Take to the seas. Or a river... or the rapids... whichever takes your fancy. Similar to canoeing, kayaking involves a lone paddler, a banana-shaped boat, and the freedom to go wherever the waves take you.
The main difference between canoeing and kayaking is the seating position (in kayaking you face fowards with your legs in front, rather than kneeling) and the fact that a kayak paddle has two blades instead of one. There are seven primary classifications of intended use for kayaking – polo, slalom, whitewater, surf, touring/expedition, light touring/day tripping, sprint/racing and general recreation.
A complete beginner will never be thrown – with or without a paddle – into whitewater immediately, so there’s no need to panic that you’ll be out of your depth. Classes begin on flat water, and you can spend some time getting to grips with the basics (moving, steering and how to get out of the thing) before moving on to anything more serious. You should also be shown how to deal with an emergency situation (yes, that means capsizing – we wouldn’t recommend spending too much time on your hair in the morning) and hopefully you’ll soon progress from simply floating around, to being totally in control of where you’re going. Learning options are diverse, with single classes or week long courses to choose from. All you need are some comfortable, old clothes and a tatty pair of trainers – other equipment should be provided until you get good enough to want your own.
From then on you can decide whether you’re a relaxed, take-in-the-scenery type of paddler, or whether you need a bit more of a high-energy ride. You can try out racing, long distance, or even freestyle kayaking (gymnastics in a boat).
Many courses don’t even require you to be able to swim (although you might feel safer if you can), so anyone can try out kayaking. It’s a fantastic way of working out while having fun and getting out on the water could be the perfect way of shaking up a dry land-based exercise regime. It’s also great for anyone who loves being in the open air, but injury or joint problems have made running difficult.
Body benefits of the sport include:
An estimated 1.1 million boats or crafts are owned by UK households.