Wilderness First Aid

Kayaking is an assumed risk sport and as many of you know, the odd bump and scrape are not unusual. In the last year Regents Canoe Club has also had to contend with a couple of more serious injuries – rare occurrences to be sure – but as they say: accidents can (and do) happen.

So it was with this in mind that a few of us signed up to complete/refresh our Wilderness First Aid certificates. While it is unlikely that when kayaking in the UK any of us will attempt to, say, re-set a dislocated shoulder by the side of a river, the importance of wilderness first aid is knowing what to do when help is not close to hand. One also needs to have an up-to-date certificate should you want to get your coaching qualifications.

Based at the Freightliner’s City Farm just off the Holloway Road (who knew there was a farm in Islington! Great café by the way) we spent two days work-shopping a series of scenarios which involved a lot of slightly awkward role-play. But practice makes perfect!

As with kayaking, the rescuer’s safety must come first. There is no point helping someone else if you are going to put yourself in danger. Initial assessment of the victim should follow DRAB: Danger (assess the situation), Response (is the victim responsive?), Airways (are they breathing?), Breathing (if they are not breathing, start resuscitation).

The Bride of First Aid Then your priorities become the 4Bs: breathing, bleeding, bones and burns – in that order. There is no point stemming bleeding if the patient isn’t breathing (unless the bleeding is catastrophic, in which case, it’s really your call). And CPR can easily be carried out to the song Staying Alive by the Bee Gees should you find yourself unsure of the correct tempo.

We had a chance to experiment with dressing wounds, and Mogie’s deft hand with a bandage managed to transform me into the Bride of First Aid (see photo).

Wilderness First Aid - Regents Canoe ClubMeanwhile Olga – being the smallest person in our group – made an excellent and lightweight victim to practice evacuations on, using a buoyancy aid to protect her “fractured pelvis”. In our outdoor workshop we managed to package her up quite nicely with a couple of bivvie bags and a throw line, though I think she was less than sure of Mogie’s ultimate intentions (see photo).

Despite getting quite squeamish at various photographs of serious injuries, now that we have been taught the basics, the hope is that we will never have to use them. But it is good to know the club takes its safety seriously and helps to train up its members so we can all have a better time on the water.

Huge thanks to Clarissa for sorting and booking, Claire Lancaster for organising (plus supplying the tea and biscuits) and Ryan’s step-dad, Kevin Mann of Overland Training, for the training despite the cold weather and a few technical glitches. There are worse ways you can spend a weekend!

Get money back when you train and learn new skills

At Regents we provide training subsidies for members who undertake certain training courses that make the club stronger and/or safer. This includes a 20% subsidy for first aid training, for members who actively contribute to the club. Find out more at: www.regentscanoeclub.co.uk/training

Andrew H-O shares his experiences of organising the 2016 RCC Scotland pilgrimage…

Another Scotland trip goes by, and now my whiskey cabinet is nicely re-stocked. With thanks to all those who took part, some in part and others from beginning to end, an epic rain hunt was had by all including those who on more than one occasion drove more than two hours across to the other side of Scotland in search of a river, once successful, and once not so. But that would make it sound like rain was scarce which would not be a fair account when compared to the year before, because it did rain within the first few days, and the trip did on at least one occasion allow for the paddling of a river on a medium level. The real reason was that we are a bunch of intrepid paddlers, who paddled under The Bridge of Awe (part of every hunt for the holy grail), who discovered a new river even if it was too high to paddle, proved the Findhorn can be paddled without a stick, and ran many of the drops on the Etive facing forwards.

Kate heading over the lip of Right Angle falls on the Etive

There was no water on the first weekend, not in the Nith, nor anywhere else in the north. But the Awe was releasing as we drove up and aside from providing with an assortment of suitable puns also provided a good play wave and an awesome introduction to the Rivers of Scotland. And then to our fortune the rains which had not been seen the previous week blew in for the Monday and Tuesday. Providing us with a good long stretch of chaos on the Orchy, or in Midge’s case a good long case of whiskey while he waited the 7 or so hours in the pub for our return, to the Roy with a section suitable for all and by all accounts a lovely trip down the runable waters of the Pattak.

Contrary to popular belief – Krzysztof does smile – sometimes

However, such is the nature of a week in Scotland at the mercy of the rain gods. We all trek along way for the uncertainty of rain. But even with a pretty dry end to the week we all managed to find some activities to keep us keen. A special mention must go to Jim who by the sounds of things managed to do himself more harm off the river than on the river with runs down some of the area’s finest Downhill tracks. Very sad we never made it to paintballing, but there’s also a sense of achievement that we had enough water in the rivers that we never really needed to.

Well done to all whose first trip it was, you all stepped up to the challenge very well, without incident and while making it enjoyable for all those that paddled with you. And quite a marked success that with the exception of a lost shoe and a dented sense of pride we all left feeling very good about ourselves (I’m extrapolating from my own experiences here, and the fact that even Krzysztof smiled). A special note of appreciation also for all those that helped make the days run smoothly despite a healthy dose of chaos, and apologies to Kate for not getting you that holy grail of a three river day, we know how much it means to you. Next time we hope.

Steffi shares her experiences from her recent British Canoeing 4 Star White Water Kayak Assessment…


I am sitting in front of the open fire with my dog Mr Bumble (honorary Regents Canoe Club dog member who is acting as a very good foot warmer) reflecting on my 4* assessment which coincided with the March 2016 Mile End Mill trip. I am not sure what to write about but remember that during the RCC Training Meeting a number of questions were asked about what the difference between coaching and leading is and what the British Canoeing Star Awards are about. Mh, I am thinking, why not try and attempt a brief summary? Mh, I’m thinking further…the club is in need of more coaches and leaders. You may well have heard the committee talk about this. Mh, once again… there was some criticism that maybe as a club we do not promote the British Canoeing progression steps enough. Well, if I’m honest, anyone attempting to make sense of the British Canoeing website is being seriously challenged and as such as I can understand the confusion. But, we do need your help and we do listen to what is said and we do try and act upon what is said. There are a number of proposals coming up at the AGM – please do come along as these might well help you to get onto the leadership/coaching ladder. In the meantime, here is my attempt to make some sense of the British Canoeing progression ladder.

BCU 2 Star Training Notes (no prerequisites):

Personal Skills in a Kayak and an Open Boat which include:

  • Forward paddling (250m; awareness of posture, body rotation, awareness of use of major muscle groups)
  • Steering (steering solutions such as stern sweeps, rudders and j stroke and how the paddle effects movement)
  • Manoeuvring (controlling direction in a tight space)
  • Moving sideways (awareness and use of two different ways)
  • Preventing capsizing (awareness and use of different support strokes)
  • Turning (awareness and use of different strokes and edges to achieve turning; awareness of trim)
  • Rescue skills (self rescue)
  • Personal safety (basic journey planning, use of weather information, basic map work, how to keep together as a group)
  • Some theory (basic first aid, access, environment, equipment)


BCU 3 Star Training Notes (2 * required):

Personal Skills in a Kayak which include:

  • Forward paddling (key points of good forward paddling with emphasis of engaging larger muscle group such as the torso and legs; stopping & acceleration, controlled figure of 8 course)
  • Turning on the move (awareness and use of speed, boat tilt)
  • Moving sideways on the move
  • Support strokes both static and on the move (awareness of high and low brace, hip and body movement)
  • Rolling
  • Breaking in and out of the flow
  • Ferry Gliding
  • S turns
  • Rescue Skills (use of tapes and karabiners; use of throw line; capsize skills)
  • Leadership skills (equipment, hydration, identifying hazards, choosing suitable lines to paddle = river reading)
  • Theory (equipment, hydrology of river = river reading; first aid, communication strategies, navigation)
  • Preventing capsizing (awareness and use of different support strokes)
  • Turning (awareness and use of different strokes and edges to achieve turning; awareness of trip)
  • Rescue skills (self rescue)
  • Personal safety (basic journey planning, use of weather information, basic map work, how to keep together as a group)
  • Some theory (basic first aid, access, environment, equipment)


BCU 4 Star White Water Kayak Leader Syllabus (3* required):

‘… the candidate has the skill level required to lead a group of 4 paddlers (not including themselves) in appropriate locations, up to moderate white water conditions [grade 3 white water or equivalent weirs] and to judge the conditions and the standard of the group and make appropriate decisions.’ Leading a group entails ensuring paddler’s safety and fun. In terms of the British Canoeing definition, it does not include developing paddlers’ personal skills (coaching). That said, good leadership includes stopping at features to allow people to play and henceforth enhance their skills; id does entail encouraging paddlers to e.g. eddy hop as this is a skill required for running rivers safely. The main difference is that a coach would stop at features and teach and give people feedback about their personal skills.

‘The BCU 4 Start Leader Award is a leadership award and not a coaching award.’

To achieve this level:

  • 4* formal training in personal skills [river running skills such a breaking in and out; ferry gliding; s-turns; surfing small waves; paddling into and out of stoppers; moving sideways on the move; rolling] and leadership [tactical understanding in respect of positioning, safety awareness, group control ; throw line use; capsizing support]
  • White Water Safety and Rescue
  • Evidence of experience paddling in 4 different regions and must include:
    • Paddling with a variety of groups, variety of levels including narrow and wider rivers
    • 12 grade 3 river trips as a member of a group
    • 12 grade 2(3) river trips as an assistant


BCU Level 1 Coaching Course Guide:

For people who wish to work with paddlers. A level 1 coaching qualification enables to coach on flat/sheltered water. A level 1 coach can plan, deliver, review short coaching sessions normally with the support of a more qualified coach. They can work with paddlers at any stage of development most commonly within their first year of activity e.g. run taster sessions. The training and qualification includes topics such as:

  • Prepare activities taking account of people’s needs and motives
  • Establish a safe environment
  • How to coach taking account of different learning styles and needs
  • Evaluate the sessions
  • Coach forward paddling, turning and controlling, getting in and out of a boat, capsizing, and personal risk management

To achieve this level:

  • BCU 2 Star Award
  • Foundation Safety and Rescue

A level 2 coach is able to plan, deliver and review a series of six progressive sessions on flat/sheltered water. Level 2 coaches will predominantly work with paddlers in their first 3 years of paddling.


I know there are a number of you out there who would like to get more involved. This is my call – please get in touch with me and I promise I will get you involved. It would help me to know whether you might be more interested in organising a club trip, help with coaching or would like to assist with things like equipment maintenance/hire; organising training events e.g. rolling course/New Members Evening, Beginners Courses, Drop In Sessions or social events.   Depending on what you are interested in, I am happy to talk you through what it would entail which would allow you to assess how much time it might take. The new club year is starting in June and that means we need to ‘allocate’ trip organisers to the various different club trips. There are a number of coached sessions planned including some more forward paddling and river running/river reading Drop In Sessions. There are Rolling Courses and Star Award Training Sessions planned and there is another Beginners Course starting. So, get helping – you can get me on [email protected] or 07903 964010.


Steffi on a trip to Slovenia

Kayaking with a disability

Belle Cartwright talks about white water kayaking with a disability

When I first learnt that I was disabled it felt like my life had crumbled away, much like the bone in my knee had. I had no confidence, no drive and no hopes or goals for the future. What pulled me out of this was rediscovering my love of sport.

Initially I took up rowing, having rowed prior to being disabled. Slowly my confidence grew and I become good enough to join the GB Paralympic Team, with dreams of gold at Rio. Unfortunately, right before my first international I found out my legs weren’t classifiable and I was back to square one.

Determined that I wasn’t going to let my legs get the better of me, I spent my time focussed on rehabbing to get out of my wheelchair and onto a crutch. Through sweat, determination, hours in the gym, lots of physio and a lot of tears and temper tantrums I made it on to a singular crutch. Despite my improved mobility I felt like I still had a huge hole in my life and knew I needed to find a new sport. A few weeks later I saw an advert for a white water kayaking course at Lee Valley so signed up straight away.

I was initially terrified of being in a boat on the white water. In one of my last rowing outings I had had a nasty incident of being flipped upside whilst still attached to my strapping, taking 5 minutes to release myself from it whilst my head was only half an inch out of the water. My near drowning experience made me look at water differently and I started to really fear it. At Lee Valley, my first coach Jess, who was aware of the incident, worked slowly to build my confidence up.

Through the initial struggle and many swims, I found that pulling my deck released me from my boat every time and slowly but surely I started to relax. This allowed me to actually start to learn to kayak and use features to help me rather than just surviving or warring a constant battle against the river.

Beyond the mental challenges of paddling, the only times I run into difficulty are when physically carrying, lifting and loading boats, attempting to scramble along a bank, and the obvious challenge of getting in and out of the kayak in the first place. Long paddling trips and the cold also take their toll as I need to regularly stretch out my legs and take breaks from being in one position too long.

Through making small tweaks to my boat and equipment I’ve found paddling has become a lot easier. I now have a crutch that folds in the middle so it can fit in the back of the boat. I also set up my boat so that it helps me adapt my paddling style to my physical limitations.

The other big difference for me is in how I assess consequence and risk. If I break an arm or dislocate a shoulder it would become impossible for me to live without full time care until it healed. As a result I have a rule, if I feel a rapid is above my ability with high levels of consequence, I simply won’t run it until my technical ability improves. I still make mistakes leading to small mishaps including a knee dislocation and mild concussion, but for the most part the rule has worked.

Despite the risks involved, I love kayaking. It’s not just the adrenalin and challenge that make this sport great, it’s because when I’m kayaking I am asked what I can do not just what I can’t. Joining Regents Canoe Club has enabled me to meet some truly awesome people. The club have been super inclusive offering free coaching by volunteers and they’re always willing to lend me a hand with carrying and chasing boats, particularly if there’s a pint or two in it at the pub after.

This article was originally published in Canoe Focus Spring 2016


Arkaig in Scotland 2015 by Olga Beschastnykh

Gemma Wilson reports on Regent Canoe Club’s recent trip to paddle a week’s worth of Scottish rivers

A few weeks back, a motley crew of Regenters were highland-bound to take on the mighty rivers of Scotland. This was my first trip to the land of tartan and tripe for … er … quite some time and having heard tales at the pub of trips past, I was told I should brace myself for some pretty extreme paddling! Car Park rapids anyone?! (Sorry Debs).

Alas and alack, the weather gods did not look favourably upon us (or maybe they did – have you ever seen Scotland in the sunshine? Neither have many Scots. Simply stunning!) and as such the rivers were dry. I cannot recall who coined the phrase “paddling a river of Krzysztof ‘s tears” but I have now stolen it and claimed it as my own (I’ll buy Krzysztof a pint for copyright).

So, seeing as not much paddling got done, here are 10 things a kayaker can do in Scotland when she/he can’t find any water.

Paddle anything you can find, even if it’s a mill pond: Believe it or not, Aisling and Krzysztof did manage to paddle every day – quite frankly a miracle all things considered. No, not all the rivers were challenging but they did manage it.

Most of us got on the Etive on day one (which was unrecognisable to some) and ran the drops. On the plus side I think we managed to get a week’s worth of photography out of one afternoon. Huge thanks to the Regents’ paparazzi (Tommo/Alex) on securing some pretty impressive shots!

Other rivers which were conquered were the Spean Gorge (which was more portage than paddle) and which has some very kayaker-friendly named features, such as Head Banger and Crack of Doom. Oh the joy. I have to say, as a paddler I do rather prefer the more deceptive names for features, such as Fairy Steps, which means I am not cacking myself before I run it, but I digress…

Also managed during the week were the Awe, Roy Gorge and Lower Roy. The Moriston (dam release) looked impressive in parts, but the bit in the middle was voted overall as a bit dull. Meanwhile the Garry (also dam release) was good fun and quite short, so many of us ran that at least 2-3 times.

And then there was the Arkaig which even if it was crazy low was so beautiful I still think about it now.

So you see? Even when there is just a trickle you can still get your boat wet.

Paddle new things: The “play-boys” – made up of Sean, Daryl and Joey – did get the scoop about a ‘play’ wave on the aluminium smelting ditch just outside Fort William. Not being funny, but the idea of putting in for a roll in the waste water from an aluminium plant (spelled correctly, pronounced like a Canadian) does not sound that appealing. I am not sure the boys were all that impressed with it either.

And Ben McPhee tried his hand at the Falls of Lora which is probably not for the faint of heart. If you do happen to swim, you are off to the Isle of Mull. Look it up though, it’s pretty cool!

Climb Ben Nevis. Climb any mountain in fact. This would be my first choice of non-kayaking activity in Fort William. Contrary to what I had heard, the path up Ben Nevis is well marked and very do-able at a steady pace, even by yourself. Once you start seeing the cairns you are very near the top. Best done on a clear day otherwise you will end up with your head in the clouds.

Go Mountain Biking/Go Ape: Too much sun meant another day with dry feet so a few of us went mountain biking and did Go Ape (clambering about in the tree tops with a harness). Both these activities got a thumbs up as non-paddling options, and a morning of whizzing through forest left us with a healthy appetite for…

Haggis nachos!* Possibly the biggest disappointment with this dish was the distinct lack of nachos, it is best described as a bowl of haggis swimming in cheese. Sounds gross, tastes lovely (or maybe we were just bored/hungry)! *not suitable for vegetarians.

Whisky tasting: When in Rome and all that… all reviews of the Fort William whisky tour was that it was good, but if you are looking for quality over just getting nicely sozzled in the afternoon, some research into other whisky tasting options may be worthwhile for the connoisseur. I missed this but apparently I didn’t miss much.

Go swimming: If all else fails there is a local pool in Fort William where kayakers can catch up on some swimming practice. As they say on the river, we are all between swims!

Go for tea at Liza’s mum’s House: Not actually Liza’s mum’s house but rather what people imagine it would be. Tea and cake aplenty with some very comfy sofas to boot. Recommended by all who went.

Visit the Harry Potter bridge and have more tea in a railway carriage: More commonly known as the Glenfinnan Viaduct, this is an impressive train bridge to look at can be followed up with a nice cuppa in a vintage railway carriage nearby. There is a long-lived rumour that when the viaduct was being built a horse fell into one of the piers holding up the bridge. Alas the story is not true (the horse and cart are actually in the pier of the Loch nan Uamh Viaduct instead).

Visit a castle. There are lots of them.

Apparently no trip is complete without a stop at the Green Wellie on the way back to London for everyone to fuel up on sausage sandwiches, whiskey at over inflated prices and boxes upon boxes of Walker’s Scottish Shortbread (exactly the same as the kind you get in Sainsbury’s, except you bought it in Scotland and that makes all the difference, apparently).

Huge thanks to Sean for organising a great trip and putting so much effort into finding alternative rivers and alternative activities. A great laugh was had by all!

Inspecting the Moriston, Scotland 2015. Image by Olga Beschastnykh

Inspecting the Moriston, Scotland 2015. Image by Olga Beschastnykh

Main image credit Olga Beschastnykh