Boat number 14, come in... oh no, you’ve capsized.
We were at the Olympic rapids in the Lee Valley, Hertfordshire, to try white water rafting – a belated Christmas present from my brother, after the canoeing authorities opened the course to the public. Once they turn up the pumps it doesn’t take very long to make your way down the grade-4 cascades – about two minutes in a boat, or one minute without.
On land, we were given the safety briefing on avoiding Weil’s disease, broken teeth and fingers. We learnt how to swim flat, feet first, over boulders and waterfalls if we fell out. We even successfully boarded the craft. But then things began to go a bit wobbly.
Our start was inauspicious: the serene training paddle on a flat lake was interrupted when we somehow managed to tip all nine of us from the raft and get sucked towards the filtration bars – a bit like that scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Willy Wonka/Gene Wilder finds Charlie and Grandpa Joe being drawn into the ceiling fan. Our instructor, Richard, began to look a little peaky.
Back onboard, we went for a full-throttle kamikaze assault from the top. We were hopeless. Where other teams of amateur rafters paddled up rapids, we span down them backwards, trapping ourselves in eddies and grounding on plastic rocks.
“One more try guys!” bellowed Richard. We dug in our paddles, hit turbulence and were hurled from the boat – fired, spluttering, over chutes and falls; a jumble of legs, safety ropes and liberated paddles. A legacy of laughs, at least.Reuse content