Introduction to Sea Kayaking

by Elizabeth Atia -

Earlier this Spring I was convinced by my best friend to attend the beginners kayaking lessons by the Shetland Canoe Club at the Clickimin Leisure Centre in Lerwick.

I had zero experience kayaking.

I'd never been out in the water on a kayak and I had no idea what to do or what to expect. If I am to be honest, driving to the lessons on that first day I was terrified. There was a knot in my stomach, the kind you get when you are delving into something unfamiliar.

Three months later, after obtaining my one star certification under the expert guidance of Angus Nichol from Sea Kayak Shetland and the incredibly patient coaches from the Shetland Canoe Club I found myself kayaking until well after midnight in Ronas Voe, exploring the little nooks and crannies at the bottom of the magnificent cliffs, and paddling into vast sea caves and through the most stunning natural arches.

It was a magical experience and one I will remember for the rest of my life. You can read more about it on my own adventure blog post.

This weekend the Shetland Canoe Club are hosting an Introduction to Sea Kayaking Event - a day covering the basics of kayaking for people that have perhaps given it a go and want to know more. They are aiming to cover the BCU 1 star syllabus by the end of the day.

You need to be confident in the water and prepared to get wet, though they'll try and do that towards the end of the day.

Places will be limited as they want to keep groups small, though they do have a good number of new coaches!

Cost - club membership fee. Forms are on the club membership page.

Time - all day, starts at 9 am on Saturday the 25th of July

Location - Bridge End Outdoor Centre, Burra

What do I need to bring?

Lunch and snacks; towel and changes of clothes; extra warm clothing for sitting around; a flask with your favourite hot drink.

What should I wear?

Warm 'sports' type clothes that dry quickly, thermal underwear if you've got it, fleece jumper and jacket, waterproof jacket and trousers. Don't wear anything cotton, it soaks up water and you just get very cold. If you have a wetsuit that's fine, and if you've got a dry suit you're lucky! An old pair of trainers is fine on the feet, but don't forget cotton socks aren't good. Warm hats are essential.

Is there somewhere to get changed?

There's a changing room as part of the the Bridge End Centre complex for our use. There is no heating in the changing rooms. Please be quick using it. It is not secure so please do not leave valuables in there. It's best to lock them in cars.

What are the toilet facilities like?

There is a lockable facility with shower and toilet. It is shared with campers and caravanners. Please make sure you leave it clean and tidy.

What stuff does the club provide?

We have a store of equipment you will need such as bouyancy aids and paddles. We also have a selection of kayaks to suit different sizes of people.

What can I expect to do?

We'll be outside most of the day so you will need clothes for whatever weather the day brings. We're going to do a bit of talking, some drills on land before getting onto the water. We'll cover the safety aspects first, before getting in and out of kayaks. We'll go on to move forwards, backwards and turning. You will be lifting and carrying kayaks on and off trailers and down to the water. By the end of the day you should have the basic skills to go on short trips with the club. We finish off by doing 'wet' drills simulating a capsize and rescue.

Will I get wet?

Yes, but it's hopefully going to be towards the end of the day when we do 'wet' drills. You need an additional set of clothes just in case...

Is kayaking dangerous?

Bridge End is considered as sheltered waters and suitable for teaching beginners. While it does need to be recognised that kayaking is an inherently dangerous pastime, if you do as instructed the risks will be minimal and we will do out best to teach you to be safe.

Most common injuries happen prior to getting on the water. We will look at ways of preventing those injuries and managing the risks throughout the day.

If you have a medical condition speak to one of the coaches. It will be dealt with sensitively and not passed on unless it needs to be for your safety. If you have any medication please make sure you bring it with you.

Can I take photos?

With the exception of while someone is getting changed, yes if you ask the people being photographed.

Many coaches will have a waterproof camera. Consent for the Club to use photographs on our website and Facebook page is on the membership form. Photos of anyone under 16 will not be used without parents permission.

Email iainmacbride737 (at) gmail (dot) com to register your interest in attending.

For more information visit the Shetland Canoe Club website. You can also find the Shetland Canoe Club on Facebook.