Adventure: Kayaking, River Dee

“Achieving a goal is nothing. The getting there is everything.”

I’ve been on a quest over the past 18 months to get a grip of my water fear. I’ve done a multitude of things including diving,  surfing, body boarding, SUP, gorge walking and I even purchased myself a sit on sea kayak last Christmas to encourage myself further.

I’ve had countless of amazing experiences which have prompted me to try more water related activities. I’m now at the stage where I feel about a 6 out of 10 (10 being petrified).

So, last weekend there was training towards a 1* kayak award on the River Dee with a company local to me who I’ve done SUP with. I’ve always stayed away from traditional kayaks (sit in) as I feel far too restricted with a spray deck and the fact my legs are wedged into something. I say this like I know what it’s like to sit in one of these kayaks but I don’t! I can imagine. The thought of getting stuck terrifies me.


Rik, Martin and I

Rik certainly wanted to refresh his kayaking skills but didn’t want to go without me (that’s what he said) so without thinking, I said YES (life motto). I was looking forward to it so much I turned up a day early – luckily Chester is not that far from us….

On the right day, we rocked up at Sandy Lane Public car park which has a nice easy launch and we were fitted with our equipment. I’d brought my own buoyancy aid and Gull wet boots (just because I’ve used them many times – it helps me to feel more at ease).

I loved my kayak – slightly higher than the rest – I was informed it was much more ‘floaty’  (good news for me) and it was great for surfing! Thankfully no surfing today though. This part of the River Dee is calm apart from the occasional current from the rowing and sailing boats (which you’ve to keep your eyes peeled for ).


The first thing I noticed about my kayak was it was comfortable. With a padded back rest and foot holds, I felt sturdy. I’ve been put off sit in kayaks because many people have said how easy they are to tip over…

As Martin guided me in to the river, a few butterflies housed my stomach but nothing too distracting. It felt nice to gently bob up and down and I felt like one those seagulls you see relaxing on the sea at dusk.

We were instructed to form a line and paddle up to the sailing club. As Martin, Rik and Malcolm ( a really nice chap who was on his year of adventure) paddled in front. I proceeded to spin in circles – something wasn’t right….

Paddling in this compared to my sit on top kayak is totally different. Sit in kayaks require your right wrist to do most of the work. It’s really hard to explain but your right wrist has to pull back the paddle on one side before it dips in to the water (think of it like twisting a motorbike throttle).

It turns out I wasn’t doing that hence why I was spinning…

Before I got too dizzy Martin decided to show us how to correct ourselves should we veer off course (which I totally did a lot of)! He also demonstrated how to spin  in a full circle (which turns out I was quite good at – luckily). 

I felt a bit frustrated as I wasn’t making much progress moving forward….

Rik took to it like a duck to water (as he does most things) and Malcolm who’d had a few prior lessons with Martin was great considering he said he was worse than me on his first lesson!


I finally managed to get the hang of going forwards – just – when he introduced other techniques like paddling backwards and moving the kayak to the side. I can’t say I was particularly good at any of those but I was so happy to have not cap sized.

Unlike Rik who nearly did (cocky!) 😉 

We had a rest at a jetty but I dare not get out as I wasn’t planning on going swimming now. Rik’s launch off  the jetty was epic (I’m not ready for that yet) so I bobbed around trying to get my head around a few of the earlier techniques.

The overall day with the 3 guys was relaxed, full of banter and I find Martin’s way of instructing easy to follow.  I like small groups and I think 3 or 4 is enough when teaching something so skilled.


Rik is nearly at 1* stage and myself, well I’m under no illusions I’ll need a few more sessions. Getting in and staying a float was my personal 1* and I certainly want more lessons. I don’t think I’ll trade my sit on kayak for a sit in because we’re planning on a few touring sessions next year and they’re great for packing tents and what not.

That said, sit in kayaks lessons  with Martin will help me to develop my overall kayaking skills. I just have to get my first capsize under my belt!


I don’t think I’m completely over my pitfall of comparing my abilities to others yet – I do give myself a hard time. Apparently I think I should be amazing at everything the first time I do it.

I have acknowledged that arrogance and self doubt though which is certainly a big step in my journey!


So yes, the water fear, I’m not completely over it. I have white water rafting and coasteering to try next year and then I’ll conclude.

Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone lately?



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