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Taking to the river to have a go at kayaking

By Lauren.Archell  |  Posted: October 21, 2012

Richard Harpham (left) and Steve Lowe

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In the latest in his series on sport for the over 60s, Steve Lowe gets in the water to experience kayaking.

In the words of Rat in Wind in the Willows there is apparently NOTHING, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

I tried to bear this in mind as I set off on a rainy evening last week into my latest venture into sport for the over 60s – Kayaking.

Now like many others I was delighted by the achievement of local boy Etienne Stott in winning his Gold Medal in Kayaking for Team GB this summer but taking up the oars myself was a totally different matter.

So it was with my heart in my mouth and my stomach doing cartwheels that I approached the river and my instructor for the session Richard Harpham.

Richard is a highly experienced sportsman and director of Inspired Life, which runs community programmes and activities for young people and communities.

He is also the joint expedition leader of the Big 5 Kayak Challenge, leading kayaking expeditions across the English Channel, the Straits of Gibraltar and even recently up the Hudson River to Manhattan.

I therefore was somewhat reassured that I would be in good hands.

Richard picked out a two-man vessel which he assured me was pretty stable on the open sea so we should be reasonably confident of staying upright on the River Great Ouse.

The first challenge was just carrying it to the river’s edge. These things are not as lightweight as they look and I had a healthy dose of exercise before I even reached the water. Climbing in gently at the front of our twoman kayak, I asked where we were going. ‘To the weir and the slalom’, was the cry. I nearly did.

We headed upstream quietly, as though to catch the slalom giant sleeping.

During this time Richard coached me on how to hold the paddle, at where to put it into the water and how to use it to turn left, right or stop.

In the sporting lessons I have taken so far, how to stop has been quite important.

Suddenly the water turned a little angry and we were at the slalom course.

We negotiated some of the gates, missed some and nearly got dragged into some very white water.

It was hard work, a bit scary at times but hugely enjoyable.

“You may be surprised to know that kayaking is Britain’s most popular watersport with over 1.3 million people getting in a canoe or kayak each year,” said Richard.

“There are 15 different disciplines in the one sport with something for everyone, for all ages from Olympic racing through to kayak surfing and sea kayaking and of course more recreation and touring by canoe and seeing Bedfordshire's rural scenes and wildlife by canoe or kayak is simply breathtaking.”

Once over, gently canoeing back to the boathouse was incredibly relaxing and I found myself imagining me and the present Mrs Lowe meandering down the river on a lazy Sunday afternoon, with mobile phone switched off.

This is definitely a sport to which I will return.


 Steve’s sporting sessions are organised by Get Back Into.

The project is run mainly by team BEDS&LUTON (County Sports Partnership) to help people 16 and over to get back into or take up a new sport.

For more information about introductory courses in a choice of activities visit www.getbackinto.co.uk

Read more from Luton on Sunday

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