You've done the beginner course. You've come out on the regular paddles and have built up some confidence in the boat. Now you're thinking about venturing further afield, and want to come on a trip with Maidstone Canoe Club. But what will it be like?
It's a fair enough question, and a common concern - particularly for newer members. But as you've already found out as a Club member, we're a pretty friendly bunch, and there's plenty of support and help available if you need it. Trips are always a mix of experienced paddlers, newer members, and people coming along for the first time - you won't be the only new face! The format for each trip varies a little, and depends to some extent on who is organising it, but there are some common themes. This page will hopefully give you some overview of how the trips work, but for a really good insight read through the various articles in our Newsletter Archive, where paddlers old and new tell it how it is!
An advanced whitewater weekend is different to a beginner sea kayaking trip. A large group is different to a smaller crowd. Trips at Maidstone are organised by individual paddlers - paddlers like you - rather than planned centrally by the committee. This means that if you fancy a trip somewhere - organise one! (Feel free to contact us if you'd like some pointers and help with this). This means that one person organising a trip will do things a little differently to the next. Contact details for trip organisers are always on the Calendar events page, so just drop them a line if you're not sure how it's going to work. The person organising the logistics of the trip may or may not be the leader on the water.
The important thing is to choose the right trip for your first outing - so read the calendar event description and talk to the trip organiser. This will make sure that you, and everyone else, has the most fun on the water!
Any payment for accommodation is typically made directly to the campsite or bunkhouse, but will sometimes be made to the trip organiser personally. It's a tenet of Club trips that no-one makes money from them - they cover costs only (sometimes coaches will get partial expenses if they otherwise wouldn't go on the trip).
Transport is by private vehicles, and usually shared - there's no Club minibus and we don't hire coaches. We try to share lifts wherever possible, and Club members usually have a spare seat or two in their car. This is organised either through the mailing lists, on the Maidstone Paddlers Facebook group, or the trip organiser will sort it out via email. Fuel costs are then split between passengers.
Food is typically organised individually - a pub meal is often involved - but it's rare that food will be provided or cooked by the trip organiser. Worth checking this out, as paddling hungry is no fun!
On the water, there will always be people competent to lead the group. Whether they've got formal qualifications or just lots of experience will depend on the trip and the group paddling, but there will always be some organisation and direction. This varies depending on the kind of trip:
If a trip is being run as, for example, an Introduction to Whitewater, and is described as a training or coaching weekend, things will be a bit more formal than usual. The coach will probably mandate a start time, decide the paddling route, and tell you what to do. It will be more like the beginner courses from that regard - the aim is to learn a specific set of skills, and this means a more-structured format.
Less formal than the "coached" trips, these tend to be run by a more-experienced paddler taking less-experienced members somewhere. This might form part of a larger group, with less-experienced paddlers running one river section with a leader, while another group goes elsewhere, or might be the whole group. Whoever is leading the group will choose a suitable stretch of water based on the skills of the group, and make sure everyone stays together and has a good time. There will probably be some discussion about various options available, with the group leader making the final call.
The least formal style of trip. Just paddlers out having fun together, often organised informally at Club paddles, or via the Facebook Paddler's group. Ideal for groups of more experienced paddlers with similar skill levels. They'll decide together which sections to paddle and how to paddle it, probably without any one person acting as "leader". Regardless, safety is still a priority, and everyone on the river will be looking out for each other.
Of course, these distinctions aren't hard-and-fast, and most trips cross these categories. Groups might split up for part of the day, with more-energetic paddlers going for a long day out and more-relaxed paddlers going with a river leader somewhere more gentle. And whatever is planned in advance can always be changed on the day, depending on the skills and needs of the group, as well as weather, river levels, etc. We're all paddlers together, no matter our skill level, so you'll be looked after on the water, and you'll definitely have a good time! Take a look at our upcoming trip dates here, and come paddling!
England is blessed with some beautiful waterways, and the best way to explore them is by canoe or kayak! Unsurprisingly, Maidstone Canoe Club members are often to be found paddling along them, whether the various sections of the beautiful River Medway on our doorstep, or further afield. Canoe and kayak touring tends to be a gentle affair, with the emphasis on the journey rather than the destination. Many day trips are run throughout the year, mainly to rivers in Kent and East Sussex, where weekend trips tend to venture further afield. The River Wye is a classic touring river, but trips on the Sufflok Stour are always popular, and the Norfolk Broads offers huge scope for exploration. Some trips are self-supporting - carrying tents and food along the river - while others use a campsite as a base, and do several trips around the locale.
Being based on the Medway, touring is probably the most accessible discipline for new paddlers. Come out on the regular paddles a few times to build up confidence, and then join one of the day trips to a local river - perhaps a new section of the Medway, or down the Stour in Canterbury. Some trips are designed specifically for beginners - just send an email to the trip organiser (via the calendar event page) and let them know you're interested. Once you've got a feel for it, take a look at the calendar and join us on a longer trip for the weekend!
Kayaks were originally developed by the Inuit to hunt on the sea, and kayaks remain unparalleled single-person marine craft. The freedom to explore our coastline and camp on wild beaches is a huge attraction for this kind of paddling.
The Club has a small selection of sea kayaks for Club members to use, and a small but passionate group of paddlers are often to be found at sea! The Club's regular sea kayak expedition up to Arisaig on the West Coast of Scotland is a highlight of the year, and newcomers are stunned at the glorious sandy beaches and rugged unspoilt wilderness to be found on our own shores. Club members often paddle further afield, with various parts of Canada a common destination - take a look at our newsletter archives for some of the best!
Sea kayaks are straightforward to paddle, and a sea kayak trip with an experienced leader is an attainable goal for new paddlers. Once you've completed your beginner course, come out kayaking on the regular Club paddles to build your confidence and basic skills. Keep an eye on the calendar for Club sea trips - not forgetting the Medway estuary on our doorstep - and it's also worth asking around at the Club to get introduced to regular sea paddlers.
Maidstone Canoe Club has an active whitewater group and runs regular trips throughout the year. There's a wide range of experience within the Club, from newcomers who have recently completed a beginner course through to experienced boaters running serious whitewater. We aim to run fully-coached Introduction to Whitewater courses every year, starting on basic moving-water techniques at local weirs and moving on to weekend trips on easier rivers such at the Dee and the Exe. Regular trips typically run on grade 3 rivers such as the Dart Loop and Upper Tryweryn, and full descriptions of what experience is required listed on the calendar event page. On a typical trip, there will be a group with qualified river leaders often helping newer paddlers, another independent group running the river as a peer group, and perhaps more experienced boaters finding time to run harder rivers nearby. There's usually a trip to Slovenia in the Spring, and another trip to the Alps over the summer.
Once you've done your beginner course, get out paddling on flat water so you're confident in your basic strokes! Come to the pool sessions to practice bracing and other skills. Keep an eye on the calendar for the next Introduction to Whitewater course the Club is running - you might also consider doing a course at the excellent Lee Valley Whitewater Course, just around the M25. Join the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list - trips always appear on the website, but the mailing list is good for organising lifts, discussing rivers, etc. The Club has some kit you can borrow, and coaches and other paddlers are usually generous with their spare gear when you're just starting out. Once you're ready to buy some of your own gear, take a look at this handy guide to avoid making expensive mistakes!
And most importantly, come on a trip! Get in touch with the organiser via the Calendar page and they'll help you choose a trip which is suitable for your experience levels.
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