This year’s Galway Fest was definitely one of our most memorable – bringing the Groms Oli Cooper, Charlotte Hughes, Jools Gardner and Cameron Tickner along from the Palm Groms Mentorship Programme to Ireland for their first big international event with Palm. Together, they did a write-up on the event – read all about the event and what they got up to behind the scenes on tour.

Cameron Tickner, Charlotte Hughes, Oli Cooper, Jools Gardner (left to right)
Photo: Jack Ledwith (@jled_photo)

Travel days

Oli: We started our trip with a little detour to Rest Bay. I met up with Jools and Chips for a surf before our journey to Galway. Surf was good and it was great to show Jools our local spot. Safe to say – he showed us how it’s done.

I’m not ashamed to say that I rocked up looking like a beater from the 2000s, wearing kit older than myself (kit my parents had lying in the shed), to avoid bringing a bag of wet kit to Ireland.

We surfed till the sunset and met up with the rest of the crew setting off from South Wales and made our way to Galway. It was a pretty long journey – a few hours to Fishguard harbour, a couple hours waiting at the ferry port, travelling through the night and into the morning.

Freestyle Friday

Paddler: Jools Gardner
Photo: Jack Ledwith (@jled_photo)

Jools: Galway Fest kicked off with its first event – the freestyle competition in Tuam. This was a super fun event which gave Oli, Cameron and Charlotte an opportunity to compete in their first freestyle competition. It was super cool to help out the other groms with their first freestyle comp experience, explaining how the different tricks are scored and how the heats worked to make sure they made the best scores. Another interesting part of being at this event was seeing how all different paddlers dealt with the low water conditions, using precise movements to create big air rotations and interesting links.

It was cool to see how the volunteers and organisers strategically placed boards upstream and downstream of the feature to change the hole, creating a deeper feature for us to paddle in, and saving everyone’s boats!

Overall the Groms team performed super well in this event and I’m excited to see everyone’s styles develop for their next freestyle event.

Sabotage Saturday

Paddler: Charlotte Hughes
Photo: Jack Ledwith (@jled_photo)

Charlotte: Saturday we headed down to the start line for the mass team trials. It was my first ever race and was super exhilarating. The race itself was super fun but challenged our endurance! As we approached the finish line we were blocked by a wall of paddlers sabotaging our run into victory. I blame Aaron and Liam for popping my deck and flipping me in! I didn’t let this stop me though, as I sprinted to the finish. I absolutely loved the atmosphere that everyone provided and the massive opportunity to go to my first international event! 

Photo: Jack Ledwith (@jled_photo)

After team trials came to an end, the buzz and enthusiasm from everyone was still strong. This only meant one thing … HUCK FEST for the Palm crew. This was my first time on double drop – a feature in one of the canals in town. I wish I had this drop in the centre of my local town! After sessioning this drop a few times I soon became inspired by the boys to try freewheels. My first attempts went better than I thought and I’m super stoked on my progress and the support I had!

Carnage Sunday

Palm Mass Start
Photo: Jack Ledwith (@jled_photo)

Cameron: We kicked off the final day of Galway fest with our event the Palm Mass Start. This was the most carnage, fun, most hectic event across the weekend but still one of my favourites. With about 30 of us going through the canal all at the one-time, it was absolutely mayhem.

Next up was the Boater X, spirits were high, but everyone got involved in the best sabotage efforts ever, I ended up going down the chute that linked the canal to the river on my side before boofing off the ramp and into the river for the sprint to the first buoy. Unfortunately I finished in 3rd not making it through to the next round. Jools on the other hand turned up the heat, powering through to finish 1st for Juniors in this event. Finally the team hustled to get all the flags in. Massive shout out to Jools and Oli for rallying all the boats back to the house for a quick turn around so we could head up to the Uni for some food and the short film contest and prize giving. This finished off an epic weekend of kayaking and competing!

Gower surf and travel days

Jools Gardner, Cameron Tickner, Sam Clegg, Charlotte Hughes, Oli Cooper
Photo: Jack Ledwith (@jled_photo)

Oli: Although all the racing had come to an end, the team still had one more day left in Ireland. With a tight schedule, the day started with an efficient pack up of the house before heading to double drop for a quick photoshoot and shred.

Paddler: Oli Cooper
Photo: Jack Ledwith (@jled_photo)

We still had a few hours to kill before the ferry so with the Gower wave in Limerick in prime flows, there was just enough time for one last surf. It was definitely a nice change to share a bit of time on the water with some of the locals and racers yet to leave without being on the start line of a boater X or in the middle of the carnage of the mass start. After our final surf and last goodbyes, it was finally time to leave Ireland. For the South Wales crew, we got back about 4 am, with hero Chips driving the van, and as for the Scots… 

Cameron: We rallied back to Canoe Centre with their van, massive thanks to the boys there for loaning us their van and kit for the weekend and also Robbie O’Shea for getting us back to the airport in time for our flight, massively appreciated. That’s pretty much from us Scots, we checked into the flight, got scran then joined Oli in his ritual of getting a well earned kip on the way home! 

Wrap up 

Oli: Before we end this, we just want to take the time to say a massive thank you to Aoife, Barry and all the volunteers for making this event happen. We were blown away by how smoothly such a big event was run and how inclusive and friendly everyone was. There was never a dull moment both on and off the water so to anyone who has not been to Galway fest before – make sure you add it to your calendar February 28th – March 2nd 2025.

And that’s it for Galway 2024 such an epic weekend spent with epic people. On top of that the team took home some epic wins over the weekend with Jools taking over all 1st and Cameron coming in 6th overall for Junior Men’s, Charlotte coming 4th for Junior Women’s and Oli coming 2nd overall for Expert Men’s and team paddlers Lucien Schreiber for coming overall third in expert men’s, David McClure for coming 1st in Expert Men’s freestyle. Also, well done to Jools who took home the Alex McGourty memorial trophy which recognises a junior who is always helpful to other paddlers taking time out of their day to teach and help others. 

We had an awesome time at Galway and can’t wait for the next event! See you at DeeFest!

Check out the video edit of us at Galway Fest: