Some of this advice might seem fairly obvious, it’s really just a list of reminders. It’s easy to forget about these things until its too late. Brits have a bit of a reputation in some countries for being kings of carnage … it’s better to avoid those stories being about you and your friends. As they say in the army, proper preparation prevents poor performance!

Get kitted up

  • I always seem to realise when I am packing for a trip that I am missing a vital piece of kit. Check now that you have the right stuff!
  • Don’t forget that shoes, buoyancy aids, dry gear and helmets can all save your life – it is likely not to be worth skimping if you’re going to be pushing yourself. Slipping in on that portage, falling into the water with your old no-float PFD, getting rinsed, hypothermic and banging your head, could all have been prevented! Get the Palm brochure out and make yourself a cup of tea.
  • Make sure you have enough throwbags, karabineers and slings to do safety, and re-stock your first aid kit (it’s probably gone mouldy since you last looked in there).


Get fit

You probably have around three months or less until your trip – you need to get started with your fitness program!

  • Get down to the gym – you will need to be fit to do those walk-ins, or the longer, more continuous rivers that you find in other countries. We tend to think that gyms or jogging are not for us outdoorsy types, but fatigue is a killer of good technique – if you can get your endurance fitness up you will find that you have less of those hairy moments at the end of the day when you’re tired.
  • Get to the lake – practice your edging (holding the boat on edge, either when you’re still, or when you are moving will build up muscles), drill good technique – sweep strokes, recovery strokes and rolls. Getting over that rusty feeling will come in handy and give you bags of confidence when you arrive at your destination. Forcing yourself to do equal sets of basic strokes with good quality on your ‘off-side’ can be a good warm up and surprisingly challenging, slalomist often use this basic stroke progression as a warm-up.
  • Get on the river too – there is nothing worse than turning up to a fast flowing, pushy river on a trip, and realising that you haven’t been in a boat on moving water for five months. If there is no water, get down to Lee Valley/Holme Pierrepont/Tryweryn.
  • Don’t just float down the river –  catch some eddies, practise some boofs. Dust off those cobwebs.

Get safe

  • Get out in the garden throwing your throwbag around.
  • Practice setting up your Z-drag in the living room.
  • Get your friends involved with some rescue practice. After all, it’s them you may rely on later.
  • If you are still feeling a bit rusty, get yourself of a safety and rescue course.


Do your homework

  • Are you going on an organised trip with your club? That doesn’t mean that you can sit on your laurels. To be a useful member of the group, and to be as safe as possible, it is always a good idea to take some responsibility for knowing which rivers which would be suitable for you and your experience and skill, and what the water level should look like!
  • Do some research about the river systems around your destination, buy a guidebook, buy a map, check the forums, and ask friends who have been there. Sometimes friends (or UKRGB) might know some gems that aren’t in the guidebook. Check if anything is unavailable or expensive locally that you might need! – Google maps allows you to create and share maps of where you’re going.


  • In order to avoid disappointment its also worth having a low or high water-level plan B! Forget to do all this beforehand, and then its too late unless you want a huge internet roaming bill.
  • When you get there, ask the local kayakers. I can’t emphasise this enough. Not only will you make some new friends, but they will know what the water levels are like. Accidents can often be avoided with a bit of local information about which rivers are so flooded that they should be avoided.


Win the party! Its all part of the holiday experience – hope to see you there – Paula


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