British Canoeing’s National Go Canoeing Week is fantastic celebration of all forms of paddlesport and an opportunity to enjoy every aspect of being afloat using in all manner of canoes, kayaks and SUPs.
My #NGCW started with a long weekend coaching with OCA members at Canoefest 2017. It was good to work with adult paddlers, helping them to develop their fluency with the paddle and see new possibilities for where they might take their canoeing next; it was however the session I ran for three siblings aged 7-10 that was particularly memorable. The children (and I suspect their parents) were keen to develop some skills to look after themselves and each other on the water and I was happy to oblige.
With Dad along to keep the numbers even, we started on the bank, enjoying the sun and sharing ideas on who it was most important to look after first and what our priorities were after that. Yes, it seems you’re never too young to take on board the Self, Team, Victim, Equipment protocol! Discussion moved seamlessly to shout, reach and throw rescues; seeing who could shout the loudest to attract my attention went down well and, with the promise that they would get wet eventually, we moved on to using throwlines. We had a number of short, light lines and the children practiced with all the gusto you’d expect at a school sports day, lobbing the unopened bags to each other, pitching them as for rounders, bowling them like cricket balls and then throwing them like javelins. Great fun was had, and impressive accuracy displayed, by all.
We were well into the session and it was time to go afloat to look at towing and moving boats about on the gently flowing river Wye. My students soon picked up the virtues of hold-on and then painter tows, putting a turn around a thwart or seat and securing the line under a foot or knee. No need to worry about confusing knots! Dad and I demonstrated how we retrieve and empty capsized boats but it was jumping in and climbing back out that the children really wanted to focus on. We took advantage of a small riffle and concluded the session with swimming in moving water and using the throwlines ‘for real’. The children acted as both rescuer and swimmer and there was no doubt about it, this was the part of the session they enjoyed the most.
I’d never previously run a session like this for such a young audience and was amazed at how engaged the children had been throughout and how receptive they’d been to the logic of the safety and rescue protocols we teach on our FSRT courses. It really does seem that canoeing is one of those activities where you’re never too young to learn.