Paddling with a disability might sound like a challenge, but it shouldn’t stop you from getting on the water. To help you, we’ve broken down some of the top worries people have when they want to try paddling for the first time. Take a look and hatch your plan for going paddling!
12 top tips for paddling with a disability
How do I get started?
Firstly, there are a number Paddle-Ability clubs and centres. These are recognised as providing high quality opportunities for people with disabilities. See if you have one near you on our Paddle-Ability Look Up here. If you can’t find one near you, contact your nearest paddling centre or local club. They’ll be happy to help.
Preparation is key.
Once you’ve decided you want to try paddling, think about things like what clothes you will need. Consider changing facilities, dry clothes and anything else you would generally take on an outdoor day trip.
How much will it cost?
This can vary from provider to provider. Some clubs might offer a free starter sessions while others might charge anything from £5 to £20.
Plan your journey.
Plan how you are going to get to the club/centre or your destination in advance. Knowing about parking facilities if you drive or local public transport links will be helpful and take any stresses away. If finding the location of the venue is challenging, ask if someone might be able to meet you at the facility entrance or local bus stop.
Do I need to be a strong swimmer?
No, the aim of paddling is to stay in the boat! While you might get the odd splash of water, the plan should be to stay in your craft and relatively dry. On the off chance that you do end up in the water, you should be wearing a buoyancy aid which will help you float.
What do I need to wear?
You don’t need to go out and get specialist kit to start with, your local provider should have everything you need. Just take a pair of clothes suitable for the weather conditions that you don’t mind getting wet, swimming costume/shorts, a towel and change of clothes. Everything else should be provided.
What about changing rooms and facility accessibility?
Contacting the club or provider in advance will give you an opportunity to find out about what facilities they have as well as what access to the water looks like at their location. Give them a call and check it out beforehand if that’s what makes you feel more comfortable.
I don’t want to get trapped in a boat!
There are lots of different crafts available from sit on tops to open canoes and stand up paddle boards, not all boats are closed cockpit kayaks! Equally many boats are very stable and, unless you are planning on making your paddling debut on an Olympic slalom course, it is unlikely you will capsize.
What about specialist equipment: boats, paddles… so much choice!
Not to fear! Your local club or paddling centre will have equipment you can use. As you get more confident try out as many different types of craft as you can. Find out what is most comfortable for you.
Can it be tricky getting on and off the water?
There are many ways that an instructor can work with you to make getting in and out of the boat as easy as possible for you. Discuss any anxiety or worries you have with them and they will work with you to make things work for you.
Go on give it a go!
Ultimately the paddling community love their sport and want to share it with you! Paddling with a disability is not as much of a barrier as you might think, and there are easy adaptions that can be made. Instructors will work with you to find out what you want to achieve and to get you there.