My brother and I used to recite a saying which went “Can you canoe? I can canoe? Can you?”. Thankfully such things aren’t necessary when you are kayaking, which is what a chum and I decided to give a go recently with Isle of Wight Adventure Activities.
After squeezing our way into slightly damp wetsuits and doing some silly exercises on the beach we clambered into our kayaks and into the chilly waters around Freshwater Bay.
The first challenge with kayaking is getting past the breaking waves, which is rather reminiscent of Tom Hanks attempting to get his homemade craft out onto the open waters in Castaway.
Thankfully I didn’t lose my volleyball-with-a-face-on-it and we headed right, out round Fort Redoubt. I’m sure nautical people would say West or "Portwards m'laddy" or something similar but you know what I mean.
The coastline is somewhat eerie around this section, as it is only accessible by water or by abseiling down from the cliffs above. There are no amusement arcades, cafes selling teacakes or minigolf courses here.
We tentatively approached one huge cave, although our guide advised that we couldn’t go right in because there were too many rocks which routinely appeared in the water with the waves like Whack A Moles. Our guides seemed to know what they were talking about and I guess being impaled on a rock wouldn't have been good for tourism.
A bit further along was a smaller cave, which we could go inside for a proper nosey around. The cave had a tiny little beach of its own at low tide where stones were dragged up and down with the waves, making a fantastic echoey noise which drowned out my ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ noises.
At this stage, I was loving it and was beginning to question our excellent guides about the benefits of kayak ownership. I even prepared a plan in my head for where it would live (in my mother's garage, whether she liked it or not), and how I would attach it onto the roof of the car (roof bars and those stretchy bungee clips).
As we left the cave, things suddenly took a bit of a turn for the worse. You see, over the last few years I have developed an annoying inclination for motion sickness. I had assumed that no-one gets motion sickness on a kayak but it seems I do. It wasn’t as if the waters were rough or anything – a slight bobbing had been enough to set me off.
I stared at the horizon, breathed deeply and tried every other technique I could think of. My mind went back to the Round the Island Yacht Race from 10 years ago when I emptied my stomach into the Solent several times over an eight hour race.
Thankfully, our guides suggested that we stop on Watcombe Bay – the small beach that is only accessible from the water (see our guide to Isle of Wight beaches). I raced for the beach, probably beating a few Kayak sprint world records, and clambered onto the beach much like a man who had been at sea for 40 days rather than 40 minutes.
On precious terra firma we had a wander along the beach and into another cave. Once again, my ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ were drowned out by the sound of large pebbles being dragged by the tide. Watcombe Bay is not an idyllic sandy beach, but it does feel pretty special simply because so few people get to step onto it.
Those few minutes on the bay were just enough for my stomach to settle to a reasonable level and we headed back out into the water for one last paddle back to Freshwater Bay.
In conclusion, I learnt two things from my kayaking adventure.
1) Caves are fantastic
2) My stomach is not
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