In this spotlight feature we ask Snugs Ambassador Charlie Brackpool about balancing life as a professional kayaker alongside his University studies. Charlie uses both of our SnugsAqua products – Music & Protect – when on the water, and explains why it is important to protect your ears whilst Kayaking.
Snugs: SnugsAqua (Music) & SnugsAqua (Protect)
Background on Career:
Finalist in 2015 World Championships; Quarter Finalist 2017 World Championships; Winner of National Student Rodeo 2019; Silver Medal Welsh Open 2019; Top 10 at Galway Fest Freestyle 2020.
What inspired you to get into Freestyle Kayaking?
I started quite late compared to a lot of people in the sport, I didn’t try freestyle kayaking until I was 14. I had booked a taster session in Nottingham on the recommendation from a family friend. When I got there the coach I had booked with couldn’t make it, but he had contacted me to say a friend was going to take over the sessions. His friend turned out to be the current world champion. He taught me how to do a front flip on my first day and after that I was hooked.
What is a typical day for you?
During Summer when I am training the most, I spend my days travelling around Europe with my kayak and a tent trying to make it to as many competitions as possible. I will get up, cook some breakfast on my camping stove, then head to the river. I will then spend most of my day there waiting for the prime moments when there is the least amount of people on the water so I can get the most out of my session. I will try and fit three or four sessions into a day, and spend the rest of my time watching video of my practice or watching others to try and work out the competition spot as best a possible. I then relax with friends in the evening, doing some yoga to stretch out, going for a swim in a lake, reading, anything that will mean I have the most energy possible to get back to training the next day.
What kit do you recommend to others who would like to be a Kayaker?
Firstly I would recommend renting some gear from a local club to give it a go. If you decide it is for you then buying a good second hand kayak and paddle. Something that is going to keep you warm in and out of the water. And then some good protection, helmet, buoyancy aid and ear plugs (SnugsAqua Protect!)
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
‘Go out there and have fun’. This is something that I was lucky enough for a coach to tell me when I was just starting out and it is a philosophy that I have kept with me every day that I get on the water. Whether it be grinding on a new trick I’m trying to learn, about to drop into a rapid I’ve never paddled before or about to have a ride in the finals of a world championships. If I’m not having fun then why do it? I always find I paddle better with a smile on my face anyway.
What would you describe as your greatest achievement?
My best was probably one of my earliest. Making the finals at the 2015 world championships. Not just because it meant I was 5th U18 in the world but it also changed how I looked at myself in the sport. Before that I saw myself as a bit of an outsider, I’d never worked for anything so hard. I had so many early morning starts on the water in sub zero conditions, working through an shoulder injury that almost put me out of the competition all together and watching so much video of my training when I wasn’t on the water. I never thought I would make it into the finals, I just didn’t want to be knocked out in the first round. When I was sat in my kayak about to take my first ride with my family and the rest of the GB team in the crowd, I couldn’t have been happier.
Why is it important to have ear protection for Kayaking?
Ear protection is vital in kayaking, especially in freestyle. The cold wind and river water that it constant in your ear can not only cause horrible ear infections but also a condition called surfers ear. This is where your ear can actually start to close up where it is trying to protect itself, this can make infections more likely and can also massively effect your hearing. Plus the operation to fix it is horrible.
You’ve represented Team GB. Where do you go for training, and are there any specialist programmes available for others who are interested in getting into the sport?
I train in Nottingham, at the national white water sports centre. It’s one of the best facilities for freestyle in the world and a large factor into the reason that I now live in Nottingham. For people trying to get into the sport I would recommend the Younguns Freestyle Series if they are under 18, they host events all over the UK for all abilities, or turn up to events like the Hurley classic or the European open. We run clinics to teach freestyle and help people progress their skills. If you can’t make it to these events, ask for help from people on the river, if you see someone doing freestyle, ask any questions you might have and I am sure they will be more than happy to help or to point you in the right direction.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not Kayaking?
I study architecture, so normally either studying or drawing. If I’m not doing that then I’m normally trying to find something else active to do, gym, rock climbing, hiking.
You’re currently studying at University; what are you studying and what do you hope to do after University?
I am studying Architecture at the University of Nottingham, hoping to work somewhere close enough to a river that I can carry on kayaking.
What’s a goal you have for yourself that you want to accomplish in the next year?
I am currently in recovery from a major back injury that has prevented me from getting into a kayak too much. But after 2 years of theory it is starting the get better and I am moving into a house of other kayaker next month. I am hoping to get strength back to where it was and start learning some new tricks and competing on an international level again.
You are allowed to book a flight to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?
Zambia. I have been to Africa to kayak a few times now, but have never managed to make it to Zambia. I would lave to paddle the rapids below Victoria falls and experience a whole new river and culture.
What is the funniest memory/faux pas you have had?
When I ended up coming out of my kayak in Canada, and the force of the river written my board shorts off. I had to try and recover the rest of my gear and kayak half naked, I never did find those shorts.
What is your go to song choice/genre to help get you motivated?
Anything I can sing out loud, it helps me get forget everything else and get excited about getting in my kayak.
Finally, where is the most memorable place that you have competed?
San Juan in Argentina. The river was in the middle of the dessert surrounded by mountains. One of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever been to!