Creeking is a type of kayaking that involves paddling down steep, fast rivers often with waterfalls and big rapids. Rosie Cripps talks to Sportsister about her love for the sport and how she copes with the dangers.
Is creeking a dangerous sport?
As with other sports that can be labelled as extreme, it really depends on what level you do it to, and how you go about it. Kayaking on a grade 2 river with little experience can be so much more dangerous than an experienced paddler kayaking on a class 4 rapid with the appropriate safety set up.
In reality it can be dangerous, the key is to control the risk as much as you can before you even get on the river. I try and do this by training, making sure my whitewater rescue skills are up to scratch and by going with experienced people I can trust. Once on the river I think your safety largely remains the result of you’re decision making process.
It’s important to be able to be able to make good decisions and stay calm under different physical and mental pressures.
Is creeking a competitive sport?
Yes it is, Boater-X combines creeking with racing and is a real test of speed, technique and confidence. It’s perfect for me! I really love to compete. It gives me the chance to improve my skills and really motivates me to get better through training. Also it’s a great way to meet new people and learn from them.
Do you get nervous before an event? If so how do you deal with it?
I’m usually okay until I’m on the start line. The few seconds before I set off are the worst. I just try really hard to focus on what I’m going to do and try and forget about the other competitors. I find that really difficult though! Once the race has started I’m not nervous anymore as I’m so focused on getting the right line or position there isn’t time to think about anything else!
Do you like watersports generally?
Yes, I really love watersports. I love the energy water gives me, and it adds a whole new dimension to a sport when the terrain is moving and changing the whole time. Imagine mountain biking with the ground continually twisting and changing beneath you. You have to really understand how the water works and think about how that will affect your boat and positioning. It adds a whole new dimension which is really exciting.
Do you have special kit?
Yes I use Dagger kayaks and Palm equipment. I’ve been part of team Palm and Dagger for quite a few years now. I think Palm especially have been at the forefront of developing gear for women kayakers. It used to be that we’d have to wear cagoules cut with really wide shoulders, tight across the front and with material all in the wrong places.
I’ve been really lucky to be involved in product development with Palm – now there are buoyancy aids, cags and drysuits cut specifically for girls, which makes such a massive difference on the water!
Is it a male dominated sport?
It certainly used to be a male dominated sport. When I started kayaking in 1997 up in Scotland I hardly ever saw any other girls, and it was especially rare to find another girl out paddling the harder grades. I think one of the reasons for this was that the kayaks were very long, heavy and hard to manoeuvre if you were small or not very strong.
Also there was no gear cut for girls, so we often got really cold and swamped in gear that was a bad fit. Now, although the sport is still dominated by men, there are loads more girls out there which is great to see.
Do you have a special diet?
Not really. I just try and eat a healthy and balanced diet. Often porridge is good in the morning if you have a long day, either competing or on the river. It really keeps your energy levels up. It’s quite hard to eat well especially when you’re travelling or on expeditions where space and cooking facilities are limited. Eating badly or infrequently can really affect your mental and physical state on the river and you have to be prepared for that.
What motivates you?
Having a really good day on the water with my friends, the moments when I’m totally in tune with the water everything feels effortless, and seeing people that are better than me.
Have you ever had any bad injuries?
I’ve been lucky not to have had any really serious injuries. Whilst kayaking in Norway one summer I ended up tearing the ligaments in both of my ankles. I was paddling a big waterfall (12m) on the Jordalselva and missed the key stroke on the lip. My boat hit a rock deep underwater but I didn’t realise anything was wrong until I resurfaced and saw the crumpled up front of my boat. Then I realised that I couldn’t feel my ankles. Luckily my friends pulled me out and carried me out of the gorge. I’ve been a lot more careful since.
Do you think kayaking deserves more coverage in the media?
Yes. It’s a really exciting sport to watch and I think more media coverage would encourage more people to take it up.
What advice would you give to someone keen to take up canoeing?
Join a canoe club. Usually the people there are really enthusiastic about the sport and you’ll be learning alongside other beginners.
Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
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