New addresses…

I have taken the decision recently to make it easier for people like yourself – those who read my blog and enjoy my photos – to access both my blog and photos. To this end I have purchased a new domain – www.andywicks.com – and set up the following:

Do you think this will make it easier? I would appreciate hearing your views.

Enjoying the late afternoon sun at Hurley, Sunday 22nd February 2009

Enjoying the late afternoon sun at Hurley, Sunday 22nd February 2009

Back to the old skool…

Saturday afternoon saw Martyn, Ricky, Tim and I meet in the car park at Hurley. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was going to be one of the best Hurley sessions I had ever been treated to. The level was a fantastic four gates with the pile perfectly retentive – not too little and not too much, but perfect.

For me, the best part of the session was Ricky and I both surfing the same gate. We have been trying for a long time to nail cross-overs (where we switch sides in the same gate) and we able to make as many cross-overs as we liked with minimal effort.

The reason for this post title occurred fairly early on during our session on Sunday afternoon. Shortly after Tim getting back in his boat following a swim, we were (almost) all sat in the eddy when we suddenly noticed that Martyn’s boat was floating downstream upside-down, with him floating next to it… he had reverted to his old ways and taken a swim!!

I was still buzzing as we walked back to the cars in the dark and I would go as far to say that the level we had just experienced was the best level I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing at Hurley.

Ricky, Martyn and Tim

Ricky, Martyn and Tim

The beautiful sunset

The beautiful sunset

Tim showing off his flat-water skills

Tim showing off his flat-water skills

Ricky and myself surfing in the same gateRicky, Martyn and Tim

Ricky and myself surfing in the same gate

Making full use of the feature

Making full use of the feature

Following our great session on Saturday, Tim, Martyn and I returned for more on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately the weir had dropped to (a very nice) three gates and the queue was massive. Despite this, it was still another fantastic session and a perfect way to follow on from yesterday and end the weekend.

A busy Sunday afternoon

A busy Sunday afternoon

Simon doing his best impression of a camera vulture

Simon doing his best impression of a camera vulture

Me making a blunt

Me making a blunt

Late afternoon sun shining through the weir gates

Late afternoon sun shining through the weir gates

More photos are available here: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/wicks.andy/HurleyFeb2122nd2009

P.S. – as you may, or may not, have noticed, there is a new address for this blog – andywicks.com. Hopefully you will find this easier to remember than before! If you have bookmarked this blog using the old address (andywicks.wordpress.com) there is no need to worry as that link points to the new address.

It’s not in my pocket…

Now that I was able to go paddling again, I spent most of last week organising a weekend of kayaking. The plan was to hit Hurley for a couple of sessions on Saturday, head to Birmingham on Saturday afternoon/evening to watch the rugby and enjoy a few drinks before heading across to North Wales on Sunday to paddle the Tryweryn. As the weekend drew nearer it became clear that this well thought-out plan was not going to work quite so smoothly as anticipated. For a start, on Thursday we got the news that there was going to be no release from Llyn Celyn, meaning that there would not be enough water in the Tryweryn to enable us to paddle it. On Friday it became apparent that Mother Nature was not intent on us just having our plans for Sunday disrupted when all the rain which fell during the week raised the Thames to almost flood levels – Hurley was in the stanchions, Shepperton was washed out, Sunbury was washed out and even Mapledurham, which works when the Thames is in flood conditions, was washed out! Luckily the levels started to drop on Friday evening and Mapledurham started to come back into condition.

Even with the revised plans things didn’t go quite right on Saturday. The idea was to meet at Mapledurham for 1000, paddle for a couple of hours then head to the pub for lunch. After lunch, we were to get back on the water for an hour-or-so before leaving for Birmingham to watch the Rugby. Things were running behind before they even started with both myself and Tim not due both of us setting off late. Unfortunately for Martyn he managed to get there slightly early so had a bit of a wait on his hands.

Upon arrival at the weir just after 1030, we commenced getting changed and no sooner had I put on my IR Union Suit than I realised that I had left my drysuit and paddles back on the drive in front of the garage at home! Martyn and Tim got on the water while I had no option but to return home and collect my kit, before returning to Mapledurham for an afternoon session with Tim. Rather than getting changed back into my normal clothes, I decided to drive home in my union suit, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake as it is a really good thermal and I simply roasted in my car!

I eventually made it back to Mapledurham for about 1315 – a full two and a half hours after arriving at the weir first time around. Tim and I managed to locate a pub just down the road for lunch before getting onto the water at about 1445 for our afternoon session. The river level was quite high – around 12’11” with an ideal level for Mapledurham being around 12’6″ – which made getting onto the wave slightly tricky but once on it was a nice wave to surf. In order to make it Birmingham in time for the rugby (1730 kick-off) we got off the water around 1530, followed by a quick change and loading of the cars.

Mapledurham weir

Mapledurham weir

We had arranged to meet Emma in Watlington to give her a lift to Birmingham but we had mis-underestimated just how far out of the way Mapledurham – we didn’t get meet Emma until approximately 1620 which meant that there was no way we were going to make it for the start of the game. A rapid shuffling around of boats ensued, with Emma pausing to show off her new Palm Torrent drysuit. We made it to Birmingham just in time for the start of the second half and watched England make a concerted effort against the Welsh but in the end were unable to pull a win out of the hat. The remainder of the evening was spent eating pizzas before heading off to the Gosta Green pub for a few drinks. Sunday saw a bright and early start with us meeting at the store for 0830. Out of the original list of 10 people, 3 people had dropped out by the time we left Birmingham for Wales (Martyn -too far for a day; Jethro – too drunk; Joe – too under-the-thumb). To avoid potential confrontations regarding access to the Conwy with some local landowners and people acting on behalf of fisheries we decided to meet up in Betws-y-Coed to get changed and organise ourselves so that when we got to the get-in layby on the A5 all we had to do was take the boats off the cars and get on the river – with minimal fuss. Seeing as it had been quite an early start, added to the fact that there was no danger of us getting two rivers in before darkness fell we decided that we had enough time for a civilised cup of tea before getting ready. We got changed at a sensible pace, sorted the boats and kit so that we could just drop one car in the layby at the get-out on the way to the get-in but then Emma reminded us of her special skills. The bung for her boat was in her purse on the drive across to Wales and whilst getting changed she decided to put it somewhere safe. Unfortunately, once she was fully changed could she remember where that safe place was? Not a chance! We started with the sensible places – her purse; the pocket on her BA; the pockets on her drysuit; the seat she had been sat on in the car…. the list went on. No success. Then we completely emptied and searched the boot, before getting down on our hands and knees to check it hadn’t rolled off under one of the surrounding cars. No success. Amy went back to the café where we had our cups of tea asking about a “little piece of black plastic” which we had lost – she got some weird looks upon asking that! Still no success though. Time to start being methodical. We asked Emma if we gave her a bung now, where would she put it? “In here”, she replied pointing at the pockets on her drysuit, “but I have already checked in them”. As she said this she patted down the pockets to prove they were empty. However, she had not counted on the pockets being very deep and, upon prompting to check them out from the inside, the look on her face became very apologetic. She had found it. We had spent about 15 minutes looking for the bung and it turned out to be in one of the first places she had looked! With bung safely located, we headed to the get-on. Swiftly unloading the cars, we were on the water launching downstream within five minutes of pulling into the layby. The river level was low, but perfectly runnable. Emma, being her usual self, still managed to get pinned on a rock just around the first corner. The river itself was fairly uneventful – no swims or serious pins (although Emma did manage a few more minor pins) – until we reached the get-out eddy. The landowner has erected a barbed-wire fence and a sign stating ‘Private Land’ preventing us from egressing here. In addition, there was a 4×4, parked at the top of the cattle track we usually use to get up to the road, whose driver kept a keen eye on us. We decided that we would not risk getting out here so paddled across the river and got out just below the bridge. As we were walking up to the road from the river bank the 4×4 drove towards us across the bridge before stopping and the driver taking photos of us. At no stage did he come and inform us why he was taking the photos, but as we walked up the road to the layby he drove of in the opposite direction.

Amy helping Emma show off her new drysuit

Amy helping Emma show off her new drysuit

Amy

Amy

Alex

Alex

Artistic shot of Emma P

Artistic shot of Emma P

Emma B

Emma B

Dave B

Dave B

Tim working hard

Tim working hard

My new boat

My new boat

More photos are available at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/wicks.andy/ConwyFeb15th2009

Twice as nice…

After an unfortunate incident at Hurley back on Sunday 21st December I was ordered by my doctors to take 6 weeks off paddling. Well, that six week period expired while I was skiing last weekend, so I had to get back in my boat. Between 21st December 2007 and 8th February 2008 I had managed to get out on the water on at least nine occasions. In the same period only one year later I had not been on the water once – I had a lot of ground to make up!

Watching the weather forecasts last week I started to question as to whether going paddling with so much snow around was such a good plan. Every time that I thought about this, I was quickly able to convince myself that it was a good idea when I thought just how long it had been since I was last in my boat. Driving to Hurley on Sunday afternoon, seeing all the surrounding fields still covered in snow, I was still questioning my decision. Meeting up with Martyn and Tim in the car-park, we quickly got changed and headed over to the weir.

As I slipped into my boat it was instantly comfortable. Normally, after a period off kayaking, the boat feels as though as it has shrunk as I have to squeeze myself in. My boat had obviously felt left-out and decided to be nice to me this time, despite it being the longest period off kayaking for a number of years. Despite seeing snow on the banks and expecting the water to be cold, I was still surprised at just how cold it was. In the short time it took to paddle across to the weir I had already lost feeling in my left hand!Deciding to ease myself in gently, I dropped straight into the fourth gate and was immediately over. Rolling up I was treated to the biggest head-freeze I have suffered in a long, long time. No sooner had the head-freeze dissipated than I was back on the wave. This pattern was followed for pretty much the entire session After just over an hour on the water we had all endured as much freezing cold water as we could cope with. Well, that, plus that fact that it was dark! We called it a day and headed back to the cars to warm up and head home.

On top of finally being back on the water, this weekend I picked up my new boat. Following my time demo-ing a Jackson SuperHero last year, I eventually splashed out and got one of my very own. Unfortunately I was not able to get an orange one and had to suffice with a red one. I am looking forward to getting it out on the water this weekend to take the shine off it and add some nice scratches.

Concentrating hard on Triple Step, Middle Etive

Concentrating hard on Triple Step, Middle Etive

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A plan was hatched late last year when Nick suggested that we head across to Geneva to visit him and go skiing for a weekend at one of his local resorts.

Tim and myself travelled out together, meeting one of Nick’s friends from uni, Martin, and one of Martin’s friends, J, at Luton airport on Friday morning as we were all on the same flight. Landing in Geneva, we collected the hire car and headed to the resort of Le Grand Bornand.

Le Grand Bornand

Le Grand Bornand

Snow and sunshine.... beautiful

Snow and sunshine…. beautiful

Martin and J went off to do some harder runs while Tim and I stayed on the easier runs. Before this weekend, Tim had only had a couple of hours experience on skis – a lesson at the Tamworth Snowdome – so we started off on the nursery slope. We rapidly got bored of this and decided to take on a green run. Towards the bottom, this run became narrower and twistier. At the bottom we realised that this we because we had taken a wrong turn and accidentally gone down a blue run! Friday night we met up with Nick and Rich – one of Nick’s friends from back home – for dinner followed by some pool and beer. A-M joined us later on after flying up from Nice. She would have been with us slightly earlier but she managed to get on the tram heading in the wrong direction!

Tim enjoying a break

Tim enjoying a break

Saturday we met up with Ilya and Jonathan – a couple of Nick’s friends from work – and headed back up to Le Grand Bornand for another day of fun. The start was delayed somewhat due to having to organise hiring skis and getting lift passes, but we eventually made it up to the pistes for around midday. The afternoon was spent learning a bit more before Martin, Ilya and Nick headed off to do some more challenging runs leaving Tim, A-M, J (who was now on skis), Rich and myself to enjoy some more blue runs. The day ended with Rich, J and I deciding that we fancied a go at our first red run in order to ski back to the resort. This turned out to be a challenge with each of us enjoying a couple of falls. Saturday night we headed out for dinner of all-you-can-eat prawns.

Ilya

Ilya

Nick lining up to launch himself off the mountain

Nick lining up to launch himself off the mountain

Rich taking a tumble

Rich taking a tumble

Anne-Marie trying to look cool

Anne-Marie trying to look cool

Nick making a jump

Nick making a jump

Martin attempting a 180

Martin attempting a 180

Tim and Anne-Marie

Tim and Anne-Marie

J and me

J and me

The red run that Rich, J and me finished the day with

The red run that Rich, J and me finished the day with

A well packed hire car

A well packed hire car

Waking up on Sunday morning we were greeted with the sight of a few inches of fresh snow on the streets of Geneva. Heading up to the resort it became clear that today was not going to be as bright and sunny as the previous two days. The cloud made seeing contours in the snow much harder than when it is sunny. The aim was to start the day with a long blue run right at the other side of the resort. To get to that run, however, required us to take cable-car, followed by a chair-lift, followed by a red run, followed by another chair-lift, followed by a blue run, followed by another chair-lift to the top of the run! We did this long blue run a couple of times before heading back to the main part of the resort for lunch. The first part of the afternoon was spent on a nice blue run we did a few times on Saturday before we headed across to another blue run we discovered at the end of Saturday. A couple of runs down this and it was soon time to head back down the mountain to the car. Ilya, Rich, J and myself took to the red run back down, whilst Tim and A-M took the cable down. The fresh snow had built up some moguls (mounds of snow on the slope) which proved to be a downfall for me as I hit one and ended up descending part of the slope head-first on my front! The rest of the run was relatively uneventful, but was a fantastic way to end the weekend of skiing. We said goodbye to A-M and Rich as they had to fly home for work on Monday and the rest of us went back to Nick’s for some dinner before going to the bar for some more pool and beer.

Sunday was cloudy with fresh snow

Sunday was cloudy with fresh snow

Waiting to get the lift to the top of the long blue run

Waiting to get the lift to the top of the long blue run

The long lift to the top of the long blue run

The long lift to the top of the long blue run

It was harder to see the contours in the snow when it was cloudy. Tim making his way cautiously down the mountain

It was harder to see the contours in the snow when it was cloudy. Tim making his way cautiously down the mountain

The plan for Monday was for Tim and myself to head into Geneva for some sight-seeing in the morning before catching our flight back to Luton in the afternoon. Nick was going back to work and Martin and J were heading back into the mountains for another day of skiing. Our plans were scuppered due to Mother Nature’s intervention – when she covered Southern England in snow. This caused our flight to be cancelled, followed by queueing for just over two hours in order to rebook onto another flight – Tuesday morning to Gatwick – before we headed back into Geneva for another night with Nick, Martin and J.

A bandstand in the middle of Geneva

A bandstand in the middle of Geneva

An old tram in Geneva

An old tram in Geneva

Jet d’Eau coming out of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) - 140 metres tall!!

Jet d’Eau coming out of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) – 140 metres tall!!

Our trip to the airport was much more successful on Tuesday, with our flight only delayed by ten minutes. Getting to Gatwick, however, was not the end of our journey. From there, we had to get up to Luton in order to collect my car from the car park there. Eventually, I made it back to Ealing only 23 hours late.

Snow in South Ealing on Tuesday afternoon

Snow in South Ealing on Tuesday afternoon

More photos from the weekend are available at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/wicks.andy/SkiingGenevaJan2009