Messing About in Boats


You might get a buzz from hurtling down the ski slopes or exploring underwater worlds as a SCUBA diver. I know that I do. Yet while these sports bring me closer to nature and help me appreciate the beautiful planet I live on, they are not exactly green. Take into account the equipment, distance to travel to a suitable location and in the case of skiing, the construction and maintenance of necessary infrastructure in otherwise wild places.

I’ve been looking for new ways to enjoy nature without putting so much strain on the planet. While I love hiking, sometimes I’m looking for something more immersive and exciting. Enter kayaking.

I started kayaking in 2006 when I was lucky enough to join a trip to Spitsbergen in the Arctic. Sea kayaking was an absolutely stunning way to explore this environment. You might think it would be cold, but the exercise keeps you warm and there’s no wind chill factor. The beauty is that you can cease paddling at any time and glide silently, so it lets you get up close and personal in a way that you simply can’t in a motorized boat. I was hooked.

Now it clearly wouldn’t be very green if we all had to fly to the Arctic to try kayaking. But the beauty of the sport is that it can be done anywhere there is water, from the ocean and rivers, to harbours and lakes. You can probably do it close to your home – whether that be San Francisco or Manhattan, Sydney, Australia or London, UK.

You might have tried open cockpit kayaking – where you sit on top – on holidays but it’s worth investing the time to learn a proper closed cockpit kayak. You’ll stay warmer and drier for starters but these “proper” kayaks are also faster and easier to maneuver so you will ultimately get more out of the sport this way. You can try river or lake kayaking, sea kayaking in a longer, more stable boat that sometimes has two people paddling, and people even play games such as polo in kayaks.

Kayaking keeps you fit – incidentally it’s more about core strength so pilates and yoga are more helpful in training for yoga than upper body weight lifting. It’s a sport that can be enjoyed equally well if you are single or you have a growing family – especially since many sea kayaks are built for two. It gets you close to nature and helps build eco-consciousness. It’s not motorized, so the only pollution comes with the construction of the kayak itself. Very often an individual kayak will be used by dozens of people and be housed in a club house by the water, minimizing transport hassles.

And when you go on holidays, there are many wonderful places to try out your new kayaking skills, from the seal-filled lochs and isles of Scotland to the sun-drenched aquamarine waters of Greece. Search for kayaking holidays on for more great holiday ideas around the world that won’t cost the earth.

As Ratty said to Mole in Kenneth Graeme’s The Wind in the Willows (you did read that book when you were small, didn’t you?): “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” I quite agree.

Image: zevotron