Information for Beginners

Canoe or Kayak?

Canoeing is generally used as an umbrella term to describe both canoeing and kayaking.

In general terms, Canoes are larger open boats in which one or more paddlers sit on bench seats, or kneel on the floor of the boat.  Canoes are generally paddled with a single-bladed paddle.

Kayaks are generally closed cockpit craft, in which the paddler sits on a low seat with their legs out in front.  Kayaks are generally paddled with a double-bladed paddle.
Kayaks come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  In general terms, the shorter the boat the more manoeuvrable.  Longer touring type boats travel faster and straighter, but at the expense of manoeuvrability.

Most of our Club boats are general purpose river-running kayaks.

What to wear - and what not to wear

The best advice, we can give, is to dress for the prevailing conditions.  As a starting point, you can wear swimming gear, old shorts or trousers and tee-shirts.  You can add more thin layers for warmth, if required.  Long sleeves are advisable to protect against the sun.  An old cagoule is useful to keep the wind and rain off.  Short-john wetsuits, which are often available cheaply from supermarkets in the summer, are suitable for kayaking outdoors with additional layers, such as a cagoule.  Long-john wetsuits are suitable in the cooler months, again with additional layers as necessary.

We recommend that you wear aqua-shoes, old plimsolls or kayaking boots.  Foot protection is always advisable, particularly in Clevedon Marine Lake.

You can purchase technical kayaking clothing as your needs develop, and as your budget allows.

Trainers, jeans and your best clothing are NOT suitable.  Even if you don't actually capsize, you will get wet to some degree.

Full wetsuits are rarely suitable for kayaking, except for extreme cold or repeated immersion.  In those circumstances, a drysuit may be more useful anyway.  Full wetsuits have limited movement for paddling and can get extremely hot.  Drysuits designed for paddling are quite expensive, and are probably best considered as your paddling interests develop.

See the section on Pool sessions for more information on what to wear.

Club Gear

  • Helmets
    The Club has plenty of helmets in a variety of adjustable sizes. The Club requires that helmets are worn on Clevedon Marine Lake when using Club equipment, due to the rocky lake bed and concrete walls.  Helmets should be taken on trips, but a sunhat may be more appropriate depending on the type of trip!
  • Buoyancy Aids
    The Buoyancy Aid (BA) or Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is an essential part of any watersport activity. The Club has a range of sizes to cover most builds. There is no requirement to wear a Buoyancy Aid during Pool Sessions; some people do, some don't!
  • Paddles
    The Club has a range of Club specification general purpose and touring paddles, suitable for adults and children. Most of the paddles that we have are right-handed, but we do have some left-handed paddles. These are marked with red tape around the shaft.
  • Spraydecks
    The use of spraydecks is not recommended for beginners.  Pool Sessions are an ideal time to learn how to use spraydecks safely.  

Lake Sessions
Lake sessions take place throughout the year on dates published on the Club calendar. Sessions mainly take place at Clevedon on the Marine Lake, but may occasionally take place at Portishead Marina.
We hold regular Sunday morning sessions from 9am until 12pm during the warmer months.
There is a charge, currently £3, if you need to use a Club boat, but you try out any of the Club's boats. Other equipment, such as helmets and buoyancy aids, are not charged for.

Pool Sessions
Pool sessions take place from January through to mid-March at the Strode Leisure Centre in Clevedon, on Saturday afternoons. There are two sessions starting from 4.30pm and 5.15pm.
Dates, costs and details of how to book sessions can be found on the Club website nearer the time.
We use the main pool to teach and practice various skills such as capsize drill and rescues in a warm safe environment.

Strode Leisure Centre require us to wear helmets during Pool Sessions.  You should wear normal pool swimwear and a t-shirt, or a manmade technical shirt.  Wetsuits are not suitable for pool sessions as they get too hot.

The Club runs a number of courses throughout the year at greatly reduced prices to commercial suppliers. If you an absolute beginner, we recommend that you take one of our half-day Start courses, (£5 including a British Canoeing PaddleSport certificate).

Send us a General Enquiry HERE, if you are interested in taking a Start Course.

Our Training Information webpage has details of course structure.

Trips, Transport and Boat hire
We run a variety of trips to suit all ages and abilities. Most trips will be suitable for all ages and abilities, but some trips will require higher levels of experience. Each trip, advertised in Club emails and on the calendar, will give you information on the trips location, ability/qualification level required, and a contact email address for the trip organiser. The trip organiser will decide if your experience is suitable. Please be aware that trips may be cancelled at short notice depending on weather conditions, and this is the sole decision of the trip organiser.
Trips away from Clevedon will inevitably involve transport of equipment. In many cases, boats can be transported on roofracks. The trip leader will coordinate equipment transport. The Club also has a trailer.  The Quartermaster is the first point of contact for any equipment hire.

National Governing Body - NGB
The NGB in the UK is British Canoeing, formerly known as the British Canoe Union.  British Canoeing is an umbrella organisation for the 4 Home Nation Canoe Associations, (Canoe England, Welsh Canoe Association, Scottish Canoe Association, Canoe Association of Northern Ireland).
As an individual, you can be a private member of British Canoeing.  All Club Coaches are private members of British Canoeing, which gives them insurance cover to run training courses.
The Club is affiliated to British Canoeing which gives insurance cover to run Club and public events.  If you are not a private member of British Canoeing the Club charges you a small per person affiliation fee which contributes towards the cost of the Club's affiliation annual charge.

Advice and Technical Instruction
There is a wealth of information on the internet about paddling and learning to paddle.  In particular, take a look at PaddleTV's YouTube channel for a whole host of instructional paddling videos