Paddle Peak founder and yesteryear slalom racer Pete Astles takes us through the historic technique of making canoe slalom gates. In days of old, before artificial courses such as Holme Pierrepont, Tees Side, and more recently Lee Valley and Cardiff, if you wanted to train for slalom chances were you had to make and erect your own training site and slalom gates.
Paddle Peak have recently started taking local Derbyshire youngsters our on the Cromford Canal each week. To make things more fun and to learn valuable paddling skills we’ve made up a set of ten gates. Here’s a run down of what you need and where to get the vital parts…
Poles: Plumbers plastic waste pipe 36mm white works well. Get the stiffer version if you can to avoid the banana effect! Available from any builders supplier. It comes in 3 meter lengths. Cut them down to 150cm for the poles and 130cm for the bearers ( the top bit ). Drill 6mm holes in both sides / ends on the bearers. Drill one 6mm hole in the end of each vertical pole. Position all holes about 3cm in from the end of the pipe.
Stripes: We thought it would be smart to have nice green and red poles. Originally in Pedros ( one of our coaches ) day, the pole colour designated port and starboard of ones craft, but now greens are down and reds are up, far simpler. In true Blue Peter style, for the stripes we used sticky backed plastic!! Sign vinyl in fact, we got ours from www.xpres.co.uk. 17 x 15cm pieces did the job nicely.
Clips: You’ll need some corrosion resistant clips, too easily attach and slide your gates into position on your lines. Stainless steel or plastic ones are best. We used swivel snap hooks from Ace Supplies for ours. You can buy them online at: www.acesupplies.co.uk.
Cord: We used 4mm polypropylene line, available from good paddling or DIY shops. Ours was from English Braids. Check them out at www.englishbraids.com. Each pole used 2m of cord. Cut the cord and seal the end by melting it. Attach the clip to the bearer with a double over hand knot. Thread the cord through the top of the vertical pole and wrap it three times around the base of the pole and tie it off with a good old granny knot. Now you can easily raise and lower the pole from the water.
Gate Lines: For gate lines we used 4mm black polypropelene cord, again from English Braids. Be sure to tie your main lines high enough up the trees so they can’t easily get cut down…. A good ladder and some tree loppers are very useful. Make sure you gain permission from any land owners before tying lines up on river or canal banks. Thanks to Derbyshire County Council and the residents of Rock House for your support with this.
The young Paddle Peaksters are now progressing well to become mini slalom rippers and are looking forward to hitting some local Div 4 races in the 2022 season!! I hope that was helpful and look forward to seeing slalom gates popping up all over the place very soon… Special thanks to Pedro and Donna for coaching. Sal for hot drinks and cake. Peak UK for funding the parts and Ace Supplies for kindly providing us with the swivel snap hooks ( clips ).