It’s the fastest growing aspect of paddlesport in the UK and it’s not just for grey-bearded ancient mariners with a 3,000 metre stare and a boiled sea gull wing hanging from their beard. Sea kayaking is sexy, with the latest developments in sea kayak design allowing paddlers to take white water skills to the ocean and play the sea.
Award winning film maker Justine Curgenven has to take some of the responsibility for making
sea kayaking as popular as it’s become in recent years. Her series of ‘This Is The Sea’ films
showing “black-belt” sea kayaking and featuring some stunning scenery shot on locations around the world, from the Arctic circle to Anglesey and beyond to the remote Kamchatka Peninsula and circumnavigations of New Zealands South Island & Tasmania are now in their fourth Volume and still as popular as ever.
One of the biggest attractions of sea kayaking is that it doesn’t have the access issues associated with inland waters in England & Wales. Find a beach & launch your boat, no need for licenses, noconflict with fishermen or access agreements to follow. It really is the freedom of the sea.
There are many providers out there offering everything from half-day taster sessions paddling along sheltered coastal waters & estuaries to overseas expeditions in exotic locations. Providers range
from the National Centres to sole providers who have a wealth of experience to share.
The act of sea kayaking is equally popular with young and old, many ‘new’ sea kayakers are people who have been active in the outdoors, but are looking to view the mountains and cliffs from a
different perspective and you can certainly get that when you’re a mile or two offshore.
Developments in technology have had their part to play, plastic touring kayaks are now available at prices that don’t break the bank, heavier duty corelite plastic sea kayaks fit the mid-range budget and then for those with deeper pockets there are handcrafted things of beauty made from fibreglass or Carbon/Kevlar.
A wetsuit is good enough for a day trip or taster session, but as your horizons stretch further then you’ll almost certainly want to upgrade to ‘dry’ clothing, either seperates or a one piece suit.
Safety equipment should never be overlooked, you’ll need a means of signalling, at the very least this means a mobile phone in a waterproof case and some flares, but as you venture further afield you may want to invest in a VHF radio and possibly a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), you’ll need to obtain an operators licence for the VHF, this involves attending a one day course by an approved
You can go for a day or a month depending on how you pack, imagine going backpacking for a
weekend but with the ability to carry an 80 litre pack on your front, another 80 litre pack on your back and still having a 40 litre daypack as well? There’s always room for some creature comforts on a short sea kayak expedition and the ability to eat well as you watch the sunset and imbibe a wee dram just adds to the attraction for many paddlers. You’ll find very few sea kayakers chowing down on a packet of supernoodles, it’s a sport that allows for gourmet cooking if you feel the inclination!!
Plan, Plan and plan again
With judicious planning the trip can be arranged to suit all levels of ability, a knowledge of the
weather forecast and tidal conditions in the area you wish to paddle in is essential, but with an ever expanding range of guidebooks to the waters of the UK, a lot of this tidal information is available within these. However it’s always a good idea to have a contingency or two up your sleeve as the weather in the UK is notoriously fickle.
Safety is paramount and some training would be highly recommended before venturing off on your own as the sea is a cruel mistress. Again there are a range of providers out there who will offer coaching and tuition as well as guiding. The BCU (British Canoe Union) Star Award system is a good basis to prove your competence and some outfitters and guiding companies will often ask for a BCU 3* award as a minimum requirement for participation on an expedition or before hiring equipment. For most people it’s possible to reach this standard over 5 or 6 weekends.
A reasonable level of fitness will help you to enjoy your experience more, but kayaking is also a great way of building fitness as it’s a low impact sport.