We start every year by using our pool sessions (Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday evenings, 9.45-10.45) to introduce people to kayaking, teach them the basic skills and build confidence on the water. Then we start sessions on the river Shannon on campus where people can get their first taste of whitewater kayaking. When people are confident there we move onto the rapids on the Shannon at Castleconnel, to get started on real whitewater kayaking. We run trips there throughout the year, constantly learning new skills and building up towards Canoeing Ireland’s level three skills qualification. We also run several trips further afield, either to go surf kayaking or to run new rivers. We usually run weekend trips to Lahinch, Kerry, Wicklow and Sligo every year. On top of all this there are regular ‘spur of the moment’ trips done, when several club members decide they want to go kayaking and simply go. These trips will often be to harder rivers which are rainfall dependant, such as the Clare Glens on our back yard in Tipperary or the Flesk down in Kerry. Some people will be ready for these rivers after less than a year of kayaking but for most people it will take slightly longer. (Link to Glens Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d12_xuNH9pc)
After a semester of kayaking with the club people are ready to take on our international trips. We do two every year, one to Wales in January and one to Europe, usually Italy and Slovenia in May. These trips are characterised by unbelievable craic, some epic sessions and a massive leap in people’s kayaking skills. The Alps trip in particular is the highlight of the year, involving kayaking on a wide variety of rivers in warm weather through spectacular scenery, and taking part in some of Europe’s legendary kayaking parties and festivals.
Once the basic skills are mastered, there are a number of different kayaking disciplines that people can try out if they’re interested, including polo, freestyle, surf kayaking, slalom, flatwater racing and boatercross racing. UL offers the opportunity to try all of these and all of them have active competition scenes in Ireland, ranging from the super chilled out and laid back surf kayaking league to the uber-competitive slalom olympic team trials.