River Dart

Steffi recalls her British Canoeing 4 Star Kayak training…


In the spirit of Bah Humbug, a small group deserted the Christmas Dart trip and instead completed their BCU 4* training. Sean, Olga, Clarissa, Gemma, Ian and Steffi headed off to meet Dan and think about their paddling. The 4* is split into three different aspects – personal, leadership and safety skills.

Day 1 was spent spend on the Dart Loop with the main focus on personal skills. And in that respect, it was the ‘little things’. When have you last thought about moving your hips forward and keeping your head up to give you a more efficient power stroke? Dan spied on all of us, there was no escape. It just shows you how much there is to learn. We talked a lot about meaningful warm ups – again, something I had not really thought about much before. Now, after a playful warm up, I notice a difference in mindset and physical readiness. So, much of the day was spent with ‘brain storming’, surfing, stopper work and experimenting with different lines on the features.

We spent Day 2 on the Lower Dart from Buckfastleigh. It is a lovely section and I really think we ought to take some beginners down there – there is so much to play and practice on. And the landscape is just as pretty. Anyhow, the day’s focus was leadership and in that we experimented with different styles of leading. Again, I don’t think I realised there was so much more to it. Leap frogging, pairing up in different ways, defining an area within which to paddle to keep control of the group… lots!! We talked about signals – no signal, no move. I thought signals would become more complex with each extra * training but it turns out to be the opposite. And to add more fun, we all had to think about games and activities to keep the group in good spirits – spinning on eddie lines, breaking out backwards to mention just two. It all helps to build up skills. Another trick for leading: the leader faces downstream with the group facing upstream. Why? It ensures that any nervous paddler is not too busy looking at the feature ahead and instead helps them to focus on what is said. And finally, safety. I really think I need to go on a refresher White Water Safety & Rescue course. My rope work is really lagging behind. Another tip: copy and laminate the section of river you are paddling and keep this with you. If any issues occur, at least you know where you are and can give emergency services your grid reference.

What’s left to say? A very inspiring two days!