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Galway Fest 2023: “A wonderful, yet emotional rollercoaster.”

As Galway Fest is wrapped up for another year, this one, in the words of Lyndon, was “a wonderful, yet emotional rollercoaster.” 

Lyndon and Mat loaded up the van with demo boats from the Pyranha factory, ready to make the journey across to Ireland. En route, Beth Morgan was collected from the airport, and the team arrived accompanied by snow in Galway Thursday evening. Perfectly timed for Galway Fest’s pre-weekend race event. A group of nearly 30 paddlers gathered to make their way down the double drop rapid in the centre of town against the stopwatch. This year in the true spirit of the event, athletes were being pelted with snowballs from onlookers above. Once everyone had completed a timed run, everyone quickly departed for a warmer venue.  

Friday Freestyle – with water levels being low this year, the freestyle event formerly at Tuam was moved in line with the rest of the weekend to a downriver freestyle event on the Corrib river. Once all of the waves and kisses to the judges had been completed, athletes made their way back to the put-in, formed teams of 6, and competed in heats for arguably the most fun event, the Big Balls Race. That evening delivered a new and pretty special event for both competitors and spectators, an expression session on the double drop. The perfect playground for Beth and Lyndon to demonstrate some waterfall freestyle in the Pyranha Firecracker.  Watching world-class athletes throwing some amazing moves with some added carnage on the floodlit section was epic; the crowd was immense, and the overall vibe was a highlight for many.

Into the heart of the weekend, Saturday unfolded another 3 event day which included individual time trials, team time trials, and the Big Balls Race final. In true West coast of Ireland fashion, the rain was relentless all day, and the morning’s wind made it difficult for sponsors to set up flags and gazebos. Nonetheless, everyone did a great job, and the stage was set. Lyndon ignited the individual time sheet in the Rip-R Evo, the team time trial had plenty of sabotage, and the Big Balls final was, as to be expected, hilarious mayhem! With the day of racing completed and Saturday evening upon us, everyone packed up. It was time to share just the one Guinness and calmly listen to a DJ, I mean choir, in an upper-class establishment…

The slowest of mornings happened on the Sunday, as it turns out the choir didn’t finish until very early hours. Paddlers met later that morning, with each of the categories competing in a mass start race. Immediately after the mass start commenced the Boater X. Heats of 6 paddlers battle their way across a flat canal basin before squeezing through a narrow gap and dropping about a meter into the river. A mandatory upstream means any gaps can be closed, so it’s really anyone’s race, but only the top 2 proceed to the next round. After the final races, it was time for the Pyranha van to be packed up and to head to prize giving. This year, Pyranha donated a custom colour Firecracker to be raffled throughout the event. All proceeds and donations from Galway Fest went to the RNLI, raising almost £3000.

Galway Fest wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the incredible guys and girls who give up their time to volunteer, making it one of the largest and most sought-after paddling events in Europe. Huge thanks and shout out to Aoife, Barry, and the rest of the team, who bring so much positivity to the paddling community both in Ireland and worldwide. We look forward to seeing you at Galway Fest 2024 on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of March!

Photos by Jack Ledwith