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Recently I’ve found myself getting a lot of fresh air! On Saturday 12th I drove along the coast to the picturesque New Forest to have a go at kayaking on Beaulieu River. Even though it wasn’t technically part of the experience, I feel I have to mention the drive through the New Forest, it was just so lovely! Turning off the dual-carriageway, you head down this long, straight road with all manner of wild animals to see. I saw two hawk-looking birds grappling overhead, and had to stop several times to let horses, pigs and cows cross the road. The animals were totally used to the cars going past, never once glancing up in interest.
Anyway, enough about the wildlife. Personally I found the centre very easy to find, but Robb, who I was going with, managed to get a bit lost. Eventually we met at Bucklers Hard, a Georgian hamlet located in the Beaulieu Estate. Within the centre, there’s the Maritime Museum, a cute little tea shop, a number of private dwellings, a pub and the marina. We couldn’t quite work out whether people lived in the houses, it seemed like a very touristy location, but the houses were well-kept and could easily be occupied. Altogether it was a very beautiful place.
Down by the river, we met James who would be our kayak instructor for the session. Inside the hut we were kitted out in waterproofs and spraydecks, which are skirt-like garments that attach to the rim of the boat to stop water getting in. Joining Robb and myself on the river were three young boys who were celebrating a birthday, as well as James.
I’d never been kayaking before, only canoeing, so being completely strapped into a little boat was quite novel for me (everything seems novel to me since starting this job). We dragged the kayaks down to the water edge, then climbed in and attached the spraydecks. Placing our feet in the foot pegs, we were ready to go. Kayaking is actually very different to canoeing, with your feet on the pegs, you are practically at one with the boat, meaning every time you move, the kayak moves.
James pushed us off from the ground, and we were floating away. It was a strange feeling being so close to the water, but it helped greatly with changing directions and controlling the speed. After a quick practice at turning on the spot and coming to a stop, we were paddling off down the river towards various checkpoints along the way.
It was very relaxing work, and not at all difficult. The sun was shining and there was hardly any wind, meaning the journey was very pleasant indeed. The only place you get really wet is on the arms, where the water runs from the paddle up your sleeve, but I could cope with that! It doesn’t take long to get used to the steering (do you call it that?) and manoeuvres, although I did find myself facing the wrong direction on a couple of occasions.
Halfway through James set us up for a race! We had to paddle round a pontoon and under a bridge, then do the same but in reverse, then do a 360 on the spot, then back to the start line. I think we all got a bit muddled and no clear winner was decided, but it was very fun nonetheless! Kayaking backwards is definitely something I may need more practice with.
After the race we headed back down the river to the marina, rescuing a soggy bee on the way. Just before getting back on dry land, two of the boys decided to capsize their boats, which was quite entertaining to watch! After that it was time to paddle up the slipway, and climb out onto solid ground.
What a great experience! This was definitely one of my favourites so far, it wasn’t too long or too short, and there was a variety of kayaking moves to make it interesting, rather than just paddling up and down. James was great and really helped us get the most from the activity. Everyone enjoyed the experience, meaning it’s perfect for all ages!
As you know, we recently visited Beaulieu for a spot of river kayaking with New Forest Activities. Our instructor, James, was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, that we were inspired to start a new theme of Experience Days blogs; Instructor Interviews! Featuring inside information on the fantastic activities we offer, plus personal memories and tips on how to get the most from the experiences, here’s a brand new interview for you to enjoy.
1. Please briefly explain the nature of the company you work for and the experiences on offer.
New Forest Activities is an active company with the main goal of team collective experiences. it doesn’t matter if we canoe, kayak, or climb. it would always stay the same.
2. How long have you worked with New Forest Activities?
3. What made you want to start teaching kayaking?
Love for the outdoors, love for the water and that reward of someone feeling inspired after learning something new. It is great to be a part of someone’s development and helping them progress.
4. What are your favourite parts of the job?
Meeting new people every day is a great insight to the world we live in. People of all different backgrounds and cultures makes me understand my place in the world a little bit more. Definitely inspires me to explore.
5. What's your best memory from being an instructor?
Summer 2013, great relationship with all my colleagues, swimming in the river every night after work, schools and parties were always fun, kids that don’t care about phones or iPods for a few hours. Reminds me of growing up!
6. How do you see your role with the company evolving in the future?
I am always learning new responsibilities with the company. I was in charge of our special needs school this year and also had a leading role with our work experience and volunteers.
7. What is your most frequently asked question?
People always ask how I got into the career and the sports. I don’t believe in being in the right place at the right time. I feel that if you want something, you work for it. I got into this job because I wanted to work outdoors so I found myself a career path that led to it.
8. Any notable achievements?
I’ve taken out the owners of Mars Bar and Red Bull canoeing before. I will always remember marshalling on a triathlon, I had to stay in my canoe attached to a buoy and send people the right way.Iit mostly consisted of eating lots of food, listening to music and reading a book in the beautiful hot sun. That was a reward in itself.
9. Anything else you'd like to add.
I’m always looking for new challenges and I make it my number one message to give to groups. as a company, we focus on team building and having an active impact on peoples everyday lives. I think the most important thing for anybody is to set regular goals. have something to work towards otherwise you find yourself going in circles earning cash to pay bills. What are you hoping to achieve by this time next year??
Check out some of the other water sports James teaches…
Hampshire Canoeing Taster
BCU Kayaking Course
Group Size & Spectators:
There will be a maximum of 6 participants per instructor.
BCU 2 Star Kayak Course is available all year.
This kayaking course will take 2 days to complete.
This course can be affected by the weather. If in doubt please contact the center before you set off for the day.
The centre will provide you with the kayak and wetsuit and buoyancy aid etc. You will need to bring a swimming costume and towel. Also, if it's hot take some sun block and if it's not take some warm clothes to change into afterwards.
We recommend that all group members consider personal and equipment insurance.
Experience of canoeing / kayaking to BCU one star standard or above.
Minimum age: 12
(Under 18's must have parental consent)
All Participants must be confident in the water and fit enough to last two full days of activity.