So now you’ve got your level 2- What’s the next step?
“How many more levels are there?“
There are 5 levels in GP (Whitewater kayaking).
This is the basic flat water award.
The Lv. 3 is given when you possess the skills and experience to navigate grade 2 rivers competently and without assistance. Typically most club trips are run on this standard of river and they are completely open to anyone with a Lv. 2. Over the course of the year following the Lv. 2, you can gain the skills and experiences needed on our fortnightly river trips.
We also typically run a Lv. 3 course sometime early in the New Year and many people will be ready for the Lv. 3 assessment before the start of the following summer – i.e. less than a year after taking up kayaking!
That said, it’s important to put in time on the water before progressing up the levels. If you want to take your time and just enjoy kayaking while you firm up your skills then that’s fine too. It’s up to the individual how quickly they move up the levels or not.
The Lv. 4 is for grade 3 water – the club also facilitates people in reaching this level by running training courses and trips just for Lv. 3 paddlers when the water levels suit.
The Lv. 5 is the highest personal proficiency award you can get – training and assessments are rarely run in Ireland due to difficulty in getting appropriately difficult rivers at a good level consistently for a few days running – but many WWKC members have traveled abroad for the Lv. 5.
All levels above the Lv. 2 require you to take a River Safety and Rescue (RSR) course of an appropriate level before you can sit the assessment – but we run these too!
“Are there any other courses I can do?“
Yes, and there are 3 different types of courses that we highly recommend! The club runs these courses annually.
The club regularly run Rescue Emergency Care (REC) first aid courses. These courses are delivered by paddlers and tailored for kayaking – but remain relevant for the real world as well!
The course we usually offer is the REC 3, this is an intensive full weekend course which gives a very solid footing in basic first aid. There are levels above and below this which may be offered if there is interest.
As with any water-based or outdoor sport, safety is key. To that effect, we run many different safety courses.
River Safety and Rescue (RSR)
These are the Canoeing Ireland designed safety courses. There are 3 levels – RSR 1, 2 & 3.
RSR 1 is aimed at aspiring lv. 3 paddlers, RSR 2 at aspiring lv. 4 paddlers and the RSR 3 for those running advanced white water. They are compulsory for those wishing to get their personal proficiencies and highly recommended for anyone else going kayaking.
We aim to host them regularly – RSR 1s after the conclusion of the Lv. 2 courses to provide a solid safety basis for those going on river trips and RSR 2s in late spring to give our many new Lv. 3s the knowledge they need to push on and as a refresher before any summer alps trips! RSR 3s are advanced courses and can be run if there is demand!
They provide a strong emphasis on safety – how to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place – but also give you the skills to deal with any incidents that do occur. It’s a must before considering going peer paddling.
Club Safety Day
The RSR is an intensive course – we cover a lot and it’s hard to take it all in.
So to act as a refresher and to ensure that all or rescue skills are sharp – we host an annual Club Safety Day – the idea is practice makes perfect and we aim to have lots of practice in a fun day out for all levels within the club.
All the instructors and leaders started off with their lv. 2s too – we are always looking for people to join their ranks and encourage people to do the instructor courses and assessment.
For each instructor level, you need to be one lv. higher on your personal proficiency (e.g. a lv. 2 instructor must have a Lv. 3 proficiency, a lv. 3 instructor must have a lv. 4 proficiency and so on…).
It involves a weekend course followed by a period of “logging hours” – basically assisting a qualified instructor who will give you advise and sign of a logbook, once enough hours assisting have been logged (and a few other requirements met e.g. a child protection course and holding a valid first aid cert) you can sit an assessment.
Being an instructor is rewarding and great fun so if you want to give something back to the sport this is a great way to do it!
Leaders Weekend Away
Being a club leader is a big responsibility – they give up their own time to bring out club trips every other weekend and we ask them to maintain quite high standards of safety and rescue skills and also personal paddling skills.
To recognise that, we organise a separate weekend away for the club leaders.
Experienced kayakers external to the club are brought in to run a number of sessions for the leaders which ensure that they all remain at the standard required while the leaders get a good social weekend away as a reward for all their hard work.
“How about just going Kayaking?“
Plenty of people don’t want to do levels and courses! That’s fine. Just sign up for our fortnightly trips!
Keep an eye on our club trips forum where trips are posted during the week and sign up happens.
“What equipment does the club provide?“
The club provides things such as decks, paddles, boats, buoyancy aids and helmets so there’s no need to worry about things like them.
As you progress you may want to buy them, but wait until you get some experience and decide exactly what you want based on that experience rather than spend money and later realise it doesn’t do what you require.
“What equipment do I need?“
Kayaking is fun, however, it’s less so when you’re cold and wet, and unfortunately, Irish rivers are always wet and often cold.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t go paddling, instead, we wrap up properly with appropriate clothing and warm gear.
These should be the first bits of equipment you’re looking to get, and here’s a guide as to what you need and don’t need!
Basic must have kit
[indent][/indent]A Wetsuit is perhaps the single most important piece of gear for a beginner. They will keep you warm on the water on the coldest of days! They are particularly good if there’s a chance of swimming as they stay warm even when wet.
When buying a wetsuit make sure its a Long John Type, i.e. one with no sleeves, as sleeves can restrict your movement when Kayaking.
A Cag is a waterproof top which keeps the water off you.
They come in 3 different types, Splash, Semi-dry and Dry.
A Splash cag is great for keeping splashes of water off you, but it won’t keep water out if you swim.
A Dry-Cag is similar but has seals at the neck and wrists to prevent water from getting in, even in the case of a swim or capsize. The downside to this is that they are very expensive.
A Semi-dry comes somewhere in between as it’s dearer than a Splash cag but still won’t keep you dry, making them perhaps the greatest waste of money in kayaking!
For beginners, a Splash cag is often fine unless you have the cash to burn, in which case go the full distance and get a proper dry cag. The only reason to get a semi-dry is if you are allergic to the latex which the seals are made off.
To protect your feet! Make sure to get something with a good solid sole. Anyone who has a set will tell you how much they value them! They make getting on and off the river so much more comfortable and protect your feet from all the nasty things that can be found on riverbanks. As a pleasant side effect they also keep your feet warm. You may see the hard-core creeker-types with big chunky shoes but all a beginner needs is the most basic type. A cheap pair of runners will do the job, but a bit better to get Neoprene ones or proper water shoes as they will hold together better when wet.
Even with a wetsuit and cag it’s still nice to have a few more layers of thermals.
The best job for these are Penney’s Fleeces.
They are cheap and warm.
Just make sure that whatever you wear on the river is not cotton or jeans as these absorb water and make you cold.
You can lose a lot of heat through your head, therefore it’s a good idea to get some type of cap for keeping it warm (to be worn under your helmet of course).
A simple swimming hat can do the job very well if you want to you can also get warmer ones from paddling shops
Unlike the Gear above the club does provide decks for your use so it’s not necessary to buy one.
However, if you stay at paddling a while they can prove themselves to be very useful.
The club decks are made of nylon, but if you do decide to buy one yourself, go for a neoprene one as, unlike the nylon ones they won’t let any water into your boat. (as long as they are the right size that is).
Any good kayaking retailer will help you get a deck that fits.
Roof rack & kayak roof straps
One of the first things you should purchase after you complete your beginners’ course is a roof rack. Everyone should be able to help out with the shuttling of boats to and from the river. The straps are inexpensive and can be purchased from Great Outdoors or I-Canoe.
That’s all the gear you’ll need for going paddling. All the above can be purchased from Great Outdoors and i-Canoe, both of whom give a discount for ICU members so don’t forget to mention that when buying anything.
“What about the competitive side of things?”
The club also competes across a variety of disciplines and they’d be delighted to see you come along!
Polo – www.wwkc.net/canoe-polo/
Marathon – www.wwkc.net/marathon/
Slalom – www.wwkc.net/slalom/
Wild Water Racing – www.wwkc.net/wildwater-racing