by William Warr
For many students at Durham, the Canoe Club has become a very important part of their lives.
Palatinate caught up with Charlie Jefferson, club president and Rosie Henderson, Women’s Canoe Polo captain to tell us more.
Despite having five Great Britain canoeists in their club, Charlie emphasises that one of their main aims is be able to cater for as wide a range of people as possible.
“We want to be able to cater for absolute beginners, who have never done any canoeing before,” he said.
To their recent weekend away in the lake district they took 50 beginners with them.
On the other side of the skill level is their five Great Britain athletes.
Beth Barratt, Matt Fletcher and Scot Cresswell all play Canoe Polo.
Sandra Hyslop is a white water racer and Alice Haws is a Canoe Sprinter.
With this vast array of talent the club has been promoted to a category 1a sport by Team Durham.
This means the club now has a full time coach, Mark Ledger.
He said that he hopes to attract “new members to the club and develop our canoe polo team.”
Ledger explained he was really excited about improving the polo team because “the university has gained several high performance athletes this year and should make a sizeable impression at this year’s BUCS events.”
For those who are wondering what canoe polo is, women’s captain, Henderson offers an outline of the game.
“It is a five-a-side game in kayaks. It’s like a cross between rugby, basketball and water polo,” she said.
What is more, she emphasises that the game can be “quite violent, we need to wear masks helmets, which can get knocked off by the boats.”
The BUCS’s Canoe Polo Tournament is held at the end of April in Doncaster.
Training for the club is now split up depending on what discipline of Canoeing you pursue.
Club president Jefferson explains that one of the advantages of having Mark as new coach is that it “enables discipline-specific sessions.
‘Lots of people who have done it for a year, but want to make the step up, and the coach will help making that transition”.
And these changes can already be seen to make a difference. In the 1st term BUCS Wild Water Racing Tournament (where you have to go from the top to the bottom of a white water course as quickly as possible), Durham came third overall.
Individually in the Sprint and Classic events, Durham dominated the podium. Sandra Hyslop came first in both, closely followed by Alison Auld.
What is more, with its promotion to a tier one sport, the club now enjoys a brand new boathouse. Jefferson said: “It is a great facility and we have so much more space than used to have.”
As one of the most successful, active and possibly unknown societies that Durham University has to offer, it competes in all major disciplines with great success.
It is therefore not difficult to see why the University has offered so much recent support to the Canoe Club.
Although both training and competition are taken incredibly seriously, the club still manages to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere enticing new members.
With the perfect balance between competitiveness and fun, we can only asssume the club will continue to thrive for years to come.