Articles - The Best Canoes, Kayaks & Paddling Gear of the Year - The 2012 Canoe & Kayak UK Awards

Canoe & Kayak UK Magazine 2012 Awards - Best canoeing & kayaking gear of the Year
Canoe & Kayak UK Magazine 2012 Awards - Best canoeing & kayaking gear of the Year
Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Panel - Posted on 06 Sep 2012
Following on from the success of last year's Canoe & Kayak UK Awards we felt it was appropriate that we made this celebration of our sport an annual event, a way of regognising all the people and places that make canoeing & kayaking so damned great; from the guys working hard in the trade to innovate and bring us the best gear and services, to the paddlers and coaches out there on the water making the magic happen. We also felt that our experience and knowledge, over ten years of getting out on the water and independently testing products, put us in a unique position, along with input from our selection of independent judges, from various branches of paddle-sport, to decide what the real stand outs of 2012 were. If you're planning on buying a new piece of kit this season, or want to know who's really driving the sport forward then read on as we reveal our top picks of 2012 in this year's Canoe & Kayak UK Awards...

Canoes & Kayaks

Whitewater Kayak of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012
Canoe & Kayak UK Whitewater Kayak of the Year The Pyranha Shiva Whitewater Kayk

Pyranha Shiva
Whitewater Kayak
We had one of the very first Shivas out of the oven towards the end of last year, and loved it from the second we got in it! It’s a departure from what Pyranha had been doing with their whitewater kayaks of late in that it’s a displacement hull kayak.

Designed for running the steep stuff, this all-out creeker has proved popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and we think its awesome ability to allow you to run steeper whitewater, thanks to the innovative hull shape with plenty of rocker and a high centre of volume for soft landings and rear drive-force make it a worthy winner of the Canoe & Kayak UK Whitewater Kayak of the Year.

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

Liquidlogic Stomper
Canoe & Kayak UK Awards Liquid Logic Stomper Whitewater KayakWhitewater Kayak
The Liquidlogic Stomper is US kayak design and manufacturers, Liquidlogic’s, latest volume river running and steep creek kayak. The way it handles big and steep water is befitting of a kayak that hails from a country where there’s so much of the stuff, but it’s a great boat for the UK, too. The Stomper always resurfaces under control, and little can match its speed and agility in whitewater.

Dagger 2012 Mamba
Whitewater KayakCanoe & Kayak UK 2012 Aaward Dagger Mamba Whitewater Kayak
The 2012 Mamba builds on the incredibly successful and popular original kayak by the same name, which won the loyalty and respect of whitewater newcomers and experts alike by combining stability and a forgiving paddle with performance features that gave it the capability to take on challenging whitewater. The 2012 version is everything its predecessor was and more, with seemingly minor tweaks, such as more forgiving edges in the stern and slightly increased volume, making a huge difference.

Freestyle Kayak of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Pyranha Jed Eye
Canoe & Kayak UK Freestyle Kayak Of Year Pyranha Jedi
The Pyranha Jed Eye has made one seriously big splash in the freestyle world, winning approval and respect in equal measure. We had to see what all the fuss was about, and it didn’t take us long to realise we were paddling what was going to be our Canoe & Kayak UK Freestyle Kayak of the Year. Prototyped all over the world, all of Pyranha’s experience of designing and building freestyle kayaks over the years have come together to make a freestyle kayak that reacts seemingly intuitively to a paddler’s movements, performs on waves and in holes and, while it is still a fun to paddle for any level of ability, has all the slice and pop you need to score those world-beating aerial moves. And that’s just the plastic version!

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

Zet Sago Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 21012 Freestyle Kayak Zet Sago

Sometimes – and with increasing frequency nowadays – somebody designs a freestyle kayak designed for one thing, and one thing only: competition. Often not on the radar of paddlers who don’t regularly go in for such things, these kayaks reserve themselves by price and function to the freestyle elite. This year, though, the Sago from Zet really turned our heads. The ultra-robust construction means you can enjoy all the benefits of a carbon boat while still paddling as aggressively as you would in a plastic boat on waves or in holes.Combined with the completely customisable centre of gravity to suit the paddler made this kayak, in our view, worthy of a Highly Commended Award.

Titan Genesis CANOE & KAYAK UK Awards Titan Genisis Freestyle Kayak
The first Titan boat to burst onto the UK market has certainly been a hit. This large freestyle kayak, Which grew up on the huge, fast waves found on the North American continent has proved that it can cut it on UK playspots, and has been particularly popular with larger boaters who find that some of the other freestyle kayaks available don’t meet their needs. It’s also a high-performing freestyle kayak with some forgiving edges that make it an ideal learning platform for those who are new to the sport of freestyle, too. (note – This is based on the boat they sent us, but do they make smaller ones? If so this won’t make sense – can we check please.

Touring Kayak of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Dagger Axis 10.5 Touring KayakCanoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012 Dagger Axis Touring Kayak Of The Year
The Dagger Axis 10.5, is more than just a touring kayak. Although its long, sleek waterline and abundant storage make it ideal for this, and an exceedingly worthy winner of Canoe & Kayak UK Touring Kayak of the Year, features such as its large cockpit, confidence-inspiring stability and smooth, easy handling make it and ideal kayak to welcome newcomers to the sport of kayaking. It’s incredibly versatile, too, and can happily turn its hand to easy moving water, meaning that any beginner who hasn’t quite found what it is that they want to do yet can try out different things in this fantastic touring kayak that does a bit of everything.

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Venture Kayaks Islay Canoe & Kayak Touring KLayak of the year Awards

Venture Islay
We were blown away by the smooth handling of this out-and-out touring kayak from in Venture Kayaks. Whether it’s on green, leafy rivers in the sunshine, or undertaking more challenging open crossings on lakes or estuaries, the Islay tracks straight and true when you need it to, or turns on a relative penny when required. It’s flush with storage and neat little extras such as a removable deck pod, meaning whether it’s just for the morning, afternoon, day or for an entire weekend or longer, the Islay enhances any kayak touring trip.

Elie Strait 140

It’s rare that we see a touring kayak that ticks every single box for us, but in the Elie Strait 140 we did and so just had to give it a mention in our Canoe & Kayak UK Touring Kayak of the Year category. It’s comfortable, tracks like a dream but still manElie Straite 140 Touring Kayakoeuvres, has all the storage you need for undertaking any length of trip and is just covered in nice little finishing touches that make it a pleasure to use. Everything about the Strait 140, from its construction to its outfitting just screams quality; in all it’s a touring kayak that is both functional and has true class.

Composite Sea Kayak of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012Rockpool Menai 18 Expedition Sea Kayak Canoe & Kayak UK Expedition Sea Kayak of the Year

Rockpool Menai 18 Expedition Sea Kayak

It’s undeniable that expedition and adventure sea kayaking is growing rapidly in popularity in the UK: for a start this year has seen ever more people deciding to tackle the coveted full circumnavigation of Britain! Yet at the same time, when they don’t have consecutive weeks free to undertake such trips people still enjoy having fun: taking on multi-day trips, playing in tide races, overfalls and rock gardens. The Meanai 18 has been around for some time, but this year we came to recognise it’s, up to now sometimes overlooked prowess. The Menai 18 while being an incredibly large and fully-expedition capable kayak remarkably handles like a smaller craft but, still remains a stable, predictable platform. It’s truly a kayak for our times, that we feel expertly straddles the line between prevailing trends and as such is a deserving winner of the Canoe & Kayak UK Composite Sea Kayak of the Year.

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

Tiderace Xtreme Sea Kayak
Tidferace Xtreme Sea Kayak Canoe & Kayak UK Sea Kayak of the TYear Commended
It would be quite a job for the profile of this sporty sea kayak to not catch your eye - it certainly did ours – but it’s got it where it counts, too: on the water. Its agility, excellent stability and forward speed makes it an ideal sea kayak for handling rough water, and at the same time provide added confidence to any paddler venturing out into such conditions. We felt it was easy to roll, adding to that confidence-inspiring nature, and great fun in the surf or on tide races. This blend of high performance with a mellow nature results in a kayak that is a great choice for paddlers who want to play, but still want to be able to paddle all-day; and more than worthy of a mention in the CKUK Composite Kayak if the Year category.

Valley Gemini Play Sea KayakValley Gemini SP Sea Kayak
To acknowledge the growing popularity with its resulting increasingly specialist needs of sea kayakers for going further and playing more, Valley have brought out a sea kayak to meet each purpose, both by the name of Gemini. The lightweight Sports Tourer handles like a kayak far longer than it is, and with this comes all the speed and tracking you need for covering many miles in a day; the Sports Play is tougher and features, amongst other things an increased rocker and bow volume for high-riding agility in rough water and excellent performance in surf. We love the concept of one kayak that rejects the idea of having to suit multiple needs when it excels at one, and were excited enough about the Gemini to feel it more than worthy of a Highly Commended

Plastic Sea Kayak of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Valley Etain RM Plastic Sea Kayak

Valley Etain RM Sea Kayak

The Composite Etain was the winner in its category at last year’s CKUK Awards, and now the RM version has done the business again in the plastic sea kayak category. The uncompromising handling of this Swede form sea kayak combined with its high level of initial stability that made it prove so popular amongst our test team and our readers – beginner and expert alike - have translated flawlessly into the polyethylene construction. The result is that the same great sea kayak, in a robust construction, but at a more affordable price, an obvious winner!

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

Venture Capella Plastic Sea Kayak  Sea Kayak of the Year 2012

Venture Kayaks Capella Sea Kayak
The Capella was - and is - was an exceedingly popular sea kayak design ideal for all-round for many years from leading UK manufacturers P&H Sea Kayaks. Now dropped from the range to make way for an expanding line up, Venture Kayaks, a sister brand to P&H, have taken on the design and produced a version that has all the great features of the original but with a very competitive price point..

We just couldn’t let this go by without giving it a mention in the CKUK Plastic Sea Kayak of the Year category: the Capella has for years been a fantastic beginner-friendly sea kayak that has all of the performance features for paddlers to progress on to a far higher level

Perception Essence 17 Sea KayakPerception Essence Plastic Sea Kayak
We wanted to award the Perception Essence 17 in the CKUK Plastic Sea Kayak of the Year category because it brings full-on expedition capability to the everyday paddler, and to the paddler of bigger build. Fully capable of carrying load, coping with trying conditions, and bursting with accessible storage, comfortable and ergonomic outfitting and a smooth and robust skeg system, it’s everything you need set off on a kayak adventure on the high seas contained in one package.

Inflatable Canoe or Kayak Of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Sevylor Adventure Plus Inflatable CanoeSevylor Adventure Plus Inflatable Canoe Canoe & Kayak Inflatable Kayaks or Canoes of the year
The Sevylor Adventure Plus inflatable canoe  is absolutely everything we look for in an inflatable kayak or canoe: it brings quality, performance and user-friendliness to the market in an affordable manner. We feel that it really plugs that gap between ‘cheap and cheerful’ options for casual use and the pricier, more specialist models for real enthusiasts. The Adventure Plus offers an inflatable tandem canoe option to paddlers who don’t want to spend quite as much, but would prefer not to compromise on quality. A deserving winner of the Canoe & Kayak UK Inflatable Canoe or Kayak of the Year category indeed!

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

Infinity Odyssey 295 Inflatable Kayak  Inflatable canoes

Infinity Odyssey 295 Inflatable Kayak

Although it’s been around for a while, the Infinty Odyssey 295 has got our attention this year with more and more of them spotted on the water, and great feedback from those who have used them. This mid-range two-seater inflatable kayak offers the performance that discerning inflatable kayak paddlers look for, and features some really nice touches, such as front and rear spray visors, adjustable foot plates and a paddle park to name but a few. We felt that all of those positives made the Odyssey 295 deserving of a Highly Commended Award.

Bic Yakkair HP 1 Inflatable KayakYakkair inflatable kayak  Cheap inflatable kayaks
Although not brand new, when deciding on worthy mentions in the CKUK Inflatable Canoe or Kayak of the Year category we didn’t hesitate in thinking about the Yakkair HP 1 from Bic. An extremely lightweight solo inflatable kayak that packs down to a backpack for easy transport, it’s certainly got what it takes on the water too and is a comfortable and well-behaved paddle. Combine this with the ease with which it’s inflated and packed away again, the HP 1 is a fantastic inflatable paddling package.

Canadian Canoe of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Wenonah Recon whitewater open Canoe

Wenonah Recon Open Canoe
This is a brand new design from US-based Wenonah, and we felt a clear winner of our CKUK Open Canoe of the Year category. The Recon is a whitewater canoe that focuses on providing a great and safe paddling experience for everyone from the complete novice to the hardened veteran. We felt that we had to recognise a canoe like this for what it could do for unlocking the fun sport of whitewater canoeing - from river running, to wave surfing to just all-out exploration - to an entire new group of people.

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Novacraft Bob Special Canadian Canoe Open Canoe

Novacraft UK Bob Special Open Canoe
It’s been around for a few years now, which is exactly why we thought it time to recognise this timeless design from Novacraft. Lightweight, and equally happy to be paddled solo or tandem, the versatile Bob Special is suited to tandem day trips or solo weekend missions, river or lake, lake or sea. Its width makes it stable and confidence-inspiring for beginners, and its hull shape makes it fast, it truly is a canoe for all things and all paddlers.

Mad River Journey 167 Open CanoeMad River 167 Journey Canadian Canoe
Tough, spacious and stable, three things that we felt make this canoe ideal for all casual canoeists and families, and more than worthy of a Highly Commended. Its relative speed and load-carrying capacity make it ideal for longer journeys, and its predicable handling makes it ideally suited to all levels of paddler.

Fishing Kayak of The Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Wilderness Systems Ride Series
Wilderness Systems Ride Fishing Kayak Yak AnglingFishing Kayaks
The Ride series of sit-on-top kayaks from Wilderness Systems has undergone a full revamp, and the result is truly a range of kayaks that we felt deserved the accolade of Canoe & Kayak UK Fishing Kayak of the Year. The 135 version offers all of the space and load-carrying capacity you could want for a fully-stocked day out on the water with fishing gear while not compromising on handling performance: it is up to handling all conditions from glassy flat to surf. The 115 version offers all of the same capacity and handling performance, but being that much shorter means it’s a lot easier to transport and store.

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Ocean Kayaks Trident 4.3
Fishing KayakOcean Kayaks Trident 4.3 Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
The Ocean Kayaks Trident 4.3 is characterised by speed and agility that doesn’t compromise its kayak-angling credentials. Moulded to take an ice-box and drinks bottles, there are also no fewer than four flush rod holders and a live bait well or anchor storage system. We felt that the Trident 4.3’s full compliment of kayak angling features combined with its uncompromising handling made it well worth a Highly Commended.

Perception Triumph 13 Angler Fishing KayakPerception Kayaks Triumph Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
A very good sit-on-top kayak in its own right and winner of the CKUK Sit-On-Top Kayak of the Year category, we couldn’t not give a mention to this specialised angling version in the CKUK Fishing Kayak of the Year category. The numerous kayak angling accessories, including three flush mount rod holders and a bait caster or spinning rod holder, added to this excellent platform make the Perception Triumph 13 Angler more than worthy of its place here.

Recreational Kayak of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Wave Sport Ethos 10 River Cruiser Kayak recreational Kayak of the Year

Wave Sport Ethos River Cruise Kayak

This brand new and very exciting crossover boat from Wave Sport certainly caught our attention upon its release, and very quickly proved to us that this River Cruise spec was an apt winner for CKUK Recreational Kayak of the Year. Its incredible tracking and load-carrying capacity over distance make it a superb touring kayak, but it is more than capable of handling any moving water you happen across on your way. It’s simply a matter of retracting the skeg! Many such crossover kayaks have gone before, but the Wave Sport Ethos RC is without doubt up there with the best of them.

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Jackson Kayaks Rouge Recreational crossover Kayak

Jackson Kayaks Rogue Kayak

The Rogue has drawn our attention this year as another fine example of a recreational kayak that opens up opportunity to all levels of paddler with an appetite for adventure. The hull shape lends itself to agility on moving water while not compromising speed and tracking when slogging it out eating up miles on the flat. This solid crossover performance, along with the bulkhead storage accessed by a stern hatch, make this kayak worthy of its Highly Commended status.

Dagger Zydeco  Recreational Kayak
Dagger Zydeco Recreational Kayak
The Zydeco is available in two sizes, and for us is a benchmark in recreational kayaks, hence its very well-deserved commendation. The Zydeco has everything from a comfortable and spacious cockpit to speed and manoeuvrability on all sorts of water from rivers to lakes. The 11.0 has bulkhead storage accessed by a stern hatch, and both sizes sport deck lines for securing gear that must be easily accessible meaning whatever your purposes there’s a Zydeco for you.

Sit-On-Top Kayak of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Perception Triumph 13 Sit-On-Top Kayak
Perception Triumph Sit-On-Top Kayak Canoe & Kayak Sit On Top Kayak Of The Year
The relatively new Triumph 13 from Perception Kayaks seriously impressed us, and all the feedback we’ve had from others just compounded our overwhelming feeling that this was our Canoe & Kayak UK Sit-On-Top Kayak of the Year. The rocker and hull chines give a paddling experience more reminiscent of a sit-in touring kayaks: one that is fast, but offers smooth handling and great agility while not detracting from the confidence-inspiring stability that characterises sit-on-top kayaks. It’s very much a kayak that offers the best of both worlds, in this respect, and one that we feel does an admirable job of portraying Perception’s long and distinguished kayak-building pedigree.

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Tootega Pulse Sit-On-Top Kayak

Tootega Pulse 95
Sit-On-Top Kayak
We had to award Tootega’s Pulse 95 in the Canoe & Kayak UK Magazine Sit-On-Top of the Year category. For us it represents absolutely everything that is fun about sit-on-top kayak paddling. It’s a verifiable surf machine that will have beginners and experts alike grinning from ear-to-ear as they ride it into the beach, but at the same time it remains a stable and manoeuvrable kayak for just messing around on the flat.

Ocean Kayaks Tetra 12 Sit-On-Top Kayak Ocean Kayaks Tetra Sit-On-Top-Kayak
A fully-kitted out sit-on-top kayak flush with all the accessories you need for a long day out, from a folding seat to slide-lock foot rests to a bow storage hatch, this versatile all-round sit-on-top impressed us with its sound handling and attention to detail. We felt that this kayak that does a grand job of ticking all the boxes was very worthy of a commendation in the Canoe & Kayak UK Sit-On-Top Kayak of the Year category.

Paddling People

Canoe & Kayak UK Chris Wheeler Memorial Adventure Paddler of the Year Award 2012The 2012 Chris Wheeler Adventure Paddler of the Year Award

This award is dedicated to Chris Wheeler. Here at Canoe & Kayak UK we were lucky enough to have called Chris our friend and he had been contributing to the magazine on a regular basis from the beginning. Chris was always supportive and positive, but his feedback was frank and honest and over the years his input certainly shaped the way the magazine is today. As a kayaker Chris was a highly experienced and wise whitewater paddler who had paddled on many of the world’s greatest whitewater rivers. In later years he had also become an accomplished and skilled sea kayaker. Quietly spoken and a true gentleman Chris touched the lives and inspired many with his infectious enthusiasm and eloquent writing about the sport that he was truly passionate about. I know many of you will have read with pleasure Chris’s articles. Be it a report from a challenging expedition to a far flung river, sea kayaking in Ireland with his partner Julia, and even on one occasion his guide to ‘Marriage Guidance for Paddlers’; Chris always wrote from his heart, with candour and integrity and, of course, with his trademark dry wit. As we said in our editorial at the time, ‘Chris’s light burned brightly.’ So the recipient of this award is somebody that we feel best represents the passion, enthusiasm and drive that Chris had in spades, but also someone who shares that energy with their fellow paddlers on the water and by inspiring others by documenting and sharing the adventure in words and pictures.

Last year we chose as the inaugural winner for this Award, whitewater kayaker Dave Burne. A worthy winner indeed, even as the award was announced Dave was on a plane headed for Sri Lanka, kayak in the hold, for what turned out to be an incredibly successful expedition that explored previously untouched rivers. From this and subsequent exploits Dave has continued to produce articles that both showed and inspired the energy and enthusiasm we look for when choosing a winner for this award. When it came to choosing this year’s candidates and winners, Dave was involved at every step of the way, and was on the panel that chose this year’s winner from the final shortlist, along with Mark Rainsley, a close friend of Chris's, guidebook author, CKUK contributor and expedition whitewater & sea kayker of many years experience,. The result of that selection process is that we now have the second ever recipient of the Chris Wheeler Memorial Adventure Paddler of the Year Award. And that recipient is sea kayaker John Willacy.

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Sea Kayaker John Willacy Adventure Paddler of the Year

John Willacy
John's feats in his sea kayak have been really inspirational this year. He undertakes real challenges, usually solo and communicates them, in our opinion, in a really humerous, warm way, which really gets the sense of adventure, challenge and fun across to his readers. His website Performance Sea Kayaking ( is a great resource and community for those looking to challenge open crossings and circumnavigations in their sea kayaks. He produces articles for us that are always written in an intelligent, informative and accessible way and his 'pie & chips' Clockwise blog during his solo sea kayak circumnavigation of the UK kept us, and many, many others entertained for many weeks. We felt that all of these qualities really embrace what the Chris Wheeler Memorial Adventure Paddler of the Year Award is all about, which is why the panel chose John Willacy as this year’s winner.

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logoWhitewater Kayaker Lowri Davies - Canoe & Kayak UK Adventure Paddler of the year award

Lowri Davies

Lowri has been contributing to the pages since she was 13! Even then she's send us pictures of her running of the big drops and North Wales test pieces. After a hiatus to concentrate on freestyle Lowri has made a return to river running and expedition paddling over the last few years with notable trips to Georgia and Colombia. She continues to look for adventure and is active in writing articles and sharing her experiences. Everything Lowri has done to date makes her a very worthy highly commended recipient.

Sarah Outen Sea Kayaker & adventurer Sarah Outen
We felt that the sea kayaking legs of Sarah’s epic, and much publicised, London 2 London via The World expedition (, which took her down the Thames and across channel to France, and then from Russia’s Far East to Japan via the remote island of Sakhalin taking in 300 nautical miles in total were not only worthy adventures in their own right, but as part of the whole (cycling and rowing legs) really put sea kayaking in to the public consciousness. Her blog, phone-casts and website really helped to capture people's imaginations, and everything she did and her motives for doing it were well and truly in the spirit of the Chris Wheeler Memorial Adventure Paddler of the Year Award.

Professional Coach of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Canoe & Kayak UK Professional Coach of the Year Awards Simon Westgarth

Simon Westgarth
Simon Westgarth has been in the kayaking coaching industry for many years, and is founder and director of coaching company Gene17, now an established household name in the whitewater paddling world. Still very much at the progressive forefront of technical kayak coaching, Simon also values the ideals of adventure paddling, going to new places, experiencing new cultures and paddling new rivers. Such is his passion for drawing new paddlers into these ideals that he has a hand in organising annual kayaking festivals across Europe, from the Val Sesia Festival in Italy, to the Sjoa Festival in Norway to the ever-popular and well-attended Adventure Paddler’s Weekend in Devon every December. Simon’s hard-won expertise and bottomless passion for kayaking makes him an extremely influential ‘mover and shaker’ and a force for positive change within the paddling world, as well as the 2012CKUK Professional Coach of the Year!

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo
Adventure Paddler of the year 2012 Commendation Open canoeist  Jules Burnard

Jules Burnard
Jules Burnard is an active and highly qualified coach who currently runs Voyageur Coaching, and is a veritable goldmine of paddling, bush craft and rescue expertise. Currently the European Chief Instructor for Rescue Training International, and an established BCU Safety and Rescue Provider, his real passion is for canoeing, all though he is also qualified to coach whitewater kayak and sea kayak. At the time of writing, Jules has just completed the gruelling ‘Race to the Midnight Sun’ on Canada’s Yukon River with a team of paddlers he’s trained up from scratch who, when they aren’t completing 450 mile wilderness races in canoes, play for London Irish Rugby Club.

Roger Chandler Sea Kayak Coach Roger Chandler
Roger Chandler is a highly qualified kayaking coach with a passion for the outdoors, and sea kayaking in particular. He runs his coaching company, Coastal Spirit, with wife Sonja. In recent years Roger has started running rapid development programmes, which after short but intensive training periods mean clients are able to take part in exciting sea kayaking expeditions around the UK. Roger is well-respected within the industry, and his passion and energy for kayaking is utterly contagious, making him very worthy of a mention in the CKUK Professional Coach of the Year category.


Gear of the Year: Soft Wear

Palm Equipment Spark Immersion Suit Dry Suit

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Palm Spark Immersion Suit

Palm Equipment have a long and successful history of producing surface immersion suits, and we feel that the new Spark suit does a fantastic job of representing these many years of expertise by being one of their most flexible and un-inhibiting suits available to whitewater paddlers yet. It offers previously unparalleled freedom of movement when worn, making it ideal for all manner of dynamic paddle-sports, and retains the usual high quality build and materials we are accustomed to with surface immersion suits from Palm, making it the 2012 winner of the Canoe & Kayak UK Gear of the Year: Soft Wear category.

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

Nookie Storm Sea Kayaking Cag Top

Nookie Storm Ocean Touring Jacket

The Nookie Storm Ocean Touring Jacket represents a real pinnacle of what we look for in sea kayaking and touring jacket. For us, it has everything from a comfortable and well-cut shell to Polartec® on the collar, a front hand warmer pocket and the all-important storm collar with laser-cut air-holes. We feel that it is an exceedingly high quality product that’s fully representative of Nookie’s many years of kit-making experience and fully worthy of a commendation.

Reed Chillcheater Aquatic Pro Buoyancy Aid (PFD)
There was almost no question of whether or not to give a mention to the Reed Chillcheater Aquatic Pro sea kayaking and touring buoyancy aid in the Canoe & Kayal UK Gear of the Year: Soft Wear category. Everything Reed Chillcheater Aquatic Pro Buoyancy Aidabout this excellent buoyancy aid (PFD) was spot on: it is clean, low profile, non-inhibitive and extremely functional, perfect for general canoe or kayak touring use.

Gear of the Year: Hard Wear

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Vertical Elements Carbon Prepreg-Blades on Bent Shaft Paddles
Vertical Elements (VE) Carbon Pre-preg kayak paddles
Tough, lightweight, custom-built, well balanced and functional. We can’t fault these premium whitewater blades from UK manufacturer Vertical Elements (VE), so instead we though we’d award them with the accolade of the Canoe & Kayak UK Gear of the Year: Hard Wear. The generously-sized blade provides a powerful stroke, and the cranked shaft aligns your wrists and lowers the risk of injury. Each set of VE paddles is bespoke and made to order, allowing you to specify length, feather and whether you need righty or lefty.

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

WRSI Kayaking & Canoeing Helmet

WRSI Trident Helmet
Some great helmets have been coming out of the WRSI (Whitewater Research and Safety Institute) factory over the years, and we thought it was time to recognise this by giving a Highly Commended mention to one of their latest lids, the Trident, in the Canoe & Kayak UK Gear of the Year: Hard Wear category. An extremely robust carbon affair with EVA foam liners and a polyurethane sub-shell to effectively dissipate impacts means that the stylish-looking Trident can disperse impact with the best of them, and with this company you know you can trust the results.

GoPro Hero 2 HD Camera GoPro HD2 Camera Canoe & Kayak UK Gear of the Year
Every paddler and her budgerigar now has a GoPro Hero cam nowadays, or so you might think looking around any well-populated freestyle spot, river or artificial course on a good weekend when levels are up. And with good reason. Never has capturing awesome-looking, full HD video and images been so easy and accessible; GoPro have triggered a minor revolution, which has seen every paddler turn into an amateur filmmaker. We thought it was high time we recognised this now rather iconic product with a Highly Commended mention in the Canoe & Kayak UK Gear of the Year: Hard Wear category.

Innovative Product of the Year

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Fluid Do It Now Sit On Top whitewater Kayk

Fluid Do-It-Now Whitewater Sit On Top Kayak

This category awards the product that we feel is really doing something new and different in its respective field. It could be anything, from a new boat, to a particularly well-designed piece of kit to an entirely new invention: it just has to display an altered way of thinking and a drive to improve on accepted norms. This year we’ve chosen the new whitewater sit-on-top kayak from South African company Fluid, the Do-It-Now*. Inspired by the hull of one of their premier river running boats, the whole purpose of the Do-It-Now is to create a kayak that successfully emulates the paddling experience of a conventional closed-cockpit kayak but on a more stable and completely safe platform. We think the design features used to achieve this are a complete innovation that stands to revolutionise whitewater coaching at clubs and centres.


Retailer of the Year

The Canoe & Kayak UK Retailer of the Year Award is about much more than being able to flog a good deal. In the universe obsessed with Internet shopping, retailers nowadays have to step up their game and really go the extra mile for their customers. So many retailers across the country have risen to the challenge and now provide expert advice, coaching sessions, demo days and great cups of tea alongside their canoeing and kayaking wares. This Canoe & Kayak UK Awards category is all about celebrating those retailers. It’s always a very difficult category to judge, and the list of possible candidates is long, but this year we felt that Brookbank London stood out.


Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Brookbank London Canoe Shop
Brookbank Canoes & Kayaks
The Brookbank store in London is part of the Brookbank chain that now spans the entire country and boasts a dizzying array of kit and equipment not just for canoeing and kayaking, but also for sailing and climbing. Right on the doorstep of the Lee Valley White Water centre, the London shop has become somewhat of a hub for paddlers visiting the area and popping in to browse the kit or borrow a demo boat from the vast array on offer to try out on the course. The staff are invariably friendly an helpful, and no matter how big the chain grows, you never lose that sense of ‘popping down to your local canoe & kayak’ retailer.’

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo
Desperate Measures Canoe Shop

Desperate Measures
Canoe Shop
Desperate Measures have been established as a paddle sport retailer for well over 20 years, and although most or all of the faces will have changed in that time the knowledge and expertise you’d expect from a business so long in the industry is there. The name is synonymous, in fact, with a well-stocked shop staffed by friendly and knowledgeable individuals, passionate about paddle sport and we though it was about time we awarded this with a Highly Commended mention in the Canoe & Kayak UK Retailer of the Year category.

Robin Hood Watersports Canoe ShopRobinhood Watersports Canoe & Kayak Shop
Robin Hood Watersports, or Roho as it’s fondly known is a long-established retailer absolutely packed-full of all types of kit for every water sport imaginable. They’re specialists in putting together great packages, and as a customer you always come away with a sense that you’ve received great value for your money. As ever, though, to be Highly Commended in the Canoe & Kayak UK Retailer of the Year category you’ve got to go further than merely offering great deals: faceless internet sites can do that. Roho absolutely does this, though, and along with their great value packages and products, and whether in person or over the phone you’re always guaranteed great service and straightforward, honest advice.

Facility of the YearCardiff International White Water Centre

Canoe & Kayak UK Awards 2012

Cardiff International White Water Centre

In the years that it’s been open we’ve been consistently impressed with how paddler-friendly the running and organisation of CIWW is. Like any artificial course, the majority of the running costs are covered by rafting, but nevertheless the centre is somewhere, in our experience, that paddlers always feel welcomed by the friendly and enthusiastic staff. The whitewater is of a truly high standard, and many an important competitions have been hosted there, including the ICF Slalom World Cup, which saw Olympic silver medallists David Florence and Richard Housnlow power to victory in the C2 category back in June. Whether it’s for an enjoyable ‘park and play’ session in your freestyle boat, or to take part in or watch a competition of any level, Cardiff International White Water is one of the country’s best venues and a deserving winner of the Canoe & Kayak UK Facility of the Year.

Canoe & Kayak UK 2012 Awards Highly Commended logo

Lee Vallet Whitewater Rafting centre

Lee Valley White Water Centre

After the drama, excitement and triumph witnessed at this world-class whitewater facility, heralded by many Olympic athletes the best they’ve ever used, we couldn’t not give it a Highly Commended mention in the Canoe & Kayak UK Facility of the Year category. Later this month Lee Valley will open its doors to kayakers once again, and you too will be able to turn up for a ‘park and play’ session on the course where champions were made.

Tees Barrage International White Water Centre Tees Barrage International Whitewater Centre Whitewater kayaking
£4.6 million of redevelopment has done some great things for Tee Barrage International White Water Centre in Stockton, County Durham. It is now up there amongst the best centres in the country for whitewater, and boasts two courses. It is currently the only facility of its kind in the world to be powered by Archimedes screws, which when the tide is flowing in run in reverse and generate electricity for the national grid. Alongside rafting and kayaking, the centre runs a huge number of training courses and activities and has a great café and well-stocked paddling shop on site. If you’ve never been Tees Barrage International White Water Centre is well worth a visit, and a worthy mention in the Canoe & Kayak UK Facility of the Year category.

Think we've made the right choices? Tell us your views in the Canoe & Kayak forum HERE or visit the Canoe & Kayak UK Facebook page and share your thoughts

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