Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Every family should Go Canoeing

Do you like making a splash?

I think it would be very normal to assume that if you were going to go canoeing that you would end up getting wet.

When I think of canoeing, I have images of an incredibly strong athlete fighting against swirling white water to get their solo powered vessel through a series of hanging poles, or gates, all against the clock.

They look like they are always a moment away from being capsized and clearly needing to be experts in the Eskimo roll to be the right way up all the time.

All very energetic and exciting, but doesn’t immediately strike me as suitable activity for a young family.

But, and it’s a big BUT, I’ve learned that really isn’t what canoeing is all about.

Canoeing is actually about exploring, and should be something anyone can do, not just those of the upper-body strength of Geoff Capes on the frame of Mr Muscle.

Don’t just take my words for it.

Here’s the proof that anyone can Go Canoeing.

We had a great time as the guests of Canoe England, exploring the Salford Quays and learning to master our canoe.

After getting our wetsuits on, which were keeping us warm rather than dry, we were quickly on the water and learning to paddle in unison versus the wind and swell to pilot in the right direction.

I've made that sound like a massive challenge, but it’s surprising how easy it is to pilot a canoe.  And I don’t mean we were instant experts – far from it – but that it wasn’t particularly strenuous to power the canoe.  It was more about technique, and listening rather than brute force.

Not that we have any of those skills in abundance.

Being on the water was an incredibly pleasant and relaxing experience.  A far cry from my vision of racing uncontrollably down a treacherous ravine, permanently panicking about turning over.

As a keen(ish) walker, that’s the closest thing I could liken the experience to.  It was like a relaxing walk made more entertaining by the fact we were doing it on the water.

My 8-year-old boy loved it.  He loved exploring, answering questions about the basins and the surrounding area.  As well as having a canoe to pilot.

He even got chance to have a go all by himself.

Proving that it may not have been his fault when we *may* have strayed from our intended course as a two-man canoe.

It was great to see him have a go on his own.  Proving how easy and safe (if done with the right equipment) canoeing can be.

After return to the dock I was asked if I’d be trying canoeing again, and before I could reply my son, Max, jumped right in with an non-hesitant: “Definitely!”

Like my entheustiastic child I am keen to give canoe another go in the future, but I did wonder how accessible canoeing was for a family from a standing start.

Which is where Canoe England are making great efforts to involve families in the sport.

As an Olympic legacy  they are running an initiative simply titled Go Canoeing.  Its basic premise is to bring local canoeing clubs and activities to families living around them.

Great clubs and inexpensive opportunities are out there and near everyone, it's just the matter of finding them.

We live only a few miles from a couple of large pools, and are a mere stroll from the canal network, which meant when I put our postcode into the search engine on the Go Canoeing website I was presented with plenty of opportunities to get on the water again soon.

My local club actually had an event last weekend, a taster session, which only cost £5.  I can’t think of many activities that represent such a good rate of value for money.


What are you waiting for?

There are all sorts of activities to try.  You can have a starter session to simply get to grips with manning a canoe, or you could take a canoeing tour and explore somewhere interesting by water.

National Go Canoeing Week is be taking place across England between Saturday 18th – Sunday 26th May 2013. To find out what activities are taking place at a club near you, whatever your ability, click here