Our guide to kayaking courses


If you love to keep fit and enjoy the wild nature of the outdoors then why not consider taking up the sport of kayaking? Kayaking not only combines exercise with the great outdoors it also provides the opportunity to explore unique places and have fun with likeminded people. Whether you want to ride the raging rapids or paddle the open sea, taking one of our kayaking courses will teach new skills to kayakers of any level.


Why kayaking?

Kayaking is a great way of combining exercise with exploring the natural world and just generally having fun. It can be a mix between explosive white waters or calm lakes so no matter what your personality is there will be a lake or river you can kayak on. The sheer amount of variation to kayaking means you can enjoy the sport with all sort of different people from friends to family, and you will be sure to make friends along the way as kayaking brings together a host of friendly, like-minded people. Kayaking is also a great opportunity for those who love nature, paddling down obscure rivers will find you travelling and seeing sights that most people could only dream of reaching, courses in ecology or natural history can help you to further your understanding of stunning world around you.


What you’ll learn

Kayaking courses will vary in complexity depending on the level of programme; introductory courses will teach you basic techniques of kayaking while further courses will end in a qualification upon completion. Kayaking qualifications start from BCU one star to the BCU three star qualifications. These qualifications aim to measure your personal development as a paddler and are required for those who want to go on to coach. These will teach you everything from basics such as steering, forward paddling and equipment checks to more complex things such as reverse paddling, rolling and moving sideways. Rescue and safety skills will be an extensive part of the course and, even though you will have a life jacket, taking a swimming course may be a good idea to make you more confident in the water.


Kayaking in the UK

Surprisingly, the UK has some of the most highly regarded kayaking destinations in the world. The Scottish coast is a particular favourite for eager kayakers around the world offering some of the most spectacular coastal, mountain and island scenery in the UK. Dolphins, Puffins, seals and whales make this the ultimate outdoor adventure. There are plenty of other fantastic places to kayak around the UK such as the white water slopes of River Dart in Devon to the tidal rapids of Stanley Embankment in Anglesey.

Before you start kayaking around the UK it is important that you own a waterways license. Membership with the BCU will include a license for you to paddle on 5000km of British rivers and canal navigations. Carrying this membership card around with you on the water will give you the freedom to paddle in some of your favourite spots.


Become a coach

Now that you are swiftly becoming an experienced kayaker why not consider turning your passion into a career and taking an extra course to become a kayaking coach? The BCU coaching scheme runs from level one to level three and as you progress through these levels you will be allowed to coach more complex techniques.  To enter onto these qualifications you will have to prove that you are experienced and are at a high level of both canoeing and kayaking. The courses will teach you the key methods of teaching others while bearing in mind safety and equipment procedures. You will be expected to build a coaching portfolio so expect to work as a coach for free at your local canoeing and kayaking site.

Level 1 – You can operate as an assistant under direct supervision. Employability is limited here so having extra skills such as knowledge of wildlife, history or working with special needs can greatly help you to get a job.

Level 2 – You can now run specific sessions but only on calm waters that are owned by a club or centre. This means you will be supervised in where you can operate.

Level 3 – You are now a top level coach; you can now run kayaking sessions on sea and white water rapids.


Interesting fact

Kayaking is estimated to be around 4,000 years old. It was first invented by Inuit’s in North America who used kayaks for transportations and hunting. The Inuit’s made kayaks from stitched seal, or other animal skin, and covered it over a frame made from whalebone. The kayaks were kept afloat from seal bladders filled with air that were tucked into the fore and aft sections of the boat to give them buoyancy.

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