SUMMER PADDLING IN THE UK ~ Rivers Tees & Ure, Risk & Rewards, andObservations of a Young Dirtbag. by Chris Macdonald

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although only eighteen years of age, Chris Macdonald is a longtime DBP Admin and member of our Magazine Staff. We invited him to share with us his recent adventures across the UK as we continue our month long “OUR RIVERS, OUR WORLD” series for the August issue in celebration of our 3rd Birthday! Enjoy! 

After finishing college in Cornwall for the summer, I returned to my home county and white water paradise, YORKSHIRE!
The summer didn’t start off well, train delays led to a few missed sessions, and this combined with low water levels meant I didn’t get out much. Eventually this low action time ended and I returned to what I love: PUSHING MY SKILLS, PUSHING THE SPORT, AND HAVING FUN! I paddled at Tees Barrage whitewater course to get used to whitewater again. After a few weeks I started running awesome stuff. 
Dirtbaggin’ Tees Barrage-
A few weeks ago I ran Aysgarth Falls. This is a series of five drops rated grade 3 on the River Ure. Although there was barely any water we decided it was runnable and went for it. I managed it without injury, nailed the lines, hit the boofs, and had fun! At the time I thought it was the best day of my life. Doing this highlighted some weaknesses in our safety plans and as a result we learnt a lot, but it was so much fun it was worth the risk.

Then we went to Low Force Waterfall, on the upper section of the River Tees. This time of year we expected levels to be low but it rained a lot and it was huge! This was awesome and I had so much fun running it. Our group had a few swimmers which tested my rescue skills under pressure for the first time and they worked! I ran it backwards, got a beatdown, rolled up, and using the method “paddle like f#ck” managed to get out of the hole at the bottom. We had an awesome day, running grade 4 rapids including the famous Dog Leg section just before the waterfall. I was so happy with myself, I pushed myself and it paid off. I perfected some things and highlighted weaknesses in other areas. My favourite river is the Upper Tees.

This summer has taught me a lot about myself, and improved my skills in all aspects of the sport, from paddling to safety. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve nailed my lines, and I will never forget why I love paddling. IT’S FUN! I’m happy to take risks. I’ve never had any serious injury, I think that’s a mixture of skill and luck. Taking risks is fun when controlled and above all amazing for me. 

My biggest challenges in the sport is transport, also known as not having a car. I rely on some amazing friends for lifts and I can’t thank them enough. Also I rely on the not so great British train service, haha. 

I’ve also learnt sometimes it’s better not to have a GoPro all the time. Yes, your mates can’t see you be awesome and you can’t relive the moment, but I’ve learnt some moments you want to enjoy the moment once and never again, that way it can feel more special. The same thing goes for posting stuff online, who cares if the world can’t see it, you can!  
Chris and best mate Jake Brookes
Also, I’ve learnt the value of paddling with different people. You will learn so much, either by leading a youngster down their first scary grade 2 or getting coached on grade 5. YOU WILL LEARN EITHER WAY!

RISK VS REWARD. Whitewater kayaking is dangerous, at any moment you can Wallace, but being mindful of that keeps you on your toes and that’s fun! Yes we take risks, but the feeling you get when you’ve coached someone or ran a grade 5 is worth the risk for sure!

Dirtbaggin’ with twins Ewan and Patrick Nevill
Best things about paddling.
Learning about yourself.
Pushing yourself and taking risks.
I’m taking a break in Alaska now but I’ll be back charging soon and then I’m off to compete at the SICKLINE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!!!
Follow Chris on his adventures in multiple disciplines of kayaking, raft guiding, and other adventure sports around the UK and the world on his Facebook page-
Some other articles by Chris in DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE-

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