A Kayak Tester Session Saturday and An open Canoe training Session on Sunday

A very brief review of CPCC’s Taster Training Session with Andy Course Leader and Tudor and myself (Steve).

Six people were signed up for the course and on Saturday they each arrived at the pier house some more apprehensive than others. but all willing to give this kayaking malarkey a try.

We all gathered outside the pierhouse and chatted about what experience our attendees had. We were very pleased to hear the several had paddled before as it makes how we teach much easier. So with experiences shared we headed to the floating pontoon, where Andy organised boats and helped with the adjustment of foot rests. With boats selected it was time to issue paddles.

With five people being right handed Andy took the five up to the square outside the trust office, so they could learn how to hold the paddle and the general paddle motion.

One lady was left with Tudor and I where we explained how to orientate the paddle to check for left or right handedness. Explained the benefits of paddling right handed, which relate more to the availability of left handed paddles and set her up with an appropriate paddle. I have to confess that in the end I can’t remember whether she went out with a right or left handed paddle.

Our first group of three were put onto the launch pontoon and they each with the assistance of Tudor were launched on the Thames. It was an ebb tide and as such the width of available water was small. Andy took that group away, making room for the second group.

I launched a Sierra and waited by the pontoon ready to rescue should it be necessary. Today it wasn’t required and the second group took to the water with ease. Many thanks go to Tudor for launching the group.

Putting the day into context although the tide was excellent the other ingredient, wind wasn’t our friend on this session. We started teaching in the shelter of the end of the pier, but there wasn’t enough room for a nine people, so we decided to head down to the Chiswick Eyot. The wind there was even worse. We then moved to the far end of the Eyot and still there was no respite from the wind.

A big call was made by Andy to paddle the group pack passed the pontoon and see if we could find some sheltered from the wind water further upstream. In hindsight this turned out to be the best option possible for the group. To paddle passed the Chiswick Eyot passing the pier on the outside required really quite good paddling technique and an aggressive seating position. Rather than having to teach forwards paddling and the benefits of a dynamic seating position and body rotation to generate power the group did it through necessity. If it wasn’t for their good technique they would struggled to make it as they were paddling against both tide and wind.

Once in the shelter from the wind there were sweep turns being demonstrated and copied. Moving sideways, backwards paddling and for those a little more adventurous edged turns. Several discovered that edging the boats away from the inside of the turn made them turn more quickly. This is quite an advanced lesson, but the tasters worked hard at it with good progress shown by all.

It wasn’t long before it was time to call the session to a halt and get the group of the water. A simple ferry glide from the shoreside and a quick placement of the paddle across the back deck of the boat and our tasters were off to put the kit away.

A very brief conversation amongst the group about membership of the club and what to expect tomorrow (on a longer paddle) and it was time to let them go.

Sunday Morning and an Open Boating Canoe Lesson.

This was a straightforward little lesson teaching forward paddling in a canoe with MJ acting as my safety. For our guest it was a birthday present, little did he know he would be worked quite hard throughout the session.

Learning open boating without having any paddling experience is a tall order, but as per usual we put a lot of effort in to make it happen.

We started by providing kneeling mats and paddles and went through how to choose the length of paddle. With the correct length of paddle selected we headed down to the pontoon edge where we would practice performing the J stroke whilst kneeling on the dock. This is best described as a power stroke that turns into a stern rudder. A stoke with two distinct parts to it.

No point kneeling on land practising this, it was time to get on the water. First MJ launched in her canoe acting as safety and Darrell launched whilst I steadied his boat and he was away. I had hoped to remain within the confines of the launch pontoon, as there was a fare wind blowing and we were on a ebb tide. For whatever reason Darrell was beyond the pontoon area and struggling to turn the boat against both upwind and tide.

It was obvious the power function of the J stroke was working well, however the steering portion wasn’t working at all. We then suffered a knee issue and reverted to sitting in the boat which exasperated the steering portion of the J stroke. Sitting higher up in the boat meant the paddle barely touched the water on the steering portion.

A quick rethink on the side of the river and effectively a change in seating position. Darrell moved more to the side of the canoe, making his power strokes more vertical. I still hadn’t solved the steering portion of the stroke. Getting Darrell back to the shelter of the pontoon area, he was able to concentrate on the actual strokes themselves and made good progress paddling the whole length of the pontoon.

Again passing from the shelter of the pontoon area and into the main part of the river and away from the stern of the moored vessels. We paddled/floated around the moored vessels and return to the inside of the pontoon. We repeated this a couple of times.

Solving the stern rudder portion of the stoke was relatively easy. Solution change the leg position such that his knee wasn’t in the way of the forward paddle stroke. With this conundrum solved paddling forwards and using the stern rudder became easier. By this time mental fatigue sets in and in Darrell’s case so do knee pain, so I called a halt to the session.

Back on shore Darrell and MJ helped with storing the boats and with the session over we made our separate way home.

I did meet up with the guys I had taught paddling on Saturday. They had had a great time out on the river, but found the last part of the paddle quite hard due to having to paddle against the wind and I suspect tide. Everyone seem very buoyant about the session.

Well Done Andy and Julius our coaches for their session.

As a postscript there was a first group that headed out on Sunday morning before I arrived. They were led by Sarah, Michelle and Leon. We only had a few boats left for anyone else to take out.

Busy times at CPCC. Don’t forget to book yourself in for the next session.