Freestyle Trips

Dee Fest 2024!

The river Dee is an absolute UK white water kayaking classic! The Dee is a North Wales river that flows all year round thanks to the fact it has water released into it. It is so good that some brilliant local paddlers decided that they wanted to organise a festival on the Dee and so was born Dee Fest! Dee Fest this year was held on the 13-14th April and it was brilliant! So here is a little account of Dee Fest 2024.


Myself and my travel buddies Jack and David headed over to Llangollen on Friday morning. We arrived at Mile End Mill (MEM) in beautiful sunshine and it was so warm that you didn’t even need a coat! All of the weekend’s activities were being run from MEM and the carpark was already busy when we arrived. Lots of paddlers had a similar idea to us and had driven over to the Dee on the Friday to get an extra day out on the Dee.

MEM carpark! Photo: Jack Ledwith

The organisers and sponsors of the event were busy setting up and as soon as we arrived we were greeted by friends. I had just come back from a week away in Scotland where myself and my fiancé had eloped and had a secret kayaking wedding. I therefore spent a lot of Friday afternoon catching up with excitable friends and just having a wonderful time being social. Jack and David got some sunshine time in their boats and we all registered with the event organisers and picked up our Dee Fest goody bags including a lovely new Dewerstone Dee Fest t-shirt.

A weekend of catching up with friends – I was happy! Photo: Jack Ledwith

In the evening we picked up a takeaway from Llangollen town centre and ate it by the river. There were a fair few paddlers out for evening Dee laps and so it was lovely to catch up with more people as they floated past. This was followed by a pint in the Cornmill, which is the pub that overlooks Town Falls. The pub was full of paddlers so it was nice to catch up with even more people and wave at paddlers on their late evening descent of Town Falls. Dee Fest hadn’t even officially begun and it already felt so social!

Sam testing the rest of the safety team’s reflexes by Town Falls! Photo: Jack Ledwith


Saturday morning saw paddlers gather at MEM for an event briefing from the wonderful Lowri Davies. Lowri is a local legend who is all about having fun on the water and helping others to do the same. She is one of the event organisers and it was lovely to hear her introduce the weekend and kick everything off!

Lowri! Photo: Jack Ledwith

The Dee had a fair bit of water in and so the intermediate mass start Boater-Cross kicked off at MEM itself. It was a well attended event with many paddlers racing down from MEM to bottom wave. As I was taking part in the experts Boater-Cross later that day, I enjoyed this event as a spectator.

Intermediate Boater-X. Photo: Jack Ledwith

It was also a nice opportunity to catch up with many friends who were there as sponsors of the event and were therefore working on the stalls that were set up around MEM. The kayaking world often feels like one big family and events have that extended family gathering feel to them. It was so lovely to chat with everyone!

Leaving my friends over at the Pyranha Kayaks stall, I geared up and got on the water for the Ducky-Cross event. Jamie over at Dee River Kayaking had kindly loaned his fleet of duckies for the day and they were being put to good use! The event saw 4 paddlers going head to head in each heat and got more lively as the morning went on. Kayakers and stand up paddle boarders started getting involved in a bit of friendly sabotage during the races. It certainly made for some good entertainment!

Ducky-Cross! Photo: Jack Ledwith

Following this I joined some friends for a paddle down to Town Falls. At the bottom, we were greeted by one of the friendly Dee Fest shuttle drivers who drove us back up to Horseshoe Falls carpark. Shuttles had been organised to run all weekend between Town Falls, MEM and Horseshoe Falls. This allowed paddlers to run laps of the Dee without the need for cars and in my opinion was one of the best parts of Dee Fest. It massively reduced any potential upset or carnage that would have been caused by everyone driving to set up shuttles all weekend and meant that people felt they could go for their own paddles on the Dee.

We paddled back down to MEM and I really enjoyed just being on the water with friends for a chilled lap. When we got back to MEM, the mass tailee jam event was coming to an end and it was nice to see so many people looking happy in one eddy!

The tailees continued in the freestyle event! Photo: Jack Ledwith

The next event was the expert’s mass start Boater-Cross on Town Falls. There was a safety briefing first before we all paddled down to the steps above Town Falls. Just as had happened in the intermediate race, all categories (Women, Men and Juniors) raced together but would be placed separately. There was a huge turn out and as we waited above Town Falls for safety to set up, I became very nervous.

Mass start for the expert’s Boater-X on Town Falls! Photo: Jack Ledwith

I had paddled Town Falls absolutely fine only a couple of hours previously but somehow the thought of racing against so many other paddlers at the same time was a little daunting! I wanted to enter the Boater-Cross and I didn’t think it was appropriate for someone with my experience to enter intermediates so told myself to just put my name down and do it!

I felt so nervous however so I decided to stick to the back and just enjoy being part of the event but not take the competition seriously. And it was absolutely lovely! Paddling down behind the crowd I got a spectacular view of the race in front of me. As I paddled down through Town Falls, I still got plenty of cheers from friends who were in the pubs spectating. Luckily were wasn’t too much carnage but I was still glad to have kept to the back!

Happy at the back in my pretty yellow boat! Photo: Jack Ledwith

Once off the water and changed, we headed to find some food in Llangollen before heading over to the Town Hall for the Dee Fest party. The theme was ‘festival’ and I had managed to find some glow bands in the back of a drawer at home being I left. There were some fabulous outfits and I spent much of the night being in awe every time Lowri walked past in what appeared to be a head to toe lit up festival headdress.


Sunday kicked off with the ‘Deestyle rodeo’ – a friendly freestyle competition which encourages more silliness than actual freestyle moves. This was particularly well attended by the younger paddlers at the event.

The party outfits continued on the water! Photo: Jack Ledwith

I opted for another couple of chill Dee laps with friends and had a blast paddling and catching up with a couple of people I had yet to catch up with that weekend. Being able to just paddle and not feel pressured to take part in the events was another lovely aspect of Dee Fest. The whole weekend had such a relaxed atmosphere and the shuttle set up made it so easy just to jump on and paddle!

Inflatable time! Photo: Jack Ledwith

We did of course make sure we were back at MEM for the best event of the weekend however which was of course the inflatables park and play! Rocking up for the event briefing with my trusty inflatable ‘Myrtle the Turtle’, I was reminded just how much I love coming to kayaking events. The carpark was FULL of inflatables and their happy paddler owners. Everyone was happy and excited and I just thought ‘this is my kind of vibes!’

Excellent choice of inflatable! Photo: Jack Ledwith

Lowri briefed us before we walked down to the river and the next hour was lots of fun! All of the smiles, some of the surfing and a huge variety of inflatables! By the time we got back to MEM for the end of day prizegiving and close of the event, everyone around me had a smile as big as mine!

Emily was all smiles! Photo: Jack Ledwith

Thank you

I just want to say thank you to everyone involved in organising and running this year’s Dee Fest. From the fabulous team of people who volunteered their time over the weekend to help run events, set up safety and run shuttles. To all the event sponsors who supported the event and set up stalls at MEM. To all the paddlers who got stuck in with enthusiasm and smiles. Finally a huge thank you to the three awesome chief organisers, Lowri, Tanya and Shifty, who organised and ran the entire event and made it so successful!

The volunteers really helped to make this weekend awesome! Photo: Jack Ledwith

Also a big thank you to my wonderful friend and photographer Jack Ledwith who kindly let me use his awesome photos in this article.

See you at Dee Fest 2025!

Me, Jack and David!

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