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Swaledale Outdoor Club’s canoeing section provides a range of opportunities for those interested in water-based activities – open canoeing, river kayaking and sea kayaking are the main areas, although we do have paddle boarders accompany us on some trips. We share experience rather than coach, with participants keeping an eye on each other.

The rivers we kayak are mainly in the North of England, with the Lake District, Durham and Yorkshire rivers being the most popular. Weekend visits also take place to rivers in Scotland and Wales. Occasional trips abroad are arranged, although most of our trips take place within a return day’s drive of Richmond, North Yorkshire, where the club is based. The grade of rivers paddled include the occasional grade 4, however most trips are grade 2 or 3, meaning that most paddles are within the ability of paddlers who have moving water experience such as the ability to break in and out of eddies, perform ferry glides, run small to medium rapids/weirs, be able to do support strokes and of course exit your capsized canoe safely. You don’t have to be experts on white water.

canoeing boats on the beach
Canoeing in Swaledale

Sea kayaking is popular in the section and day trips take place along the Northumberland and Yorkshire coasts, where we are spoiled for choice and beauty, some trips also visit the Cumbria west coast. Sea kayak expeditions further away involve regular visits to Scotland, mostly on the west coast islands, with these trips involving multi day camps in areas where the sea kayaking is world class. Occasional expeditions also take place on the Welsh coast and Ireland. Further afield, Norway and Sweden have been visited with some members even going as far as Alaska and Greenland. Before sea kayaking you need to have experience of paddling moving water and have the essential paddling skills and equipment mentioned.

Open canoes very often accompany the kayakers down river and when the rivers are low, we will often head to the Lake District to take a gentle paddle on a lake, admire the scenery and when the wind blows, try some canoe sailing.

Paddlers are expected to provide their own individual safety equipment and essential canoe clothing. Buoyancy aid, helmets, spray decks, 1st aid, a whistle, wetsuit or dry suit, waterproof cags, under clothing and footwear are essential. Any group safety equipment needed is sorted out by the group members prior to starting. The club has some canoes and equipment to borrow but these are limited in supply and really for beginners to try on calmer rivers and lakes.

Swimming pool sessions take place at a local pool each Autumn and Winter, new members should attend these to practice skills essential to safety such as capsize exits and rescues and paddle support strokes. Many members attend to improve existing skills such as rolling and other paddle techniques before going on river and sea trips.

We currently tend to paddle on Wednesdays and Sundays, with weekend or weeklong trips regularly planned.

Communications take place through the canoeists mailing list and members can say what trips they would like to have on when the quarterly programme is being planned.

Canoeing in Swaledale