As a kid I was fortunate enough to be part of a number of paddling trips that became stand-out experiences of my youth and I realise how they instilled a passion for kayaking and the outdoors that is still burning bright today.
That cold trip to Scotland when I was fourteen, dragging my kayak up a steep valley slide to slide down some steep mank that seemed like I was falling off the edge of the world. Or one of many Alps trips experiencing the hot weather and the icy water of exciting French classics. These are the things that have stuck with me, and I think more than ever, it’s time to ensure the next generation gets to experience this for themselves.
This is where the Cardiff Kids Academy is cementing itself as THE place to send your young paddlers to get really good at kayaking, but also gain some invaluable life skills and experiences. With two successful Scotland week trips in the books and a spring Italy trip and plans for Nepal underway, the future opportunities for young shredders is looking bright.
Planning these trips has been awesome, thinking of all the places I would’ve wanted to go as a young paddler and making them happen has been a pretty dreamy part of my job! I even managed to sneak off to join in on our first Scotland trip in October ….
Experience the good, but also the bad!
Kayaking is hopefully full of positives, it’s why we do it right? But naturally there are also the hard ships that come with the sport. Whether it’s a gnarly hike in to reach that awesome river, a rough swim that’s knocked your confidence, a portage that’s physically demanding, or a long, cold day on the river. It’s important that youngsters experience these hardships and ultimately see that proper kayaking is hard work, but it’s so worth it. The kids on the trip experienced all of this and more, and came out the other end with stories to tell. There is no better feeling than all the negatives being washed away as you take those first few strokes on a river.
Back to basics
Wild camping, what a way to really experience nature and appreciate it. It’s an element we really want to put in our trips, a full adventure experience. The most important lessons we want to pass on is how to wild camp responsibly and safely. Safe cooking, fire lighting and hygiene are the main points to get across, whilst instilling that leave no trace mentality that is vital for the environment. The first and second nights were slightly shaky for the kids, but they soon got stuck in collecting firewood and getting camp set up every evening and helping with meal prep. Evenings spent telling tales of the day staring into a blazing fire with no phone signal is exactly what the next generation needs!
Teamwork makes dream work
Kids come in all shapes, sizes and physical abilities and having a safe and fun day on the river, is often a team effort. We encourage the kids to scout their own lines and set their own safety (all with guidance). On the first Scotland trip, we had some big senders that were physically small and struggling to navigate around portages, so it was awesome to see everyone chip in and help each other in those tougher moments. By the end of the week, they were all pretty good at doing the dishes as a team, I’m sure their parents appreciated that!
Stepping out of the comfort zone
The kayaking, it’s why we put the trips on right? Pushing boundaries for youngsters in kayaking is tough, often it’s hard to find the right environment, and someone willing to take responsibility for them. We’re proud to give youngsters the opportunity to well … scare themselves a little bit! We allow them to do this in a calculated and safe way with expert guidance and coaching, because it’s vital for their progression. That first Scotland trip I saw everyone step it up a notch and leave a better, more experienced paddler.
I couldn’t be more stoked to be organising and running these trips, and from what I’ve seen and from what’s to come, the future of paddling is looking good! A big thank you to Palm Equipment and Dagger Kayaks who have supported the Kids Academy since its beginning! If you’ve got a young paddler looking for an opportunity to thrive in the world of kayaking, check out our Kids Academy Facebook page, or get in touch with Cardiff International White Water.