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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Carlisle teenager ready for UK's most extreme kayak race

A thrill-seeking teenager fired up by the fear factor is preparing for his toughest extreme sporting test yet.

Ben Johnston photo
Ben Johnston

Ben Johnston breaks many of the stereotypes often linked with others of his age.

At times when others may be happy to flake-out in front of the television, this 15-year-old treks to remote outposts – carrying a kayak.

When others are looking for sunshine, he’s praying for rain – and lots of it.

The Carlisle sportsman is an extreme white water kayaker who is gaining a growing reputation for his talent.

This is a sport not for the faint-hearted, racing down narrow rapids in swollen rivers and dodging dangerous rocks as fast as possible.

And it is this risk that is part of Ben’s motivation for pushing himself to the limit. “I just like being scared, really,” the pupil of Dalston’s Caldew School admitted.

He will put his growing talents to the test this weekend when he takes part in the UK’s most extreme kayak race. Some of the country’s best kayakers will compete in the Moriston River Race in Scotland. The waters there boast some Britain’s best white water rapids.

Carlisle Canoe Club member Ben, was initially too young to enter the event, but persuaded organisers to lower the age limit to let him take part.

He took up the sport four years ago, having had his interest triggered by dad, Marc

Training this week alone has seen him on the River Eden behind Carlisle’s Sands Centre and also travelling to Northumberland in preparation for his journey north – a challenge he is looking forward to. Ben, of Green Lane, Belle Vue, said: “I’m sort of scared. I’ve not done a race like this before.

“I’ve done rivers like this before, but never raced on one.

“I’m hoping to do okay in the race, although I am not expecting to come near the top guys – the really good paddlers.”

Those inside the sport have already said that Ben, who hopes to land an apprenticeship in engineering later this year, is an exceptional paddler, especially for his age.

Sunday’s race takes place on the River Moriston, in the remote Great Glen between Fort William and Inverness.

Water levels on the stretch where the race is taking place is controlled by a hydroelectric dam upstream, guaranteeing a five-star course.

Competitors will run a 600-metre section twice.

The combined times for the two runs will determine the 20 fastest, who will qualify for the final – single run show down.

The quickest time wins. Ben’s mum Helen and dad Marc say they are proud of what their son is doing. His dad said: “Although naturally worried, we know it will be a great experience for him in the UK’s most extreme Kayaking race, getting to do what he loves with some of the best white water kayakers in the country.

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