Learning Kayaking under pressure
The town of Keswick is situated on Derwent water in the North of The Lake District.
A quiet unassuming town with very friendly locals. For a city boy the tranquillity took me aback as I must have looked a little odd when crossing the roads, constantly checking for speeding cars, lorries and cyclists. Non of these existed in this sanctuary, it was like it had a bubble around it, safe from urbanisation.
One of the activities I wanted to try was Kayaking on Derwent water which is situated in the heart of the Lake District and covers one half of the Lake District National Park.
As I strolled along the lake edge I saw a group of youngsters splashing around in the water and racing in their kayaks. Suddenly I remembered I was not a great swimmer, then had second thoughts about the whole thing.
Some how my feet kept walking in the direction of the Kayak centre and after putting on my buoyancy aid and playing some little warm-up games on the shores of Derwentwater, I was shown how to hold my paddle in the correct manner, sit in the Kayak (the right way round!) and steer my craft in the direction that I wished to go.
From my gentle introduction I embarked upon a very special lake journey. With the hills and mountains raising up from the edges of the water I was amazed by the beautiful scenery as I travelled gingerly on the lakes surface.
A mile from shore and I found some sort of rythmn with the paddle, but the lakes increasing current soon became a force to be reckoned with as it slowly pulled me into the long reeds at the bank side. This was definitely not where I wanted to be, so after a strenuous five minutes I made my way to where I saw the energetic youngsters earlier, then rested, taking in the scenery and gaining a new found respect for the power of the lakes current and its sheer vastness.
As I sat in my meditative state a middle aged man darted passed me on his wind surfing board, he looked good and I silently praised him for his bravery as I made a start back to the Kayak centre.
The lakes current at this point had really picked up and it was a real trawl to get any purchase on forward motion (I’d make two strokes forward and get pushed back one stroke by the force of the current). Being a novice paddler I have to tell you this was more than a little worrying, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience.
From a distance I heard shrill screams, screams you only hear in the movies and never in real life, screams of desperation from a person in dire need. I looked closer and saw a hand frantically waving over the lakes currents.
Without a seconds thought I started paddling faster, harder, stronger, all my previous worries were a distant memory as I powered my way towards the fallen wind surfer (who didn’t appear to have a life jacket on).
As I got within 100 metres I began to wonder how in the world I was going to save him, I mean, this was my first time kayaking, I’m not a strong swimmer, there was only one seat in my kayak, and what if he started to panic and tipped me over then both of us would be in a bit of trouble.
I had about 30 metres to go, his eyes were as wide as an owls and filled with fear, I powered on, feeling a slight elation that I was eventually going to save him from certain tragedy. Then suddenly from out of nowhere a rescue speed boat bounced across the lake then plucked the man out of the water to safety.
What an absolutely brilliant intervention. Did it take away my glory… No way, the wind surfer got saved in the correct manner and I learned how to kayak, albeit under extreme nervous pressure. So a win win for all. You can’t ask for anything better than that now can you?
The Great Extremes
For fantastic indoor and outdoor activities in Keswick, click link below;