Paddlesports 2021

Date: 22nd Mar 2023 Author: Scout Websites

This summer the Group had another very successful paddlesport season.

The season started with the group having to review and amend the COVID-19 risk assessment and gain approval for watersports to occur. No pool sessions this year which meant no warm water for learning to capsize and self-rescue skills. The restrictions we were working under meant we had to restrict down those who could paddle this year and could not offer too many taster sessions. We also had to review all our games we played in the kayaks to keep the social distancing.

The group started Wednesday evening training sessions at Tilgate Lake from May, where members had the opportunity to develop their kayaking skills, novices becoming competent paddlers, through to advance paddlers working on their rolling. They all also spent some time developing their open canoe skills.

At the end of May the group took their boats to the Wey and Arun Canal, for a day’s paddle. The older group was sent off on their own under the responsibility of the older Explorer Scouts, whilst the younger paddlers, some who had only been paddling three weeks were under the supervision of one of our experienced paddlesport instructors. This trip gave them a chance to experience the idea of doing trips in canoes/kayaks whilst they developed their straight-line paddling, as they had one direction they could go!

In addition to the Wednesday evening sessions every Explorer Scout and Scout was taken out on the water during their normal meeting nights for a taster session.

All through the summer we were working under our COVID-19 risk assessment where self-rescues, no kit sharing, kit cleansing and other issues were still required. This required us to come up with new ways to pass on the skills to the young people, along with new games. Although we didn’t do much rescue work due to the restrictions we did do some with extra boats rather than sharing kit.

In June, due to unfavourable tides on the local rivers we returned to the Wey and Arun Canal for further development of their river skills. It was amazing to see a different river since the banks had filled out.

The young people also spent time in the open canoes developing skills specific to these boats including an introduction to poling and impromptu sailing.

Amongst the games we came up with, the young people enjoyed sliding down the canoe slide and flying through the air styling as they jumped off the jetty as their favourites.

During July the Scout Association went to green level of COVID restrictions, which meant the restrictions were removed and we could return to offering paddlesports as previously, although with some caution.
The caution over the relaxed restrictions was highlighted when a week before our July river trip a number of the Explorers had to isolate due to one of their leaders contracting the virus and therefore meant the trip had to be postponed.

The Scout and Explorers enjoyed some time at camps at the beginning of August. The Explorers, as part of their expedition to Dartmoor, spent a day paddling on the River Exe south of Exeter.

On return from the camps we had some extra sessions to make as much use of the summer day light and returned to Tilgate Lake for a couple more evenings. This gave us a chance to ensure that everyone was comfortable capsizing and for the young people to enjoy paddling without the restrictions they had spent most of the year under. Our final session at Tilgate we hired some stand up paddleboards from Surrey and Pulborough Scouts to give the young people a chance to have a fun session on the boards. Some did better than others and they all enjoyed the mega board with them all paddling together.

The Explorers were given another new experience when we went out with 3rd/5th Lancing Scout Group on their yacht for an introduction to yachting. The evening was meant to be 3 hour trip but due to the spring tides the predicted low tide was later than planned and was also too low for the yacht to return. Having sailed up to Worthing and returned, we were informed we would not be able to return through the lock gates so got extra time on the yacht as we sailed to Brighton and back, finally returning in the dark. A great night and the explorers are asking when we can go again.
Two more trips were squeezed in before the schools returned. The first trip was for all our young people with a trip on the River Arun from Stopham bridge upstream to one of our Water camp locations. Two of the most experienced Explorer Scouts were appointed group leaders and took the young people on the trip, with the instructors just following to check all was ok. It was interesting that most of the young people chose to stay in their kayaks to eat their lunches before returning back to Stopham.

The following day the more experienced paddlers went to Chichester harbour for a day out on more advance waters. Having left Itchenor harbour they paddled with the outgoing tide to East head for lunch and to wait for the tide to turn. Over our break not only did the tide turn but the forecasted light breeze picked up to a good force 4 head wind. As we set off back it soon showed that this was to be a real struggle for the open canoes as the wind was way overpowering the benefits of the tide. The Explorers paddled through the open water until they came in a little shelter from the banks. Although we were tucked into the bank the wind was still pushing against us, so a swop around with the older Explorers taking the Canoe we paddled back to Itchenor, all be it an hour later than planned.
The postponed trip was rearranged to the beginning of September and saw the group return for their annual trip on the River Medway in Kent. A great river for canoeing with canoe slides at every lock/weir and although being an eight mile paddle the young people enjoyed the river.

The final river trip for the year saw us return to the Wey & Arun canal, but this time further upstream due to a lack of water in the lower sections. This trip was purely a peer led trip and saw the young people split into two groups and paddle off upstream, stopped for lunch before returning back, although they had seemed to join together on the return.

With all the sessions through the summer the group had nearly 400 people sessions on the water including the taster sessions. Plans are already underway for some winter trips for the advanced paddlers and we are looking on the provisions for next year.

The group wishes to thank all paddlesport instructors who gave 70 sessions of instructing/leading and the support team who helped us offer these opportunities to the young people by towing trailers, sterilising kit and supporting those on the water. A special thanks to Explorers Robert Hull and Toby Russell-O’Reilly who stepped up this year and started to offer some instructing.

Let’s hope for another great season in 2022, without the restrictions we have this year.

Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls