Fourth-Place Medal and Puck Daddy blogger Greg Wyshynski is in London for the Summer Olympics. Occasionally, he'll try his hand at goofy sports and local activities. Here is one such example.
LONDON — I wasn't sure about the wetsuit.
Inside a cramped locker room at Lee Valley White Water Centre — and by cramped I mean shoulder-to-shoulder with the naked chap on your right — I fought my wetsuit like we were having an MMA battle. Pulling, tugging, grunting. Eventually I realized that putting on your wet boots first was epically stupid, although it did create quite a seal when I finally inched the leggings over them.
I emerged from the locker room looking like … a bad ass?
The suit was all black. Everyone else had pretty little reds and yellows. But I was a water ninja! I was one automatic weapon away from being a special-ops frogman! As I walked to the whitewater course, I heard some distant theme music in my head.
The canoe slalom is like the ski slalom, only the competitors are paddling through roaring rapids instead of tightly packed snow. (Oh, and they're in boats. That too.) Points are deducted for missing a gate. It's a timed event, and incredibly intense.
Over 13 tons of water flow through the course — a man-made river inside a stadium. The rapids are ferocious, with waves that could capsize a boat and dips that saturate a competitor. There are barriers throughout the course to help create those waves; crack your leg on one if you fall out a boat, and it's a nasty bruise.
So, naturally, they had a group of novice paddlers/sports journalists take it on.
But first, the training.
Olympians ride the course in kayaks and canoes. We would use a large raft instead, for safety's sake.
Our guide, a enthusiastic fellow named Pas, issued some basic instructions on how to paddle our eight-person raft, from controlling turns to tucking our bodies in between the small inflated benches when the going got rough. Body control was just as important as paddle speed — lean the wrong way, and you're headed down-river.
We learned about how to handle that, too. If you see someone toppling from the boat, grab the back of their lifejacket. If you fall in, put your feet up and ride it out until the water calms.