The winter 2019-2020 Pool Sessions had to be abandoned owing to the lockdown, and we didn't get far in 2020-2021 with only a very few sessions before we were shut down again. If restrictions are eased by September, we may be able to start again for the forthcoming winter. We're quite optimistic that, at least after New Year 2022, we'll be back in business.
We've been allowed to bring our own boats (it's always an advantage to practise in a boat that fits well). However, remember that all kit must be clean (boats washed out - best with airbags removed to get all those tucked-away leaves out, and get the last out with a sponge rather than the drain hole, which can leave debris to float out later). If you hire a club boat, you should either pick it up and replace it in the clubhouse yourself (and ensure that it is clean if it was last used on a river), or make sure someone else is prepared to do so for you (giving them plenty of notice). If you borrow someone's personal boat, and need to adjust it to fit, it's a matter of basic courtesy to put the footrests (or anything else you move) back exactly where you found them at the end of the session - the owner will no doubt have got the fit right a long time ago and will not remember which hole/notch was the right one - you only have to remember for an hour ;-) The pool also has a few boats for hire, but can't get them out at zero notice on the night with minimal staff, so make sure they know in good time.
With its former reluctance to allow anything that might be construed as coaching, the club has a mixed history of pool sessions, using different venues as authorities' attitude to boats in the pool varied and available times were (or were not) convenient for members. We try to avoid pool sessions clashing with actual river or sea trips so weekends are generally avoided. We know Friday nights clash with weekends away in Scotland or Wales, but uptake seems to have been better if people are not needing to be up early for work or school the morning after... At various times we've used the Dolphin Centre, Richmond pool, Barnard Castle pool and Wolsingham's small pool. They've always been informal, non-coached sessions in the past, although a lot of skills transfer seems to have taken place and whilst we can't offer formal instruction, we can give plenty of good advice ! The club owed its possession of a double sea kayak to money made on pool sessions many years ago, but we went through a bit of a lean period where sessions often made a loss. We introduced "discount for pre-booking with payment up front" scheme in the 2017-18 season and this seems to have been a "good thing" with better attendances, more of a social gathering and a number of new members attracted.
We've been using the Richmond pool for several years now, with some sessions very well attended, just a few when the pool feels very uncrowded. We normally start in October when the white water season is starting up and people want to be confident of their roll, ending as warmer weather and longer evening daylight arrive in the spring. Pre-paid users get first choice, then from midweek it is first come first served. Non-pre-paid users pay a slight premium to reflect their greater flexibility. This idea produced a great deal of enthusiasm and this set of sessions were very well attended. When we get a lot of pre-bookings, pressure for places can increase, so don't leave it to the end of the season to use your bookings, as there is a fixed limit on numbers on any one Friday and once the session is full, even pre-booked paddlers will not get a place. At only five pounds a time pre-paid and six for pay-on-the-night, it's an absolute bargain and will help to keep the club's equipment pool up to date. There's no problem bringing cameras or videos to these sessions, so you can debug your roll at leisure after or even during the session and hopefully fix the faults next time !
Helmets and buoyancy aids are optional - some people find it easier to learn rolling with the greater freedom of movement occasioned by being without these, whilst others like to make their practice as realistic as possible (apart from the water temperature). Goggles are certainly useful early in learning, and also if your eyes really don't like chlorine. Nose clips are always a good idea if you are spending a lot of time upside down. We do allow open boats and sea kayaks as well as smaller boats (it's as important for new sea kayakers to have practiced being rescued as it is for our more experienced ones to have practiced rescuing), but please ask the coordinator in advance as there really isn't room for everyone to bring a big boat to the same session.
The sessions were originally intended for cold-weather practice in rolling and not really for absolute beginners, but we do want to encourage new paddlers, and as long as a bit of care is exercised, we've found that learning paddlers can avoid collisions with other boats, and, more importantly, with people standing in the pool helping learners. As an alternative for learning to paddle, Richmond pool's own sessions at school holiday times are also useful and good value. We currently share quite a few members with Hambleton club, which is more orientated to coaching as paddlers progress - there are plenty of reasons to be members of both clubs with their rather different emphases.