New, tougher Lee Valley Legacy inductions
This weekend, my club took two paddlers for their Lee Valley Legacy loop inductions. And they failed.
The problem isn’t that they failed – they’ve been told they can repeat the assessment for £5 at a future date (the same price as a regular hour on the course). The issue is that the assessment has recently become a whole lot trickier than it has been for the last two years in which the centre has been open. You now have to catch five eddies in one run to pass – not trivial for a 2* paddler who is progressing to 3* and wants some safe, exciting white water experiences, despite what various experienced paddlers have argued to me.
Let me give you a little bit of background to the situation. My club has now had 10 people go through assessments at Lee Valley (including two Olympic assessments, one failed and one passed). Until today, everyone had passed their Legacy assessment. The main thrust of the assessment seemed to be ‘Can you successfully wet exit your kayak or self-rescue? Can you move yourself and your kit around the course, in and out of the water? Can you make a sensible attempt at catching eddies? Will you panic if you end up swimming?’ I know on my first run of the course, we were just told to make as many eddies as possible and to roll or swim. I got two eddies before I swam, and that was enough to pass, and the assessments for my friends were the same – only if you wanted to be considered for the Olympic assessment did you have to show a greater skill level. It wasn’t uncommon to see people fall in after the first couple of eddies on the course, and still pass.
On Saturday, however, the assessment was rather different. The two guys from our club were the only people on the assessment that hour, so had the undivided attention – and later coaching – of the assessor. They both rolled successfully on the flat, attempted rolls on the moving water when eddy fences inevitably tipped them in, and swam – and so continued their runs down the course for the rest of the hour. Really, it was pretty similar to my first 10 hours on the course, and now with rather more hours under my belt, I still swim on about 40% of my laps if I try to do anything difficult.
These friends – T and C – are not white water novices. I’d say they were 2* standard or better. They have nice rolls on the flat, they don’t panic if their rolls fail on white water, and they’re keen to learn. T has several hours of experience on the Durance in the Alps, the Feshey, the Spey, and rivers around Fort William, as well as the Cam and Granta – probably enough hours for a 3* log book. C has experience of the Feshey and Spey and plays canoe polo with us. When I passed my Legacy assessment, I had experience only of pool sessions, the Cam and the Granta, and time messing around in the Mill Pond sluice gate (which these guys also have!).
What they lacked experience of was punching out of eddies – they kept trying to get eddies at the top of the course, and while they could get into an eddy successfully, they struggled to get out again, ended up capsizing and then swimming. If you try to get eddies at the top of the course, which is more challenging, and then go swimming, you will never make five eddies, the new assessment standard. Their assessor seemed very nice and ended up basically giving them one-on-two coaching for the final half hour, and they visibly improved. I think they would have met that five eddy mark in another couple of runs – T could get two on a run reliably, and C four, they just swam before making that fifth eddy. I have now set my mind to choosing the five easiest eddies on the course, to help anyone else we take to pass the assessment. It would have been really helpful if the centre had publicly advertised that assessments were getting more difficult (compared to the November standard). We now have to recalibrate our idea of who is ready for the course, as apparently grade 2 and 3 river experience isn’t enough any more! I also have a nagging suspicion that on a busier assessment, with a different assessor, they’d have passed. That’s not a good thing.