Canoeing Week on 24th May – 1st June 2014 - what are you waiting for? GO! GO! GO!


Oh, and if you fancy finding another sport to try in your local area, visit the spogo website and get started!


Have you ever tried any water sports? Are you scared like me or 
do you love getting in the water?



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