Learning Welsh in a kayak in the French Alps!

Vawn Humphrey-Wilson in his kayak in whitewater

PGL Sponsored Athlete, Vawn Humphrey-Wilson has just returned from a training camp in the French Alps with the Llandysul paddlers. He tells us about his experience:

"My experience in the French Alps was amazing and I loved every minute. I went there not having much confidence as I hadn't been on proper white-water for a couple of months and on the first day when we arrived at the first site (L'Argentière-la-Bessée) it was a massive shock to me to see how big the water was. Fortunately, our first session was a play session to get used to the water and the current, which was pretty fast!

"It was a very hot day and the water was freezing, it was also a very dark grey which made me slightly confused because I thought every river in France was a clear aqua blue!

"Later that day, we had another session focusing on different sections of the course and the different skills required for each. For every group of paddlers there was a coach with a lot of experience giving advice and feedback which really helped you to concentrate on the areas you needed to improve.

"I found the 1-1 advice very useful, it helped to improve my confidence and made me feel safer on the water. I was always pushed, both on and off the water, to get the best out of me so that I would make some gains by the end of the camp.

"Every day I was in the French Alps showed me that the amount of effort you put in determines where you place and how likely you are to hit the goals you have set yourself. There were many paddlers on the trip who had much more experience than me which meant they could give me constructive feedback on my skills and techniques to make me a better paddler and show me how much effort it takes to get to an elite level.

"I faced several challenges whilst I was away, not least was when I was ill with a flu bug that was going around the campsite. I had to miss a whole day of training and take medication. I also had to be patient and wait until I was well enough to get back on the water. At one point I thought I was well enough but everyone quickly realised from the state I was in that I wasn't!

"The next challenge I faced was at St-Pierre-de-Boeuf - the second site we visited. It was boiling hot and the water was refreshing and in my excitement I hopped into a play boat and got on the course, already knowing it was quite shallow. I paddled down to a hole I thought was deep enough to play in and plunged my front down into it. It was too shallow - I did a front loop and ended up grazing my face. However, being injured and having plasters on my face didn't stop me from paddling and finishing my time in France on a good note.

"One of the highlights of my trip to France was meeting new people and getting to know their personalities and backgrounds because usually I would only get to see them briefly when we are at races. While I was in France some of the Llandysul paddlers even taught me a bit of Welsh!

"Another highlight was the Rabioux Wave because we had to work as a team to get everyone down the river as safely as possible. This showed me as a paddler that even though we may not know each other that well, we still look out for and support each other no matter what the situation.

"The main thing I took away from this great experience with the Llandysul paddlers was that friendship isn't about who you've known the longest but who has the willingness to make your experience unforgettable."

By Vawn Humphrey-Wilson.

Read more about Vawn here.

Kayaking and canoeing are available at most PGL centres, why not find out more about our school trips, summer camps and family holidays?