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Go White Water Kayaking.  Could I?

By Adam McCluskey - Joint Adventures

White water kayaking is one of the most exhilarating activities you can do.  When the rains come hundreds of canoeists take to the rivers. Whilst most members of the general public take shelter, the paddling fraternity head for the rivers with a zeal that would get them certified by onlookers.

I still remember the summer evening when my friend suggested we went down to the local outdoor pursuits centre and had a go at canoeing.  Now for many people the difference between canoeing and kayaking is at best a mystery, and at worst of no consequence, but I shall explain briefly.  In kayaking you have a double bladed paddle so that you can paddle on both sides alternately.  In canoeing you have a single bladed paddle so you generally only paddle on one side.  So it’s the paddle (it’s not an oar) which counts.  Many people use the term canoeing as a generic term for kayaking or canoeing; just to make things simple?

The first reaction to sitting in what I soon found out was a kayak was not one of confidence.  It was wobbly, and it did not go where I wanted it to go…and it had a habit of turning upside down.  Despite these initial misgivings I persisted.  I wanted to get good enough to be able to go somewhere. A dozen sessions later I was regularly boating out along the canal and back down the river.  I was up for the next challenge.
I would not have naturally sought out the fast moving white water rapids that many a paddler craves for.  But journeying over water for long enough means that you do eventually find a place where, if you want to go on, you have to learn the skills needed for white water boating.  Now this is where patience comes in.  For the majority of people it would seem to me try to run before they can walk, and in fact end up swimming.  This then leads to being put off.  So here are my tips for tackling the bubbly white stuff and always wanting to come back for more.

  • Start as you mean to go on. Canoeing can be fun and it should be.
  • It’s best to learn with someone and have someone who is patient enough to teach you.
  • Going with a more experienced friend is good as long as they remember what it was like to be a beginner.
  • Spend time in situations that you are comfortable with.  Tackling ever increasingly difficult water every time you go out is in my opinion a big mistake.  Many paddlers try to paddle rivers which they do not have the skills to enjoy.  The result of this is obvious; they don’t enjoy their paddle.
  • Measure your progress not by how difficult the water was, but how much you want to go again.

So where can you go canoeing?  Well not just anywhere, but there are lots of places.  As with many things these days the internet is a good staring point.  The British Canoe Union is a good source of information about local clubs.  You can get information as to how to contact local paddlers.  Hopefully, within a club setting, there will be some wise and patient people who have the skills and knowledge to set you on the right path.  If not then there are centres which run courses for a range of abilities.  If you are focussed on learning and are prepared to invest some time and money, then you should be able to progress.  So what are you waiting for?  Get out there!

About the Author.  Adam McCluskey is a BCU Level 4 Coach who lives works and plays in The Lake District.  When not paddling rivers for fun he spends time teaching in secondary schools, and leading outdoor adventure activities.  For more information about canoeing and kayaking he may be contacted at www.jointadventures.co.uk.

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