GUIDE TO THE CARDIFF INTERNATIONAL WHITE WATER COURSE ('CIWW')
NAME OF RIVER: Cardiff International White Water Course - it's an artificial river.
WHERE IS IT?: South Wales, Cardiff.
Cardiff International White Water
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The car park is small but adjacent to the centre is Cardiff International Swimming Pool which has it’s own very large car park. Both are free to park your car.
ACCESS HASSLES: None. For £10 pounds paddlers can enjoy a park and play session (check the C.I.W.W website for pump times.) usually these are two hours but can be all day on the right day.
Once you’ve paid your money and completed the inevitable disclaimer it’s time to collect your bib and get on.
Access to the course requires carrying boats a very short distance to the enclosed bay area at the back of the course. The water is taken from the River Ely and due to its continuous filtration, as it’s circulated through the course, the course’s water is cleaner than the river itself!
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS:
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: There is a very surreal feeling on one’s first runs. It leaves you feeling as if you’ve just been mugged by an infant. It seems unreal that this 250 metre course packs such a punch but your pounding chest and aching lungs tell you indeed it does. The flow is fast and relentless. The amount of boats being regularly ejected back into the bay without any sign of their pilots is testament to the course’s many surprises. Here lies one of the downsides to the layout. Paddlers taking the walk of shame back to their boats have no option but to lower themselves back into the bay and swim across to the floating jetty, near the bottom wave, in order to get reunited with their kit. Unfortunately though, due the surging, fast current here, this is by no means easy and swimmers are often seen being whisked out into the bay’s deeper water. Of course with all the required safety kit on this is not really a danger but it does mean that rescues are often protracted and exhausting affairs which sap your strength and lead to swimmers getting caught in a loop of swimming over and over because they just don’t have the stamina to proactively paddle down again!
Other things of note:
The course does dish out surprises and finding oneself wrong side up is not at all uncommon! The course is not particularly deep for much of it’s length and this occasionally results in hands, helmets and paddles making contact with the abrasive surface of the concrete. It is a tough course on kit. For those that cherish their Rockers and shiney carbon paddles consideration should be given to using older, more battered, kit! The fast flow and immovable nature of the submerged floats have damaged more than just kit too! Tucking in forward is recommended if you don’t want to have an impromptu trip to the dentist!
Secondly like all courses you will be sharing the course with rafts. These are often piloted by novices under the watchful eye of an experienced raft guide. They lurk around corners or in mid flow and confident break outs are often the key to avoiding a collision. Remember they are difficult to stop on a dime when manned by experienced rafters let alone a stag do or hen party!! Assume they have right of way and be aware of where they are in relation to you.
The centre is aware that to the novice the course may be a bit spicy so they have they have introduced club nights where the water flow is reduced to a more palatable 4 Cumecs (normal park and play sessions run at 8 Cumecs) which eases things significantly. Clubs must provide their own additional safety cover for these sessions however safety personnel not on the water do not have to pay on these nights. For those that are progressing at the lower flow new 6 Cumec sessions are now available and for the hard core stopper bunnies the course occasionally runs at 12... be afraid be very afraid it's possible to have too much fun you know.
All in all thought the course is a wonderful, challenging, place to hone your skills or just play about. A friendly atmosphere and great fun await those willing to journey to the heart of the Principality to try it out.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Cardiff International White Water Course is the latest addition to the expansion of the Cardiff International Sports Village, in the Cardiff Bay Area.
The first thing paddlers will notice on inspecting the end of the course from here is the bizarre nature of the water after it feeds back into the bay. It is surging, boily and even creates little whirlpools. Due to these conditions some boaters playing on the little wave at the end of the course often have surprising difficulty rolling up and it’s been the scene of numerous baffled swims!
The course has many excellent noteworthy points but the escalator from the staging area up to the course start is truly wonderful. No pull of the spray deck or shouldering the boat here. Just gently paddle onto the conveyor and off you trundle to the top. This soon turns out to be a real blessing as the course will leave you breathing hard without the addition of portages!
As the conveyor gently slides you into the water paddlers are greeted by 30 metres or so of flat water. The course’s huge pumps are situated on the right and add the only noticeable flow.
As one approaches the first downstream V the course stretches out and all looks fairly innocuous for anyone used to grade 2/3.
Once committed to the course proper though any thoughts of a gentle ‘go with the flow’ bob down are soon shattered! Breaking out behind any of the numerous Omni-floats paddlers are treated to eddies which seem to have a mind of their own. They boil, rise, fall and surge under you. Plans of eddy chilling are often rewarded with a capsize! Breaking back into the flow is almost a relief.
The water reflects back from the sides and paddlers need to be proactive if they want to stay online. The course pushes complacent boaters into areas they were not expecting to be, all of which adds a surprising feel of ‘big water’ paddling.
The lead in drop is steep with a nice wave at the bottom, it can take out all your down river speed if you get the entry wrong so beware! Shortly after the first play hole awaits (known as Vicarious), for some it does not go quickly enough and this is the spot of many a capsize. The course takes a left hand turn. The second of the steep slopes and waves appears on the other side of the hairpin. Named Boofarama it is immensely satisfying to boof off the omnifloats above straight over the wave at the bottom. The eddies on each side remain boily and swirling resulting in hilarious surprises as paddlers break out expecting to be pulled upstream only to find themselves being pushed toward the next set of floats which loom ominously before a new wave (Catapult) which has a great little stopper and is fun to play on… The course replays this scenario over and over until once again paddlers are back in the bay.
OTHER NOTES: The facilities are modern and well presented. The whole indoor area is designed for paddlers in wet kit. So you can pop upstairs to the cafe for a coffee mid-session and then get back on again, without having to change!
The proximity of the pool is useful for those with the family in tow as the pool has a great family area with slides and rapids of its own. So the children don’t have to watch you trying to being a hero they can have some fun of their own across the road!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Nige Braunton.