White water rafting is a fun and exhilarating activity that is available near London. Yes, you read that right! You can ride the rapids that Team GB won Gold and Silver on during the 2012 Olympic games with a guide that will ensure everyone is smiling. Healthy Living London’s Hannah headed to the white water rafting at the Lee Valley Centre to find out more.
We arrived early for our session of white water rafting at the Lee Valley Centre. This was essential as we were given our kit, a wetsuit and booties, and instructions as to how to put it on! After I had frantically hopped up and down, pulled and zipped myself into the wetsuit, I put all my things away into a locker. They do not allow you to carry anything on your person for fear it may be lost, or cause injury, however jewellery or glasses can be duct-tapped to you!
We headed outside for a safety briefing that was thorough and were given helmets and life jackets which were secured and checked. Safety is paramount here; yellow helmets are given out to anyone who may have a medical condition or who may not be the most confident swimmer. This allows the bank-side safety crew know that you may need special attention, should you fall off the raft. Having asthma, I was given a yellow helmet and our guide, Patrick, held on to my inhaler.
We headed down to the water and Patrick led us through some safety techniques, such as how to hold the paddle correctly and not cause a black eye, and how to rescue a crew member and get them back on board. Then, we had to jump into the rapids so that Patrick could check our swimming proficiency. Initially it was cold, but the wetsuit did its job. It is not essential that you are the best swimmer, but the safety team need to know that you can follow instructions and can reach the shore, or grab a rope thrown by a member of the bank-side safety crew.
Finally, we were ready to ride the rapids! A wide travelator carried us up to the start of the course and we were off. Our first run was quite fast and relatively smooth as Patrick took it easy on us so we could become familiar with the instructions and frequent flush of water. With growing confidence we gave Patrick permission to go harder! The next few runs were really fun. We were swirled around in what felt like a giant washing machine and even temporarily lost a crew member! He was rapidly rescued and returned to us smiling after his short swim. During each run, we switched places and a member of our crew was nominated as the mascot. This meant they got to ride at the bow and feel the full force of the water as it rushed onto the boat
With the ever enthusiastic Patrick as our captain, we were eager to try even harder maneuvers. This meant rigorous paddling and regular calls to get down. We definitely worked our cores as we paddled into the rapids and bounced around like jelly beans, whilst the water poured in. White water rafting with Patrick was not a leisurely paddle downstream. Instead, it was an adrenaline fuelled paddle against a strong current that enabled the boat to ride the waves, swirl around and jostle all its crew. As long as the crew were happy to try more daring moves, our captain was eager to guide us.
On our last run, we all cheered for an even harder ride. We paddled in unison and caught the waves. Patrick had us leaning left, then right and suddenly, we were all in the water! I ended up under the boat, as it had flipped, but I knew what to do. The safety tutorial had taught me to hold my breath, duck below the water and allow the rapids to move me out from under the boat. Once I popped up, I kicked away from the boat and swam to the bank. Whilst the safety crew were alert and helpful in rescuing the entire crew, Patrick had re-righted the boat, banked it further downstream and had rescued our paddles; what a captain! No guide would ever do this to a boat if they had felt that it was unsafe, or if a crew member was not comfortable. This crew ejection maneuver from Patrick was only possible as our crew were all competent, enthusiastic and eager to get wet!
What a wicked day, I would definitely go back for more. I was lucky to have been in a boat with like minded thrill seekers, as the experience would have been different had there been timid passengers. My advice would be to gather a team of friends and hire the entire boat; you get a discount, plus you still get the guide!
As winter approaches, the white water rafting at the Lee Valley Centre will soon close for the season. However, before the season ends, check out their awesome Halloween specials between the 28th -30th October. The rapids will be open late for trick or treat treasure hunts, canoeing, ‘thrills and chills’ white water rafting and ‘horror’ hot dogs (smaller rafts for two people down a shorter course, but you get just as wet!).
Also, Christmas is coming to the Lee Valley Centre. Santa will be popping in and there will be a Christmas market on the 17th and 18th December. However, the white water rapids will be closed as the water will be too cold, besides, I’m still hoping for snow and a white Christmas!
Find Out More…
What You Need: Water, a towel and a swimsuit to wear under the provided wetsuit.
Who’s It For: White water rafting is suited for anyone wanting to have fun and enjoy their workout. However, you must over 14 and be accompanied by an adult if you are under 18. You must be under 18 stone. There are two cafes and a terrace for anyone who wants to watch or walk along the bank and take pictures.
How Much: From £38.
Where: Lee Valley White Water Centre, Station Road, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, EN9 1AB.
Find Out More: https://www.gowhitewater.co.uk/
There are professional photographers taking pictures, like the ones in this article, that are available for purchase.
*Photos by David Leathborough, Rapid Focus Photography Ltd. firstname.lastname@example.org
**Health Advice: White water rafting can be a dangerous sport if you do not respect the water and the guide. Please pay attention during the safety briefings and tell the guide if you have any concerns.