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N’Esk Race 2023

The North Esk Race is a national whitewater kayaking competition situated in Aberdeenshire, just north of Dundee. The event is open to all kayakers running grade 3 and above. This event has 3 racing divisions, each with a men’s and women’s category: Intermediate, Advanced, and Iron(wo)man.

Each category required participants to race down a section of the river in a time trial format. Intermediates raced a grade 2/3 section from Rock Garden to the pool before the Main Event Rocks of Solitude (4). Advanced saw racers complete the same course as intermediate with the addition of the Rocks of Solitude (4), and the finish line at Presidents Corner.

Iron(wo)man is a category for the truly gnarly participants. The racers complete the advanced white-water racecourse followed by a gruelling 5K run!

Photo by Niamh Shannon

This year’s event was sponsored by Pyranha, NRS, Radical Rider, Peak, IR, Escape Watersports, Red Bull, Tiso, Brewdog, and System X. The event also received support from the SCA (Scottish Canoe Association)

Photo by Rhys Thomson

The day before the event, team paddlers Rowan Andrew, Taylor Stevenson, and Kyle Rodger headed up with friends to catch an evening lap of the river, spending some time scouting the rapids, talking lines, and generally just having a faff around. After ample time doing tailees at Presidents Corner, the group got off the water at around 7:45 pm, with the sun still beaming down!

Photo by Aberdeen University Canoe Club

Sunday the 2nd of April saw Aberdeen University Canoe Club host their 8th North Esk race, and what a day it was! After cancelling the last event due to covid, this one was extremely well attended by people and universities from all over Scotland and the rest of the UK. By 9 am, the registration area already had a buzz of excitement, with racers eagerly lining up to collect their bibs!

From this point on, time became a bit of a blur.

The advanced time trials were first with paddlers laying down some quick times and sick lines. This was followed by the intermediate races, then the Iron(wo)man category, which saw some tough boaters speed down the course, jump out their boats and complete a disgusting 5km run!

The event was rounded off with the prize-giving ceremony, where winners received an array of generous prizes donated by the event sponsors.

Photo by Aberdeen University Canoe Club
Photo by Rhys Thomson

We were very impressed with the environmental caution taken by the organisers. Participants were encouraged to car share wherever possible to get to the race location. From this point, a very effective shuttle system was in place to get racers and boats to the top of the river. The shuttle was appropriate as it respected local road users due to the fact there was little parking at the get-in and takeout. This helped maintain a good relationship with local road users. Many participants and spectators opted to walk the length of the river!

On top of this, there was a litter-picking competition with great prizes for the top two participants collecting the most litter throughout the day.

The winners of each race category received a sustainable wooden medal, with the first place of each category taking home a beautiful trophy made from recycled bike parts.

We had a blast attending this event and can’t wait to come back and do it all again next year! Best believe we will be practising our race lines! We would like to thank Aberdeen University Canoe Club for hosting such a great, well-organised event. These guys are on the ball!

A big congratulations to all the event winners; you guys are damn fast!

Photo by Rhys Thomson