Highdown paddlers Alex Tonkin and Sam Betts spent the February half term training hard with the GB U18 squad in Portugal. They hope to be selected for the European and World Championships this summer.
Over the summer months in 2019, Highdown kayakers have been training hard and competing in both local, national and international competitions.
In July there was the National Marathon Championships, held in Norwich this year. In K1, Sam Betts and Alex Tonkin in U16 Boys came 4th and 5th against 40+ competitors. In K2, they did even better coming 2nd, as did Toby Betts in U14 Boys.
Internationally, Freddie Kemp was competing in U18 Boys K4 in the European Junior Sprint Championships, held in the Czech Republic. Their K4 came 12th overall, an excellent achievement. They also took the K4 to the World Junior Sprint Championships in Romania and against 63 other countries around the globe, came an impressive 11th.
September 2019 Alex Tonkin qualified to race at the Olympic Hopes competition in Slovenia. This is another very tough competition, with all the top countries in the world competing. He managed to reach the semi-final in his events.
Also, in September, Sam Betts competed at the French National Marathon Championships. He came 9th in the K1 U16 and 4th in K2 Boys U16, despite being knocked in. Both he and Alex have now been selected for the English National Talent Squad thanks to this year’s outstanding performances in both sprint and marathon.
Right at the end of the school holidays, there was the National Junior Sprint Championships, held in Nottingham. We are delighted that the whole Reading team returned with 25 medals in total, 12 of those Gold. Of those, three Golds were won by Freddie in Boys U18, in the Boys U16 Alex T won two Bronzes and a Gold, Sam took three Bronzes and a Gold. In Boys U14, Toby stormed through the K2 races winning Silver in all distances 200m, 500m and 1000m and a Bronze in K4, along with James Nelson, also of Highdown.
That’s not all, we have James Nelson and Miklos Szavabvari skipping up the divisions and now in Division 5, and Jacob Wright to Div 7.
We have a number of slalom paddlers from Highdown, enjoying the sessions held on Wednesday evenings. Our two main competitors are sisters Emily and Natalie Neville – both in Div 2, and with Emily’s two all-out wins this season, she’s hoping very much for a promotion.
Overall 2019 was an excellent season for Highdown Paddlers at Reading Canoe Club. Well done to every one of you, some of you dealing with GCSEs and A Levels too.
35 excited Year 7s turned up for our Canoe Fun Day – the first ever hosted by Reading Canoe Club. It was held specifically for students from Highdown School who had completed a 5-week beginner’s course during April/May and June/July (a total of 48). It was intended to be part fun / celebration and part a test out of the skills they’d learnt.
Nigel and Jim were leading the sessions, with the assistance of top junior ‘coaches’ – Sam B, Alex T, Rachel N, Rory T and Joseph B, with Emily Neville demonstrating the slalom. The four teachers attending were kept firmly on bankside, at leastuntil games time.
The 35 were split into three teams – Red, Yellow and Blue – and got started with a sprint relay. That was in K1, K2 or K4, as preferred. Great racing, only two capsizes and the Red team came out on top.
Next up – Silly Slalom. Again a team race through and round the poles, with a bit of limbo and paddle-throwing-through-the-hoop for a good measure, to get a team time, with penalties for touching poles or missing any out.
Final activity was games on the water – tug of war, charioteering, who could cling longest to the top of Nigel’s slalom boat or, if that was all a bit too complicated, simply jumping off the platform for a swim.
Homemade chocolate banana cake and other goodies galore kept the Year 7s’ energy levels up and they all had a fun-charged day. We do hope we’ll see a few of them back as members to learn more skills. It would seem we might, judging from their enthusiastic comments. They were a lovely crew of enthusiastic paddlers and even the few, who were a little nervous at first, got out there and enjoyed themselves.
Thank you to the teachers – Mr Morris, Mr Lee, Mrs Sadler and Mr Walker – who transported the children down to us. They seemed very chilled, with little to do bar some counting!
Thanks to all the helpers, particularly Nigel for masterminding it.
A few quotes from the students on what they thought of the course:
“This was a great experience and the chocolate banana cake is delicious”
“It should have been longer. Epic, loved it. A longer week course.”
“I really enjoyed my time here.” “It was the most fun thing ever!”
“I had lots of fun today. Very nice food, good games on the water. Great staff too. Overall it was a great fun experience.”
“It was the best experience ever”
Our Highdown beginner courses are well underway, the first two completed, with a total of 16 students each course, and another one just started. They have learnt to paddle K1s, and also enjoyed trying out a K2 with their fellow classmates. One week, they had a try out of the slalom boats. Emily Neville, also a Highdown student, as well as a skilled and experienced slalom paddler, led the session. Thanks Emily.
Lead coach Jim New said what lively, fun and well-behaved groups they all have been – a pleasure to teach With lots of fun had on and in the water, we hope to see you all at the event on the 11th July.
If any student would like to know more about how to get into more paddling or join the club, just email
We’ve kicked off the main marathon, sprint and slalom racing season, already with some impressive results for Highdown paddlers.
First off, at the April Sprint Regatta held at the National Water Sports centre in Nottingham, very impressive racing led three Highdown paddlers to be selected to represent GB at the international regatta in Brandenberg in May half term – they were Freddie Kemp, Alex Tonkin and Sam Betts.
Freddie’s win at the April regatta in K4 (four-man boat) also meant his selection to the GB team for the European Junior Championships in July, held in the Czech Republic, as well as the World Junior Championships in August. This is a tremendous achievement.
All three boys are also in the midst of major academic exams – A Levels and GCSEs – so well done to all three for managing to juggle both your academic studies and your sport.
Closer to home we are already two marathon races into the 2019 season. The first was held by Basingstoke Canoe Club, the second by our own Reading Canoe Club. Sam Hill is racing really well in K1 currently and came 4th in his Division 5 race at Basingstoke and 2nd at Reading, earning himself a promotion to Division 4. James Nelson raced at Basingstoke in Division 8. A 2nd place meant his promotion to Division 7. Good racing, James. We look forward to more great results as the season progresses.
Slalom – the first competition of 2019:
In slalom, Emily and Natalie Neville took part at Winchester’s Slalom competition in mid May, taking 1st and 2nd in the Women’s open event. Big well done to them – that’s a terrific achievement. And also to Holly Williams who, after two clear runs, took 4th place in the junior girls.