Why it’s better to be open

Most of you who paddle on Sunday cannot fail to have noticed that Kelvin is always in his open canoe and never in a kayak. So at the end of one committee meeting we took him hostage, drove to Andy Maxted’s house and tortured Kelvin with Andy’s extensive collection of “Mel and Kim” LPs until he finally cracked and gave a suitable responses to our interrogation.

Have you ever paddled a kayak?

Kelvin: The only time I paddle a kayak was about 18 months ago when I decided that I ought to at least have some idea what kayaking was all about so I took one of the club’s 1-star courses. Having passed the course I haven’t been in a kayak since.

What is it about Kayaks that does not appeal?

Kelvin: It seems so frenetic. Continually pulling on the paddle, right, left, right, left and so on never letting up. At the same time cycling with your legs. It just seems so much hard work, and so noisy; the paddle always splashing in and out of the water, never a moments rest. Compare this to an open where there is a gentle paddle, hardly any splashing about just a relaxing journey along the river. Idyllic.

The other thing about a kayak is that, at least it seems to me, you are stuck in it secured by a spray deck. I always have the dread of not being able to get out should I capsize. At least in an open you just fall out.

Every thing I learnt on the 1-star went to reinforce my preconceptions of the kayak. For me the open is perfect. What could be better than a warm calm summer’s day and a gentle paddle up to the teashop on a Sunday morning?

What about white water?

Kelvin: I do enjoy white water, although I am known for falling out quite a bit. Perhaps not so much now but when I first started I fell out a lot. I remember one trip on the lower Treweryn when I fell out six times.


I have become quite adept at self-rescue. I suppose I enjoy “technical rapids” the most, dodging the rocks, provided that the river is not too fast. Big bouncy waves I avoid like the plague. This I suppose is another reason for not preferring kayaks. Most seem to plough through the rapids with little regard for what the river is doing and they always seem to get in the way buzzing around like flies. I much prefer attempting to read the river, planning my course to avoid the obstacles and then trying to keep to that course. I would say that probably 25% of the time kayaks get in my way, and probably they think that the great big opens get in their way more often.

How did you get started?

Kelvin: Many years ago, I must have been in my 20’s, I remember being on a train near Bath and from a bridge I saw a small group of paddles on the river. It was in the evening and seeing these gently going along the river appeared so relaxing that I determined at one time to do the same.

So you have been a paddler for some time…

Kelvin: Oh no. It wasn’t until I was 50 that I began to paddle. I went to the US and did a week in Vermont paddling from inn to inn. It was the first time I had been in a canoe and it was hard work but great fun. Since then I have been to Canada several times on wilderness trips and in 2010 I went down the San Juan River in Utah.

Kelvin Abbott


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