Don't skip the Intro

Blog | No# 2 | Don’t Skip The Intro

Our water sports season started fairly late for us this year where the first group of young people took to the water during our children’s adventure camp around mid April. 12 young people enjoyed a great day out at Glen Trool canoeing with our experienced instructor Miles. We even captured the day using a drone camera thanks to Kevin from CREO. For some, this was their first introduction to paddle sport and a memorable one.


In late April, we rolled out our first Intro to Kayaking session at Maidens harbour.  Although we pride ourselves in running many years of taster sessions, we believe a clients first session of a new activity should have a clear structure to it. We have a cliché at Adventure Carrick: even through we work with hundreds of clients per year, to our clients we are sometimes their first ever instructor therefore it is our moral and professional duty to captivate and enthuse people to take up an activity for life.

Blessed with a clear, calm day and falling tide, the clients enjoyed learning the basics of kayaking within a half day. The session started at our ACE base in Girvan where our instructor welcomed the group, set goals and expectations for the day and talk about what to wear. Each client was then fitted with wetsuits, flotation aids and sized for boats and paddles. Once we arrived at the venue, we conducted a dynamic risk assessment and looked at the environment around the harbour taking into account tidal flow, water users, wind direction and access.

A safety talk based on the event of a capsize was conducted on dry land and all the clients agreed not to wear deck covers during this session as this is normally introduced during the next session. (less intimidating too!!)

One of the key elements within an ‘intro session’ is to ensure time is spent with the fitting of the boats. After a few adjustments to the footpegs and backrests, the client’s were quickly waterside and keen to learn to launch safely. Kayaking, in comparison to open canoeing, requires more innate balancing skills to prevent the ‘tippy’ nervousness feeling. Kayaking requires a general feel for the boat and effect of the paddle blade. A well fitted boat certainly helps that as each balancing movement is transferred to the boat. By making sure the kayak is fitted, they are also in a better, more powerful position to apply strokes with the paddle, which increases efficiency.

It is crucial that client’s are allowed time to figure things out and experiment within an intro session. Too much input at this stage blocks learning. During this session the instructor set up the learning environment and asked the client’s to explore paddling forwards, backwards and to explore balancing skills by isolating the hips. As they increased in confidence within the shallow waters, the session progressed to consolidate these skills by introducing tasks and games which combined both strokes. New stroke families were introduced to allow client’s to try moving the kayak sideways or spinning on an axis, all of which helped with confidence to steer and control the boats.

At times, group members were split into pairs and asked to watch each other. The instructor also demonstrated each stroke slowly and from different angles which painted the picture for the visual learners in the group. It was only when the client’s were ready, a journey around the harbour was undertaken. As the group dipped in and out of skills it was clearly abundant by spending time on the basics and by allowing time for consolidation of these new skills, the client’s were visibly moving through the stages of learning and starting to choose when and how to apply strokes in the right situations. Michael, was stronger on one side than the other, but he understood that by adding a sweep stroke this would correct the steering effect. To come alongside the pontoon, Jen, knew a draw stroke was the most effective stroke and she tried to apply it.

Along the journey to the mouth of the harbour, the group talked about local ecology, explored the rock pools which were exposed by the falling tide and peered over the harbour wall. In doing so they realised that the harbour was indeed offering protection for the wind and sea state on the other side. As a talking point, the instructor explained that to paddle in such conditions, it’s about having the right skills but also the knowledge of how and when to apply them. That’s where more experience comes into play…the groups were really up for more of the same.

This is the power of the Intro session. It’s about getting off to a good start. At a pace that’s right for you. In an environment that’s friendly. Safe and not intimidating. It can be an adventure but need not be an epic one.

Don’t skip the intro…

Check out our intro to kayaking sessions at