The Whitewater Kayaking Season
Autumn is a firm favourite amongst whitewater kayakers as the wet warm weather brings the perfect conditions. That welcome pitter-patter of rain brings an inward cheer to most kayakers. Lay-bys and popular spots for dog walkers and amblers soon become filled with brightly coloured gear, flung out of vans and cars. Taking up space paddlers half dressed in dry suits and buoyancy aids discuss tactics on how to set the shuttle for their river trip.
For Wednesdays week of adventure, we decided to take a trip down the River Dart a popular choice for many whitewater kayakers in the South West of the UK. The River Dart flows through the dramatic Dartmoor National Park. A popular spot for kayakers due to its easy access to hop on and get an instant hit of whitewater. The River Dart has several sections for all ability of paddlers. Unlike biking trails the grading system for Whitewater kayaking is a little more complicated with a grade ranging from 1-5. Grade 1 being just moving whilst grade 5 being very continuous and higher risk.
For the paddle today I settled for the popular Dart Loop a 6km section with a range of grade 2/3 whitewater. This scenic section of whitewater has a bit of everything with enough breathing space for paddlers to gather their thoughts before the next rapid. The beauty with the River Dart is it can hold enough entertainment to occupy a whole day, or for the familiar paddler can be a quick blast.
The river is the ideal progression opening up with some gentle features with waves to surf and jets to play on. As you warm up on the descent, long rapids keep the adrenaline pumping with the occasional rocks to dodge. The mellow sections of the Dart provide plenty of interest. Despite being one of the most popular rivers for kayaking in the UK, the river itself is pristine. A home for birdlife and the curious Dartmoor pony.
The fun continues down to a series of three consecutive rapids creatively named as Triple Drop, a finale of fun with several moves to be made, well worth a short walk back up to re-run so you can maximise your bang for your buck! The river now eases us down towards Holne Weir the take out for the day. A day out on the River Dart is always welcome no matter how many river miles you clock up on this pretty river. For now it was time to wrap up, load up and get ready for our next day of adventure.
The Multi Sport Thermal
Since its arrival the Red Original Long Sleeve Performance top has joined me on the river. I tend to use it as a top layer underneath my dry suit. The Performance top is a bit of a ‘go anywhere top’ loose enough to allow underlayers. Warm enough as an extra layer yet allows your skin to breathe if you get a little bit heated. Most of all you can walk into the café at the end of the day and not look like you’re wearing long johns from the 80’s.
The Ultimate Changing Robe
My second all-time favourite has to be the Pro Change Jacket, whilst the gear for kayakers is pretty resilient there is always that cold period at the end of the day when you’re waiting for the car shuttle to return. Usually you’re huddled in a layby or under a bridge sheltering from the wind. Since the birth of the Pro Jacket I have taken to slinging this bad boy in the car at the bottom, ideal to wear on whilst we are waiting around or to wrap up your chilly friend who took a swim too many on the river. Its versatility allows you to fit it over the top of your kayaking gear making it ideal for keeping snug and warm while you wait.
Kayak Friendly Gear
Some of the smaller accessories also came in handy whilst on the water, the water bottle managed to keep my coffee warm for the full duration of my trip and the forever versatile Dry Pouch came handy for storing my phone allowing me to grab it on route for that obligatory photo.