This season, we planned a series of progressive sea kayaking coaching courses, aimed to take a complete beginner from a standing start to a level of competence that allowed them to safely and comfortably take part in a wild camping expedition. The guest blog post below is from Lorna who attended the series of courses, and she rather eloquently tells her tale.
'This time last year I'd never sat in a kayak and "hated camping ". Paddle forward a year - I love kayaking, just did my first open crossing and enjoyed a wild camping and kayak weekend! In September 2020 my friend and I signed up for an Introduction to Sea Kayaking weekend with Sea Kayak Argyll and Bute. What a revelation - we didn't have to roll upside down, and the kayaks were nice and stable so my expectation of spending a weekend trying to stay upright was nonsense - it was fun, relaxing, magical, in the gorgeous Kyles of Bute. Tiring, but not exhausting. Our instructor Morna was fantastic - clear, patient, knowledgeable and she paced the days to suit the group, the weather and the tides. We did have the choice to try a wet exit, where you capsize and pop out of your kayak, then climb back in with Morna's assistance. It was such a confidence builder to do that, as I hate being under water, but it was much quicker and easier than I expected. We immediately booked the follow up Intromediate course a month later, and again learned loads and had a great time, with one of the days based in Loch Fyne, another beautiful location.
That was it for the season, but when Phil posted on Facebook that you could do a progressive series of courses in 2021, from beginner through to intermediate, then campcraft/expedition skills followed by a wild camping weekend, I was straight in there. I repeated the part 1 Intromediate course as a refresher, then part 2, and on through Intermediate. Again, great experiences, learning more paddle strokes, more about self rescue, safety equipment, about helping each other in a group, learning about tides, weather, all sorts of things you need to consider to paddle safely. And some basic but vital stuff like making sure your kayak doesn't float off while you're having lunch - pretty important!'
'I was kind of dreading the campcraft and expedition skills weekend, I thought it might be boring and exhausting, but it was a hoot, a lot of fun and so interesting. We got to pack the kayaks and learned how to move loaded kayaks. Then experienced how they paddle differently packed with camping gear. We got to think about how to choose camping spots, and put up tents, tarpaulins, tried out sleeping mats, stoves, the lot! And, most importantly, toilet etiquette (she who has the trowel has Excalibur...) and all in the context of LEAVE NO TRACE camping, cooking, fires, loo etc.
As usual, Morna was brilliant at getting us to think things through and do things for ourselves, to help us become self sufficient - okay, she did step in to stop me dismantling the tent with my sleeping gear still inside.... but hey, lesson learned. Two weeks later we did the actual overnight outing. Having done the campcraft weekend made a huge difference in my being well prepared for the trip, making sure I was going to be warm and well fed and having all the essentials with me. It was a life-affirming weekend - great company, scenery, decent weather, an open crossing in breezy but fun conditions, cooking my tea on a stove on the beach. I'll be honest, I don't love trying to sleep in a tent. But it's worth it to be in such beautiful surroundings. The whole series of courses was an amazing experience and I've gone from zero paddling experience to being a fairly competent and sensible kayaker, still with lots to learn. If you're thinking about trying it out, do it.'
Look out for another series of courses that we are planning next year, as well as more advanced courses to take Lorna on the next part of her journey. We can provide all of the British Canoeing Personal Performance Awards up to and including the Advanced Sea Kayak Award.