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Frequently asked questions - General sea kayaking questions

Here is a list of questions that we are often asked about kayaking. Click the question below to go to our answer. 

For questions about Seafreedom trips and courses, please go to About Seafreedom


Questions

What if I capsize and get stuck in the kayak?

Do I have to be a strong swimmer?

Will I be made to capsize?

Should I wear a drysuit or wetsuit?

What does kayaking cost?

How should I start?

How long does it take to learn?

How long before I can go sea kayaking on my own?

Should I buy my own kayak?

Can I get BCU qualifications?

What about the kids?


Answers

What if I capsize and get stuck in the kayak?

You won't! This occasionally used to be a problem with older style kayaks with small cockpits and vertical buoyancy blocks situated between the legs. Most modern sea kayaks have spacious cockpits specially designed to allow safe entry and exit. For beginners we use low tension spraydecks that will  release as you get out. Providing you follow our simple guidelines you need have no fear of getting stuck (no one ever has on our trips) and even if you did, we would be there to help you.

Do I have to be a strong swimmer?

No. Even if you do capsize, you will have a buoyancy aid to keep you afloat, and we will teach you the "speed rescue" which should have you back in your kayak in under 2 minutes, even if you capsize in rough water out at sea. Even non-swimmers can be catered for, though we would need to make special preparations.

Will I be made to capsize?

Absolutely not! The way we teach rescues is by getting out ourselves and teaching you to rescue us! (Don't worry, we can get back in ourselves if we need to!) Having said that, we encourage people to try it so that they can find out that it isn't a problem. It's better to practice in controlled conditions with experts on hand, so that you will be confident if it happens when you aren't expecting it. We find that people's confidence often improves after an accidental capsize - the worst that they imagined has happened...and they are fine!

Should I wear a drysuit or wetsuit?

If you have a dry suit or sleeveless wetsuit, by all means bring it along but be aware that wet suits are hard work to paddle in. Long sleeved wetsuits are difficult to use in a kayak and not recommended except when we are practicing rescues. Diving drysuits tend to be a bit bulky for a kayak, but sailing (and of course kayaking) drysuits are usually fine.

What does kayaking cost?

The costs separate out into tuition, equipment and transport. Once you are on the water, the cost is zero!

Tuition:

Of course everyone is a little bit different, but most people who take it up need about 4 to 5 days tuition to reach a standard that would make it safe for them to paddle in coastal waters with other competent paddlers (you shouldn't be out there on your own). so the tuition cost with Seafreedom would be between £240 and £600 depending on how fast you pick it up and whether you learn with a group or by 1:1 tuition. Have a look at "How long does it take to learn" below.

Equipment:

A new plastic sea kayak will set you back about £1000. Hybrid kayaks, fine for short sea trips, lakes and estuaries, can be as little as £550. If you are lucky, you might be able to get a kayak second hand. A reasonable set of clothing, paddles and safety equipment will add another £300, though if you shop around or buy second hand you can save some of that. The equipment lasts a long time. I have just sold the composite sea kayak that I bought in 1972! The kayak that I use daily myself is 16 years old and I doubt if I'll need to buy another during this lifetime.

Transport

You will need a roof rack and kayak bars to safely carry your kayak to the water. Very posh ones can set you back over £300 but a basic set of bars and uprights can cost as little as £60

So compared to most other water sports like diving, windsurfing and of course sailing and jet skiing, a kayak represents excellent value.

How should I start?

Either book a couple of days kayaking with Seafreedom kayak or find a local club to get you started. Many clubs run pool sessions in the winter where you can learn the basics in nice warm water. Click this link to the BCU website club lists. This link for the SCA club list. Then you can come and do some more advanced stuff with us!

How long does it take to learn?

This is the "how long is a piece of string question"! As mentioned above, everyone is a bit different. Most people who take it up need 4 to 5 days tuition to reach a stage 2.5 (on our skill level page) that would make it safe for them to do trips in coastal waters (simple tides and winds not more than force 3) with other competent paddlers including a competent leader.

After 10 or 20 days and maybe some time in a swimming pool to work on rolling, you could expect to be at stage 3 and/or have a BCU 3 star certificate. Force 4 should be fun now. And so on....

How long before I can go sea kayaking on my own?

OK, now hold on there...Let's get this straight, sea kayaking is a team sport! Yes, people do go solo sea kayaking. We do sometimes. But it is MUCH more dangerous than kayaking with a group of other competent paddlers. Not recommended at all. You shouldn't even think of doing it unless you are at at least stage 4 and/or BCU 4 star. Even then, you should make sure that someone knows where you are, have flares, waterproof phone and/or VHF and be extremely careful to paddle in conditions that are well within your ability. 

Should I buy my own kayak?

Not right away. Kayaks vary quite a bit and you will benefit from trying several types before you take the plunge and spend your money. When you have some experience, your choice will be influenced by the type of kayaking that you want to do, handling, comfort, features, quality and price.

Can I get BCU qualifications?

Yes. In fact we strongly recommend that you do. We can train you and test up to BCU 3Star level. Official BCU 4Star tests can be arranged given a month or so's notice. We have had a lot of success coaching candidates for BCU 4 and 5 star tests in the lead up to their assessment. If you do the tests, you will have to demonstrate capsize drills and rescues. Click this for more information about star tests.

What equipment does Seafreedom supply and what do I need to bring?

Seafreedom provide the kayak, paddle, spraydeck, buoyancy aid (PFD), wet suit boots and a waterproof paddling jacket and a waterproof bag for your spare gear.

You will need to bring:

q       Thermal top, a thin (100) and a medium (200 or 300) fleece. Fleece or polyester trousers. Track suit trousers are fine. Cotton is better avoided and Denim is absolutely not OK. We will explain why during the session.

q       If you have a dry suit or sleeveless wetsuit, by all means bring it along but be aware that wet suits are hard work to paddle in.

q       A hat. A warm one in winter and a peaked or brimmed one in summer. Waterproof if possible.

q       Sun cream.

q       A nice big towel, and dry clothing for afterwards.

q       Lunch and liquid. A hot drink will be provided.

q       If you wear glasses you will need to fasten them on.

What about the kids?

Children of 12 and over take to kayaking well, though understandably they aren't usually keen to go for long tours. It is risky to generalize, but children under 12 seem to prefer shorter "fun" trips in general purpose kayaks that they can turn easily. Alternately, to get the family going on the water until they are big enough to paddle a kayak on their own, try open canoeing. Contact us and we will recommend open canoe instructors in the area.

Family kayaking.jpg (80547 bytes)

 

Where are we going?  

It depends….on the weather, the tides and what you would like to do.

We often use the area north of Seil Island , Seil Sound, the Lin of Lorn and the Northern end of Lismore. For more experienced paddlers there is an almost limitless choice of venues and trips from the sheltered waters of Loch Sween to the wild Garvellachs and the tide races of the sound of Luing and Scarba. When the weather is un-cooperative we use Loch Etive or Loch Awe which is a fresh water loch. It feels like sea kayaking but is safer as it is not tidal and has mainland in every direction!

If you would like any further information, please don't hesitate to contact us. You can also look at the BCU and SCA websites www.bcu.org.uk and www.canoescotland.com

There is an excellent site called Kayarchy which has tons of useful information about kayaking - well worth a visit

More useful links, including equipment suppliers and other outdoor resources, click here

Happy paddling