We are called "Canoe Section", but this arises through the historical use of the term "Canoe" for any variety of paddled craft, and we happily cater for those paddling open canoes, and many shades of kayak from freestyle playboat to expedition sea kayak. The club is orientated towards the recreational side of paddling, and has no real interest in the competitive side of paddlesport at present. Novices are welcome, but our style has mainly been learn-as-you-go, without formal coaching. This is changing gradually, with some coaching, pool sessions, and lots of introductory paddling since 2013 - we hope to be seeing lots of our newer paddlers on river trips this autumn ! Many of our number are actually qualified coaches, but most members are happy to pass on their experience and many paddlers have come up from raw novice to participation in harder trips just through our existing informal style of introduction.
Canoeing covers a whole range of activity types from high skill and high adrenaline to long distance touring and just relaxed paddling on flat water. There's something for almost everyone. Sea kayaking is a wilderness sport that can take you to remote places for extended periods taking everything you need to survive (like a marine version of backpacking, but without having to carry the weight). There are rivers that can be paddled that way, too, in touring kayaks or open boats, though only a few rivers in the UK are long enough for multiday trips. Whitewater paddling extends from steep and gnarly to relatively relaxed, and for some, the appeal lies in getting the most out of a single site ("park 'n' play") whilst for others the emphasis is on travel down a river. You can get an idea of what we have been up to recently by browsing our section reports in the club newsletter, or using the Previous Sea Trips or Previous River Trips links on the left.
Although we have a trip almost every week in the club's printed programme, both sea and whitewater kayaking are weather-dependent and often the programmed trip is no more than an indicator of the type and difficulty level of the trip we hope to run. Nor do members restrict themselves only to trips listed in the programme - if there's water there will be paddling. In general, though, we won't put something in the programme if it is unlikely to be feasible in the type of weather we'd expect at that season. This means that from September to April the programme is rich in river trips whilst April to August has an emphasis on sea and lakes trips - the latter being suitable for any type of boat. Within each "season" we aim to cater for newcomers with easier trips at the start of the season and harder ones towards the end. With sea kayaking, however, we have three bank-holiday long weekends early in the season and these are usually programmed as three- or four-day sea trips, usually in Scotland, so are probably not for absolute beginners to sea kayaking.
In recent years, most single day trips have been programmed on a Sunday. Saturday trips do run, too, but these are more likely to be trips arranged at shorter notice when it becomes apparent what will be in condition for paddling. Those who are keen to keep their hand in paddling rivers through the summer have to take opportunities as and when they arise, so midweek evening paddles are not uncommon if the heavens open. A few people can manage midweek daytime trips, and easy rivers on a Wednesday have been a feature for the last couple of years. For these and other short notice trips good communications via the mailing list are essential.
In winter (roughly October to Easter), when outdoor water is generally a bit nippy for inserting of heads, we run pool sessions. Owing to limited pool space, these are aimed at improving/experienced kayakers wanting to learn or practice rolling, rather than beginners wanting to learn basic strokes and boat control. These have be in Richmond Pool on a Friday evening, 20:00 to 21:00 for the last couple of winters, and we expect these to restart this autumn, possibly a little earlier (mid-September) with gaps for half term holidays.
Favourite sea paddling destinations include the Farne Islands, St. Abbs, Coquet Island, and various bits of the Yorkshire coast for daytrips, almost anywhere in the west of Scotland for weekends away, and occasional forays to North Wales, Pembroke, Cornwall, Scotland's east coast and both Orkney and Shetland, as well as longer trips further away, such as Arctic Norway (Lofoten), Croatia and Ireland, with individual members or small groups visiting many more far-flung places including New Zealand, Iceland, Alaska, Patagonia, Greenland .... We don't have many regular haunts, often preferring to plan and visit new locations, but for the small numbers of places we do visit often, we are building (a work in progress at present) some pages on Favourite Sea Trips, which also includes some examples of "typical" trips which we have perhaps visited more than once in the last few years.
Our local rivers are obviously the Swale, Tees, Wear and Ure, but we frequently venture onto both North and South Tyne, Allen, Coquet, Greta, various lake district rivers (Keswick Greta, Kent, Lune, Crake, Duddon, Leven and Eden being the most common trips) and often a weekend or two away in Scotland or Wales (occasionally a longer trip, such as a week at Fort William at Easter a couple of times). We've tried to give an indication of where we paddle most often in our Favourite River Trips pages (more being added over time - we're working on some Scotland pages at the moment). We'll paddle lots of other rivers when the conditions are right and outside of programmed trips almost anything is up for grabs. Further afield there have been many trips to the alps (mainly France, Italy, Austria, occasionally Germany), some to Norway and Slovenia, and members have paddled the Ardeche,Tarn, Allier, Dordogne and others of a less serious nature away from the mountains. Yet further afield, we have seen trips in New Zealand, Ecuador, Chile, the USA, India and Uganda.... Some of us (without our boats) found ourselves looking down into the Zambezi gorge from Victoria Falls, thinking "we must come and do this before they build the dam".
You will find lots of information by following the menu item "Information and FAQs" on the left. There are indeed Frequently Asked Question lists for both sea and river paddling in that section of the site, but there's a lot more information besides just the FAQs. The menus don't reach all the pages, and the site is constantly being updated, so do feel free to follow links between pages - there's lots to find. Sometimes things break. We will fix them, but we can only do that if we know about the bugs, so please report any errors (blank pages, broken links, spelling errors, facts out of date and so on) direct to the canoeing-news mail address for Canoe Section pages specifically.
Under Information and FAQs in the menu you'll find categories Whitewater and Inland Touring which covers pretty much all inland paddling, on touring rivers as well as whitewater, and this section also includes Canadian Canoeing on lakes and rivers. Sea Touring and Surf Kayaking covers touring in sea kayaks, both on the sea and inland lakes, but you'll also find information about surf kayaking here.