Frequently Asked Questions
Clothing and equipment advice for beginners
We will present options here, from bare minimum to best, what you choose depends on whether you will be paddling in summer only, and if you intend to get wet (white-water, surf) or just paddle flat water. These are just our opinions, we are open to correction!
(Will get wet!) Old trainers are not the best (unless you have small feet) as they tend to be bulky and there is not much room for feet in a kayak. Old tennis shoes/plimsolls are better, shoe laces could be a safety hazard - if they catch in the foot braces and trap you in the boat. Plastic "jelly" sandals worn over thick socks are really cheap! Best are neoprene shoes or boots - look out for neoprene beach shoes at backet'n'spade beach shops for a few pounds - good value!
Top outer layer:
Your legs will be inside the kayak, but your upper body will be splashed (or worse) and if it is windy the windchill can make it feel really cold. Except in perfect summer conditions you always need a windproof top. Minimum is a standard wind and waterproof cagoule. The proper item is a 'dry cag' or 'semi-dry cag' from kayak shops. This will be waterproof and windproof and have seals at the neck, wrists and waist to keep water out. There are lots of different types, and a wide variety of prices, here are a few considerations:
For touring paddling the neck seal is unimportant in fact an adjustable neck that
can be opened for ventilation is good.
For whitewater/surf the neck seal is important. Seals are from neoprene or latex. Latex gives the best seal but is prone to splitting, a seal may last 3 years, but may only last one. They can be replaced but at around £30 for a neck seal. Recently super-stretch neoprene neck seals are performing nearly as well as latex.
Two choices, either a single seal or a double layer where one goes INSIDE the spray deck, one goes OUTSIDE to provide a double seal which does provide a better seal.
Neoprene or latex. All the serious cags still use latex and this is better than standard neoprene, but look out for new technology as in neck seals.
Under the cag:
If you are going to be swimming (rescue practice on the BCU 2-star course, learning white-water or surfing) then a neoprene wet-suit is best. If you are buying one just for kayaking then it should be a 3mm long john with full-length legs but armless, to give freedom of arm movement. For kids on the summer course that may be just trying kayaking a general purpose summer (3mm) wetsuit with full legs and sleeves that can also be used for the beach, surfing and sailing might be a good idea.
If you are touring, or have a bomb-proof roll and won't be swimming, then the choice is wider. A pair of dry trousers or salopettes with ankle seals is good.
Thermal underwear by Helly Hansen or similar can be worn under anything, a fleece can be worn under the cag. Both are warm when wet and the thermals dry very quickly.
My advice for beginners on the summer course would be:
1) get a wetsuit and wear an old cag
2) If after a few sessions you think kayaking is for you - get a dry cag.
There are many different kinds of kayaks. Our advice would be don't rush to buy
one; try different club boats, do enough paddling to find out what kind of paddling
you like and hence what you want your boat for. Talk to experienced club members
and get their advice - ask to try their boats - they are friendly and won't bite.
You can find a bit more information about equipment here.
To join the training sessions you'll need to become a member and book a place on the course of your choice. Then simply turn up with suitable clothing (see above) and a change of dry clothes and a towel, (some food and a warm drink are advisable for the longer sessions) and have a go.
The Club aims to provide the equipment and coaching to allow paddlers to proceed from absolute beginners up to being capable of paddling on the white-water of the Dart, this includes taking the BCU 1 star, 2 star and 3 star tests if appropriate.
Newcomers are introduced to the kayak and the equipment, how to carry, launch, move/control and exit the kayak, through to performing capsize rescues and rolling.
In order to help & entertain members even when they are off the water, the Club Library is now up & running. See Yvette to check out the books and videos and brush up on your theory. To tempt you, here are some of the items available:
- Canoe & Kayak Games Book
- BCU Canoe & Kayak Handbook
- Genetic Progressive Whitewater DVD
- Kayak Nealy (Animated Book)
- Playboating with Ken Whiting DVD
- This is the Sea DVD
- This is the Sea Two DVD
- White Water Safety and Rescue 2nd Ed Book
- Path of the Paddle Book
- The Ultimate Guide to Sea Kayaking DVD
- E Js Rolling and Bracing DVD
- More coming soon...