15 Acres of Adventure in the Heart of Leicester

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Getting Started Paddle Sport

So you want to be a Kayaker?

 By David Robinson BCU Level 3 Coach.

So youve always been a bit interested in canoeing and/or kayaking but you dont know where to start. Well hopefully this guide will give you an idea of what you can do and how to get started, and do it safely.

But isnt it an expensive sport?
Well its as expensive as you want it to be. You can spend lots of money on all the ‘Guccikit straight away, or you dont even need to buy a thing, opting to hire what you need when you need it. You can pay lots of money on lots of coaching to quickly build up your skills, or gather experience slowly - paddling on trips and joining a club. And with that in mind here is a step by step guide to getting involved.

Step 1 – The Taster

It is always good to try something before jumping in at the deep end, so best to have a taster session first. Why not try a taster session at the Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre? Here you will learn the absolute basics such as how to sit in a boat, how to hold a paddle, how to move the boat, how to get in and out and what to do if you fall in. You can do this at an outdoor centre or a canoe centre or possibly at your local club. A good resource is the Go Canoeing Website. Here they list where you can find ‘Canoe Startersession up and down the country.

*Note at this point you especially dont need to buy an kit, as generally the safety kit is all provided.

Step 2 – Learning how to paddle

Unless you have a friend to show you, there are two options to go for. An Introduction to Canoeing Course will give you the basics in paddle sport. By the end you should be able to move your boat with some confidence from A to B generally in a straight line. Youll also be able to manoeuvre your boat in a variety of ways and also capsize without panicking. You can then follow the British Canoeing Star Awards that landmark your progress as you develop in the sport.

Alternatively Option 2 would be to join a club and learn off other people who are regular enthusiasts. Here you can make friends with other paddlers and learn a lot just from socialising and talking about paddle sport. Most clubs will also have qualified coaches and experienced paddlers who are always keen to teach and coach new paddlers.

Personally I would recommend doing both. A professional course will give you quality coaching set against a clear syllabus helping you to progress effectively, and then the club will help you to practice those skills in a safe environment and make friends with like-minded soles.

*Note at this stage you still dont have to buy any kit, you should be able to use the clubs or centres.

Step 3 – Becoming a paddler

After gaining your British Canoeing 1 Star Award you may decide to improve those skills to paddle more efficiently. A 2 Star course will improve those skills as well as teach the basics of how to perform rescues, making you much more confident on the water and no longer feeling like a beginner.

You may also want to start looking at trips on the water, (after all this is why we got into it isnt it?). Again the Go Canoeing website has ‘Guided Tourslisted as well as ‘Trails, which will give you something more than just a quick splash about on the water.

If your club is quite active then Im sure theyll also have organised trips you can enquire about too.

Step 4 – Decisions

By now you should know whether paddle sport is something for you.

If you have decided to carry on one question you may want to answer is – What is it about the sport I like and want do I want to do? There are many disciplines in paddle sport including: touring, flat water racing, white water racing, slalom, sea kayaking, white water rivers, kayak surf, canoe camping, freestyle and polo plus many more.

Knowing what you want to do will help you decide what to purchase. You dont want to spend £500 on an expensive dry suit if youre going to be playing Canoe Polo which mainly takes place in a swimming pool. And likewise you dont want to be taking a Canoe Polo boat down a river with white water rapids. With all the different disciplines there are a lot of different pieces of kit on the market, so its good to seek advice on whats the most appropriate kit for the paddling you want to do.

You generally get what you pay for in kit so its up to you what you choose to buy. There is always a lot of second hand kit on the market. I would suggest taking your time and collecting items as you need them, buying some warmer kit to wear in the winter and having your own buoyancy aid and helmet will make things more comfortable on the water, followed by purchasing your own boat once youre satisfied with what type of paddling youre most interested in.

Finally – ALWAYS Remember safety

Paddle sport is an inherently dangerous sport that brings with it a risk that is always present. These risks can be easily managed but only with experienced paddlers. I would strongly recommend not going out paddling on your own while youre picking up your initial skills. Once youve been paddling for a while you can then start making your own assessments, but always seek advice from other coaches and experienced paddlers.

For more information about the Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre

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