Flood gates open! white water rafting in Cardiff

Wednesday 24 March 2010, 13:19

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron

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It does sound slightly bizarre when you say 'white water rafting' and 'Cardiff' in the same sentence but then again why not?

Nowadays we have mobile 'flow riders' for surfing on, which can be moved around the world for competitions in land locked countries.

London has even hosted snowboarding events in recent years, so why not have a white water rafting centre slap, bang in the middle of the International Sports Village at Cardiff Bay!

I'll get some video up soon. In the meantime I've added a few frame grabs:

The course without water at 9.30am:
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Cardiff International White Water (CIWW) is the first on demand rafting facility in the UK so will no doubt attract visitors from far and wide as it caters for a range of sports from kayaking and canoeing to white water rafting and hydro-sliding (sliding around on a robust, spongey body board).

I was lucky enough to attend the grand unveiling earlier today and was one of the first to ride rapids over the 250 metre course.

I arrived early enough to witness the pumps firing into life and rapidly filling the dry arena. It can pump out a staggering 8 cubic tons of water per minute.

Initially, the water flows out of three gates and into a single shallow pool. Once full, the water pours out and over the sides, flooding the entire site within minutes.

Watch some video from News Online:

Having signed my life away on paper, I was then given a wetsuit, boots, life jacket, helmet and quietly led away...

You start at the the bottom in most things in life and this was no different, as we trudged off down, below the facility, towards a flat water area where our safety and raft training would take place.

After about 15 minutes were set loose on the course along with our instructor 'Elliot' who bellowed out commands from the rear - "forwards, backwards, lean right, lean left, down and STOP!!!" which was definitely his favourite.

As we paddled around the edge of the complex towards the entrance, we were greeted by a rather strange site - an enormous escalator which wouldn't have looked out of place in a 'Bond' movie, stuck on the side of a villain's house with a crocodile pit at the bottom.

Heading towards the escalator:
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All we had to do then, was carefully line up our raft up with the escalator and let technology do the rest.

Within seconds we were sliding to the top and onto the course, carefully avoiding the bright red 'stop' button with our paddles. I imagine it's not a good place to get stuck - school kids take note!

Heading up to the course:
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After a few strokes we were off - flying head first into the first rapid, trying to avoid the bright blue barriers in our midst but still managing to plough into every one. We did improve!

These barriers/ stoppers act like artificial rocks, causing the waves to form and can be moved to completely alter the terrain, shape and flow of the course and there's been plenty of trial and error by the team in order to get it just right.

Negotiating the rapids:
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I opted to film on our first run, to try and capture exactly how it feels to be shaken and stirred in a bright yellow raft, whilst swallowing the River Ely's finest drinking water.

We ended up spending two, fun filled hours on the course and did improve (honest) - even getting though some of the obstacles unscathed. I only witnessed three 'man over boards' and one was an instructor but whose counting?

Rapids on the last section:
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Towards the end sections, you encounter some really nice drops into a few bigger rapids followed by a corker right at the end. Our instructor decided to show us this in more detail and took us 'raft surfing'.

It wasn't quite the surfing I'm normally used to and involved us paddling hard across the rapid and then up onto it, blasting water into our faces before turning us sideways and flipping us and the raft over.

The crew prepare to abandon ship mid flip:
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Some of us flipped, some of us didn't.

Naturally, I put myself in the line of fire and flipped over and out but for some reason the boat and instructor remained upright?

I was subsequently carried downstream at a rate of knots on my back, clutching two paddles whilst listening to 'Only Men Aloud' singing from the safety of their two rafts. Another day at the office! ;)

All in all a great experience and one I can highly recommend. We were only allowed to go around on half power so it must quite an adrenalin rush when the flood gates are fully open.

The new facilities are really well thought out, with plenty of room and all the kit you require, right there as you walk in. I can see this place becoming very popular with summer and the Olympics just around the corner.

More on this story on Wales Today tonight, so see if you can spot me. I'm the one in a bright yellow helmet!

Gull

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