A Brief Guide To Kayaking

Introduction To Adverture Sports And Extreme Sports

Adventure sports are types of sporting activities that have a higher level of danger inherent in them than in 'normal' sports. They are extremely popular globally and include snowboarding, climbing, BMX stunt riding and skateboarding, as well as kayaking. The culture surrounding adventure sports seems to be a very youth-orientated one. Also, more often than not extreme sports tend to be solitary pursuits, and often emphasise competition against the elements and conditions, rather than against other competitors.

Kayak or Canoe?

To the uninitiated, kayaking and canoeing might seem one and the same, but there are some differences. For instance, a kayak has a closed cockpit as opposed to the open cockpit on a canoe. The kayaker also uses a two bladed paddle and a major differentiation is that kayakers sit on the bottom of the boat with their legs out in front as opposed to sitting on a bench or kneeling directly as in a canoe.

Also, kayaking is far from a one-track hobby. The types of kayaking range from racing, such as marathon and sprint kayaking, to touring, which as the name suggests is a long non-competitive paddle. Sea kayaking is also very popular, as is whitewater kayaking.

Essential Equipment

As with many sports, good equipment is essential to good performance and safety. Standard equipment includes a kayak (naturally), one that is of a manageable size and weight for the occupant. A PFD, or lifejacket, must be worn at all times and other safety equipment carried should include marine VHF radios for those who often frequent maritime waters, as well as things like whistles and emergency lights. Clothing is also very important, with a well-fitting wet or dry suit in case of a wet exit, to minimise the risks inherent in cold water immersion. Navigation equipment such as GPS and/or a compass and chart should be carried if venturing into large bodies of water.

Also, normal camping gear should be taken for those wishing to camp, with sturdy adventure clothing such as that made by - North Face - included also. Finally, those wishing to fish should take special equipment to allow them to do so.

Waterway Grading Systems

In terms of water conditions, whitewater kayaking mimics the system utilised for grading ski runs. These range from I-VI, with one being categorised as 'slightly moving water with ripples' and VI being classed as 'severe or almost unrunnable whitewater'. Obviously, the skill level of the kayaker dictates which level water they should be on.

Basic Skills

There are some essential skills each kayaker should learn, such as the two basic strokes, forward and sweep, and the brace, which is important in counteracting capsizing. Knowing how to roll the kayak is also important in righting yourself should you capsize. Also important is basic common sense, good fitness levels and knowing your limits so you do not overexert yourself.

The Corryvreckan Whirlpool

One of the places daredevils head to in the British Isles to kayak is the Gulf of Corryvreckan, off the west coast of Scotland. The gulf is renowned for its extremely powerful currents and strange underwater topography, which creates a tidal race, in turn making whirlpools and standing waves. Of course, many advise against paddling in this area but there are some tips if people insist. Local specific knowledge of the eddies and currents, although they are changeable, is one essential tip and of course only very experienced sea kayakers should consider this dangerous paddle.

The famous George Orwell came unstuck in the torrents of the Gulf of Corryvreckan back in 1947, and the sailing handbooks describe it as 'One of the most notorious stretches of water anywhere around the British Isles'. Even so, if you take the correct precautions it could be an exhilarating and satisfying paddle for you.

Craignish Cruises, Ardfern Yacht Centre, Ardfern, Argyll, Scotland PA31 8QN

Telephone: +44 (0) 7747 023038 Email: Lindsay@sealeopard.org

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