GUIDE TO THE RIVER THAMES
Thames, Shepperton Weir.
15 miles south west of Central London, on the edge of Greater London, close to the M3 and M25. Shepperton village and weir are located on the northern side of the river (TQ 0733 6578).
One of the biggest weirs on the Thames, Shepperton Weir consists of 10 vertical sluices in a row, which, when the conditions are right, produce a large, powerful, challenging, bowl shaped green wave.
The legendary Shepperton wave is generally reckoned to be one of the best play waves in Europe, and with good reason. When the conditions are right, with approaching 100 cumecs dropping 7-8ft through the middle 8 gates, the weir generates an awesome 40 ft wide, 5ft high bowl shaped wave with breaking central pile and well defined green shoulders. If you can handle it, and this is not the ideal venue for beginners or intermediates, this is the perfect venue for pulling all the latest new school green wave moves.
Water levels required
The downside of Shepperton has always been that that perfect wave is so illusive. Not only do you need high water levels, when Hurley is typically on a high 4 gates, but the relative difference in levels between water above and below the weir needs to be right- and this can change by the hour. Shepperton might work at any time between November and April- but only for a total of 2-3 weeks in an average year.
Gauge and levels information
Because of the above, paddlers have always had to rely on a visual inspection of the wave, resulting in many wild goose chases- that is until the advent of the Internet. Nowadays, paddlers check out the latest news on www.thamesweirproject.co.uk or www.kayakojacko.com
Directions and parking
From the M25 - turn off at junction 11 and head in the direction of Central London on the A320. After mile follow signs for Chertsey and then Shepperton. These will take you left at the first roundabout, right at a T junction and then over Chertsey Bridge (where you can catch a glimpse of Chertsey Weir to your left). After the bridge, go straight over one roundabout and right at the next roundabout. Continue for mile and as you arrive in the village, take a right hand turn signposted 'Ferry Lane'. Follow this road down to the river, follow the road round to the right and then park up in the spaces either side of the road. The lock is immediately to your right - carry your boat over the right hand/ up stream lock gate and follow the path for 100 yards until you reach the weir.
From Central London - head to Shepperton village - at a small roundabout, head south through the old village, soon after which you will see Ferry Lane on your left.
Shepperton consists of a lock on the northern side of the Thames, with 2 weirs, which are linked together by an island. The main weir is the nearest weir to the lock. The 2nd weir is also a sluice weir that can produce a wave in high water.
The main weir is one on the largest weirs on the Thames- the weir has a drop of around 8ft, more than double the drop at Hurley. The weir consists of 10 vertical sluice gates in a row, either side of which are concrete shelves, followed by 10 ft high concrete walls. The side stoppers are best avoided however, these also serve to protect the side eddies and enable paddlers to get onto the main wave. The sluices generate a variety of conditions depending on water levels.
Whilst you will get a green wave, usually, the wave is not sufficiently retentive although it does provide useful moving water for the local slalom boys.
This is where the wave gets interesting. Generally, 7 or better still, 8 gates produce the big classic wave- an awesome 40ft wide, 5ft high bowl shaped wave with breaking pile and well defined green shoulders. Perfect for all the new school moves (air blunts, the lot) but often hard to master - the wave is fast, powerful and violent. The gates create a ribbed wave, creating bounce that once mastered can be use to get lift for those air moves. Paddling up the eddies - most people use the near side, right hand eddy- can be hard work- but it's worth it. As the level drops and the gates are closed down - to 7,6 and 5 gates, the wave narrows down but is still worth checking out. Bear in mind that on a high 8 gates, the weir can be hard work - with a tough battle to get up the ever shrinking eddy line only to get a good work out on a fairly surging, violent breaking wave- best left to the experts.
This is where the wave can get scary. On a low 10 gates expect a very grippy stopper, where you can get ends but in practice this can turn into a survival exercise, which I know some of the more masochistic locals revel in. Plan your exit from the stopper and get a run up from the pile, heading down into the trough and outwards towards the right hand eddy. Get out before you're too tired! You won't always succeed, in which case, the wave will drag you back into the middle of the stopper!
On a high 10 gates, the weir can flatten out so that the water only drops 1-2ft. At these levels the weir gets friendlier - whilst you won't get the classic green wave, flat spinning and blasting are easy and catch the right sweet spots and clean ends are there to be done. Any more water and the weir washes out.
Solo paddling is not recommended at Shepperton - paddling up the eddy you paddle up onto a cushion before paddling hard, at a diagonal angle onto the wave. A lapse of concentration - easy when the eddy is congested - and you can easily slip off the wrong side of the cushion into the side stoppers, which will hold you. Whilst Shaun Baker might play in them for fun, they are not recommended.
When the weir is at its best, the car parking spaces can get full- there are places where you can park on the road but please park considerately and change discretely.
There is a pub 100 yds upstream of the lock, on the same side of the river, which has a garden overlooking the river. Two miles to the east, at Shepperton Marina, on the same side of the river is, a good shop- White Water the Canoe Centre. Other facilities at the lock include public coin operated WCs and a tea shop.
Shepperton Slalom Canoe Club is based at the weir. The club holds slalom competitions on the weir, typically in March and June although as yet no rodeos are held are weir, possibly because the wave is so unreliable.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Chris Wheeler.