White Water Kayaking
The type of kayaking that excites me most is definitely white water kayaking. I got into white water kayaking through Regents Canoe Club based on Regents Canal in Islington. The club runs one or two weekend trips a month during the white water kayaking season (when it’s raining, there’s more water in the rivers, which means it’s kayaking season) and during the summer there are a couple of Introduction to White Water courses which are a great way to get into the sport. Anyone over 18 can join the club (if you’re under 18 you can join Islington Boat Club, who use the same premises but at different times). There are loads of benefits to joining the club, great coaching, very cheap boat rental, fantastic trips and a fun group of people!
In terms of actual white water kayaking in London there isn’t a huge amount of options. However, Lee Valley White Water Centre is a great facility. The centre was built for the London Olympics in 2012 and now serves as a great resource for training and practice of all ability of kayaker. The centre is near the M25/A10 junction, Waltham Cross train station is about a 10min walk from the centre and less than half an hour from London Liverpool Street. There are two courses, which have water pumped up from a lake. The ‘Legacy Loop’ is the slightly shorter, less extreme course than the ‘Olympic Course’. If you’re a competent white water paddler (Grade 3 for the Legacy Loop and Grade 4 for the Olympic Course) once you’ve passed an assessment you can paddle for £6 and £10 an hour respectively. One of the great things about Lee Valley is that once you’ve got to the bottom of the course, you get a conveyor belt to take you back up to the top, so you never need to get out your boat!
If you want to go and paddle ‘real’ white water then your best bet is probably to head away for the weekend. North Wales and Dartmoor are both great options that can be reached within about 4hrs drive. I regularly head out of town on Regents Canoe Club organised trips. We tend to leave after work on a Friday, kayak on Saturday and Sunday and head back to the big smoke on Sunday evening. The trips tend to cost around £60 for food and accommodation plus petrol and beer money.
There are plenty of companies that offer kayaking trips on the Thames and the canals of London.