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Bren’s Park Jam 2021

I’ll be honest, I’ve been kayaking on my own a lot since the world turned upside down. It was a little bit spooky at first, but then I got used to it and even started to like it, but that’s a whole other side to the sport that is probably best not talked about. On the other end of that is kayaking with your friends. Laughing, learning, winning, losing, pushing each other and inevitably, sometimes, getting in over your head and having your friends have to help you out. It’s the side of the sport I love most, hanging out on the water with my friends and trying to come up with new lines to hit or tricks to learn.

Getting to experience this is beautiful, but being able to see that you’ve helped to create an environment that encourages it is something special.

It’s been a while since we last had the opportunity to put a Park Jam session on, and this year’s tour was short and hurriedly organised as myself and my sponsors realised that I had just enough time to fit something in between projects, juggling responsibilities, and navigating ever-changing travel restrictions and rules.

Back on the water at Cardiff was special. We had the entire day there to session, and in the morning when the pumps were turned down, it was quiet and I could work on teaching specific skills to the kids. Whether that was surfing, catching eddies, or hitting rock spins, I’m always a bit surprised with just how much you can learn on this little park. Outside of the pumped whitewater, one of my favourite things to teach at Cardiff is the front flip / loop off the docks. Doing it this way means that the kids can try multiple times, get a perfect start to the trick, and learn the most important part of the loop, which is snapping back to finish the trick. I’m always shocked at how many kids learn to do it this way and again I think it comes down to them being encouraged by other kids and having a fun environment to learn in. A few kids figured it out and hit their first loops off the dock, and I loved seeing their faces as they finished the trick; surprised, stoked, and wondering whether that was right as it all happened so fast? I remember that same feeling from a long time ago when I was learning that trick. The highlight for me when teaching that part of the session was watching a kiddo called Charlotte consistently hit massive air loops off the dock for her first time and for her to be cheered on by her dad from his kayak.

In the afternoon, the pumps turned up, the park got busier, and we had a small freestyle session before getting back in the half-slice kayaks and cranking out laps. I found one or two new lines down the park for myself and I had a great time teaching people how to wallride and splat, these tricks are especially good at Cardiff. We closed off the session by showing a new edit I’ve been working on, having a Q&A session, and throwing out some prizes and giveaway’s kindly provided by the sponsors that get behind the Park Jam.

Packing up, we had a few days off before heading to Lee Valley for an evening session.

I’m not too into small, techie freestyle tricks at the moment, but the kids at Lee Valley are all about it, so I jumped in one of the Above and Below demo kayaks and went out on the smaller Legacy park first to session some of the freestyle spots with the kids. It was really cool to session this side of the sport again and especially to help the kids hit some of the harder tricks they’ve been working on. A lot of them were at the point that the trick was so close to happening, they just need one or two small tweaks to get it, which is a really rewarding time to be sharing the water and ideas with them.

There were also a few kids that hadn’t passed their test to go on the bigger park and I had a good time sessioning with them as we found one or two harder eddies and boof lines to hit.

Heading out onto the bigger park, I honestly sort of hurt my neck, as my head whipped from right to left trying to watch all of the rad things happening. It’s been over two years since I have seen a lot of the kids out here and it is insane how good they have all gotten. The time for tips was over and instead, we were just sessioning and trying to come up with new things to hit. It was magic. Honestly some of the most fun I have had on the water all year.

The best part of it for me was not only seeing all the skills, but seeing everyone just having a laugh while doing it, regardless of how good they are in a kayak, everyone was trying something new and having a good time doing it.

Which when people ask me what the Park Jam is all about, that’s it, right there.

Huge thank you to my sponsors that get behind the Park Jam, the parks that give us the time on the water, and the local kayaking communities that show up!

Catch you on the water next year,