Dear Paddlesport Community, help us #SaveOutdoorEd
Many of you will probably have had your first taste of kayaking or canoeing at an outdoor education centre with school, at a summer camp or with organisations such as the Scouts or Cadets. Indeed, you’ll never forget the late night dormitory giggles, writing postcards home, the skirmish for the hot showers or the smell of festering wetsuits in the drying room! Right now though, outdoor education centres across the UK are facing permanent closure due to COVID-19 restrictions on overnight visits and sporting activities. This article scratches the surface of the outcomes of outdoor education for young people with the insights of professionals from around the UK and concludes with some suggestions on how you can kindly help the fight to #SaveOutdoorEd.
Since March, there has been no outdoor education residentials in the UK, with tens of thousands of children missing out on the opportunity to experience activities such as canoeing, rock climbing, archery, gorge walking, mountaineering and sailing, all whilst living away from home. Other adventures whilst on residential may include trying new food, helping with chores, cleaning boots and making a bed (this one’s often particularly traumatic!). Behind the activities, there is a whole range of benefits and developmental skills to be gained, most of which cannot be fully exercised in a classroom: problem solving in ‘real’ situations, developing resilience to new and challenging situations, following a routine or instructions, identifying and mitigating hazards and risks, environmental awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem, physical activity, communication skills, teamworking, timekeeping, independent living, resolving conflict, raising aspirations… the list goes on!
After a turbulent year, we suddenly find ourselves on the cusp of winter and the endless combinations of cold, wet and windy days presented by the good old British weather. As we say farewell to our shortie cags and board shorts until next year, let’s remember to pack the essential clothing and kit which can make a cold day on the water more comfortable and reduce the risk of hypothermia, cold-water shock, frozen fingers and hours shivering misery!
Before 2014, I’d only seen a Pyranha Spanish Fly and a Big Dog OC1 on the rivers around Scotland. They looked weird and I didn’t like the idea of swamping and kneeling when I could have a comfy kayak seat and a spraydeck. After stumbling across a group of OC1ers in Glen Etive one New Year’s Eve, I really had my eyes opened to the C-boat world, albeit a rather mad one! After enjoying open canoeing for the past few years and becoming impartial to the single blade, I’ve recently decided to take the plunge with a Silverbirch Covert 9.3.
In our paddling journey, we often hit dead ends, have a bad day, pickup injuries or simply lose interest over time. Here’s some ideas to not just get you back into paddling, but spice up your skills and love being on the water again.
Here are my 10 ways to fall in love with paddling again.
Fear! Sometime we’re not sure why we even bother.
Try a different discipline – if you’re a kayaker, try a canoe. Embrace the range of skills which you can learn from a different discipline, skills which are transferable across all paddlesport. You could try open canoeing, C-boating, kayaking, marathon, sprint, slalom, SUPing, rafting, dragonboating… the possibilities are endless!