“White Water Kayaking - It’s just bobbing about, interrupted by 30 seconds of terror" This was my teasing comment to a lifelong Paddler, who also happened to be a Senior Instructor at Scotland’s National Outdoor training Centre, Glenmore Lodge. His expression was everything you would imagine.
This statement was swiftly followed by a promise to attend one of the Glenmore Lodge Intro level courses. So it was that I found myself booked onto an Introduction to White Water Kayaking course.
Was it too late to tell him I’d been joking?
I was genuinely looking forward to the course, but I had doubts. Would I be chewed up and left humiliated on the side of the river, shown my place by mother nature. It also always seemed such a masculine sport, for adrenaline seekers, with big muscles and a beard. As a woman in her 40’s with zero experience of paddlesports and skinny arms, I had no confidence, just a willingness to experience something new.
The night before the course was due to start I had a lot of questions. Will I be strong enough? What do I wear? Will I be able to keep up? Within minutes of arriving, all of this melted away as I was scooped up by the Glenmore Lodge machine and it was genuinely really exciting. When was the last time you did something so completely new to you?
The 2 days flew by. Day 1 involved a mixture of pool based work – learning how to release from a boat if/when you fall in. We headed out to Loch Morlich – the perfect safe location to experience your first paddle. We also made use of the Glenmore Lodge pond, with its slalom poles – ideal for learning how to turn and manage your boat, paddle, wobbles, legs, arms, body position..…..
Learning in the Glenmore Lodge Pond
By the end of Day 1, we were all buzzing and just could not wait for Day 2. We were also ready for the famous Glenmore Lodge afternoon cake – and our beds.
Day 2 and we headed to a section of the River Spey, by Knockando, with a grade 2 section and enough moving water to keep us more than challenged. By now some of the group were clearly far stronger / technically more advanced and were able to play more with the water. There was plenty for all to learn and practice on. Our Instructor, Dave Rossetter, chose different challenges for each of us, so we could all focus in on what we needed to individually.
We spent the morning learning how to control the boat through different flows of water, how to identify eddies, safer sections of water and how to get from one side of the river to the other by reading the water and reacting accordingly. It was also a chance to get to grips with how to turn the boat using the water to help you.
After lunch we were ready for our first small journey. We paddled across the river (funny how this had felt like such a big deal just a few hours earlier!) and carried the boats up river to a new putting in point. We all helped each other carry the boats, so again there was no worry about being inadequate to manage this.
Before heading off on the journey we learnt some tricks to help read the river ahead and to understand what line you would take through the rapid.
It was a proper thrill and something I’ll never forget.
Size Doesn’t Matter
It was a real eye opener. We were a group of enthusiastic learners of all ages, but not one of us looked like my preconceptions of what a kayaker looks like.
Now I’ve had my first taste and want to make sure that it isn’t the last. For now I’m still reliving my 2 days Discovering White Water Kayaking and incubating plans for some future adventures I thought I could never have – and wondering if I’m going to need to swap the Hatchback for a van!
Kirsty on the River Findhorn on Day 4 of the Intro to White Water Kayak Course
If you are interested to learn more, Glenmore Lodge runs a series of Discover Paddlesports courses, in Canoeing, Sea Kayaking and White Water Kayaking.
It is also holding a Women's Only Discover Paddlesports weekend, for any budding female paddlers keen to learn with like-minded women. This is being held on 11/12 August.