64th Birkenhead Sea Scouts

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Types of Kayak

There are three main types of Kayak canoe:

General purpose Kayak Will hold a straight course easily and have larger, more roomy cockpits. The boats are longer and have a more rounded hull.
White Water Kayak Designed for use on rough water: short in length, with a flat, often planing hull; although tend to be slow in a straight line. The cockpits are fitted with back straps and thigh grips to prevent movement of the paddler.
Sea/ Touring Kayak These are long, narrow boats, designed to hold a straight line. They have a curved keel to help ride over waves and are often fitted with external luggage straps.

Kayaks can be made out of wood, canvas, fibreglass, carbon fibre and Kevlar: or more commonly, plastic; each type having its own merits and drawbacks.


The paddle

The paddle is what propels you through the water as well as providing steering and stabilisation. Second to the boat itself, it is the most important piece of gear you need.

Paddles are available in a wide variety of materials (and prices) which determine it's strength, weight and durability. The most common paddles seen around water sports centres have metal alloy shafts and plastic blades and are the least expensive. Fiberglass is common for midweight, midprice paddles; paddles made from composites are the lightest and most expensive although these latter designs are not as durable.

Also available are bent paddles which put less strain on the wrists although these are more expensive again.




A feathered paddle has blades rotated at an angle (90o or 45o) on the axis of the shaft.

An unfeathered paddle has its blades on the same plane.


Unfeathered paddles require less wrist and forearm motion and are less likely to cause repetative type strain injuries. Feathered paddles offer less resistance in a head wind. No single paddle will cover all conditions but 'split' (two-piece) paddles are available which can be adjusted to either position.


Symmetrical A paddle for general purpose use. The choice for beginners.
Asymmetric Enters the water more cleanly when forward paddling, improving paddling efficiency.
Wing Pronounced scoop on the blade which provides more power. Normally used by racers.
Dihedral Stabilizes the blade by encouraging the water to flow off both halves of the blade face evenly.


Paddle strokes

Below is a list of some of the more common paddle strokes required for the BCU 1 - 3 star tests. It only indicates what they are used for not how to actually achieve them; I will leave this part to you (hint: involves lots of practice).

Forward Paddling moves the boat forwards in a straight line. normal forward paddling/ touring stroke.
Back paddling moves the boat backwards in a straight line or to stop the boat.
Forward Sweep used to effectivelly turn the boats bow through 180o.
Reverse Sweep as above but a more powerful stroke
Draw Stroke used to move the boat sideways
Skulling Draw used to move the boat sideways, more useful in a confined space.
Stern Rudder used to keep the boat pointing in a straight line by trailing the paddle astern.
Bow Rudder a versatile stroke which allows various manoeuvres to be carried out, especially on white water.
Low Brace a support stroke to prevent a capsize
High Brace a support stroke to keep you upright. More powerful than a low brace.
Low Brace Turn used for turning on the move whilst offering some support.


Basic rescues

All rescues basically involve getting most of the water out of the capsized canoe and getting back in it again. This can be a self rescue or an assited rescue with the help of a single paddler or a group effort.

The rescues described here are the X, T and H, all of which are assisted rescues.


X - Rescue


T - Rescue


H - Rescue


Equipment and clothing

Fixed Buoyancy /Bags - these should be fitted to all boats, especially training boats where a capsize is inevitable, and under Scout Association rules, any craft venturing on to tidal waters. Buoyancy bags or closed cell foam should be fitted in such a way that when fully swamped the boat will remain at the surface in a horizontal position.

Spray Deck - these are essential when paddling on tidal or white water. They are not usually worn until the individual has demonstrated a safe wet exit. You should make sure that it actually fits your boat. The better ones are neoprene which stays taut and sheds water easily. Other materials include Nylon and reinforced fibre.

Buoyancy Aid - should be worn at all times. will keep you aflot in the event of capsize and allows for a normal swimming action. The ammount of buoyancy provided (given in Newtons 'N') depends on the size/ weight of the individual. A handy attachment to have for Kayakers is a cow-tail for towing another canoeist.

Water Proof Cag - waterproof jacket with neoprene/ elasticated neck, cuffs and waist. Allows freedom of movement and protects from the wind.

Wetsuit - ideally sleeveless, only really needed in colder conditions or if you expect to fall in. Will keep you warm and buoyant if completely soacked.

If it is much colder you can wear extra layers on top or a thermal base layer underneath.

Footwear - ideally wetsuit booties (if wearing a wetsuit) or water-sports shoes. Technical sandals and trainers are also suitable. Ensure that laces are kept short or tucked away so they don't get caught on the footrests.

Helmets - these are not a legal requirement but should be used when the conditions deem them necessary (e.g. white water).

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