Guide to Buying a Canoe or Kayak

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make as you progress in to the wondrous world of canoeing & kayaking is the moment you decide to invest in your own boat. It’s a big deal and you want to make the right choice. To help you through the bewildering array of boats lining the racks of your local canoe shop we’ve put together a few useful pointers to help you find exactly the right boat for you…

OK so you’ve been bitten by the paddling bug and want to go canoeing & kayaking all the time, you’ve joined your local club, done lots of pool sessions and even been on a few club trips. Up to now you’ve taken advantage of the club’s fleet of boats but now it’s time to choose a boat of your own. You’ve spent hours poring over glossy sales brochures, drooling over ads, staring goggle eyed at manufacturer’s websites on the Internet and dreaming of your shiny new toy. But now the time has come, you’ve saved your hard-earned pennies and you’ve got a pocket full of cash and you’re ready to buy the boat of your dreams… But how do you know it’s the boat of your dreams! Will it have you paddling like a canoeing or kayaking star of send you tumbling in to the drink at every turn? Will your sarnie box and flask fit in it OK?

Joking aside, buying a canoe or a kayak is a big deal, they represent a fair investment, and more importantly, your precious time on the water could be spoiled if you make the wrong choice! To help ease your boat buying nerves and to make sure you end up with the right boat for you the following tips should help you avoid the pitfalls and help you find your perfect paddling purchase…

What Do You Want?

This is the crux question. Sounds simple but as canoes and kayaks have become more and more specialist, with designs for specific styles of paddling it’s a harder question to answer than it may appear. It’s a bit easier if your planned purchase, and your preferred type of paddling, falls in to one of these specific areas, a sea kayak for instance, or a specialist whitewater open canoe. If however you want a ‘jack of all trades’ then things can get a little trickier. Before you start to look at specific models you really need to pin down what it is that you want to get from your paddling. Get yourself a pen and paper and a nice cuppa then sit down and make a list of all the things that you want to do in your new boat. Be both realistic, and honest with yourself. They haven’t invented the kayak that can turn from creek boat to sea kayak yet, or a family canoe that can double up as a surf boat, and it’s not going to do you any favours if you put down ‘running grade five rivers’ if the nearest you’ve come is a splash about on your local lake. What kind of paddling do you do most of, and where? What is your current skill level and how do you see that changing in the future? What are your aspirations and your paddling goals? Do you want a solo boat, or a tandem? Add on your height, weight range etc and you should have started to build up a reasonable picture of the type of boat that you’re looking for. So what next? Well, now its time to do some research.

The Internet

Everyone and their dog has a website these days and canoe & kayak manufacturers are no exception. An hour or two surfing on the net can provide a whole stack of info on the boats that fit your criteria. Retailer’s websites are great as they often have the different types of boat listed together, so it can be easy to compare the boat’s specifications and features directly. Internet forums can also be a useful source of information and advice (see below).

Reading Material

If you don’t have access to the Internet then track down the manufacturer’s brochures, if you’re not lucky enough to have a retailer right on your doorstep then a quick call to your local shop should be all you need to do. They’ll usually be happy to mail you out a bunch of brochures, or you can call the manufacturers direct and request a brochure be sent out to you. Again these will allow you to check out the models that fit your bill and compare specs and features.

Sound Advice?

We touched on Internet forums above and they can be an excellent source of advice and feedback from your fellow paddlers. There are a few things to bear in mind though. Most contributors on paddling forums give good, sound, well-meaning advice with knowledge and experience behind it. But some occasionally don’t. And as with all first hand experiences and recommendations, including magazine and web gear tests we have to add, is that they are subjective. All a tester, or poster can do is to comment and feedback on how they found a particular boat, and just because they liked/hated it doesn’t mean you will. So as a rule take on board on-line advice, but sprinkle it with just a hint of salt.

The same goes with shop staff, most canoe shops offer way more than just a place to spend money. They have a professional vested interest in putting you in the right boat (happy paddlers come back to buy more gear), and on top of that, most are passionate about paddling and will want to make sure that they give you the best advice possible.

Brand New or Second Hand

It’s certainly worth considering a second-hand boat and there are some great bargains to be had. You still need to apply the same criteria though, as it’s no good buying a boat just because it was dirt cheap if it doesn’t do the job you want it too. The Internet is the main source of second hand boats these days, with most paddling websites having a ‘for sales’ section or auction sites like E-bay carry a lot of kayaks and gear too. It’s generally not a good idea to buy the boat unseen, especially if it’s a model you’ve never tried, and you should still try to get it out on some water for a demo. Plastic boats are tough and you shouldn’t be put off by scratches from usual use, but do give the boat a thorough check, especially under the seat, around and under the cockpit and both the bow and stern areas, just in case. Check the outfitting and bolts too. Apart from being shiny and new, and probably the latest design, the main benefit of purchasing a brand new canoe or kayak is that it will come with a manufacturer’s guarantee and the after sales back up and service that a good retailer will provide.

Retail Therapy

If you do decide to go down the new boat route then grab your ‘wish’ list and head to your local retailer. Once there talk through your selection with the staff and explain the reasons behind your choices. Ask plenty of questions. They may well have some advice, or suggestions that you haven’t yet considered. Have a good look at the boats, take a sit in them, you may find that you knock one or two off the list at this stage without even getting them wet.

Symposiums, Shows and Come-and-Try-It-Days

There are a host of these types of brilliant events that take place all over the UK and they can be excellent places to meet like-minded paddlers and discuss boats and ideas. Many retailers now run specific demo-day events where manufacturers turn up with complete demo fleets and are on hand to offer help and advice on the right canoe for you.

Time To Float Your Boat

Time to demo, it’s really important to try the boats on the water. Most good dealers have fleets of demos and access to water; some may even allow you to try stock boats if they don’t have a demo of a particular model. If you’re buying a tandem or family boat then make sure you take along your paddling partner, nippers, dog etc to try the boat with you too Twenty minutes on the water will tell you more about whether the boat is right for you than any website, forum or brochure can ever do.

Pricing

Remember that discount, if offered, is a privilege and not a right. Many retailers offer a discount to the members of their local club, or regular customers. If you’re making a large purchase then by all means ask, but in our experience a polite enquiry is usually infinitely more successful than demanding 50% off because you’ll also be buying a nose clip! In our opinion, supporting your local retailer and getting great service and advice is far more valuable than saving an extra ten quid on a boat that’s halfway across the country and is probably going to cost you more than that to collect/have delivered.

Happy Shoppers

OK that’s it, your money clip is empty, but you have a lovely new canoe or kayak strapped to the roof rack. It’s time to go paddling. There are just a few little things to do before you hit the water. Take the time to fill in the warranty card and return it, you’d be amazed how many people just rip it out and chuck it in the bin. It’s also a good idea to spend a few minutes making sure any bolts and fittings are done up nice and tight. If you’re new toy has an adjustable seat and fittings you’ll probably want to spend a bit of time experimenting to get it all set up just right for you. Enjoy!

The Expert – Mark Burch – Canoe Shop Chain Owner

“Buying a kayak (and certainly your first) is an exciting time. The choice available however can be daunting, but luckily help is at hand as because in the UK we are fortunate to have a great selection of quality canoe and kayak stores.
It is always best to visit your local canoe and kayak store and speak with staff there, who will invariably be paddlers themselves and should relate quickly and easily to your needs and recommend a shortlist of suitable boats to consider.
It is also wise to see the boat in person and for some being able to try before you buy is a great facility to take advantage of.”

A Guide for the Older Kayaker

I have lost count of the times that I have thought of hanging up my paddles for good or, at least, restricting myself to the more leisurely aspects of our sport. Having had my free bus pass for over a year now I look back and reflect on how I am lucky to have had many years of fun on rivers, sea and lakes, both at home and abroad and in all sorts of boats. I have made many good friends and enjoyed the company of people of all ages who share the same enthusiasm for getting wet, or trying not to get wet as the case may be. However all good things must come to an end – it is just difficult to know when.

As the years pass one takes longer to heal from the cuts and bruises of an out of boat experience and I often wonder if the pain and discomfort is worth it but then the phone goes – “Dad, are you coming to the Wet West Paddle Fest?” How can I resist? Apart from the paddling it is such fun being with the younger generation enjoying their banter, stirring up memories of my younger days, sharing their concerns and, in a surprising way, learning so much from them. I do not feel I add much to the party so wonder why I am asked along. Is it that I take my credit card to the pub? Are my kids trying to get at their inheritance before I have a chance to spend it all? The WWPF 2008 found me in the Nevis, swimming in Dave’s Hole with a broken paddle. I survived that and the rest of the river, even paddled Scimitar Gorge, a much more committing run than anything I had done before. The next day found me in the Moriston River several times including an inverted descent of the gun barrel with another broken paddle. Perhaps I should have got the message – time to take things easy. But why? I was learning new techniques and my river reading skills were improving. I was having fun.

The WWPF 2008 found me in the Nevis, swimming in Dave’s Hole with a broken paddle. I survived that and the rest of the river, even paddled Scimitar Gorge, a much more committing run than anything I had done before. The next day found me in the Moriston River several times including an inverted descent of the gun barrel with another broken paddle. Perhaps I should have got the message – time to take things easy. But why? I was learning new techniques and my river reading skills were improving. I was having fun.

I am blessed with sons who, apart from being very accomplished paddlers in their own right, engender in me a great deal of confidence. They trust me to follow where they lead and I trust them to stop me if it is beyond my abilities. Also they are very good at rescues! 2009. Ring. Ring. “Dad, are you coming to the Wet West Paddle Fest again?” Of course! I did not want to be beaten by the

2009. Ring. Ring. “Dad, are you coming to the Wet West Paddle Fest again?” Of course! I did not want to be beaten by the Moriston. I did the top drop once only and was badly chewed. I swam at the bottom of the top section as well. Not a successful day but great fun. The Etive River Race the next weekend did not go well either. I got pinned across the right angle of Right Angle Falls and swam. Having raced that far I was drained. I did not have the strength left to get myself out of the pool, let alone the boat and had to be helped. This was a salutary lesson. Time to review my paddling. When the phone rang last year I already knew my

When the phone rang last year I already knew my answer, but had my strategy prepared to survive both events. I know that my endurance is wilting. I know that I do not have the explosive power to do a stylish boof. I know that my recovery time is getting longer. I know my reaction times are slower. Hence I know that I must pace myself, resist the temptation to play in the holes, rein back my competitive instincts, plan carefully the harder moves, be prepared to take the easy route or portage and accept with grace the indignity of yet another rescue. I must learn to get more vicarious enjoyment from watching others and to be grateful for the privilege of being part of such a fun filled community in such splendid locations.To those who have practised their rescue skills on me, many thanks. To my boys and their regular paddling buddies, again, many thanks. I appreciate the inclusive way you accept me. To all those older paddlers, come and join the fun! Enjoy the challenge of surviving with dignity rather than starring in style. It would be great to have a veteran’s class in the Etive River Race and some competition for last place! It would be great to see some of the splendid prizes going, not to impecunious students, but to impecunious pensioners!

To those who have practised their rescue skills on me, many thanks. To my boys and their regular paddling buddies, again, many thanks. I appreciate the inclusive way you accept me. To all those older paddlers, come and join the fun! Enjoy the challenge of surviving with dignity rather than starring in style. It would be great to have a veteran’s class in the Etive River Race and some competition for last place! It would be great to see some of the splendid prizes going, not to impecunious students, but to impecunious pensioners!See you there this year!

See you there this year!For more info on this year’s Wet Wet Paddlefest go

For more info on this year’s Wet Wet Paddlefest go Here

A Paddler’s Guide to the Afon Conwy

The Afon Conwy is a true North Wales whitewater classic. Draining an enormous area, it holds water for a little longer than some of the other rivers in the area, and the tributaries are classics in themselves. Starting high on the Mignient Moors, it flows and gathers strength to meet the sea on the North Welsh coast. The Conwy is steeped in kayaking history, and has sections for every type of paddler, from placid touring to twisting and powerful gorges.

‘Upper’ Conwy – A5 road bridge to Rhydlanfair Bridge – Grade 3 (4)

Above this section of the Conwy, there are several more classic sections, and it is possible to kayak from Ysbyty Ifan to the put in, and indeed from even higher up on the moors close to Llyn Conwy. From the large lay-by just west of Pentrefoelas, it is a short walk to the river where you can put on downstream of the bridge where there is a physical gauge. Anything above three on the gauge is good to go, below that the river becomes pretty rocky and you risk leaving rather a lot of plastic on the riverbed! Once the gauge is underwater the run becomes committing, fast and furious. The rapids come gently at first with some nice ledges and corners and you wind through the Pentrefoelas Estate. As you past under the first bridge the banks start to gorge up, and from there on in it is classic grade 3 water.

Occasionally a bit blind, the ‘Upper’ provides challenges for everyone. As a large retaining wall is reached on the river right, you are at ‘Bryn Bras Falls’. A twisty grade 4 drops with a cheeky stopper waiting on river left at the bottom, but it is easily scouted on river right by balancing along the ledge on the wall. The run out from here contains some great waves for styling it up in a creek boat, then there’s just one more nice bedrock rapid and then a gentle cruise to the takeout.

Take out either on the outside of the river right bend (beware of the fences), or, more conveniently, run under the bridge and down several more excellent ledge rapids before taking out by the small stream and boulder on river right. A small path leads back up to the A5, and the Lay-by with Rachel’s Cafe caravan in it. It is worth checking this take out beforehand as it is easily missed.

‘Middle Conwy’ – Rhydlanfair Bridge to Conwy Falls – Grade 4 (5)

WARNING: YOU MUST IDENTIFY THE TAKE OUT BEFORE YOU RUN THIS SECTION, MISSING IT IS NOT AN OPTION!

A ‘two hit wonder’; the appeal of this section comes from the two grade five rapids. Usually this section is a continuation of the previous ‘upper’ section, however, it can be treated as a standalone section. See above for put-on info, again it requires similar water levels as the ‘Upper’. The first serious drop is reached soon enough, a series of ledges into a powerful hole with a rock in it – a rare treat in low water! It’s best scouted or portaged on river left. Shortly afterwards the second grade five arrives, ‘The Gobbler’. The name refers to the hole at the bottom of a twisting flume of folds and cushions that can back-loop all but the most astute. Again scouted or portaged by the path on river left. You are now deep into a Site of Special Scientific Interest, please stick to the path and don’t wander about trampling on the rare mosses and lichens. Several brilliant grade 4 rapids follow, but all too soon it is over. On river left there are a series of bright yellow marker posts and a number of high-visibility jackets hung in the trees. These mark the imminent approach of the end of the run and have been placed there after a number of groups have missed this takeout. A very bad thing to do indeed! The river turns sharply left and plunges under the bridge next to the Conwy Falls Cafe, tumbling under and over a series of sumped and unpleasant boulders. This has been the scene of a number of Mountain Rescue situations and is definitely a bad place to be! By the time you see the bridge, chances are it is too late – don’t become a news item, make sure you get out in time. From here it is a short walk to the cafe car park. Excellent grub awaits you inside the cafe!

The Fairy Glen – Conwy Falls to Beaver Pool – Grade 5

Below the ‘Middle’ section of the Conwy lays Fairy Falls and just below is the infamous Fairy Glen, the stuff of whitewater myths, legends and, occasionally, nightmares. First tackled in the late 80s, it has remained a respected test-piece of Welsh paddling ever since. While Conwy Falls has seen a few auspicious descents over the years, most will choose to put on below! The easiest way to access the river is on the river left. From the A470 towards Blaenau Ffestiniog, turn left over a small hump-backed bridge (crossing the Afon Lledr) and then follow the road up the glen. Various glimpses of the river are available to the paddler, and the best view is of Fairy Falls roughly half way up. Park in the large rough lay-by and you can follow the small path down to the river. You are looking for a reasonable flow and clean lines, but river-wide and brown will be an eye-opener!

From here the only way is down with steep rapids and blind drops. It all goes somewhere, but scouting is difficult. Double points for making it into the cave on ‘Cave Drop’ and collecting a magical glen rock – it brings good fortune, but will one day run out and need to be swapped… After the gorge opens up you are into Fairy Falls. Stop in plenty of time for a look! The second gorge is shorter but just as awkward to scout; all too quickly you are fired down the last drop and wash out into the pool at the bottom. Take out on the grass where the Afon Lledr comes in from the left, or carry on down to Beaver pool just below the A470 road bridge.

Lower Conwy – Beaver Pool to Llanrwst – Grade 1/2

From Beaver Pool, it is a very pleasant float down to Llanrwst, or even on to Tal Y Cafn. In big water, this section also hides some sneaky play-waves for the exploratory freestyler who is not afraid of paddling to their playspot.

Other Rivers In The Area

Afon Lledr

A mixed bag of hard rapids, easy rapids, very hard rapids and just plain great rapids. Doesn’t need loads of water to run, and it’s not run as much as it should be.

Afon Machno

Grade one through pleasant farmland with a feisty drop by the Mill for those who like to huck.

Afon Llugwy

You’d heard of the Llugwy right? More fun for everyone!

Afon Crafnant

Tipper Dam and gnarl. Home of the other Fairy Falls…

Tom’s Top Tips:

You need to…
Get a pasty from the Spar in Betws Y Coed.
Have a brew in the Conwy Falls Café.
Wander round Cotswold Outdoors and get shiny things.

You need to avoid…
Missing the take out on the middle Conwy!
Missing the take out on the middle Conwy!
MISSING THE TAKE OUT ON THE MIDDLE CONWY!

Useful Info:
Welsh Canoe Association – www.canoewales.com
Conwy Falls Café – www.conwyfalls.com
Betws y Coed – www.betws-y-coed.co.uk
Welsh Rivers Online Water Levels Guide – www.welsh-rivers.co.uk
Welsh river guide book – Buy It Here

A Whitewater River Guide to the River Etive

Flowing through the beautiful, rugged Glen Etive, under the impressive shadow of Buachaille Etive Mor, one of Scotland’s best known and best known Munros, the River Etive is rightfully considered one of the absolute classic Scottish whitewater kayaking runs.

In fact, alongside the Orchy and the Findhorn, it is probably one of the best known whitewater rivers in all of Scotland. With its rapids bearing emotive names like Triple Drop, Ski Jump, The Letter Box, Crack of Doom, Crack of Dawn, Rockslide and Big Man Falls, the Etive’s smooth boulder gardens, tight constrictions and sweet granite bedrock slides it provide a stiff challenge to those braving its crystal clear waters…The Etive itself has three sections that are regularly paddles, the upper, the middle and the lower, with the majority of the quality whitewater situated in the middle section. It also has a series of ultra-steep tributaries that cascade

The Etive itself has three sections that are regularly paddles, the upper, the middle and the lower, with the majority of the quality whitewater situated in the middle section. It also has a series of ultra-steep tributaries that cascade into it along its length, and these can add a whole head of adventure and adrenaline (and bruises) to a big day out in the glen.

Upper Section 2 (5)

The upper section is fairly easy, with one fall to portage and a good option for groups with less experienced members. The put in is by the Kingshouse Hotel, obvious from the main road. It does need a fair amount of water in the river, though, if the Etive’s not high then it’ll be a bump and scrape.

Lower Section (Dalness) 2 (4)

The lower section offers similar easy water, but one nasty fall at Dalness, which can be run, but is usually portaged. Again this a good option if your group is less experienced or you feel the water level is a bit too high on the middle section.

Middle Etive 4 (5) The Middle section will go in nearly all water conditions. In low

The Middle section will go in nearly all water conditions. In low water, some of it can be a bit scrappy and it high it becomes a fast and furious run with the odd big hole to punch. From the moment you launch the middle section, the action begins immediately as you line yourself up for the first rapid, Triple Drop. From then on you are contained between the river’s high granite walls as you negotiate your way down its excellent drops.

Dynamic paddling will be rewarded and even if it all goes wrong and you find yourself swimming the river is pool drop in nature, so there’s always a moment of calm at the end of each drop to deal with any carnage. Inspection is easy throughout and the road that runs through the glen is never very far away if you want to pull the plug for any reason. Safety is also easy to set-up and you may want to consider this on a few of the drops.

If you can take your eyes off the crashing whitewater action for a minute you’ll be greeted with a stunning view of the valley full of dark, sombre looking mountains. From start to finish you’ll revel in a thrill-packed rollercoaster ride of a run until you successfully reach the penultimate challenge, a small but tricky dog-leg rapid leads you into a diminutive pool above the lip of Big Man Falls. Or Eas an Fhir Mhóir to give it its true Gaelic name, an impressive 16-foot waterfall, also commonly known as Right Angle Falls.

Whatever name you choose to call it, it won’t help dispel the butterflies in your stomach as you wait in the eddy above! The fall itself drops cleanly into a natural amphitheatre, where, as you slide out of the pool and over the sloping lip, you will enjoy a fleeting feeling of freefall, before you crash deep below the churning waters below. Keeping a good control on your edges on re-surfacing is a good idea as many a kayaker has found themselves pushed over and against the sidewalls below the falls resulting in a swim. After

After the you’ve taken a moment to, collect and flotsam and jetsam and calm down from the adrenaline pumping through your veins it’s a short but technical paddle down to the last tricky rapid with a small fall at the bottom. Take out opposite, or if you crave more adrenaline. Cross the river a bit lower down and head up the Allt a Chaoruinn, a tributary that flows in to the Etive from the river left bank.

Useful Info:

Scottish Canoe Association – www.canoescotland.org

River Levels – canoescotland.org/where-go/wheres-water

Refreshments – The Clachaig Inn – www.clachaig.com The Kingshouse Hotel – http://freespace.virgin.net/kings.house/

All You Need to Know About Joining Your Local Canoe Club

Every year more and more people sample the delights of going canoeing & kayaking through come-and-try-it days, taster courses and adventure holidays, but once you’ve been bitten by the bug, where do you go from there? The answer’s a simple one, find the nearest canoe club to your area, go along, join up and you’ll never look back…

It’s fair to say that canoe clubs are at the very heart of all areas and disciplines of canoeing and kayaking. Ask any top paddler, no matter what discipline, how they got started and we’ll bet you a pound to a penny that a canoe club featured in there somewhere. Clubs throughout the UK offer a safe, friendly, fun way to get involved, learn the skills and make a whole bunch of boating mates into the bargain.

What’s it all About?

Much like paddlers themselves, Canoe clubs come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and types. Most clubs, however, will offer you a whole heap of invaluable opportunities to help you in your paddling, qualified British Canoe Union (BCU) Coaches, boat storage, pool sessions, club equipment organised river trips are just a few of the things that most canoe clubs can provide. Not to mention the social side of things. Just imagine a whole club load of like-minded people all as obsessed with all things canoeing and kayaking as you are?

How Do Canoe Clubs Work?

The majority of clubs are affiliated to the BCU and will ask you for an annual membership fee to cover subs and the matainence of clubhouses etc. There will usually be a set club night when you can all get together and get on the water, or maybe even just meet up to talk paddling over a pint. Pool sessions are also common and are usually run in a local swimming bath. These can be invaluable as a novice, as they provide a safe, and warm, environment to work on more advanced moves, such as support strokes and Eskimo rolling.

Clubs will usually have a committee, which will be voted on by the membership of the club at an annual general meeting. The committee will then deal with the day-to-day running of the club, such as membership fees, organising pool sessions/river trips, training and coaching courses, working with the BCU etc. If the club is a large one the committee may well have members that deal with specific areas such as youth programmes or coaching etc. As well as somewhere to meet and fellow paddlers to go paddling with, many canoe clubs will also have club equipment that can be borrowed or hired. This is fantastic if you’re just starting out as it means that you can continue to learn and progress while you slowly build up your own personal gear, without having to go out and bust the bank in one go at your local canoe shop.

Be a Canoeing & Kayaking Star

As we’ve already mentioned most clubs will have members who have attained BCU Qualifications and are more than willing to pass on their knowledge to new members. Most clubs will also run training programmes on the BCU star awards. Clubs will often organise specific courses and assessments, so members can learn and progress through the star awards right up to coaching qualifications and many will subsidise these course for members.

Day Tripping

Club trips are a brilliant way to get out and experience the rivers, lakes and coastline. Practically every paddler in the UK will of enjoyed their first taste of ‘real’ paddling on a club trip. Be it float on a Sit-ob-Top on your local lake, a run down the River Dart, a surf trip to South Wale, a sea kayaking adventure in Scotland or maybe an open canoe trip in the Lake District, club trips are a whole bunch of fun and you’ll really appreciate the help, advice and knowledge of your fellow club members as you enjoy your time on the water.

Specialist Clubs

Some clubs specialise in a specific discipline. These tend to be based around competitive paddling pursuits such as marathon, sprint, slalom or canoe polo, but specialist sea kayaking, open boating and canoe sailing clubs also exist. These can provide excellent specialised coaching and a real focus on the discipline of choice. If you’re completely new to the sport you may find this sort of club a little restrictive, so why not join a general club first and try your hand at all types of paddling? Then if you find that you’re drawn to a specific type of paddling you can see if there’s a specialist club in your area.

Social Club!

As we’ve already hinted there’s so much more to being a member of a canoe club than just going paddling. By and large, paddlers are a sociable bunch and they’ll be plenty of activity on the water. Christmas dinners, summer BBQs, video nights, some clubs even organise lectures and slideshows by well-known kayakers or coaches. You’ll also find that on top of official club trips many club members will get together and organise their own paddling trips, or courses, so you could find yourself off on a paddling adventure every weekend!

Family Fun

Because of their social side, and because most clubs will cater for all abilities, they are ideal for getting the whole family involved. Pool sessions can be particularly good for some great fun with the kids, or for introducing a loved one who may be a little hesitant at jumping straight onto the sea or river. Most clubs offer a specific family membership for this very reason.

Finding Your Local Canoe Club

The BCU is a good first point of call and they should be able to point you in the direction of your nearest club. Check out their website (www.bcu.org.uk) where you can download a list of clubs or call them on 0115 9821100. They also carry a list of every BCU affiliated club in their annual yearbook, which is free to members.

Many canoe clubs now have their own dedicated websites and a quick search could well reveal your local clubs site. Alternatively try a search on Google, or similar. Just type in ‘canoe clubs UK’ and you’ll get loads, and loads results.

So that’s it, what are you waiting for? Get searching, get yourself along, get paddling and get in the club!

An Inflatable Canoe & Inflatable Kayak Adventure in the Scottish Highlands

Paddling can take you to some amazing places but when you combine canoeing & kayaking, and the versatility of modern inflatable kayaks & inflatable canoes, with other outdoor pursuits it can really open up a mind-boggling array of possibilities for outdoor adventuring. But hang on; don’t you need to be a big, burly, bearded bush-craft practicing explorer to be able to take a walk, and paddle, on the really wild side? Well no actually! Read on and discover that some basic knowledge, a go for it attitude, a thirst for adventure and an inflatable canoe can take you a very long way on a journey of discovery in the far north.

It all started with an innocent looking email popping in to the inbox. It simply said ‘An Invite to the Mountains?’ followed by the words ‘Fancy It?’ and a brief description of a pretty epic sounding itinerary for a few days of high adventure way up in Assynt, Inverpoly, in the far, far north of Scotland. The objectives of the trip were to use lochs and rivers (and a couple of harsh portages) to stitch together a majestic loop that would also take in climbing some of the regions classic mountains. To date all my paddling trips had been just that, paddling trips, but I’m not adverse to a plod up a hill, and something about the idea had me intrigued. After a bit of internal ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ I replied. I was in!The email in question was forwarded from a mate called Owen Jenkins. I knew OJ was a keen mountaineer with years of

The email in question was forwarded from a mate called Owen Jenkins. I knew OJ was a keen mountaineer with years of mountain experience. Many of those adventures had been shared with his mate Nick, the author of the enticing email. Nick also has an impressive mountain climbing C.V! The previous year whilst looking for a way to expand their adventures Nick & OJ had traversed Rannoch Moor using an inflatable canoe, combining the not unchallenging paddling with some climbing too. It had proved a wet, but exciting adventure; and they were fast becoming hooked by the joys of the paddle. Fast-forward a few months and a plan was beginning to hatch over evening ‘pub paddles’ on the River Nene. And so it was that the fateful email had been dispatched to a disparate group of Gentlemen all deemed to be up for a healthy dose of wet and wild outdoor adventure.

Invitation to Inflatable Adventure

The recipients came from various friends and family members and ranged from those with lots of experience of the hills to no paddling at all, to those who had never even been camping before! Once the cyber-dust had settled and the final tally made our team was to number fourteen in total. As I studied the plan it was obvious that when Nick and OJ said ‘adventure’ they spell it with a capital A, this was no gentle float and a wander up a grassy hillock, this was going to be long days and hard effort in a potentially hostile environment. It was an audacious plan, but could a mixed bag of outdoor, and paddling novices really pull it off? Our destination was way up in the North West corner of Scotland. We would leave our vehicles and launch in to four days of adventure as we paddled Cam Loch, Loch Veyatie Fionn Loch, Loch a’ Ghillie and Loch Sionascaig and Loch an Doire Dhuibh. Climbing Canisp, Suilven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh along the way and wild camping in the evenings. Given the number in the team the logistics of just getting everyone up there with all the appropriate equipment was no mean feat, but as I was to discover Nick & OJ’s preparation and planning is impressive, to say the least, so nothing was left to chance.

Kit & Caboodle

The sending of a provisional gear list saw a buying spree, in local and online outdoor and paddling shops, the likes of which the local outfitters had never seen. Indeed Nick began to receive ‘dark stares’ at the school gates, on the morning school run, from various ‘other halves’ of ‘team members’ as the instigator of the gear buying frenzy. We’d be paddling in pairs using a selection of inflatable canoes and kayaks. These certainly made sense for the type of trip we were undertaking, especially for the long portage out to the road at the end of the trip. The ability to carry plenty of gear, provide a stable, user-friendly paddling experience and the fact that they can be deflated and packed down to be carried on your back made them the keys that would unlock this epic adventure for us.

The Adventure Begins

After a long journey north the team rendezvoused in Ullapool before heading to the banks of a slow moving rivulet that would lead us out on to Cam Loch and the start of our ‘boots and boats’ adventure. We unloaded the vehicles under a clear blue sky with sunshine shimmering on us as dry bags were packed and boats inflated. As the shuttle drivers returned we grouped up for a pre-trip team photo before launching. Bear in mind that at this point many of the team had never actually met in person. We came from all walks of life and all had varying degrees of experience On some trips this could have the possibility for trouble and a recipe for disharmony, but it was testament to the shared ‘go for it’ and ‘one for all and all for one’ attitude of everyone involved that the sense of camaraderie, and feeling that we were a cohesive team was there right from the very first paddle stroke. I think this was because Nick and Owen had put a lot of effort in to the planning, so we all knew what we were about, had similar expectations and the shared goal of giving it our all and squeezing every last drop of adventure from the experience to come.

A Glimpse of The Imminent Future

As we paddled across a mirror-flat surface of Cam Loch the Highlands were treating us to their very best, a clear blue sky, dusted with a few fluffy clouds and a warm sun. We’d chosen the time of year carefully, to hopefully, negate the worst of the potential weather and the effects of the dreaded Scottish midge. And it looked like it was paying off, big time. We paddled along stretching out muscles and revelling in a picturesque start to the trip. On the horizon we could see our destination for the morning the long ascent up to the top of Canisp and next to it the sharp inclines of the stacks of Suilven. The mountains here don’t sit in ranges, they’re island mountains, which means they stand-alone. And as they rise straight up from pretty much sea level it gives them a dominance and character that perhaps more loftier, but joined mountains don’t possess. As we approached the shingle beach where we were planning to land and change in to our hill gear I certainly felt pretty dominated by the view at least.
Boats were swapped for boots and we set off across marshy ground to begin our climb up Canisp. It was a fairly gentle start in reality and a great way to get everyone in to the swing of hill walking. The weather was holding and from the top we were treated to 360 panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness. It was immense, stretching out in all directions like a giant map. The sheer amount of water around us was amazing and the potential for exploration and adventure in this region is untold. We gazed again at the pinnacles of Suilven and over to the long narrow body of Loch Veyatie stretching off in to the distance, which we all knew we would be paddling the length of later in the day.

Blow by Blow

Once back down and in to the boats it was time for the first big section of paddling. We made our way back across Cam Loch, noting that it was a fair bit breezier than before our climb. As we approached a bend in the river a very definite roar could be heard. Time to take out. A fairly chunky looking drop lurked round the corner. A short, but tricky portage followed, but we were soon past and we set out on to Veyatie as the sun began to get lower. It was still warm, but the wind was starting to pick up and the going was fairly stiff. It was a long paddle and despite the breathtaking scenery a bit of a slog towards the end. Just as we began to really feel the bite of the cold we left the loch and paddled in to the section of river that connects it to neighbouring Fion Loch. As the river narrowed and twisted it threw up some small rapids that gave us all a shot of adrenaline to get us grinning again. We were soon dragging the boats out on to a marshy shore ready to set up camp in the imposing shadow of Suilven. This was real wild camping and finding a suitably flat and dry section was tough, but slowly each crew found a spot and a small circle of tents popped up. Time to refuel and the sound of pans boiling heating through the Wayfarer meals and packets of instant rice most had opted for. We were no exception and as my boating buddy Jim worked hard to get the nutritious, but somewhat gastronomically challenged meal ready I asked him if he fancied a little something extra to lift the repast. Jim was keen and wondered if it was Tabasco sauce? “Nope” I replied as I handed over two juicy and Rib Eye steaks that I’d pre-marinated and then frozen the day before we’d left. As they sizzled in the pan the smell was wafting around the camp making mouths water. After all we had a big day ahead and a Gent needs his comforts when adventuring in the wild. Got to love the ‘capacity’ of these inflatable canoes & kayaks!

A Day to Remember

The next morning the weather had certainly come in and Suilven’s monolithic, shark-like structure brooded over us with its distinctive profile hidden in a cloak of dark cloud. I’ve seen my fair share of mountains, the Alps, the Rockies, The Andes and the mighty Himalaya but the power of this lump of rock was certainly unnerving. It rears up from its base amongst wetland, lochans and loch, steadfast and ferocious in its solitude, standing haughty and alone from the surrounding mountains. Suilven stands looking out to sea with clouds and winds constantly sweeping in from the Atlantic adding to its unapproachable and foreboding nature.We set off on our approach working our way across the difficult terrain, ready for the battle to come. The ground noticeably steepened and the vast, unrelenting wilderness around us began to spread

We set off on our approach working our way across the difficult terrain, ready for the battle to come. The ground noticeably steepened and the vast, unrelenting wilderness around us began to spread out, until we regrouped below a rocky outcrop to take on some food, put on waterproofs, pack away poles and ready ourselves for the ascent. This was where it would get interesting. Up we went rock after rock, step after step steady as we went. It was steep now, not quite climbing but like a huge rock staircase, we snaked up the trail concentrating hard on the task at hand, climbing easily what, from below, had looked near impossible. It seemed like time had hardly passed at all when we topped out on the summit of the first pinnacle. There were nervous smiles all round and we walked across a strangely flat plateau. Why the nerves? Well this is where things would start to get really interesting, certainly for those of us who would usually shy away from dangling off rock. Traversing Suilven is basically a series of climbs and ascents until you finally reach the final domed end and the true summit. Nick and Owen were calm and control personified and it was decided that it was wise to rope up for a particularly exposed section that had to be negotiated to get back down and around the first pillar. The guidebook had described the scrambling involved as grade 2. Sounds pretty easy, and to be fair holding on to a rock as you stretch across a corner and gap to take hold of another while stepping a boot across at the same time isn’t really that physically hard, but as my knees knocked waiting for Nick & OJ to rig up the rope I couldn’t help but think that maybe the grade should take in to account the hundred odd feet between your bum and the rather rocky ground with nothing but fresh air in-between in to account! But this was a job that had to be done and everyone got it nailed, some of us rather more grim-lipped than others. The heart rate was certainly up a little on the other side and the following scrambles and ridge walk seemed a breeze by comparison. Then it was up again as we climbed the second pillar, this felt steeper that the first but we were in to a rhythm now and were soon over and enjoying the next bit of roped up, bum dangling descending, or not, before we made our way across the saddle and began our climb up to the final summit.As if by way of some reward for our efforts, the clouds had parted and we were awestruck at the views of the mountain’s back that we had just traversed and even more so by the truly breathtaking views of the sea of wilderness over which we were now stood. The sun

As if by way of some reward for our efforts, the clouds had parted and we were awestruck at the views of the mountain’s back that we had just traversed and even more so by the truly breathtaking views of the sea of wilderness over which we were now stood. The sun glimmered of the assortment of rivers lochs and lochans and we gazed out beyond the land to the Atlantic. A quick group shot and some time to just take it all in and we were off straight down the side of the saddle, slipping on loose rocks and scree, but losing height quickly.

As I slogged it out over the final stretch of marshland I have to admit that my thoughts were possibly focussing on a brew and a sit down. But as the tents hove in to view I could see that there was already a bustle of activity as tents were packed and boats were loaded. No rest for the wicked, or the inflatable kayak adventurer it would seem. There were still a few hours of daylight left, so it was agreed that we’d get on down Fionn Loch and on to the river at its end, which would lead us to a fairly strenuous portage. We were rewarded with a rather lovely camping spot on the shores of Loch á Ghille. The brew, when it came, was well worth the wait and we settled down to cook diner. This was followed by some very mellow campsite chat with our cockles nicely warmed with a nip or two of Scotland’s finest as we watched the moon reflecting in the still waters of the loch. What a day!

Heads Down & Digging Deep

The following morning we were straight on to Loch á Ghille and across, before a short portage on to Loch Sionasgaig. As we launched on to this much bigger loch the wind was really starting to blow and the going was really tough, we tried to hop our way up, using some of the ‘wind eddies’ created by small islands in the loch to gain ground easily before setting our bow at a ferry angle to the largest Island in the loch, Eilean Moir. As we pulled in to a small inlet to moor up we could see the rest of the team battling the wind with rolling white horses occasionally breaking across their bows. Once everyone was landed it was time for a reviving brew. As we refreshed and marvelled at the rather splendid view back across to Suilven we noticed that the surface of the loch was changing. No longer was it seething with wind and rollers, it was becoming flat. With much relief we re-launched and continued our journey to the far end of the loch and up a small stony river until we eventually portaged over on to Lochan Gainmheich and then on to Loch an Doire Dhuibh. At the far end of the loch was a small sandy beach that we gratefully pulled the boats up on to. The exertions of the previous days exploits and the tough paddling conditions in the morning were beginning to take their toll.

A Fine Ending

The weather was now rather gloriously hot as we lugged the gear a short climb up from the loch to a grassy plateau to set up camp. The original plan had been to climb both Cul Mor and Cul Beag, but it was decided to head up just Cul Beag and call it a day. It was tough, un-rewarding ground. Loose and boggy but steep and we were all feeling the heat a little by the time we stopped on a rocky ledge before the push up to the higher mountain side. At this point some of us decided to call it a day and headed back down for a dip in the loch, shimmering invitingly far below us. Some opted to carry on up to the summit the straightforward way. Followed by standing on the summit in their pants in an effort to cool down. While one hardy group took the hard way and scared themselves a wee bit on a cheeky exposed scramble.A few hours later and we were once again together as a team and

A few hours later and we were once again together as a team and congrgated down at the beach to cook our final meal together. We also prepared a fire pit so we could end our trip in some style in this idyllic and tranquil spot. As the sun st slowly casting the sky in a pallette of stunning colours until it eventually resembled the flames slowly licking up from our fire it seemed a very special place to end a very special journey with some very special people. Much to our collective delight a plethora of alcoholic bevarges were beginning to appear in an equally varied selection of containers. The Baileys (in shot glasses no less) and the malt were very fine but the winner was the Sigg bottle full of toffee vodka, now that was a treat. As the moon shone and the fire ebbed away to embers we reflected on our adventure and raised a glass, or even two, to Nick & OJ for inspiring it.

Reflections

The fine weather had certainly helped but, for me, what was really eye opening about this trip was how both the boats were absolutely key to bringing it all to life. It should of been no surprise really, as travel in wild places was pretty much why they evolved in the first place, but I think we sometimes forget just want functional and fun craft they are. By using the boats it allowed us to connect the dots on the big map of adventure. To see both sides of the wilderness coin. The other revelation was how much inflatable boats had enhanced and increased that potential with their rugged versatility and surprising performance. So having learnt all this will we be using our ‘inflatable’ keys to unlock another adventure… The dates already in the diary!

A Canoe & Kayak Guide to the Basic Gear Needed to Go Canoeing & Kayaking

Want to go canoeing & kayaking? Like all sports and outdoor activities, there is some specialist equipment and clothing that you’ll need to stay safe and comfortable on the water. To make sure you get kitted up properly here’s a guide to the basics that you’ll need to go canoeing & kayaking all year round…

Despite their diversity and wealth of disciplines there are some essential pieces of equipment and gear that are fundamental to all aspects of paddlesport and those are a boat, a paddle and a buoyancy aid, or as it is sometimes known a personal flotation device or PFD for short.

Those will get you on the water but to stay comfortable and to really get the most enjoyment out of your time on the water you’ll need to add a few more bits of kit, such as a wetsuit, some thermals and a paddle top. A helmet is a must if you plan to paddle on any kind of moving water.

As a rough estimate, you should be able to fully kit yourself out with a boat, paddle and kit for around £400. But there’s no need to go out and buy everything straight of the bat, as most local canoe clubs will have gear that you can borrow or buy as you get started.

Where Do I Get Gear From?

Apart from your local club, there are few places you can find canoeing and kayaking kit for sale. The best option is always to seek out and visit your local canoe shop. Most retailers will keep a large range of sizes and styles but more importantly will be a mine of useful and helpful advice and information. They’ll advise you on makes and style and make sure that you get the correct fit on any kit you decide to buy, especially important on things like buoyancy aids and helmets. The Internet is also a source of info and gear to buy. There’s always plenty of kit on sites like E-bay and many canoeing and kayaking related websites have classifieds sales sections. There are some bargains to be had but be careful on what you buy as things like warranties don’t extend onto second-hand kit and we’d advise against buying safety equipment, again like buoyancy aids and helmets second hand.

Paddle

Apart from your boat, this is the single most important piece of kit. It’s your means of propulsion, your steering system and your brakes! Kayak paddles have a blade at either end of a central shaft and come in either right-handed or left-handed versions and the blades are set at an angle known as feather. The length of your paddle will depend on what type of paddling you’ll be doing and your height and size. Basic paddles will usually have plastic blades on an aluminium shaft but as you move up the price scale strong, lightweight composite materials such as fibreglass and carbon are used.

A canoe paddle has a single blade and a T-grip or scrolled grip at the other. Again a basic paddle will usually be constructed from an aluminium shaft with a plastic blade but many canoe paddlers favour paddles made from traditional materials such as wood.

Buoyancy Aid

A buoyancy aid is an absolute must. As the name suggests a buoyancy aid will help you stay floating on the surface as you actively swim. This is not to be confused with a lifejacket (as used by sailors etc), which will always keep you floating on your back. A buoyancy aid keeps you floating but makes moving about in the water easier. Your buoyancy aid should fit you snugly and always be properly done up and secured.

Wetsuit

When you’re learning you’re going to find yourself taking the occasional dip so a wetsuit, made from insulating neoprene rubber is a good idea. A long-john version, with no arms, is ideal for canoeing and kayaking as it gives more manoeuvrability. If you’re paddling a Sit-on-Top kayak on the sea though you may want to opt for a full version.

Paddle-top

A paddle top or cag as they are often known is an outer shell that keeps the elements out. These are worn over the top of your thermal layers and wetsuit. Cags come in as many versions as there are paddling disciplines but a basic cag will usually be made of a waterproof and breathable material and will have neoprene cuffs and neck to keep the spray out. For touring and sea kayaking some cags come with hoods for added protection from the weather and cags for dynamic disciplines, such as whitewater paddling will have latex neck and wrist seals to keep the water out even if you capsize and roll!

Paddle-bottoms

Trousers, pantaloons, strides; these days many paddlers don’t bother with a wetsuit at all but use a combination of paddle top and bottoms to keep them warm and comfy. Made from the same material as cags, often with reinforcing on the knees and bums to prevent wear they will usually have a neoprene waist and neoprene, or latex cuffs on the ankles to keep the wet stuff out.

Thermals

A good base layer will help keep you toasty, it wicks moisture away from your skin through its material. These are usually made from manmade fibres or natural materials like wool. Avoid cotton as it stays wet, doesn’t wick and will keep you cold if it gets wet. If it’s chilly then a fleece layer over the base one will seal the deal and keep you comfortable even on the coldest of days.

Dry-suits

Paddlesport-specific dry-suits are a relatively new thing but they have become understandably popular, as the represent the ultimate in dryness and comfort and eliminate any nasty cold spots around the waist and kidney areas. These will usually have a large watertight zip across the shoulders or chest and have latex seals on the neck and wrists.

Helmet

You’ve only got one brain, so it’s best to protect it from harm! If you’re paddling on moving water then a helmet will keep your bonce safe from knock and bumps from knocks and bumps. It should cover your temple area and down to the nape of the neck. It should fit you snugly and, obvious as this sounds, the strap should always be done up securely.

Spray-deck

This isn’t essential when you first start but if you paddle a closed cockpit kayak then as your skills and confidence increase you will want a spray deck to keep your boat dry. It’s worn around the waist like a skirt and then seals over your kayak’s cockpit rim to create a watertight seal. Basic and touring versions are usually made from nylon and tough Cordura and performance decks are made from neoprene.

Canoe

In the UK there’s a slight misnomer as we refer to all craft as canoes, but this strictly speaking is incorrect. A canoe is derived from the craft used by early Native American hunters and is used for carrying people and gear. Modern canoes are made from plastic or composite materials but you can still buy canoes made from traditional materials like Cedarwood and birch bark. Canoes come in all sorts of shapes but an average canoe is usually between 15 to 16 feet long. Kneeling is the traditional position top paddle a canoe but all modern boats come fitted with seats for comfort.

Kayaks

Descended from the hunting boats of the Inuit people, you sit in a kayak and use a double bladed paddle. Kayaks come in all sorts of sizes from long, narrow racing boats to tiny freestyle boats, only as big as a paddle!

Sit-on-Top Kayak

As the name suggests SOT’s are made from a solid piece of moulded plastic with air inside for buoyancy. They are fantastic to learn on as they are so easy to use and there’s no fear of feeling enclosed.

Inflatable Kayaks & Inflatable Canoes

The boat-in-a-bag concept has become very popular in recent years, mainly because modern inflatable boats offer great durability, performance and versatility. Id storage space, or transporting your canoe or kayak is an issue then an inflatable kayak or inflatable canoe is a good option.

Touring Kayak

Touring kayaks are designed for day’s spent cruising the waterways of the UK, from coastal estuaries to your local river or lake. They are very stable and of moderate length to give them both forward speed and manoeuvrability. Many will have storage hatches to keep your packed lunch, flask, camera, and binoculars in.

Sea Kayak

Sea kayaks are designed to cover distance at sea while carrying plenty of gear. Available in both plastic and composite versions a sea kayak will usually have bulkheads and hatches for stowing gear, deck lines and a skeg or rudder.

General Purpose Kayak

General-purpose kayaks are perfect for beginners or intermediate paddlers who want to get a variety of uses out of their kayak. A good general-purpose boat, as the name suggests, is a jack-of-all-trades. It won’t outperform a specialist kayak for any of the particular disciplines, whitewater for example, but it will be able to do some of everything fairly well! So you can take your general-purpose boat out for a day’s touring, but it’ll also be fine if that includes a little whitewater. Or a bimble on the sea with a little surfing thrown in for added fun factor. General-purpose kayaks are also an ideal first boat for beginners, as you may not know what you want from kayaking yet. With a good general purpose kayak, you can try a    little of everything and the boat will perform well enough to give you a good feel if you want to really pursue a particular discipline.

Whitewater Kayaks

Whitewater kayaks come in all sorts of shapes from mega-short freestyle boats to longer river running boats built for speed and safety and everything in between. Whitewater boats will have bulkhead footrests, backrests, hip pads and thigh braces (all often adjustable) and will also sport safety features such as grab loops and central foam pillars.

The Expert – Paul Robertson – Brand & Marketing Manager Palm Equipment & Dagger Kayaks

“Like most other outdoor sports, the clothing and equipment available for canoeing and kayaking has come of age. Materials, cuts, features and even colours have all developed to best suit the type of paddling and of course the weather!

When getting started, many people spend ages choosing the right boat and the gear is almost an afterthought. My advice is to spend a bit longer over your kit, learn what it can do for you, try it on and then buy the best you can afford. After all, no mater which craft you paddle, you’re going to enjoy being on the water a whole lot more if you are warm and comfortable. The key item everyone should have is a buoyancy aid (PFD). Make sure this fits and allows you to move freely, a top tip is to sit down when trying as if you are in a boat. Also, don’t forget to allow for layering, and on this note, don’t think of paddling as just for the summer. Winter days can be beautiful and the addition of a few accessories like gloves, boots and hats will let you enjoy the seasons wherever you paddle.”

An Interview with Open Canoeist Ray Goodwin

“The canoe was seen as the unskilled cousin of the sport, something you paddled if you couldn’t paddle a kayak. Most canoe articles in magazines were about kayakers that had gone off to do a wilderness canoe trip. There were exceptions, but they didn’t seem to break the perception. Nearly all the kayakers we met on the Wales trip, were very dismissive of us because we were in a canoe. So we had one lot doing the theme from Hawaii Five-O but not acknowledging us otherwise and another enquired if we were having a nice afternoon out ‘boys’. Our Circumnavigation of Wales changed a lot of people’s opinion of the canoe.”

You have a long list of accolades and achievements to your name, including the first circumnavigation of Wales, many canoeing and sea kayaking qualifications, climbing qualifications, filming for a national television network and now you’ve published a book. Would you describe yourself first and foremost as Ray Goodwin the adventurer, Ray Goodwin the canoe guru, or Ray Goodwin the outdoor specialist personality?

I love adventures. Guru and personality are labels others can apply if they wish. Mind I was once introduced to a paddling group as a canoe guru, one person asked what a guru was. From the back, a voice piped up, ‘one down from Loel Collins.’
Ray Goodwin will do for me.

You didn’t start canoeing until slightly later in life. What was it – when you were in your 30s and already an accomplished climber that attracted you to canoeing and sea kayaking?

Circumstances as much as anything had me take to the boat. I had taken a year off to travel and climb and came back to work in an outdoor centre. I was happy to climb in any conditions but soon ran out of folk that would tolerate my adventures. Instead, they started dragging me out kayaking on wet days. My boss was a keen sea kayaker so that got me going on that. Then a series of climbing trips were a dismal letdown, poor weather meant I was spending more time waiting for good conditions rather than doing. At this time kayaking, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado became an attractive proposition so I spent more time devoted to paddling. I didn’t really get into the canoe until I was nigh on forty but what I brought to it were an adventurous spirit and a lot of experience of wild places and water from river running and sea kayaking.

It’s been almost 20 years since you and Rob Egelstaff completed the first successful circumnavigation of Wales. Could you tell us a bit about the canoeing and kayaking scene back in 1992 when you did it? Was it something that was calling out to be done, as soon as the right people stepped up, or was it viewed as ambitious even for the hardened expedition paddler?

These were very exciting times, there were a lot of creeks that had never been paddled before, if they were paddled, little knowledge about them meant they felt like first descents. But it does amuse me when I find out some had been paddled before. All of that was in my kayaking days. The canoe was seen as the unskilled cousin of the sport, something you paddled if you couldn’t paddle a kayak. Most canoe articles in magazines were about kayakers that had gone off to do a wilderness canoe trip. There were exceptions, but they didn’t seem to break the perception. Nearly all the kayakers we met on the Wales trip, were very dismissive of us because we were in a canoe. So we had one lot doing the theme from Hawaii Five-O but not acknowledging us otherwise and another enquired if we were having a nice afternoon out ‘boys’. Our Circumnavigation of Wales changed a lot of people’s opinion of the canoe. Rob had done a trip from Chester to Gloucester by going up the Dee and after a bit of canal going down the Perry (a stream really) and the Severn. It was the key for our round Wales trip. Over a meal and a fair degree of liquid refreshment Rob broached the concept of the circumnavigation. Originally we were going to do the coast in sea kayak but that soon changed, we decided the whole trip was to be in a canoe. I still have vivid memories of that trip, in particular, surfing a large set of waves in an overfall off of Milford Haven. Rob was totally airborne in the bow and couldn’t reach the water with his paddle. An awesome few minutes that I didn’t relish at the time. It was so groundbreaking that it has never been repeated in canoe to my knowledge. I did the trip again in 2010 acting as a guide but this time we used fast Kevlar We no nah canoes on the inland section and used the canal system to access the Vyrnwy and Severn rather than go up the Dee, and did the coast in a sea kayak. It is a brilliant trip.

And how about your more far-flung adventures over the years? How pioneering was your first trip down, for instance, Bloodvein River in Manatoba?

Native people, fur traders and trappers have canoed the Bloodvein for thousands of years so not at all groundbreaking. In agreement with my customers, and I knew these guys well, we did not take any communication devices or any stoves. Once we had flown in we were committed to sorting anything ourselves. With three very wet days and the river in flood we had very long days of canoeing, portaging and then collecting, sawing and splitting wood to cook on. It was a gruelling learning experience, to say the least. But very typical of me in that give me a skill and I want to use it in a real context.

Have there been any really scary moments over the years, hard lessons learned, perhaps? Do you think there is still plenty left not yet done for pioneers of the future? Where should they be focussing their attention, in your opinion?

Oh, there have been a few very scary moments. Some have been climbing others have been paddling. Twice I have looked up to a water surface way above me and wondered if I could reach it in time. Once was rescuing a kid from a viciously re-circulating stopper on the Tryweryn, I got an award for that one, the other was due to a bloody stupid mistake on my part on the Bloodvein; it’s recounted in the book. It’s getting hard to be a pioneer so we have to look at style and commitment. In many ways, we are playing an intricate set of games and by deciding on the kit and backup we decide the level of seriousness of our undertaking.

What’s the most important characteristic to possess on a challenging whitewater expedition in a canoe? Is technical ability all you need, or do you need something else as well?   

Caution! If you are in a remote setting you have to think hard about the consequences of a mistake where a boat or kit could be lost. It is something I have had to learn the hard way. Once I am in the zone then good lines attract me and I should perhaps portage more than I do.

You’ve shown an interest in leadership and guiding from a young age – qualifying as both a Mountain Leader and a teacher in your early 20s, and you are now a highly respected canoe and sea kayak instructor. What is it about imparting your wisdom to others that attract you? Would you say it’s an end in itself or has it been a way for you to spend your life doing what you love and meeting new people?

When I first worked as an assistant mountain instructor back in 1972 it was initially about being in the hills but I loved being an instructor, working with folk and seeing them develop. So I suppose my career has had two strong strands throughout; my own love of adventure and the outdoors and then a real pleasure in instructing and guiding.

How has the sport evolved since you first got involved? Would you say it’s more accessible now than it was then? What has affected these changes, would you say?

It is far more accessible now and I listen to the adventures and travels of young instructors with a great deal of interest and envy. There are a lot of good people out there doing things. The Internet has made things a lot easier to sort out but it has also made the world smaller. Also, the culture is so different when I was a kid the only people I knew who had been abroad had served in the Second World War. I now talk to students who have been all over the place. For many now, it is normal to travel.

In a world where there is an increasing number of people getting involved in paddle sports and government cuts to services that provide outdoor education would you say it’s fair to describe the outdoor educator market as over-subscribed? What does it take to be an outdoor instructor nowadays? Will hard work and enthusiasm cut it, or does it take more than that?

I think there have always been more people wanting to instruct than there is work and that is true of almost any level in the industry.  Hard work and enthusiasm will take you a long way but you have to maintain your own interest in the activities and enjoy working with people. If you want to get to the top you also need to source ideas from others; by working and observing good people and using DVDs and books to increase understanding. But having said that you need your own ideas and an ability to question received wisdom.

How long was your book, Canoeing, in the pipeline?

I first started muttering about it fifteen years ago but I am really glad I did nothing about it then. It would have been a very different book back then. So I suppose some eight or nine years ago I started making a real effort to get the photos. I felt strongly that even the books I admired hadn’t got that side of it completely right or were now dated.

Was writing it a case of sitting down and thinking about how to structure a book with technical instruction on canoeing, or is the wisdom in there the result of ideas that have been occurring to you slowly over time?

There had to be a structure so I broke it down into sections and then into smaller bits on each topic, stroke or manoeuvre. That way I could concentrate on individual items at any one time, appropriate to where I was paddling or working. Some really productive stuff came out of working on staff training for PGL in the Ardeche, there were great places to photograph and a lot of enthusiastic coaches to bounce ideas off of. Over time the structure changed and in the final stages of the design and editing by Pesda Press things became refined. I continued to incorporate new ideas right up to the last weeks to the frustration of my, (almost very understanding), editor Franco Ferrero.

What gap in the market does Canoeing fill: it’s clearly very detailed in its instructional element, but there are anecdotes in there too. How would you sum up your target readership?

I didn’t want a dry instructional tone. I have a real passion for the canoe and wanted that to shine through and the stories and anecdotes illustrate the whys of the instruction. I hope a beginner can pick up the book and get a lot of good advice from it to get them started as well as inspiration for the future. For the more experienced it will be something to dip in and out of for new ideas or confirmation of current practice. As for coaches, the book is born out of my own experience as a coach and there are plenty of ideas in there.

You’re quite a literary canoeist, your expedition reading list includes the eclectic mix of Jane Austen, Robert Pirsig and Winston Churchill! Did the experience of writing Canoeing encouraged or inspired you to write more?

I think I still have something left to write but whether that surfaces as a book is something else. There are a lot of stories untold and definitely things that make me who I am. Writing is a very protracted thing for me and I am sure my partner Lina would not be happy with the advent of a second book just yet.

Which of the above authors would you say you’re most similar too?

Definitely not Pirsig! I hope I am far more understandable and accessible than that. As for Austen and Churchill they were both storytellers even though Churchill’s was that of the British people, their empire and wars. I am a storyteller but not in that league. I think there is a large chunk of my mother in there, she always had us kids riveted with her stories, of being a bus conductress, a welder in war time and countless adventures and mishaps. The book is dedicated to the memory of my Mum.

Back to paddling… Canoeing and sea kayaking are growing sports, and historically iconic guidebooks and instructional books have become a sort of paddlers’ ‘bible.’ Do you think the influence of the internet spells the end for these books, or will the printed word always hold more sway than what you can read on an internet forum, do you think?

It will become harder for books during the evolution of technology I can think of ways of making the information still more accessible. In an electronic version of ‘Canoeing, maybe’ a ‘reader’ could see the sequence of photos, single photos with text or a video of the complete manoeuvre and text or sound. All could be embedded so the viewer chooses how they access information.  So the printed may be replaced by the electronic one.  Not that I am planning that any time soon. Forums are great but it’s hard to know the experience of the person who is supplying the information. I have seen some very experienced people give up posting because idiots have rubbished their opinions.

You feature heavily in the 2004 Ray Mears Bush Craft series, in which you travel down the Missinaibi River in Ontario.  Tell us a bit about working with Ray.

A few years before, Ray had phoned to book some coaching for himself. I thought it was one of my mates doing a windup. Fortunately I had managed not to say anything crazy before I realised it was genuine. Sometime later I coached Ray for a few days and we had has a great time sharing stories of Canada and its history and characters. Instead of being paid I asked for some coaching on bushcraft, something I was becoming aware of as lacking in my own journeys in the boreal forest.
We got on well and I got the invite to be a part of Ray’s Bushcraft series. We started our journey with quite a big crew (eight additional folk) but Ray was very wise in insisting we use a different campsite so if they wanted to film they had to paddle or walk to us.  This way we naturally dropped into the banter of mates on a trip. There was no script and other than the journey, there was little structure. The sequence of me using a bow drill to light a fire was at my request because I had never attempted it before. No pressure to succeed then! The latter part of the journey was done with just four of us. It was amazing to watch the sheer efficiency of the man. I have never seen anyone else so quick at getting things up and running, I thought I was efficient until I worked with Ray.

Neither of you were tempted to form a longer-lasting television partnership and become the two Rays?

I think the two Ronnies had that sewn up better. Seriously I would have bitten anyone’s hand off but that was never a serious proposition.

We’ve resisted the silly hypothetical questions until this point, but we have to ask: if you were forced to choose, would you pick canoeing or sea kayaking? Why?

It would have to be canoeing but I would so miss many favourite places and I would never get to go to Greenland.

Same question for paddle sports versus climbing?

Paddle sport (does that mean I can still go sea kayaking?). But only as long as I can still go hill walking.

Thanks very much for talking to us Ray.

To Order Your Copy of Canoeing Click HERE

10 Great UK Open Canoe Trip Destinations

Ullswater

The result of work by no less than three glaciers, Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District, and considered by many to be the most scenic; it is certainly the most varied. The exact origin of the name is uncertain: there have been many notable Norse people – mortal and divine – affiliated with the lake with names such as Ulf, Ulphus and Ullr who could all be its namesake. Being the combined work of multiple glaciers is what gives Ullswater its ‘Z’ shape, and leads to the views it offers being so varied. The three distinct sections of the ‘Z’ – often referred to as reaches – are in many ways quite visually distinct from one another, with some of Lakeland’s most dramatic views being offered in the south-westernmost reach, where craggy mountains are the panorama on offer; whereas in the north-easternmost reach near the village of Pooley Bridge the order of the day is a much more rural affair. You could probably spend the entirety of your weekend here, exploring all of the nooks and crannies the geologically complex shoreline has to offer, and still go home with a sense of having experienced the spectrum of the landscapes in the Lakes. Many of the English Lakes offer much to the open canoeist, Wastwater serenity, Winderemere sheer size, but it you have to choose one then it’s variety of views makes Ullswater our number one choice.

The River Wye

The Wye is the fifth-longest river in the UK and just like its bigger neighbour, the River Severn it rises on the Welsh mountains Plynlimon before flowing through the Welsh marches and on in to England (for part of its lower course it actually acts as the border between the two countries). As it was born alongside the Severn so it once again rejoins it, 153 miles later, as it eventually flows out in to the Severn Estuary at Chepstow. The River Wye itself is a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ and one of the most important rivers in the UK for nature conservation. Much of its lower valley is also designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The wonderful River Wye is part of British paddling heritage, and is possibly the most popular river for open canoe trips in the whole of the UK. It’s meandering and occasionally tumbling waters, flowing through idyllic countryside and spectacular wooded valleys are a delight to explore by canoe. It’s the perfect setting for a river trip and thousands of people take their first paddle stokes in a hired canoe every summer.

River Tweed

The further North we venture in the UK the more opportunities for great canoeing multi-day trips arise. An absolute cracker is the beautiful River Tweed. Rising in the Scottish Borders the Tweed is home to some spectacular canoe touring and steeped in history along its length. In the past the Tweed was a natural resource and route to trade for nearby towns such as Galashiels, Kelso and Newstead, but nowadays the river provides a fantastic canoe trip for anyone looking for a paddling journey through forever changing landscape, with some small, fun rapids in between to add a little spice.As the Tweed is not as busy as some of the other great touring rivers in the UK, it is also possible to find moments of pure paddling solitude. The river can be run from Peebles all the way to Berwick upon Tweed, a full 110km trip taking over three or four days. If you’ve done trips on rivers like the Wye and the other Scottish classic the Spey then you’ll absolutely love the stunning scenery and occasionally wild feel of the Tweed.

As the Tweed is not as busy as some of the other great touring rivers in the UK, it is also possible to find moments of pure paddling solitude. The river can be run from Peebles all the way to Berwick upon Tweed, a full 110km trip taking over three or four days. If you’ve done trips on rivers like the Wye and the other Scottish classic the Spey then you’ll absolutely love the stunning scenery and occasionally wild feel of the Tweed.The Tweed Valley is home to some grand historic buildings and castles and runs close in parts to Hadrian’s Wall. The Tweed, flows in and out of both Scotland and England, in parts forming the border between the two countries, on its way to the North Sea. Its source is Tweed’s Well in the Lowther Hills, some six miles north of Moffat and located inside the western half of the Southern Uplands a rather rugged border country.

The Tweed Valley is home to some grand historic buildings and castles and runs close in parts to Hadrian’s Wall. The Tweed, flows in and out of both Scotland and England, in parts forming the border between the two countries, on its way to the North Sea. Its source is Tweed’s Well in the Lowther Hills, some six miles north of Moffat and located inside the western half of the Southern Uplands a rather rugged border country.The Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed was fought over for countless years between Scotland and England, and was the scene of much bloodshed, notably at the hands of King John and later King Edward the first. It changed hands between Scottish and English rule for centuries until it permanently came under English administration in 1482. The Tweed Valley’s countryside, ruins and castles are literally soaked in folklore, legend and historical fact and you can feel it as you travel along its dark waters.

The Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed was fought over for countless years between Scotland and England, and was the scene of much bloodshed, notably at the hands of King John and later King Edward the first. It changed hands between Scottish and English rule for centuries until it permanently came under English administration in 1482. The Tweed Valley’s countryside, ruins and castles are literally soaked in folklore, legend and historical fact and you can feel it as you travel along its dark waters.
It’s recommended that the Tweed be paddled no higher up than Peebles and it can be paddled right through to Berwick. It’s very easy to break down each section and access to the river is easy as the road is never far off. As for when to go, well it will depend if you’re planning on doing a multi-day trip, as May and June are great times to take advantage of longer days and good weather, but the Tweed is pretty much good all year round and can be lovely as an autumn or even winter touring destination.

River Thames

The River Thames starts its journey as a trickle of water called Thameshead, flowing through a field in the Cotswolds, just north of the village of Kemble. About 30 miles later, beyond the town of Cricklade, it becomes a small wild stream and by the time it reaches the pretty town of Lechlade the river widens to accommodate small craft and this upper stretch offers some really nice paddling on a canoe.  An open canoe trip on the Thames from Oxford to Windsor is the perfect way to view grand old houses, churches, colleges and even a castle! It may be the ‘Capital’s River’ but it’s a far cry from urban sprawl downstream in this section. There are Lush green riverbanks and wildlife a plenty, as it winds its way through the lovely countryside of the Thames Valley. As you move down the river. Every now and again you’ll encounter a lock, but these are easily portaged and a good excuse to stop for a brew. Once the Thames reaches Teddington it becomes tidal, but confident canoeists may still wish to paddle on, past the landmarks and sights of London itself!

The Great Glen Canoe Trail

What better way of spending a few days that crossing Scotland in your canoe? Passing over misty lochs, historic castles and magnificent hills. A combination of natural lochs and man made waterway the Caladonian Canal this has long been has long been a popular multi-day trip with open canoeists and 2012 sees the launch of the official Great Glen Canoe Trail. Canoe friendly launching and landing sites, camping areas and improved information and facilities now make this highland gem even better. The Caledonian Canal connects the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast at Corpach, near Fort William. Only one third of the entire length is man-made, the rest is formed by Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. These lochs are part of the Great Glen (hence the new trail’s name), a geological fault in the Earth’s crust. As well as the natural beauty of the lochs there are also 29 locks to negotiate on the canal, but these are all fairly easy to portage. It doesn’t matter if you don’t you’re your own canoe. Canoe hire is available and a quick Internet search will provide you with a few different options. Whether you’re looking to find a little peace and take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life, or for a fantastic family adventure the Great Glen Canoe trail delivers in spades. It’s a classic canoe journey and should really be on every canoeists ‘must do’ list.

The Caledonian Canal connects the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast at Corpach, near Fort William. Only one third of the entire length is man-made, the rest is formed by Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. These lochs are part of the Great Glen (hence the new trail’s name), a geological fault in the Earth’s crust. As well as the natural beauty of the lochs there are also 29 locks to negotiate on the canal, but these are all fairly easy to portage. It doesn’t matter if you don’t you’re your own canoe. Canoe hire is available and a quick Internet search will provide you with a few different options. Whether you’re looking to find a little peace and take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life, or for a fantastic family adventure the Great Glen Canoe trail delivers in spades. It’s a classic canoe journey and should really be on every canoeists ‘must do’ list.

The Great Ouse

Draining a large area of East Anglia’s flatlands, the Great Ouse offers wildlife and scenic variety in great abundance as it winds its way from its navigational head just upstream of Bedford to where it flows into the sea at Kings Lyn, Norfolk; although the most commonly paddled section is between Bedford and the beautiful cathedral city of Ely. This stretch is home to all manner of birds and woodland wildlife, from herons and kingfishers to deer that come to the water to drink.
Having been an important river for navigation for many centuries, the state if the Ouse declined considerably with the advent of the railway, and in the 1870s the navigation was declared to be derelict. The river’s rehabilitation occurred throughout the 20th century, culminating in it being reopened as far as Bedford in 1978. It is now successfully managed by the Environment Agency, and is a thriving and popular river for all types of leisure users, quite understandably! The scenery changes between open meadows to drooping willows as you progress serenely down the UK’s fourth longest river.  The Bedford to Ely stretch is 52 miles, so not a realistic or pleasant prospect for doing in a day, but there are plenty of beautiful sections and no shortage of convenient launches and get-outs along the way. You’ll most likely encounter the odd lock, but nothing that’s any trouble to portage.

The scenery changes between open meadows to drooping willows as you progress serenely down the UK’s fourth longest river.  The Bedford to Ely stretch is 52 miles, so not a realistic or pleasant prospect for doing in a day, but there are plenty of beautiful sections and no shortage of convenient launches and get-outs along the way. You’ll most likely encounter the odd lock, but nothing that’s any trouble to portage.
And don’t worry if you don’t own your own canoe – it is possible to rent one to paddle on the Bedford to Ely stretch.

The Norfolk Broads

Continuing along an East Anglian theme, the Norfolk Broads is another highly popular ‘must-see’ place for you and your canoe. The Broads, a vast network of rivers and broads, which are shallow lakes, are on the whole all navigable by boat and under four metres deep. While many parts of the large area, which enjoys national park status, are popular with motorboat and other powered craft users, a lot of the tranquil backwaters are cut-off just enough to be reserved for canoeists!
In these protected channels away from the bustle that occurs on the larger and more universally-navigable rivers and broads in the height of summer, and other canoeists aside, you’ll only have to share the water with the vast array of wildlife that makes its home there from birds to small mammals; if you’re lucky, possibly even an otter will stop and take an interest in what you’re doing.     There are countless places to go to begin a canoeing adventure on the Broads, the expansive waterway stretches for miles, and there is canoe hire, as well as the potential for guiding, available in the area as well.

There are countless places to go to begin a canoeing adventure on the Broads, the expansive waterway stretches for miles, and there is canoe hire, as well as the potential for guiding, available in the area as well.

Fermanagh

The paddling around Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne, which are connected along the River Erne, in is an award-winning canoe trail in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The Loughs themselves provide a varied venue for canoeing, with the sheltered maze of bays, channels and peninsulas of Upper Lough Erne in stark contrast to the wide, open expanse of water that is lower Lough Erne. Because of how exposed it is, the latter build up some large waves when the wind picks up.The Erne is a flat, slow-moving river ideal for all, but for a little extra spice, the grade 1 River Arney flows down into the Erne system from Upper and Lower Lough Macnean, located to the west. Both the

The Erne is a flat, slow-moving river ideal for all, but for a little extra spice, the grade 1 River Arney flows down into the Erne system from Upper and Lower Lough Macnean, located to the west. Both the Macneans offer superb views of the stunning Cuilcagh Mountains. Also, by taking the Woodford River from Upper Lough the Shannon Erne Waterway can be reached and from there it is possible to paddle all the way to Limerick!What with all of this amazing canoeing on offer in the area, it is little surprise that the market for canoe rental has been duly tapped, and there are places where you can do just that.

What with all of this amazing canoeing on offer in the area, it is little surprise that the market for canoe rental has been duly tapped, and there are places where you can do just that.

Llangorse Lake

Have you ever wanted to canoe on the lake from which a 1200 year old dug-out canoe was excavated, and is home to the only Iron Age man-made island discovered in England or Wales? If so, Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons is the only place for you. Other than the notable historical interest surrounding this lake, its appeal to canoeists lies in its beauty and location, nestled away in the rugged South Wales landscape that is the Brecon Beacons.

The dug-out in question was raised in 1925, in remarkably good condition, and now resides at Brecknock Museum (currently closed for restoration), just down the road in Brecon. A full four and a half metres long, and carved from one oak trunk, radio carbon dating gives its age as being from sometime between 760AD and 1080AD. It is plausible that the dug-out was in someway related to the island, or ‘crannog,’ which is known to have been a royal residence for the local kingdom of Brycheiniog, an ancient kingdom of Wales. Fortunately, if you wish to explore this fascinating Welsh lake, you don’t need to fell and dig-out your own canoe: they are available to rent nowadays!

River Dee

The Dee, or Afon Dyfrdwy to give it its proper name, is an all-time classic Welsh river that attracts scores of kayakers of various disciplines throughout the entire year. In the more than 140km between the first paddled section below Lake Bala and where the river enters England near Chester there are sections popular amongst whitewater and slalom paddlers, as well as those ideal for a gentle canoeing trip.

Notable sections for canoeists are those between Overton Bridge and Bangor-is-y-Coed, nine kilometres of beautiful grade 1; or the longer sections of Bangor-is-y-Coed to Farndon (15km) and Farndon to Chester (20km). All are beautiful, and home to many interesting sites along the way.

As you’d expect, it is possible to hire canoes for paddling on the Dee: the year-round dramatically beautiful river is a huge draw that attracts many a canoeist to North Wales. (Go Stopper)

Paddler Verdict

Recommending open canoe trips in the UK is always a bit of challenge, as there is so much variety available to you. I guess among some of my top a recommendations has to be the River Wye in South Wales. With easy access, hire services available and the choice of day trips or multi day adventures, the River Wye has bit of something for everyone. Choose your time wisely though as it is a popular choice and you may find your self overwhelmed by other users. For real adventures and paddling experiences in an unspoilt environment then for me it has to be Scotland. The numerous Lochs provide that real wilderness experience, the scenery is stunning and the wildlife is varied. Loch Sheil is a classis example of this; once visited its never forgotten. You can choose from an end-to-end trip or the more challenging Loch Sheil circuit. Loch Awe is another classic with numerous islands and ruined castles to explore. Not forgetting if you’re in Scotland the old favourite for a lot of people the Caledonian Canal, where many a person’s canoe adventures have been born. Now go and have your own adventures. Happy paddling and see you on the water…..

10 Great Reasons to Book on a Canoeing or Kayaking Course

One of the great things about paddling is that there’s just so much to learn and experience they can never get boring. The more you paddle the more your skills will develop but a great way of quickly improving and gaining great experience and knowledge, to help you get more out of your time on the water is to book on a course with a professional coach.

Booking on to a course is a great way to fast track your personal skills and increase your knowledge. It’s also a brilliant way to meet like-minded people and to swap ideas, knowledge and experiences. Here are just ten, of the myriad of courses open to you, to inspire you to learn a bit more and to help convince you that one fast track route to more loads fun on the water is to GO book on a course

Dipping A Paddle

A great way to dip a paddle into the wonderful world of canoeing & kayaking, especially if there’s a specific type of paddling that’s caught your fancy is an introductory course. These are also sometimes known as ‘taster’ courses and allow you to give various styles of canoeing and kayaking a try, to see if you enjoy them and want to take them further. You’ll learn about the various styles of canoes and kayak and you’ll learn the basics to get you moving on the water. Come rain or shine these course are always great fun and an ideal introduction into the sport.

Be a Paddling Star

The British Canoeing runs the coaching scheme in the UK and their Star Test awards are respected all over the world. They range from entry level right up to advanced paddling in demanding conditions and have been designed to help you progress into the coaching scheme, and maybe even become a coach your self. These are usually run over a single day, or sometimes a weekend for more advance awards, where there’s more to take in. As well as actual assessments there are also plenty of training courses to prepare you, and hone your skills for the tests themselves. The Star Tests cover all the basic skills that you need to know to be safe on the water and to control your boat with ease, so they are certainly worth doing to gain a solid foundation. Many canoe clubs will also run and assess Star test courses and assessments too.

Family Fun

There are plenty of courses now available aimed at the entire family. Canoeing and kayaking are brilliant ways of enjoying the great outdoors together as a family, and what better way to learn, and have a whole load of fun on the water than with your nearest and dearest?

Different Strokes

If you already know what discipline of paddling floats your boat then there are also many ‘intro’ courses available to learn the basics. These are available for most disciplines of paddlesport, flat-water, Sit-On-Top, whitewater, open canoeing, sea kayaking the lot! These courses are designed to take you into that particular discipline of the sport so you can learn the specific skills needed to progress in that area.

For example on an ‘intro to sea kayaking’ course you’d learn about basic boat control skills, a little navigation, all about kit and safety gear, planning your own trips, that sort of thing.

First Aid

A basic knowledge of first aid is a really valuable skill in general, and even more for those playing in the great outdoors, accidents can happen, so a first aid course makes perfect sense. But why not crank it up a few notches and take a more in-depth course. It’s a good feeling knowing that in an emergency you’ve got that little bit more knowledge to help out your paddling friends in a time of need.

Learn to Roll

Although not essential being able to roll a kayak it is a very valuable skill to possess, and it’s really not that hard once you know how. There are plenty of courses available for both kayakers and canoeists and why stop at one style of roll, you could learn the front and reverse screw roll, the C-to-C roll or, if you get really good, even to ditch the paddle all together and learn to hand roll!

Sea Kayak Navigation

An essential skill if you want to undertake your own trips on the sea. Charts, tides, weather, it all sounds a bit scary, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds and a basic course on navigation will help you demystify it, break it all down, and increase your knowledge and understanding and get to grips with those salty sea dog skills that’ll make your trips on the sea safer and more fun.

Staying Safe

No matter how good, and careful you think you are, sooner or later something is not going to go to plan. Having a solid working knowledge of safety and rescue techniques and the ability to form a plan quickly is a skill that you owe to yourself and anyone that you paddle with. The smallest incident can quickly grow into a more serious event if it’s not dealt with properly, so attending a rescue course is a sensible solution to make sure you’re as ready as you can be.

Learn to Lead

If you paddle regularly with a club or a group of friends it makes sense to learn the skills that will allow you to lead a group down the river safely. Paddling styles, group dynamics, equipment, incident management and how to spot and prevent potential hazards before they occur, there’s certainly a lot to consider. It’s often a demanding course but ultimately very rewarding.

Whittling On

Yep, Ray Mears has a lot to answer for! But when you think about it canoes and kayaks are designed to help you get out into the wilds, so it makes sense to learn a few skills that’ll make spending time in the outdoors more comfortable, and more fun. Lighting fires, backwoods cooking, building shelters, they’re all in a day’s adventure for the bushcraft course attending canoeist or kayaker!

So if you want to learn something new, or really sharpen up your existing skills, don’t delay, book on to a course today.