A day spent learning a new skill is mindful and mind full (in a good way) living. This month, Kate Pettifer learns sea kayaking.
A pond off the A10 is where I learnt to canoe. It involved a minibus and changing out of school uniform, so it was a while ago. The idea of getting out to sea on a kayak, in Dorset’s beautiful Studland Bay, is all the temptation I need to try it again.
I’m on a three-hour taster session: we kit up at the hut, then it’s down to the beach to practise our paddling, sitting on the sand, wearing wetsuits, helmets and spraydeck skirts. As you do. Josh, our instructor, runs through the basics. In touring kayaks, we head across the bay towards Old Harry Rocks to practise going forwards, backwards, left and right. No swimmers are harmed, no boats bashed – I take this as a success.
Then – joy of joy – we’re out of the wind and alongside the chalky cliffs, paddling serenely through mirror- calm shallows, a colourful garden of seaweed swaying just centimetres below in the bathwater-clear sea.
We paddle onto a pebble beach, only accessible by boat. Josh talks a bit about the geography and nature of the area. We sample pepper dulse, a feathery purple seaweed with a buttery-then-fiery taste. Then it’s back in the canoes to manoeuvre through a gap in the rocks, into open water, to see Old Harry himself. Paddling under an arch in the cliffs is a real highlight, before we set off back.
It’s a fairly strenuous couple of hours – sitting upright, bracing your legs, and paddling, of course. But touring kayaks lend themselves to slow and steady handling, so there’s no pressure to bomb along. More than exercise, though, it feels like a privilege to visit such a picturesque spot from sea level, enjoying the clear waters and the peace that bobbing around on the sea can bring.
A three-hour sea kayaking taster with Fore/Adventure costs £60; foreadventure.co.uk.