Monday 10 May 2004

Kayaking Course

I spent the weekend on a kayaking course at a local canoe club and  graduated with a 1 star British Canoe Union rating. That basically means I can paddled a bit.

In truth, a kayak is surprising difficult to paddle. With a round bottom and no keel, ridge or rudder, it turns very easily so just paddling forward takes a fair bit of concentration. It's very susceptible to wind, current and uneven paddling!

It's also fairly unstable. On the morning of the first day, I fell into the Thames while trying to get into the kayak. Yes, the only person out of 18 people taking the course! And I should mention, the weather was miserable: rain, overcast, cold. Believe me, the river was nippy and tastes terrible!

But everyone eventually got to try capsizing as that's part of the course on both days. The first day you learn how to get out of the kayak when you're upside down and drowning. The second day, there's a formal assessment and you have to show them yet again that you have a desire to breathe.

Besides that, the rest of the course was spent learning and practising several paddling strokes: forward, backward, sideways, sweeps and stopping. There's also some group games we played to practice maneuvering and we had to listen to a bit of safety and theory. Nothing difficult.

One shocking fact you learn is that 98% of UK rivers have no public access rights! The person who owns the adjacent land, also owns the riverbed right out to the middle of the river. If you paddle on the river, you're trespassing! This is unique to England and Wales and turns out to be William the Conqueror's fault for giving away this right. This has totally shot down the idea I had of paddling around some of the small local rivers.

Anyway, as part of the course, I'm now a member of the club and can take the club kayaks out free of charge. Cool. They seem like a nice group to hang around with. My plan now is to go buy a wet suit and do some paddling along the Thames.

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