It’s amazing just how much you can do in a canoe. Not only can you crash down wild white water runs, you can catch a wave in the surf, hurl yourself down waterfalls, compete in slalom, or take part in canoe polo, sprint or sailing races. There’s even plenty on offer for those who like a quiet life — what better way to see the coast, rivers or lakes than in a small boat that will go just about anywhere you want it to?
To really get into the buzz of canoeing, one of the best ways to get involved is to join a local group or club. A club will offer help and advice on what training courses will suit you and will introduce you to lots of people you can team up and go canoeing with.
Another great way to get into the sport is to sign up for an activity trip which includes canoeing — this way you will get the basic training and a real chance to find out if it is the sport for you.
One of the best things about canoeing and kayaking is that mastering the basics of does not take long, so you’ll soon find yourself heading out on the open water and enjoying the life of a paddler.
Before you start out, you have to be aware that there are basically three types of canoe:
- A kayak is what most people picture when thinking of a canoe. It is a closed sitting area or cockpit in which the paddler will use a double-ended paddle.
- A standard canoe is similar to a kayak, except you kneel inside and use a single-ended paddle.
- The open canoe is the more traditional type, where there is usually more than one paddler who uses single-ended paddles.
There are a number of canoeing styles which include the following:
Slalom is an Olympic sport in which competitors are timed over a course of 20 to 25 numbered gates, collecting penalties for any missed or touched.
Sprint racing involves covering a short distance in a short time, as its name suggests. Like a rowing course, water for sprint races is flat.
Marathon races follow fairly flat rivers and a course that contains portages past obstacles and, of course, is much longer than regular racing courses.
White water courses are generally along a large river that boasts numerous rapids — fastest navigation of the course wins.
Polo canoeing is a five-a-side match on the water. Each team of five boats on a flat stretch of water, such as a swimming pool, tries to score goals at each end with one ball on the ‘pitch’. Competitors need to know how to ‘Eskimo roll’ back after a capsize as tackling opponents by trying to push them in is permitted.
Sea kayaking as the name suggests, is the exploration of coastal waters. This demands excellent canoe skills and first-rate navigational experience.
Touring is just hitting the waterways at your own pace and having a bit of fun — a fantastic way to explore an interesting stretch of water. Top 10 tips for people starting out
Here are a few canoeing basics to keep you safe on the water...
Don’t over-estimate your ability, as a beginner you should stick to what you are comfortable with.
Tell someone you are about to head out on the water, where you are going and what time you expect to return, so that they can raise the alarm if you get into any danger.
Make sure you have good knowledge of the water you are about to head out to and prepare accordingly.
Check out the water quality before you head out.
Avoid capsize drill or ‘rolling’ in stagnant or slow moving water, particularly where rat infestation is obvious.
Don’t use equipment in open water that you are not familiar with.
Get permission before going onto private property.
Avoid wildlife disturbance and environmental damage.
Be considerate to other water users.
Avoid being an intrusion on local life.
- Always wear a life vest.