Make a splash: the challenge of learning to kayak

The Observer’s pop critic joined a kayaking club thinking she’d be able to glide along with moorhens, but soon found herself practising sprints and turns for her racing debut

For as long as I have run, I have hoofed unathletically alongside canals and rivers – I come out in hives if I breathe too hard near roads. And for as long as I have been a towpath user, I have looked enviously at the people in canoes and kayaks, slicing through the water, eye level with the moorhens.

One day, I might give kayaking a go, I thought, vaguely. Sit-on-top kayaks always made for a far better day at the beach on holiday. Rowing itself never seemed remotely attractive – too much ruling class baggage, too much shouting. But in a kayak, I thought, you might wander pacifically about in nature, maybe spot some riverbank wildlife you don’t normally see and, almost as an afterthought, perhaps build a little upper body strength.

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