Articles - The National Student Rodeo Event Report

The student flag
The student flag
Nick Horwood images by Jason Smith & - Posted on 17 Mar 2009
   Students everywhere
The day was upon us. The hordes of canoe & kayak mad students were descending. We’d arrived almost two days beforehand to start erecting the 9600 square feet of marquee space needed to accommodate the party, and by the time the competitors started to arrive on Friday night, my fellow organiser, Tim and I sat somewhere on the fine line between excitement and terror. Months of preparation had finally come to fruition, and the question remained: Could this event work? Was our plan to host ‘the biggest freestyle competition in the world, ever’ too ambitious? Was it even possible to get 670 people down the Holme Pierrepont whitewater course in one weekend?

The retail village was built, the prizes promised by our generous sponsors were slowly accumulating in our van, the enormous sound system was pumping out tunes in the party tent, the two bars had been fully stocked, and the NSR ‘08 team sat ready in the bar/HQ with their new green uniforms like generals preparing for war. The university clubs arrived mostly without a hitch, and Friday night was, as always, chance to catch up with old friends, enjoy a few beers, assess the competition and dive greedily into one of the 800 free goody bags in search of a lovely pair of fleecy socks provided once again by Immersion Research. Captains were briefed, judges were allocated their duties, and the slick new scoring system sat restlessly inside the NSR laptop dishing out bib numbers and hungrily awaiting scores. It was just left to see whether we could actually pull the whole thing off...Student humour
The formidable task of extracting eight hundred lazy students from their cosy sleeping bags at 7:30 in the morning is one that is made significantly easier given the help of the world’s largest megaphone*, and Saturday’s competition kicked off promptly at 8:30 with a briefing and demonstration run down the extreme slalom course. This initial event serves the purpose of dividing the field into their respective ability groups, judging prowess in both old and new skool moves, as well as a 360 degree rotation and ‘hit the cannonball’ challenge. The carnage was to provide most of the entertainment, and as the very first competitor to brave the course swam proudly out of the top hole to a chorus of cheers from the crowd, the standard had been set, and the safety crew knew they were in for a long day! Notable entries to the extreme slalom included Tom Laws’ swashbuckling Nomad galleon, as well as almost every beginner who stacked it spectacularly in pursuit of ever more daring old skool moves.
Also going down (quite literally) on Saturday morning were the squirt boat coaching sessions and heats, this year with 70 odd entrants, and for the first time enough female entrants to allow for a women’s category. Those new to the sport were given a free coaching session, and the more experienced squirters were invited back to take part in the heats on the course. Almost as popular again was the c1 class, once considered a comedy show good for laughs and carnage, but now home to a plethora of single bladed talent, the top 10 of whom were invited back for Sunday’s final.
Somehow, and in a way that to me still appears to defy basic logic, by 2:00 on Saturday afternoon the extreme slalom was over, and we had managed to get every single one of the 670 entrants down the course and allocated to a heat. Perhaps more surprisingly the Top-duo qualifiers had finished with minimal carnage leaving just 15 brave teams of two ready to strut their two man freestyle skills in the following day’s heats. Tim and I were able to breathe a sigh of relief and stage a quick love check, before diving head first into the afternoon’s challenge; the men’s k1 heats. Thanks to the work of our tireless judging and safety teams, the afternoon went off without a hitch, even allowing enough spare time for us to host one or two extra-curricular games giving spectators the chance to get their hands on the pile of free stuff provided for us by Palm and Pyranha.
Another feature new to this year’s rodeo was ‘Pirate radio’, courtesy of DJ Dave and his crew, which made it possible to broadcast tunes and banter throughout the day up and down the course and to anybody in the vicinity with a working radio.
        kayaker with silly hat
As the heats drew to a close and the weather finally gave in unleashing a heavy downpour, we all retreated to the party tent for a hearty serving of hog roast and to relax for a few hours and enjoy the premier of Sam Ward’s film; ‘A Dam Shame’, before donning our pirate outfits in readiness for the enormous pirate party provided by River Legacy. After the lucky winner of a two-week holiday to the Nile, courtesy of Love It Live It was decided by raffle, the party began in earnest, with the Dirty Cherubs Rocking out, before DJ Dave took over once again, featuring a guest appearance on the decks by Paddy from Palm who had the whole party grooving away to some funky breaks and dirty dub-step. Glowsticks were once again a popular accessory for the ravers, complimenting the tri corner hats, parrots and cutlasses that served as accessories for the veritable army of buccaneers and salty wenches jumping around long into the night to the visceral groove of pounding electro shanties.
Sunday morning is traditionally a day for a relaxing lie-in, and the NSR weekend is no different, usually allowing competitors a luxurious extra half-hour in bed. Unfortunately the megaphone wielding reprobate that has somehow managed to rise to the rank of Leeds Uni Canoe Club captain was able to get hold of the aforementioned device at ten past seven, and as nobody else was up to stop him, all hope of this sleep based reprieve was brutally dashed in a hail of brummie accented verbal abuse. Luckily the night’s storm had passed over giving way to a cloudless sky and what would turn into a full day’s glorious sunshine, making the difficult haul out of bed that little bit more bearable for partied out pirates.
Sunday morning was to provide one of the weekend’s highlights in the form of the women’s novice heats. In both male and female novice categories points are provided primarily for entertainment value, and entertainment was certainly not in short supply. With a plethora of old skool moves, nakedness, crocodile riding, bribery of judges and much more, the women’s novice managed as always to demonstrate perfectly the spirit and enthusiasm of the rodeo. After the women’s k1 heats had finished we were left with only finals to go and those lucky enough to no longer be required on the water were able to relax with a free cup of tea courtesy of Desperate Measures, and enjoy the top quality of freestyle kayaking on display.
As the Last few hard fought finals came to an end and the winners of each category were decided, spectators began to slowly descend upon the looping pool for the weekend’s climax in the form of the spectacle that is the duo final. The final consisted of six teams representing some of the biggest uni clubs, including event organisers and hot favourites Tim Trew and myself, determined to put on a show to finish off the competition with a bang. As the event began it became clear that all 800 of those present had gathered in the afternoon sunshine to watch the carnage unfold and cheer on their favourites. The final started off spectacularly with an incredible almost loop from the unorthodox pink space cadet duo, and within the first few minutes every team had swum without exception. With relentless manic enthusiasm the teams threw themselves again and again into the hole, helping each other out, swapping boats, sabotaging one another and generally behaving in a frankly ridiculous manner suited only to such an event.

Superman dives, back-flips from cockpits, all the old skool classics, and the occasional elusive vertical duo pop-out were thrown down all over the shop, until the broken competitors had no more left to give. When the final whistle eventually blew a deafening cheer erupted from the crowd and the weary competitors dragged themselves, tired and bedraggled but elated out onto the sides of the pool. Tim and I ran with the last of our energy to the top of the hill opposite the crowd and looked back down the hill to see 800 people cheering and waving in the sunshine. Tim looked at me, and with a ridiculous grin said simply; “We did it dude! We made a rodeo!”
The prize giving was a classy affair with bottles of top quality bubbly presented for winners to spray each other with in true formula one style, with the top prize of a brand spanking new Pyranha Rev going to overall winners Nottingham Trent. Individual prizes ranged from brand new Robson paddles through Alpkit Down sleeping bags and North Face goodies to custom handmade NSR ’08 beanies provided by Frig. New to the competition this year was the ‘Spirit of PGL’ trophy provided by the headline event sponsors PGL, accompanied by a factory tour and custom made boat from Dagger Europe. The trophy this year was presented to Teesside Uni club for showing the most enthusiasm and support for their novices throughout the event. The full list of winners can be found on-line and needless to say the best prizes went as always to the beginners and intermediates, and those we felt were most deserving.Tim  the Trew pirate
The NSR is only so successful thanks to the huge team of volunteers who help out as well as the sponsor companies who donate prizes, as well as advice and experience. The rodeo is primarily about having fun and getting beginners involved in the sport of kayaking, and although us students often get a bad rep for our boating exploits we see the NSR not just as a huge party, but a chance to get the new generation of budding kayakers involved and passionate about our sport. Also, let’s not forget, it’s a good excuse for a huge party. The list of people we need to thank is too long to include here but, but big love goes out especially to all of Leeds Uni Canoe Club who organise the rodeo, to River Legacy for sorting out the marquees and the party, to all the judges and the safety team, and to PGL for supporting our event so generously. Everybody else; you know who you are, give yourself a big hug, or come and grab one from Tim or myself next time you see us on the river.

*Affectionately known as the harbinger of

Read Our report of the Alpkit Washburn event.

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