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BUKE – What is it and why you should apply!

Tomorrow is the deadline for this year’s application for the 2022 British Universities Kayaking Expedition, otherwise known as BUKE. I have known about BUKE since I first started paddling in the UK. It is an incredible and highly sought opportunity for student kayakers. I thought I would write an article about it so that more people know what it is and don’t miss their chance at applying. Hopefully by the end of this article, if you are a student kayaker, you will already be writing your application!

See my note at the end if you have left it a little late to start your application!

The original BUKE!

What is BUKE?

The first ever BUKE expedition was in 1983 by a team of enthusiastic young British university students led by Chris Oliver to Kurdistan. It really took off in 2005 however and has since been a bi-annual event where the top University paddlers in the UK could plan and carry out an expedition to paddling destinations across the world. If you want more details about how BUKE started and why, there is a great article on Wikipedia found here.

Chris Oliver on the original BUKE back in 1983! Read his article here.

How can you apply?

Dave Stack, who is one of the team of people who help to organise BUKE every year has shared this information on how you can apply:

Dave and his brother Tim Burne. Look out for them at will see you at selections!

“The Selection Process for the 2022 British Universities Kayaking Expedition is now open, and will be until 4th October! Link for this year’s application information can be found here.

This first stage of the application process is a written application, in PDF format, consisting of no more than two sides of A4 telling us why you are an ideal member of the 2022 British Universities Kayaking Expedition Team. Make sure that you include your name, date (or at least year) of birth, where and what you study and what year you are in. Other than that it’s a free-for all, but the following information would be a good starter for ten:

• a brief resume of your experience

• why you want to go on the trip

• what you can offer the team (medical knowledge, photography/video skills (and kit), web design, blogging/writing articles, prior expedition experience, etc etc)

• a brief summary of any media you have had published (magazines, blogs, websites you’ve deigned, youtube/instagram feeds you run, etc). Make sure that you include at least two photos in your application, one mug shot (so we know who everyone is if/when you make it to the selection weekend) and one boating shot of you!

Selection weekend: Mass start of the Glaslyn at selections in 2018! Photo: Dave

Please send applications to [email protected] . If you don’t get an e-mail confirming receipt of your application, get in touch! Note that anyone invited on the selection weekend will have their application uploaded to the internet (i.e. submitting an application gives us your permission to do this). We stop accepting applications on the 4th October 2021! If you only ever meet one deadline this year, make sure that it is this one!”

Why YOU should apply!

I am lucky to have had a couple friends go on the BUKE expeditions which is why I know how incredible and special these expeditions are. I asked them to share some of their experiences below to give you a flavour of what is involved.

Matt Brook – Madagascar 2015

Whitewater coach Matt Brook went on the 2015 expedition to Madagascar. Here is what he had to say:

“Whilst not the endless lemur jungle rave that the eponymous franchise had led us to believe, Madagascar was still phenomenal. A stunningly beautiful landscape, with bizarre and beautiful flora and fauna. Hospitable and joyfully generous people, even if the barriers of communication were significant! The amazing blend of food that comes from a richly diverse meeting of African and Indonesian cultures, overlaid with French colonial history. And as for the whitewater – once you have committed to the occasional suffer-fest hike-in – it is world-class! Steep and technical, or high-volume and vast, the world’s fourth largest island has it all!”

Photo of Matt in Madagascar on the river Faravory by Sam Lyons

Harry Turner – Russia 2019

Harry Turner went on the last BUKE trip in 2019 to Russia. Here is what he had to say about the whole experience from application to expedition:

“I had heard a lot about BUKE whilst in my first year at University, it gave me ideas of big expeditions over the world and fuelled some of my adventurous aspirations. When the applications opened in 2018, I struggled with what to write and honestly didn’t think I had enough
‘big mission’ kayak experience but my Dad gave me the encouragement to apply and just see what happened. You’ve got to be in it to win it (not that I thought I was going to win)! Nervous to apply, and doubtful I would ever be selected, I submitted my application and to my disbelief my application was accepted and the next thing I knew I was training for the selection weekend at the start of December in North Wales.

You get good at carrying your boat on an expedition. Photo: Harry Turner / Joe Fender

Going in to that weekend I had a mental battle with self confidence, thinking I was going to be the worst there, not knowing anyone that was going and generally just a feeling like a bag of nerves. Arriving at the weekend and chatting to the first few people in the hut I started to relax, and told myself just enjoy the weekend and get to know as many people there as I can, and that’s exactly what I did. I had the best weekend meeting new friends and paddling some quality whitewater, not to mention a lot of drinks!

Whitewater in Russia. Photo: Harry Turner / Joe Fender

After being selected, myself and the team started looking in to where we wanted to go. Adam had researched paddling in Eastern Russia, Siberia. We felt like it would be logistically easier than some other countries but would still give us the big expedition we wanted. It was a great choice and we had an incredible couple of months. I learned a lot about expedition kayaking, paddling in remote places and team dynamics.

Video of the 2019 BUKE trip by Elliot Goddard

Overall, if you’re scared of applying or not sure what to expect all I can say is don’t worry! If you do get selected for the weekend it will be one of the best weekends of paddling you’ll have and you will come away from the weekend having met some super cool people that will come to be friends for life. Better yet, if you get selected for the expedition you will no doubt have the trip of a lifetime and truly experience some incredible things along the way.

An expedition is as much about the team as it is the place! Photo: Harry Turner / Joe Fender

Do it!

There you go. Hopefully you know a little bit more about BUKE and have a little bit of inspiration to apply! You have one day – go go go!

If you’ve only just seen this opportunity however and need a bit more time to get your application in – contact send a message to the BUKE facebook group and let them know there’s one on the way!

Cover photo by Matt Brook on the river Ikopa in Madagascar.

2 replies on “BUKE – What is it and why you should apply!”

Hi, thanks for mentioning the 1983 BUKE which I lead. There is a expedition summary to download at

There are also three vidoes of the 1983 trip on YouTube at

Best wishes for your future adventures.

It was a very inspiring expedition and it was a great article you wrote on researchgate. Thanks for starting the legacy of the BUKE expeditions!

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