Mermaid madness

Editor Lesley Williams faces her fear of water while white water rafting in Cardiff

TheBAY editor Lesley Williams shares with us her recent white water rafting experience…


Regular readers will know that I have been learning to swim in the past few months. It’s a slow process but I am making progress. I am now able to put my head under the water without going into a blind panic.

In a moment of madness I booked a trip to the Cardiff International White Water centre for an afternoon of white water rafting. I figured that the aim would be to stay in the boat and therefore my chances of getting wet were probably minimal. How wrong can anyone be?

On arrival we were kitted out with wet suits, shoes, buoyancy jackets and helmets – I began to suspect that my plans on staying dry were misguided. We were shepherded down a ramp to the water’s edge and into our raft and onto the water.

Safety instructions complete, we paddled off to the conveyor belt that would transport us up to the course. The water is pumped from the dock up to the course at a cost of £300 per hour and can be drained in minutes in the event of an emergency. It can be refilled by restarting the pumps in just 5 minutes. We were told how many cubic litres of water filled the course but I have to confess I have forgotten that bit of information – I think it’s because we were just approaching the first rapid and I was concentrating on staying in the raft.

Instructions were shouted by our team leader Jamie – Lean in! Down! Paddle Forward! Paddle Backward!  Stop! I struggled to get back up from the bottom of the boat before being instructed to get back down.

Having completed the circuit several times, Jamie decided that we should have the experience of capsize. The other five occupants of the boat cheered – what fun – I on the other hand held onto my paddle as instructed and with the other free hand held my nose and sent up a silent prayer. Over we went and under I went.

Fortunately Jamie is all too used to hauling women and men into boats and I was very soon back in my position with my paddle still firmly in my grasp.

The course caters for canoes and curious hand held boards to six man rafts all sharing the man made rapids. Young children darted in and out in their canoes with a confidence that obviously came from experience.

A similar course in the Lee Valley will play host to the Olympics this month and will be open to the public from September. But the CIWW is very accessible from Swansea and makes an interesting day out!

All too soon our two hour session was over and we made our way back to the slipway, but not before we had performed one last trick of turning the boat over backwards. Such joy.

We all collected in the back of the raft and slowly it turned turtle. This time I didn’t have to suffer the indignity of being man handled into the boat as we just had to swim to the slipway.

Back on dry land and recovering my composure I wondered whether I would do it again. And the answer is a definite yes. The adrenalin rush of the white water is thrilling and I’m not sure where else you could get that sort of buzz – except perhaps by bungy-jumping.

Cardiff International White Water, Watkiss Way, Cardiff, CF11 0SY Tel: 029 2082 9970

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